Collection: Missionary work among the Ojibway Indians

The Wawanosh Home.

The spot selected for the Wawanosh Home was rather more than a mile above the village of Saulght five acres of bush land at three pounds an acre as a site for the wawanosh home┬áten-acre cultivated lot, just opposite, for L60. Immediately after making the purchase, we took all our boys up there for a “clearing bee;” they hoisted the Union Jack on the site of the new Home, and within a few days had cleared a considerable piece of land and commenced digging the foundations. It was to be a stone building of two storeys high with a frontage of about forty-five feet, and a wing running back, and to cost about L700. During the summer our boys got out all the stone necessary for building, most of it was collected on the Shingwauk land, and they were paid 20 cents a cord for piling it. We were anxious as soon as possible to get the new Home into operation. After the summer of 1876 no girls returned to the Shingwauk, and we doubled our number of boys. It seemed hard to shut the girls out from the privileges of Christian care and education, and we were naturally desirous of receiving back as soon as possible those whom we had already commenced teaching. For this reason we thought it well at once to make a beginning by erecting...

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The Red River Expedition.

The year 1870 was memorable in Europe for the great war between France and Germany, followed by the loss of the Pope’s temporal power, and the establishment of secular government in Rome. Here in Canada the excitement of the day was the Red River rebellion, to quell which a military expedition was despatched under the command of General (then Colonel) Wolseley. I had arranged to make a Missionary tour to Lake Superior during the summer, and it so happened that I fell in with the troops on their way up the lake and did service for them as chaplain while they were encamped at Thunder Bay. It was a busy scene in the dock at Collingwood just prior to starting. There were about a hundred Iroquois Indians who had been engaged as guides and boatmen, and these were to precede the expedition and arrange for the portaging and crossing the rivers before the arrival of the troops. The steamship _Chicora_ was moored to the dock, the whole vessel from stem to stern being heavily laded down, and there was considerable delay before we started, but at length the ropes were let go, the planks drawn in, and we were off. This was the _Chicora’s_ first trip of the season, and large crowds gathered about the docks at the various places where we stopped on our way up the lakes,...

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Thirty Years Waiting For A Missionary.

At 8 p.m. Chief Winchaub came over, having had a friendly cup of tea, he delivered his promised answer.–The Indians, he said, approved all that we had said; they were glad to see us, and that we had built this big teaching wigwam for Indian boys, they would like to have their children educated, but most of them thought it was too far to send their children. He, for his part, if he had a child, would send him, and another man was willing to send his little boy when older, at present he was too young. We asked him about one promising-looking lad we had seen, the dark-eyed boy with the bow and arrows. The Chief said he had spoken to that boy’s father, but he was not willing to send him, it was too far, and he would never know how it fared with him. The Chief then said he had one other thing he wished to speak about,–there was one band of Indians on the lake, not belonging to him, who, he understood, wished to embrace Christianity and become members of the Church of England. At the time of the great council at Sault Ste. Marie, thirty years ago, the great White Chief had told them that they should have a Missionary of the English Church, and they had been waiting for him ever since. After...

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The Winter Of 1874-5.

By the time winter set in, the walls of the new Shingwauk Home were erected and the roof on, but beyond this nothing could be done until spring. However, we could not wait for the new building to be completed before re-organizing our work. The two frame cottages, already mentioned, had been finished and furnished, and these we intended to utilize for the present. The first pupil to arrive, singularly enough, was named Adam, Adam Kujoshk, from Walpole Island. We had eighteen pupils altogether, boys and girls; a lady was engaged to act as matron and school teacher; they had lessons and meals in a large common room in one of the cottages, and in this one the matron and the girls resided. The other was occupied by the laundress and the boys. For ourselves we had engaged an old house at the Point, not more than half a mile distant across the bay; so all fitted in very well. It was a hard winter, but the children kept well, and they had a merry and a happy Christmas. On Christmas morning we all drove in to the Sault to church; such a sleigh load–twenty, I think, altogether,–some sitting, some standing or hanging on, and two brisk ponies to pull. Then there was the Christmas dinner of roast beef and plum pludding, to which all the children did ample...

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Up The Neepigon River.

Five miles of paddling above the rapids brought us to the mouth of the river Neepigon, a rapid stream about 500 yards in width, we had to keep close to shore in order to avoid the current. Our canoe was about 20 feet in length, and weighed perhaps 150 lbs., she sat as light as a feather upon the water, and the least movement on the part of any of the party tipped it over to one side. The paddlers sat on the cross bars–about two inches wide, Uhbesekun in the bows, then Joseph, the Bishop and myself, Jimmy and William, and Esquimau in the stern, six paddles in all, and we travelled at the rate of from four to six miles an hour. About 1.30 p.m. rain began to fall, and the clouds threatened a storm. We paddled on fast to a convenient landing-place, and then went ashore for dinner, which we partook of under the tent, the rain pelting down in torrents. However, it was merely a thunder-shower, and in the course of an hour we were able to proceed. By four o’clock we had reached our first long portage–three miles in length–and now began the tug of war. Esquimau and Uhbesekun got the huge canoe mounted on their shoulders–one at either end of it–keeping it in its position by ropes which they held as they walked,...

