Our 1938 Mission in Alaska

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We have undertaken to establish a mission school among the Arctic Eskimo Indians of Alaska. The location is to be at Point Prince of Wales at Behrings Strait, the westernmost point of the mainland of America and nearest to Asia. Its distance from the North Pole has not yet been ascertained. The inhabitants are described by Capt. Charles H. Stockton, of the United States Navy, as “the boldest and most aggressive people of all the Arctic coast. They are such a turbulent crowd that the whalers are afraid to visit them and consequently give them a wide berth. It is both the worst people and the most prosperous settlement in that region. They ought to have a mission station.”

Dr. Sheldon Jackson, the Secretary of the Territorial Board of Education, says: “On account of the character of the people, I think it would not be safe to send a woman there, at least the first year. I favor the sending of two men at first. If difficulties arise, they will be a mutual strength, and if the teacher gets sick, there will be some one to attend him. From the time that the revenue cutter passes south in August and the whalers in September, these men will be shut up with the natives and thrown upon their own resources and God’s protection until the following June or July. I would advise that the missionaries be large men physically, as size impresses the natives favorably, and there may be times when they will need to remove a turbulent man from their room by physical force.”

We have sent out our call for the missionaries. It is obvious that none need nor will apply who are not Christian heroes, and who have not in themselves the stuff of which martyrs are made. But this mission will not be alone. In that region, but at vast distances apart, will soon be established Presbyterian, Episcopal, Swedish and Moravian missions.

The Government will refund the $3,000 necessary for the erection of the building, and one church in Connecticut has provided a little over $2,000 to defray current expenses for the first year. This sum will scarcely be adequate for this year, and that generous church, as well as others, must be relied upon to meet future expenses. We believe the hero missionaries will be found, and that a generous support will be given to an enterprise at once so bold, so needed and so promising.

A January Trip

Missionary among the Indians in Dakota

By Rev. James F. Cross.
On the 8th of January, I started from home at the Agency to visit Northfield and Park Street Church Stations. A snow, heavy for this region, had fallen, and I thought a sled would run easier than a buggy, so I made a sled. I had counted on the road being broken, as fifty wagons had gone over it only a day or two before. Here was my first difficulty. Only a few hours before I started a heavy wind arose and filled up every track. So for every step of the thirty miles I had to break a new road. Most of the way it was knee deep, and in some places it was entirely impassable and it was necessary to go half a mile or even a mile to cross a ravine forty feet wide. In one place where the road seemed plain, the snow was particularly deep. The crust was just thick enough to hold a horse until he began to pull. Then down he would go. Finally one horse could not reach the ground and rolled over on his side, and left me not yet halfway up the hill. I unhitched the horses, tramped the snow down so they could stand, drove them out and around perhaps forty rods, and then took in the situation. There was the sled half way up the hill. To pull it up was impossible; to turn it round the same, to back it down by hand the same. The only thing left was to haul it down. Here is where a picket line is the best kind of a missionary. It will often help a man out of a hard place, or unto a hard place, as in this case. Making a turn of a rope around the sled and hitching the team on forty feet down the hill we were soon on solid ground. After eleven hours of hard work I reached Black Pipe Creek, where our Northfield Station is situated. In ordinary weather the trip would take five or six hours and not worry a team. But the longest road generally leads to a warm house and the coldest drive is forgotten when your team is in a warm stable and the prospects are good for a hot supper.

Spotted Bear, who is the native teacher and preacher at Northfield Station, has gone to work with earnestness and enthusiasm. Here is a large community, perhaps fifty houses, heathen to the core. Reuben Quick Bear, a Carlisle student, lives here. Beyond him few know anything of Christianity. Spotted Bear has an evening school of twenty or more young men. He teaches Dakota, and as much English as he can. A few can read. These he puts into a Bible class. The New Testament is the text book. On Sunday he holds two or three services, and the house is always full. A larger room is needed at once. To build this will be my first spring work. The value of just such work as this cannot be overestimated. Spotted Bear himself got his education in just such a school. As soon as Mrs. Ellen Spotted Bear had given me a supper, cooked as carefully and nicely as any woman could, and served on neat dishes, figured, and with plated knives, forks and spoons, Spotted Bear asks me for the Iapi Oaye—the news and religious paper published in Dakota. He opens the paper and he and his wife read it. One item of news is the change of Government in Brazil. He asks me just where Brazil is; why they change the Government. He reads of the fire in Boston and Lynn. He inquires where Lynn is. Being a Congregationalist he knows Boston as a Jew knows Jerusalem and a Mohammedan knows Mecca. Then he reads the church and Y.M.C.A. news.

