Collection: Missionary work among the Ojibway Indians

Mission Work At Sarnia.

After settling in at our new home on the Sarnia Reserve, a great part of my time was taken up in exploring through the Bush and visiting the Indians in their houses. We found one very piteous case of a poor woman in the last stage of consumption. The poor creature was worn to a skeleton lying on a most miserable looking bed with nothing to cover her but a ragged strip of black funereal-looking cloth. Although so very ill, she was able to answer the questions that Wagimah put to her, and when I offered to read the Bible to her she seemed very glad. She listened most attentively while I read in Ojebway the eighteenth chapter of St. Luke, and told her of the love of Christ in coming to save sinners. Then we knelt, and I offered two prayers for the sick copied into my pocket-companion from the Indian prayer-book. We visited the poor creature several times again, and once Mrs. Wilson accompanied me and brought with her some blanc-mange or jelly which she had made. She was much touched at the sight of the poor creature’s utter destitution. We were amused as we went along to see a pair of babies’ boots hanging on the branch of a tree, evidently placed there by some honest Indian who had chanced to find them on the road....

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Roughing It.

We expected that when we got to Garden River we should find an empty house, and have to do everything for ourselves; so we came well provided with a supply of flour, salt meat, etc., etc. Quite a crowd of Indians came running down to the dock when we landed, and all were eager to shake hands, crying, “Boozhoo, boozhoo,” the Indian mode of address. Then one seized a bundle, another a portmanteau, and, all laden with our baggage and supplies, accompanied us up to the Mission-house. Chief Buhkwujjenene was most warm in his greetings. “Would that you could always remain with us!” he exclaimed. On arriving at the little white-washed Parsonage, we were very glad to find that, although Mr. Chance had been gone for more than a week, Mrs. Chance and two of the children were still there; the furniture also had not been removed. Mrs. Chance taught me to bake bread before she left, which was very useful, as I still often have to make camp bread. After a few days we were left alone with our boy Aleck. It was a primitive style of living, but we both enjoyed it immensely. The Indians were all so pleased to have us with them, and the attendance at services both on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, was very satisfactory. There was something quite enchanting about our little log...

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Prospects Of Re-Building.

“Shingwauk–an announcement!” Such was the heading of a communication which appeared in the correspondence columns of the “Church Herald” in the Spring of 1874, between four and five months after our fire,–and it ran thus: “A little more than four months ago the Shingwauk Industrial Home at Garden River was burnt to the ground, and not a vestige of it left. An appeal was then made to Church people of Canada, England, and Ireland to assist in re-building it, and the sum required being L2000; the building to comprise an Industrial School for boys and girls, and principals residence. I am happy to announce that this sum is, so far as I can ascertain, almost, if not already, secured. From the Canadian Church, 1410 dols.; from Government, 1000 dols.; and the balance from the Old Country. I mention this in no spirit of boastfulness, but in humble gratitude to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Holy Spirit hath thus inclined the hearts of His people to give. All that has been contributed has been ‘offertory money’ in the truest sense of the word. No expense (beyond printing) has been incurred, and every contribution that has been offered, whether of a hundred pounds or a penny, has I believe been given with a full and grateful heart, as unto God and not as unto men.” It...

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Glad Tidings From Neepigon.

I shall now close this little volume with a letter from, the Rev. R. Renison, who is labouring most degon Indians. It is dated February, 1884, and it speaks for itself. “On Monday, FebGlad Tidings From Neepigon. lf left Ningwinnenang to visit a family of pagan Indians about forty miles from this Mission. Our blankets, overcoats, provisions, and cooking utensils, made a pack of forty pound weight for each to carry; over lakes, through the dense bush, up steep hills which were sometimes almost insurmountable. It was one of the most beautiful winter mornings that I have ever yet experienced. The sun shone brightly, and it was just cold enough to render a brisk walk enjoyable. At 11 a.m. we reached a wigwam at the north end of McIntyre Bay, which was occupied by Mishael Obeseekun, their wives and children, who had left the Mission some time previous for the purpose of snaring rabbits, which at present is the chief support of the Indians. Here we received a hearty welcome; a large pot of rabbits was quickly cooked–we enjoyed them thoroughly; and all the little children declared that they were glad to see their Missionary. Mishael’s wife having noticed that my moccasin was badly torn, took her needle and thread and had it fixed ‘in less than no time.’ Before leaving I took the Indian New Testament and read...

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Indian Names Given.