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William Sahgucheway.

William Sahgucheway was born on the Indian Reserve of Walpole Island about the year 1862, the exact date is not known. His father and mother both died eight or ten years ago, and since then he had lived with an uncle and aunt, of both of whom he was very fond. He had two younger brothers, but no sisters. One of the brothers, Elijah, was a pupil with William at the Shingwauk Home for two or three years. He left when the Home was temporarily closed in the spring of 1880, and before it had re-opened he had been called home to his Saviour. William felt the death of his little brother very deeply. In a letter dated June 4th he says, “Last Sunday my brother Elijah died: but now he is with Jesus and the angels. This text he had in his Bible. ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord’ (Rev. xiv. 13); and also the Bible was dated May 30th, 1879. This is important to me, like if it were telling me how he died and when he died.” William Sahgucheway came first to the Shingwauk Home on the 17th of June, 1875. I had paid a visit to Walpole Island that summer, and William was one who, in company with five or six other children, came back with me to Sault Ste. Marie. He...

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The Opening Of The First Shingwauk Home.

On June 3rd, 1873, the contract for the erection of the new Industrial Home was signed. It was to cost 1550 dollars, and to be completed by August 25th. The specifications showed that it was to be a frame building, having, with the old parsonage, a frontage of 100 feet, two stories high, with verandah in front for each flat; suitable farm buildings were also to be erected on the land in the rear. It was interesting to us to watch the progress of the work day by day, to see the walls rising up, the partitions made between the rooms, and at length the roof put on and shingled. The plastering was not yet done when the first batch of children arrived. They came from our old Mission at Sarnia, and were accompanied by Mr. Jacobs. Their names were Mary Jane, Kabaoosa, Mary-Ann Jacobs, Betsey Corning, Eliza Bird, John Rodd, Tommy Winter (who was at Kettle Point); also Nancy Naudee and Jimmy Greenbird, from Walpole Island. It was difficult to find accommodation for them all, as the rooms were not ready; however, we managed to pack them in. It was just at this time that the district of Algoma, with Parry Sound and Muskoka, was set apart by the Church as a Missionary Diocese, and on the 10th September,1873, Archdeacon Fauquier, of the Huron Diocese, was elected our...

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The Bishop’s Visit.

We were now well settled into our Indian home at Sarnia and my work was clearly defined. The Sarnia Reserve was our head-quarters. Here there were some 400 Indians, and at Kettle Point, thirty miles away, were about 100 more. The out-stations were to be New Credit, Saugeen, and Cape Croker, which places together contained about 1150 Indians. The idea was to place a catechist at each of these distant settlements, and for me to visit them twice or three times in the year. With the view of providing catechists suitable for the work I was authorized by the Church Missionary Society to receive and educate some young men; and within a few months after we had taken up our residence on the Reserve I commenced to teach two young Indians, named Wilson Jacobs and William Henry, with the view of their becoming catechists. The great event of the summer was a visit we received from the Bishop of Huron and Mrs. Cronyn. The fact that twenty-five persons were confirmed, and that forty-five came forward afterwards to receive the Holy Communion, will show that our work among these poor Indians had already made some progress. Among the candidates for confirmation was poor old Quasind, who came up bare-footed, a great-grandfather, and, I suppose, about ninety years of age. In the evening our own child, Archibald Edward, was christened during...

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Runaway Boys.

One day three boys were missing; nobody could tell what had become of them; the bush was scoured, the roads searched, and messengers despatched to the Sault to try and gain some clue to their whereabouts. After a time it was discovered that some bread and other things were missing, and it became clear that they had decamped. Their home was 300 miles away, and the idea was that they had probably gone to Garden River, about ten miles below us, with the intention of getting on board the first steamboat that might pass, and so get home; so we made up a crew, and late the same evening despatched the schoolmaster and some boys in _The Missionary_ to Garden River. They arrived back the next day, bringing word that a boat had been stolen from one of the Indians there during the night, and that, moreover, an Institution button, with “Shingwauk Home, Sault Ste. Marie” imprinted on it, had been picked up in the sand near the place from which the boat was taken. Nothing more was heard of these boys for ten days, except that one of the steamboats brought a report that they had seen three boys in an open boat near Bruce Mines, and that they had been hailed by them and asked for bread. Ten or eleven days after these boys decamped, we were...

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Our Arrival At Sarnia.

