KINGMINGUSE (baptized Peter), Labrador Inuk; fl.1776–92.
Although the Moravian Brethren established a mission at Nain, Labrador, in 1771 [see Jens Haven], the missionaries did not formally accept a candidate for baptism until October 1775. On 19 Feb. 1776 Kingminguse, a young angakok (shaman) from a nearby band, renounced his traditional beliefs and was baptized. Appropriately, he was named Peter. The event caused a stir among the local Inuit and aroused considerable interest in the new religion, especially since Kingminguse proved at first a model convert. This general enthusiasm evaporated during the summer of 1776, and as a result Kingminguse found his ideological isolation difficult to endure. In August he went inland to hunt caribou and, when his wife (a candidate for baptism) fell sick, called in two angakut to cure her. He confessed his relapse to the missionaries, and his behaviour during the winter of 1776–77 seems to have satisfied them. But the long summer caribou hunt, far from mission influence, was again his undoing. In November 1777 the missionaries reported that Kingminguse had “during the hunting season . . . quite gone from his heart and had taken such courses that we were obliged to tell him that we could not acknowledge him as our brother or admit him to the meetings of the believers.” It was not until August 1779 that he was thought to be sufficiently contrite and allowed to rejoin the congregation. However, the familiar pattern soon reappeared. During the summers of 1780 and 1781, he used traditional methods to cure sickness. He confessed and was pardoned on both occasions. In 1783 he became affected by a general restlessness generated among the Nain Inuit by the news that guns were available from a trader at Chateau Bay in southern Labrador. Telling the missionaries that he had lost his faith, he left for the south.
Kingminguse did not return to Nain until the summer of 1785, by which time he had apparently resumed his trade as an angakok. The missionaries did their best to persuade him to return to the congregation, but their pleas were in vain. The last reference to Kingminguse in mission records (1792) describes him as “sunk in heathenism” on Nukasusuktok, an island not far from Nain.
Kingminguse’s position had been difficult. Although baptism initially gave him a special status, it deprived him of the respect he had gained as an angakok and a hunter. His frequent returns to the old ways – typical of the early converts – reflect an attempt not only to regain that respect, but also to eliminate the cultural isolation which conversion implied. While close to a mission, a convert could bear this isolation more easily; but when far away, or when under stress, there was a natural tendency to discard new, alien practices in favour of the old. If Kingminguse’s vacillations were not unusual, his final abandonment of the mission was. Most converts, no matter how regular their lapses, remained within the mission orbit. Kingminguse, however, had told the missionaries that he could never return, because when he saw others baptized after him continuing in the faith he was ashamed.