Hebron, Newfoundland and Labrador

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The mission at Hebron, Labrador, around 1860. Original drawing by Moravian Bishop Levin Theodor Reichel (1812-1878).

Hebron is the name of a former Moravian mission that was the northernmost settlement in Labrador. Founded in 1831, the mission disbanded in 1959. Abraham Ulrikab and his family were from Hebron and they were exhibited in zoos in Europe in 1880.

Early history[edit]

The Moravians began establishing missions in Labrador in 1771. The first was located at Nain. The Moravians sought to evangelize the Inuit people in Labrador.

In 1831, the Moravian church established a mission at Hebron, a site located about 200 kilometers north of Nain.

Life was hard at the settlement. Epidemics of whooping cough, influenza and smallpox ran through the community periodically. The 'flu epidemic of 1918 was believed to have wiped out a third of the 1,200-member Inuit population of Labrador. [1]

By April 1959, there were 58 families at Hebron.


The site has an unusual sub-type of arctic (tundra) climate, characterized by atypically-high average annual precipitation (798 mm) and a relatively large proportion of said precipitation occurring during the colder months (51% of the total falling from October through March). This combination results in very heavy snowfall; January, for example, averages -21°C (-6°F) and has 81 mm of water-equivalent precipitation on average, perhaps the most humid air at that temperature experienced anywhere on earth.[2]


In 1955, a member of the International Grenfell Association, an organization dedicated to the health and welfare of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, wrote to the Canadian government expressing concern about cramped living conditions at Hebron that had led to tuberculosis and a shortage of firewood.

After consultation with Moravian leaders, the decision was made to close the mission. The Inuit would be resettled into larger communities. "I see no other way than to suggest the Mission withdraw from Hebron this summer," said the Rev. Siegfried Hettasch. [3] The decision was announced at an Easter Monday service in 1959. There was no consultation with community members.

By the fall of that year, half of the families had moved on their own. The remainder left soon after the Grenfell nurse was withdrawn and the community store closed in the fall of 1959. The relocation broke up extended families to different communities. Some if not many were sent to communities where promised housing was not available.

A report written for the Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples said the relocation led to poverty for several of the Inuit. "They were put in places where they weren't familiar with the local environment so they didn't know where to hunt, fish or trap and aside from that, all of the best places were already claimed by people who originally lived in those communities," said the report's author, Carol Brice-Bennet. [4]

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976.[1]

The buildings of the original mission still stand today (the main mission building has been undergoing renovation by Inuit volunteers), and are in reasonably good condition considering the passage of time. The site is frequently visited by cruise ships.


In 2005, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams apologized to people affected by the relocations. In August 2009, the provincial government unveiled a monument at the site of Hebron with an inscribed apology for the site closure.[2]


  1. ^ Hebron Mission. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  2. ^ http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2009/laa/0810n07.htm Memorial to Former Residents of Hebron Unveiled 2009-08-10

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 58°12′0″N 62°37′34″W / 58.20000°N 62.62611°W / 58.20000; -62.62611