Here is a man, who by his life is denying what nine out of every ten men in the United States are saying: “It is no use to work among the adult Indians.” He was twenty-five and over before he commenced study of any kind. He is now a citizen, Republican, Prohibitionist, church officer, teacher, preacher, all of which require a fair amount of intelligence and information.

His work, too, is invaluable if the aim is to change the Indian to an American citizen. In this village this one room only is the opening to civilization. Some of the young men are tired of Indian ways. They think the dance is something that ought to be thrown away. These young men now have a place to spend their evenings, beyond the dance house. These houses and native helpers break down more superstition and Indian life than any other influence on the reservation. In the matter of dress it is the same. Here is an Indian woman who is not ashamed to wear a dress like a white woman. The teachers in the day schools complain that they cannot get the girls to wear the civilized dress when they leave school. And Indian dresses mean Indian dirt and carelessness. One Indian woman advocating “dress reform” by example, will do more than any teacher on the reservation.

From Black Pipe I go to Park Street Church Station. Here I have a road of twenty-five miles and not a mile of snow. Instead of a four hour drive I have ten hours of dragging along. But the end comes at last.

At Park Street Station considerable progress is made. The school attendance is more regular. The children are cleaner; they wash their faces and comb their hair more frequently. They take more interest in study. The older ones, too, are picking up reading. In two houses I found children teaching their parents to read.

The Christians here are holding on and others are coming to their side. Some have reached the second stage of Christian life. The first is leaving their heathen ways and accepting Christianity. The second is giving testimony in public. Wherever you go young Christians give the same testimony. In Jerry McAuley’s mission in New York, testimony like this was given: “Boys, ye knowed me. I used to drink and fight and beat my wife and spend all my wages for liquor. It ain’t so now; I’ve got Jesus, we’re pals now. D’ye see this coat? I bought it—it’s new. I didn’t buy it at Uncle’s. There’s my wife, she smiles, now we’re happy, this is the right way.” Two young men gave testimony like this: “My friends, you all know me. I used to dance and paint. I am a Dakota. I have thrown these things away. I have my hair cut, I don’t paint. I have given the dance up. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus my Savior, I want you to know God and Jesus, I want you to be his children. It is hard for me to talk to you; but I know this is the right way; it is God’s way.”

The school-room is open every evening in the week. A substitute is offered for the dance and heathen amusements. If the work is slow it is sure. When a young man gives up the dance, paint, long hair, right at his home, it costs something, and because it costs something he puts some value upon it.

After spending ten days at Park Street, I started back in the deep snow and coldest weather of winter. In one place I spent almost seven hours going thirteen miles. And right in sight of home about ten o’clock at night I ran into an enormous drift. The horses sank almost out of sight, and then I had to work. But after an hour of tramping snow and pulling out with a rope I was on the road again and soon at home. Such is missionary work at this season of the year.

From the Word-Carrier.

Our S’kokomish Mission

By District Secretary J.E. Roy
The S’kokomish Reservation is at the extreme southwestern corner of the Puget Sound, where the S’kokomish River empties in, and is three miles square, with five thousand acres, embracing rich bottom land and mountain timber land, the river and the sound furnishing the best means of transportation to the market. On the place I measured the stumps of red cedar that were eight, ten and twelve feet in diameter. The waters at hand are of the best for fishing. As we—Mrs. Roy was with me—were going up from the river where we had been set across after a ten-mile mountain drive from Shelton, we saw a Mr. Lo lugging a three-foot salmon into the missionary home; and at Olympia, the capital, and another point on the sound, the fishmonger told us they did not sell such fish by the pound, but by the piece, twenty-five cents each. When, in 1855, this reservation was set apart by the treaty, it was for the three bands of this tribe and for the Clallams up at the entrance of the Sound, who, because of variance with one of the other bands, never left their ancestral habitation to go to the selected spot. The people belonging to the Reservation now number about six hundred and twenty.

