Letters from Miss Collins
No facts in this field can be of more interest to the readers of the Missionary than those contained in the following thrilling account of the conversion of three young Indians in Miss Collins’ mission field. We give the facts as written by this self-sacrificing missionary.
Last Sabbath, Mr. Riggs came up from Oahe and we had communion, and there were five children baptized and seven grown people, and seven more were examined and advised to wait till the next communion. It was a most interesting season.
Three of the young men were the leaders in the Indian dance. They have always been the head ones in all Indian customs. A year ago, one of them said in the dance that he should follow the Indian customs a year longergive himself up to them wholly and try to be satisfied, and if he had in his heart the same unsatisfied feeling, the same longing, that he then had, he should throw it all away.
On last New Year’s day, the same young man, “Huntington Wolcott,” came to me and said”Last night I arose in the dance and told them that I had given the old customs and the old Indians a fair trial, and that they did not satisfy, now I should leave them forever and give myself to God, and if any others were ready to follow to arise and so make it known. The other two leaders arose, stood silently a moment, and walked out.” From that time they have given themselves up to singing, praying and studying the Bible. They had, for two years, been halting between two opinions, attending the school, church, etc., and the Indian feasts and dances, too. These three having come out so boldly on God’s side, has made a great change in our work here.
Poor old Running-Antelope feels very sad. It is his desire to keep the young men from learning Christianity and civilization as long as he can. He wants them to have everything in common, and to feel that for an individual to accumulate anything is a disgrace. As long as they feel so, of course squalor and suffering will be the natural consequences.
The young men are working hard to build up homes and to accumulate something for their families during the winter. One young man has cut logs and is building a house. I try to teach them that long prayers and loud singing is not all of Christianitythat however regularly a man attends to his church duties, if he fails to provide for his family, his religion is vain; and if he gives all his goods to his friends and lets his wife and children cry for bread, that their cries will reach the ears of God, and his prayers and hymns will be lost in this round of wailing of the hungry. All this is very different from their old Indian doctrine and hard to understand.
Elias, our native teacher, has formed a class of young men who meet every Tuesday night and talk and pray and sing together, and he directs their thought. I think it will prove very helpful. Then on Thursday night I have my Bible class, which now numbers about twenty. It is formed of the young men and women who wish to follow Christ’s example, and band themselves together to learn of him. It has been the training school of the young Christians.
What could be more encouraging than such facts as these? An Indian unattended by any white person, dissatisfied with the religion of his fathers, walks out of heathenism; out of sympathy and connection with his tribe; out of the religion and customs of his fathers and into the customs of civilized life, into the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ! In the words of that quaint old Negro hymn, let those who so earnestly desire the conversion of the Pagans in America exhort one another to “Pray on: Pray on.”
Fort Yates, Dakota
Miss M.C. Collins
During the recent measles epidemic a large number of children died on the Agency. At this village, a little child had been conjured until they thought it was dying, and then they sent for me. I found the poor little one all bruised with the hands of the conjurer. I showed the mother how to bathe it, and I poulticed the throat and sent Josephine over again to change the poultice, and she reported the child as breathing quietly. The next morning the swelling had gone down and the baby seemed much better; all day it continued to improve, and the next day sat up and ate rice soup which I carried it. The mother said, “She is well now!” I said, “O, no, she is not; keep her in the house three days and I will visit her, then she will be well perhaps.” If an Indian is not in a dying condition, they do not consider anything the matter. So, after I left, she took her child out and walked about two miles. The child caught cold, and that afternoon grew worse. They had an Indian to conjure it, and it died immediately. They sent for me to come and pray with them. Josephine went for Elias, and we went to the desolate home. The baby had been dead an hour and was closed up in a box, the grandfather singing a mourning song, the mother wailing, “O my daughter, my daughter, I loved her and she has left me.” Over and over again she cried out in her sorrow. The grandmother had cut her flesh, and the streams of blood running down from her hair over her face only made all seem more desolate, and more weird and terrible. They were trying to be Indians, and yet they had asked for me to come. I suppose it was to give the child the full benefit of both religions, so that there should be no mistake in the future world.
My Bible class now numbers ten; six of them are candidates for church membership. One of them spoke very nicely at our last prayer meeting. Among other things he said: “No man can kill God’s Word. It will live and his church will grow. We have tried to kill it in this village, but look at it now. It has taken hold of us, and we who have fought against it are now its followers. No man can kill God, because he alone is the creator of life, and it is only foolish to try to stand upon his word and keep it down. The Indian customs fall before the Word of God wherever the Bible has gone. My friends, stop fighting against God, believe on him and rejoice.” This is Wakutemani (Walking Hunter) whom I named Huntington Wolcott for Mr. Wolcott of Boston. Because he said he wanted a long name and the name of a good man, I combined the two. He is now ambitious to become a teacher. He will be ready for an out-station whenever you are able to build one. He says they have already asked him to come up on Oak Creek to teach them, and I gave him a Bible and hymn books and primer, and he goes about reading and singing and praying for Christ. May he be indeed the Walking Hunter, going about seeking souls. God be with him to the end.
Nearly all of our Indians signed the bill to open the reservation. John Grass took the lead. He is a very wise man, and a good one for an Indian who represents the wild Indians. I attended all the sessions of the Council except the last. I see by the papers that a Roman Catholic priest on this Agency says he touched the pen first, and that caused all the Indians to sign. Grass says he wants me to dispute that, that he refused to sign last year because he did not like the bill. This year, the Commissioners were men of brains and the bill was a better one, and was so explained that the Indians understood it, and that they of their own accord thought the best thing they could do was to sign it, that the said priest had no power or influence over them whatever. He said, “Tell our friends this for me, and tell them the Commissioners know that we signed it of our own will because we believed it was for the good of our people.” I told him I would write it East.
The instability of the Indian
It used to be a proverb among the Indians that “The white man is very uncertain.” The following brief extract from the letter of a missionary among the Indians not only shows that the Indian is unstable, but illustrates the difficulty of fixing the Indians in a given locality and at steady work:
The Commissioner was at the other day, and our Indians had a chance to sign, and almost all of them did so, but still to many of them the opening seems an evil. I am afraid they are not going to maintain their places in the face of settlement by the whites. Already six families have slipped away to the Indian Territory, and I shall not be much surprised if in the next two years a considerable majority of them go; and still it is about as difficult to tell what an Indian will do, as it is to forecast western weather. I think they have never done so well in farming as this year, but one case will illustrate how unstable they are. One man sold three young horses for about half what they were worth. He had about eight acres of wheat, twelve acres of corn, and an acre of oats, all of which he abandoned to go South, though all his crops were very fine and had been well worked by himself.