The New Shingwauk Home.

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Our new Shingwauk Home was formally opened on the 2nd of August, 1875, by the Bishop of Huron and the Bishop of Algoma. There was a large attendance including several friends from other dioceses; the day was very fine, and all passed off most auspiciously. After partaking of a sumptuous repast in the dining-hall, which was beautifully decorated for the occasion, the guests assembled in the school-room for the opening ceremony. A Special Service, prepared for the occasion, was conducted by the Bishop of Algoma, who then offered a few interesting remarks relative to the object of the Institution and the manner in which it had come into existence. He reminded the friends present how the original building had been destroyed by fire six days after its completion, and that the present one, in which they were assembled, had been erected to take its place; that the object was to train young Indians to a Christian and civilized life, and to offer them all the advantages which their white brethren enjoyed. His Lordship then called upon the Bishop of Huron to formally open the building. Bishop Hellmuth, on rising, said that it gave him great pleasure to be present at the opening of this Institution, in which he felt a deep interest. He was persuaded that the true way to do any permanent good to the poor aborigines of this country, was to take their young, and train them. If this had been done forty years ago, he felt assured that there would be many a man now from among them holding high official position in the country. In his own diocese he had at the present time three native Missionaries and a considerable number of native school teachers, male and female, all of whom worked to his entire satisfaction, He trusted that children leaving this building would become centres for the increased spread of Christian truth, and he felt no doubt but that the blessing of God would rest upon a work which had been undertaken in faith and with earnestness of purpose.

The audience then rose, and the Bishop solemnly declared the building open for its intended purpose as an Industrial Home for Indian children, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

After the Doxology had been sung, short addresses were given by Mr. Simpson (formerly Member for the district), and Mr. Dawson, our Parliamentary Representative at Ottawa.

Then, at the Bishop’s request, I added a few remarks relative to the system upon which we proposed to carry on the work of the Home. Forty-one children, I said, were at that time present, and we were expecting several more. My experience thus far had been that it was a somewhat difficult matter to train Indians to a civilized life, still I had great hopes that our present undertaking would, under God’s blessing, prove successful. The first thing, I felt, was to draw the children around me, and let them feel that I cared for them and really sought their good. I regarded them all as my children. A good proof that I had in some measure gained their affection and confidence was, that many of those who had been with us the previous winter, and had been home during the summer for their holidays, had of their own accord come back again, some of them from a great distance, and all seemed anxious to get on and learn all they could. We keep no servants, I said, but, every child is appointed to his or her work, and, as the company might see, wore badges on their arms, indicating their employment for the week. In regard to funds, all was prosperous. Ever since the fire God’s blessing had, in a most marked manner, rested upon our work. People had given liberally, without any of the means usually used for raising funds being resorted to. All was paid for, and a little balance in hand.

At the conclusion of the speaking the clerical party retired to disrobe, and then the Bishops, with a number of friends present, were conducted over the various parts of the building. On arriving outside, the Indian children were found drawn up in a line in front of the building, each holding a flag; the National Anthem was sung, and then all marched forward, two and two, in very tolerable order, singing the hymn, “Onward, Christian soldiers.” They were followed by the company, and made a complete tour of the grounds. In the evening tea and coffee were served to the assembled guests, and the day’s entertainment concluded with a display of fireworks and a bonfire on one of the islands opposite the Institution.

The whole cost of the Institution, with land, cottages, &c., in round numbers, came to L2325.

We soon got into regular working order. School hours were from 9 to 12 in the morning, and from 2.30 to 5 in the afternoon, every day except Saturday. We had fifty pupils, twenty-five boys and twenty-five girls, varying in age from six or seven years up to seventeen. Some of them were very poorly clad when they came to us, and very dirty; and the first thing was to give them a bath and burn all their clothes, and rig them out afresh. It was of course a great change to them to commence regular habits, to run when they heard the bell ring, and do all that they were told; and some of them began to pine under a sense of captivity. Some of them, when home-sick, seemed to lose all control over themselves, and made an unearthly noise; others would watch their opportunity and run away. In the next chapter we shall tell about three run-away boys, and their capture after ten days’ absence. On the whole, however, the children seemed to be wonderfully contented and happy, and all went merrily and cheerfully day after day. The fish-boys used to go out after their nets each morning, and bring in plenty of fish; the water-boys had their grey pony, which they called “Muhnedooshish” (Little Evil Spirit), because it had such a bad temper and was always backing up and upsetting the water, instead of going forward with its load. The baker-boys made and baked the bread, in the brick oven. The sailor-boys, in their blue serge suits, had charge of _The Missionary_, and did all commissions by water. All were willing to work, and seemed to enjoy their life, and on Saturdays we gave them a few cents pocket-money as an encouragement to good conduct. True, the matron was sometimes at her wit’s end, with so many to provide for and such raw young hands to do the work, and it was doubtless a task of considerable difficulty to keep everything in order, and to have meals in time and well cooked, with only these young girls as her assistants, the greater number of whom could scarcely speak a word of English; and great credit I felt was due to her for her patience with them. However, they really did try to do their best, and were quick enough when they could understand what was wanted of them.

On Sundays the children used all to walk to the Sault to church in the morning, and in the evening we had service in the School-room. On Sunday afternoons there was Sunday school, and on Wednesday and Friday evenings Bible-class. Every morning at prayers the children would repeat a verse of Scripture after me, so as to know it by heart at the end of the week. This plan has been continued uninterruptedly, and the children who have been with us have thus a good store of Scriptural knowledge. They were also taught the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Catechism, and the Collects in English, their lessons being of course varied according to their capacities. Our great desire was that they might all prove themselves to be true Christians–servants and soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The industries which we taught at the first outset were capentering, boot-making, and farming.

It was of course a great object to make the children talk English. Twice a week I had an English class, and taught them to repeat English words and sentences, to point to their eyes, nose, ears, &c., and to bring me things I specified. In order to induce them to keep a check upon one another during play-time, I dealt out to each a certain number of buttons of a particular pattern each Saturday, and if any of them heard a companion speak Indian he was to demand a button, and the following Saturday the buttons were exchanged for nuts. We certainly have been very successful in teaching our pupils to talk English. It is an understood thing in the Institution that they must do so, and no Indian is allowed except for about an hour each day. Boys who come to us unable to speak a word of English in September, by the following June can generally manage to make themselves well understood.

For the support of our pupils we looked chiefly to the Canadian Sunday Schools, many of which undertook each a _protege_ at L15 per annum. This would cover the cost of food and clothing for an individual child; and for the general expenses of the Home we depended on the contributions of our friends in England and a grant from the Canadian Government.



MLA Source Citation:

Wilson, Rev. Edward F. Missionary Work Among the Ojebway Indians. London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1886. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 27 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/the-new-shingwauk-home.htm - Last updated on Apr 6th, 2013


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