The handling of the Indians here was one of the first fruits of President Grant’s Peace Policy, by which the agencies were assigned to the several missionary societies, which were to nominate their respective agents. This was one of those which were assigned to the American Missionary Association. In 1871 the Association nominated to this Agency Edwin Eells, Esq., the eldest son of Rev. Gushing Eells, D.D., who was one of the mission band that crossed the Rocky Mountains in 1838, under commission of the American Board, to be associated with Dr. Marcus Whitman’s series of Indian Missions. Here is an illustration of the wisdom of that policy, which has secured a highly successful management in all the secular, educational and religious affairs of the Agency, and one that has been continued on through the changes of governmental administration, and also one that has resulted in repeated promotions, until now Agent Eells has charge of five of the seven distinct Reservations in the State of Washington. His present headquarters are at the Puyallup Agency, near Tacoma, where he has just completed an eight thousand dollar building to displace an old one, for the Government Boarding School. In all these five reservations, lands have been secured in severalty to the Indians, and largely through his persistent devotion to their welfare. For two or three years his father had care of the S’kokomish Mission under the American Missionary Association, and in 1874, his brother, Rev. Myron Eells, was appointed to the same work, in which he still abides. Besides the preaching, the care of the Sunday-school and the prayer meetings and the pastoral work, in which he gets around among his people as often as once in a month, he has also the charge of the Indian Church among the Clallams, near New Dunginess, the brethren of that station, in the pastor’s absence, maintaining stated worship. The people at S’kokomish have gotten beyond Government payments; they live on their own allotted lands, in cabins or frame houses, wearing citizens’ dress, and doing business as white men do it. One of Pastor Eells’s first Sundays at the mission was noted for the celebration of Christian marriage on the part of seven or eight couples who had been living together under their heathen way of taking up. So they have been shuffling off their polygamy. While we were there, a man of middle life came to the pastor’s house with his first wife, to be married to her after the Christian form, having made a satisfactory pecuniary arrangement with the second, who was a sister of the first. In this case there were no children to complicate settlement. After I had addressed the church upon their duty of doing more for the support of their pastor, even as I had betimes had to do before in white home missionary churches, the several responses were as decorous and assuring as could be desired.

As another advantage of this Grant plan, the Government School and the Mission are found to be in entire harmony, the principal, Mr. Foster, and his assistants and the industrial teacher all being Christians and caring for the moral advancement of their pupils. Nor does the missionary administration come in any way to overlie the governmental. From the herd of cows kept for the service of the boarding school, neither is one set aside for the pastor’s family, nor is he allowed to buy their milk. He gets his supply from outside. Nor does the preacher use from Uncle Sam’s wood pile. He buys from the Indians.

Some may wonder how a man in such a field can keep from drying up. Come with me into this missionary study. The first thing that strikes you is a growth of English ivy, from its root in the earth outside creeping through a crack in the siding and climbing up one corner and then around the upper corners of the four sides of the room. That evergreen wreath is a symbol of the fresh intellectual life in that study, which has all the air and fix of a workshop. On the shelves, besides the ordinary outfit, there is an extensive geological collection, which in its classification and nomenclature shows scientific investigation. Then there is a fine cabinet of Indian relics and curios, appropriate to the calling of the incumbent: and there is a supply of Indian literature, historic and scientific, out of which this student is transmuting the essential elements of the Indian problem of the Pacific Northwest. And so it is a small library of his own that has thus been elaborated. The first is a “History of Indian Missions on the Pacific Coast,” published by the American Sunday-school Union; and the second is “Ten Years at S’kokomish,”—1874-1884 —published by our own Congregational Sunday-school and Publishing Society. These books would make an enrichment of any Sunday-school library, giving the very essence of romance and of heroism along with Christian instruction. The others are monographs, among them the following:

“Marcus Whitman, M.D.: Proofs of his Work in Saving Oregon to the United States, and in promoting the immigration of 1843;” “Justice to the Indian;” “Indian Traditions as to Religion;” “Hand of God in the History of the Pacific Coast;” “Papers on the Anthropology of the Indians of Washington,” as published in the Smithsonian Report of 1886-7. Another such monograph he now has ready for the press—”God’s Hand in the Missions to the Indians beyond the Rocky Mountains,” a paper read at the recent fiftieth anniversary of the organizing of Dr. Whitman’s church. And beyond all this literary work is the occasional supply of destitute white congregations round about, and service as a Trustee of the Pacific University in Oregon, and of the Whitman College, at Walla Walla, Washington. Surely in literary work, to the names of Jonathan Edwards among his Stockbridge Indians, and John Eliot among his Naticks, and S.R. Riggs among the Dakotas, and not a few others, maybe added this of Myron Eells among the S’kokomish.



MLA Source Citation:

Various. The American Missionary, Vol. 43, No. 8, August, 1889. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 30 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/our-1938-mission-in-alaska.htm - Last updated on Mar 7th, 2013


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