Mrs. Walker’s boarding-house was a frame, white-painted house situate in the town of Sarnia, a little way back from the main street. The Indian Reserve almost adjoined the town, so that a quarter of an hour’s walk would take us on to their land. In front of the town and flowing down past the Indian Reserve is the broad river St. Clair, connecting Lake Huron with Lake Erie, its banks on the Canadian side dotted over with the boats and fishing nets of the Indians. I at once invested in a horse and buggy, and also engaged Wagimah as my interpreter. I could already read the service in Indian, but required an interpreter’s aid for conversing with the people and preaching. Our Sunday services were held in a vacant log hut, in which we had a little desk rigged up and some forms arranged as seats. On my first Sunday among them I baptized two children, an infant in arms named Jacob Gray, and a child of four or five named Thomas Winter. Both of these boys some nine or ten years afterwards became pupils at the Shingwauk Home. Our great object now was to build a log church and also a Mission house for our own use with as little delay as possible. There was a quaint old Indian, or rather half-breed, for he was partly French, with...

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Our First Winter In Algoma.

Shortly after making this tour with Chief Little Pine, arrangements were made for our finally leaving Sarnia and removing our head-quarters to the Indian Mission at Garden River; the Committee of the Church Missionary Society agreed to the change as an experiment, and undertook to support the Mission for one year; but the withdrawal of the New England Company and the fact of so many of the Indians having already been converted by the Roman Catholics, made them a little doubtful as to whether it would be a suitable spot for establishing one of their Missions permanently. Before leaving Sarnia we had the satisfaction of seeing the little brick church on the Reserve completed and opened for use. This, together with the Kettle Point Mission, was now handed over to the charge of the native pastor, the Rev. John Jacobs. I must mention one little incident that happened at this time. It was in the evening, and I had called to see Mr. Jacobs. He met me with his usual geniality, and we sat conversing for some time. Near the sofa was a large clothes-basket with a blanket over it. By-and-bye some little faint cries came from the neighbourhood of the basket. “What have you got there, Kesheg?” I asked. Mr. Jacobs was a little confused, and laughingly muttered something about an “arrival.” The blanket was removed, and there...

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Our Indian Homes.

Come and visit our Indian Homes now, this summer of 1884. No longer are we in the midst of bush and swamp, as we were ten years ago. The land has been cleared up and a good part of it brought under cultivation, fences have been put up, and several new buildings added. Let us visit the Shingwauk Home first. We may go by water, and land at the Shingwauk dock; there is the boat-house, with our new boat, _The Missionary_, given to us by the children of St. James’s Sunday-school, Toronto, floating gently on the dark water within. We have no need to walk up to the Institution. There is an excellent tramway, which has just been completed, and visitors are requested to take their seats in the tramcar, and some of the Indian boys will push them up to the Home. We can already see the Institution over the brow of the hill, and a little to the right the Memorial Chapel, and nearer to us the Factory, and off to the left the boot shop and carpenter’s cottage. We note that there are neat stone walls round some of the fields, and a white picket fence inclosing the Institution; the old-fashioned lych-gate in front of the Chapel also strikes us, with the hops clambering over it; but we must hasten on and enter the Home. As...

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The Pagan Boy–Ningwinnena.

We returned with thankful hearts to our camp. The Bishop was much impressed, and said it reminded him of Cornelius, who was waiting, prepared for the visit of the Apostle Peter; and for my part I thought of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, whose followers carried out to the letter the precepts of their father. At our meeting for prayer that evening I said to Uhbesekun, “I hear that you belong to these people whom we have been talking to. Will you not join us to-night in our prayers?” So Uhbesekun instead of going away, as had been his custom, remained with us, wrapped in his blanket on the ground near the camp fire, and when we knelt for prayer he also turned over with his face toward the earth. Oshkahpuhkeda came over in good time the next day according to promise, with his two boys. The younger one was to go with us. His name is Nin-gwin-ne-na, and he is a quiet, gentle lad of thirteen or fourteen. The father repeated his wish that we should take all his children in the event of his death, and took an affectionate leave of his son. “I know I shall lie awake at night and grieve the loss of my boy.” he said, “we Indians cannot bear to be parted from our children, but it is right that he should...

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The New Shingwauk Home.

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...

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Learning To Know My People.

The Indians are a people requiring a good deal of patience on the part of their teachers, as, those who have tried working among them have generally found. There is on the one hand a charming fascination about their simple manners and habits, their readiness to receive and accept Gospel teaching, the bright winning smile that lights up their faces when pleased, their stoical behaviour under adverse circumstances, their gentleness and politeness, the absence of that rough manner and loud talk which is so common among white people of the lower classes; and yet on the other hand we must admit that there are certain strong points in their natural character which are anything but pleasing; and it is, I believe, these points coming to the notice of people who are not inclined to befriend them that have earned for them the character of an idle, ungrateful people. Many a time has it been said to me, “How can you waste your time working among those Indians? They will never get any better for all you can teach them or do for them.” And yet I have continued labouring, and do still labour among them, believing that it is God’s will that every wandering sheep should be sought out and, if possible, be brought into the Good Shepherd’s fold. If at times I have found them trying, yet, after...

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