A Pow-Wow At Garden River.

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The following is an account of a visit paid by the Bishop and Mrs. Sullivan to Garden River, where Indian names were conferred on them:–

Garden River was reached about 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 29th, the tent pitched, the vacant Mission house occupied, fires lighted, water brought from the river, and other preparations made for the night, the boys of the party voting, with true tramp-like instinct, that they preferred slumbering in the new mown hay in the barn. After tea under the shade of a spreading pine tree, the Bishop and myself spent some time visiting the Indian houses, among them that of an old man of eighty, who had been blind for four years, but bore his affliction, augmented as it was by other trials, with an uncomplaining submission. Another dwelling visited was that of Chief Buhkwujjenene, already known to our readers. On the table his Indian Testament lay open, his constant study, in which, he told the Bishop, he had taught himself to read his own tongue.

At 9 p.m. all assembled in the little church, and there, by the light of “a lantern dimly burning,” and amid a holy calm, unbroken save by the rustling of the leaves at the open windows, joined in the evening sacrifice of prayer and praise.

Soon after breakfast next morning the tinkling of the church bell was heard, and groups of two or three were seen assembling, and passing into the sacred building, with a quiet, silent reverence. The service, with the exception of the Old Testament lesson and the sermon, which was interpreted, was in Ojebway, and old and young listened attentively as the preacher told the story of the Brazen Serpent, and pointed his hearers to Him who said of Himself, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.”

At 3 p.m. the bell was rung, the flags hoisted, and the whole party ushered into the school-house to find the platform furnished with chairs, the centre one carefully reserved for the “Kechemakadawekoonuhya” (the big black coat). By the time the feast was over the sun was setting. Now the table was put aside, benches arranged, and the signal for the pow-wow, given on the drum, when all who could find space to sit or stand crowded in. A few minutes’ silence followed, and then Chief Buhkwujjenene rose, advanced to the platform, shook hands (an invariable preliminary to an Indian speech), and said, “Chief’s, principal men, brothers, and sisters, we were told many days ago that our new Bishop was coming among us, and we decided to have a cup of tea with him. Now he has come, and has eaten and drank with us. Now (turning to the Bishop) we are glad that you have come, and that you have told us the Gospel.” His way being paved by this brief introduction, the Bishop addressed them, saying that he thanked them for the feast they had prepared, and the very kind welcome they had given to him. When Jesus Christ was on earth, Matthew the publican and others made feasts for Him, and as the Indians had received him in Christ’s name and for His sake, therefore they would receive the fulfilment of the promise which Christ gave, that “whosoever gave to a disciple a cup of cold water only should in no wise lose his reward.” At his last visit he told them he would go to school and learn their language, and he had done this, and as he had a good teacher, Mr. Wilson, he had been able to read part of their beautiful services yesterday in their own tongue; it was a hard language to learn, but he would persevere until he was able to preach to them. He had some good news to tell them about their church. A gentleman in Toronto, whom he had never seen, had sent him 50 dollars in aid of it (great clapping of hands), and more, he was sure, was on the way, for God never failed to hear and help His children who prayed to Him in their trouble and difficulty. He had heard that they were going to give him a new name. He had had two names already, first Edward Sullivan, then Edward Algoma, and he hoped that the new one would be a good one, and that he would not be ashamed to tell it his friends and theirs in Montreal and Toronto.

After this the other old Chief, a fine looking specimen of the aboriginal race, rose from his seat, and, divesting himself of his loose scarlet jacket, put on a fantastic head-dress composed of eagle feathers, then threw round his neck a blue ribbon with a heavy silver medal suspended from either end (one presented to his father by George III, and the other to himself by the Prince of Wales). Then fastening on his right wrist an armlet made of polecat skins, he stepped on to the platform, and apologizing, for the lack of a portion of his costume, on account of the excessive heat, proceeded in highly poetic strains, and with a fervid, impassioned manner, to which no description could do justice, to picture the glory of the rising sun, how at first the night is dark, very dark, and the darkness clears a little, and the light looks through, and the great sun appears, creeping up slowly higher and higher, from east to west, till the whole heaven is filled with his brightness, making all things glad–”so,” said the old Chief, turning suddenly to the Bishop, “has your teaching been, and our hearts are glad because of the new light, and henceforth you will be called ‘Tabahsega,’ _i.e._, ‘spreading or radiant light.’” Here he extended his hand, and said, “Boozhoo (_i.e._, good day) Tabahsega,” a salutation which was re-echoed by the others, who, coming forward in succession, repeated the ceremony of hand-shaking. The old Chief then beckoned to the Bishop’s wife to come forward, and going back to his former figure, to bring out the idea of the soft roseate hue that overspreads the sky before the rising of the sun, announced that her name should be “Misquahbenooqua” (_i.e._, rosy dawn), at which there was great applause, and a number of squaws came forward and confirmed the title given by going through the hand-shaking process again. The evening was by this time far advanced, but there still remained a part of the ceremony which could not possibly be dispensed with. This was the smoking of the pipe of peace. The pipe was no ordinary one, but about four feet long, the bowl carved of stone, and the stem of wood in spiral form, dyed with alternate lines of red and blue. With this in his hand, duly prepared and lit, old Shingwauk stood in the centre of the group, and, first taking a few preliminary whiffs (for the pipe to go out before all have smoked is unlucky), presented it to each, of the guests, beginning with the Bishop, who performed his part as well as could be expected of one who was a stranger to the art, the others following his example, so far, at least in some cases, as putting the pipe to their lips. This being the last scene in this interesting drama, the Bishop addressed a few parting words of counsel to those present, through the interpreter, expressing the hope that, as they had feasted together very happily on earth, they might be permitted, in God’s mercy, to sit down together at the marriage supper of the Lamb. He then concluded with a collect and the benediction in Indian, after which our kind and hospitable entertainers dispersed to their homes, and the visitors returned by boat to Sault Ste. Marie.




MLA Source Citation:

Wilson, Rev. Edward F. Missionary Work Among the Ojebway Indians. London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1886. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 23 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/a-pow-wow-at-garden-river.htm - Last updated on Apr 5th, 2013


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