It is a custom with the Indians to bestow Indian names upon missionaries and others who come to work among them, in order to make them, as it were, one with themselves. We had not been many months resident in Sarnia before we received an invitation from the pagan Chief at Kettle Point, to come to a grand feast which the Indians were preparing in our honour at that place, and to receive Indian names by which we should be incorporated into the Ojebway tribe. It was one of the coldest of winter days when we started, the glass very low, a high wind, and the snow whirling through the air in blinding clouds. We went by train to Forest, and there Ahbettuhwahnuhgund met us with his sleigh. It was just a common box sleigh with two seats, and the bottom filled with straw, and two horses to pull us. We were all bundled up in rugs and blankets and wraps; the Chief, who was driving, had his head completely smothered up in a bright blue shawl belonging to his wife, and wrapped so many times round that he was as wide at the top of his eyes as at his shoulders. The only one of the party who appeared careless about the cold was an Indian named Garehees, who had come with us from Sarnia, and he sat...

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Kettle Point.

Besides the four hundred Indians on the Sarnia Reserve, there were about one hundred more living at Kettle Point, thirty miles distant, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. I had not been long settled at Sarnia, when, in company with my interpreter. I started on a first visit to these people. I will describe the journey. Taking the railway as far as Forest, we had to walk on a distance of eight or nine miles. Neither of us knew the country, but a couple of Indians, whom we happened to fall in with, showed us the way. It was nearly two o’clock when we reached David Sahpah’s house. We found the Indians most hospitable; some of them were Methodists, some still pagans, and others members of the Church. They were most desirous of having a Church Mission established among them, as there was no school for their children and no regular services held. Not a single individual, man, woman, or child, could read or write. They were very anxious to have a school-house built and a schoolmaster sent to teach them, indeed some of them had already got out logs with the view of building a school. The Chief’s name was Ahbettuhwahnuhgund (Half a Cloud), a fine, broad-shouldered, intelligent-looking man, but still a pagan, although he had had several of his children baptized in the Church. There was...

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Laying The Foundation Stone.

On Friday, the 31st of July, 1874, the foundation stone of the new Shingwauk Home was laid by the Earl of Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada. It was fortunate that his Excellency had planned a trip to the Upper Lakes just at this very time. Two days before his arrival a telegram was received from Col. Cumberland, Provincial A.D.C. who was accompanying his lordship–“I have his Excellency’s commands to say that it will give him much pleasure to lay the corner-stone of your School on his arrival, which will probably be Friday afternoon.” All now was bustle and excitement, and great preparations were made; triumphal arches erected, flag-poles put up and flags hoisted, and a cold collation prepared in the carpenter’s shop, which was the only building at present erected. The ladies of Sault Ste. Marie most liberally gave us every assistance, and the “spread” of good things was complimented by the Governor-General, who remarked that he had never before seen a luncheon so tastefully laid out in Canada. On Friday, at 1 p.m., the steamship _Chicora_, which had been chartered by the vice-regal party, drew up at the Sault dock. The leading inhabitants of the place welcomed his Excellency on landing, and presented him with a loyal address, to which he made a suitable reply. During the procession a salute was fired by a company of volunteers. The guns...

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First Visit To Garden River.

We met with a hearty welcome from Mr. and Mrs. Chance, though we had never seen them before. Their church and Mission-house and little log school-house were picturesquely situated on rising ground quite close to the river. The Mission-house, which occupied the centre of the three buildings, was constructed of logs clapboarded over and whitewashed. It had a verandah in front, over the trellis work of which hops grew in profusion, and clambered upwards to the roof. In front of the house was a neat little garden, with two or three fir-trees, some lilac bushes, and well-filled flower-beds. There was quite a profusion of roses, which, even at this late season of the year, scented the air deliciously. Outside the garden fence with its green gate, was a field of Indian corn which sloped down almost to the water’s edge. The view from the steps of the verandah was very pretty; one could see the broad deep St Maria River, nearly a mile wide, and long lines of sailing vessels towed by small tugs, occasionally passing and repassing on their way from the upper to the lower lakes. Across the river were the well-wooded hills of Sugar Island, with here and there a settler’s shanty and clearing. To the left hand could still be seen the broad river winding its course down toward Lake George, the smaller stream, called...

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First Missionary Experiences.

My first service among the Indians was held in a little log-house on the Indian Reserve, at Sarnia (south of Lake Huron), on Sunday, July 26th. Twenty-two Indians of the Ojebway tribe were present. They all seemed most anxious to have a Church of England Mission established in their midst, as many of them, inclusive of their venerable old chief, Wawanosh, were already members of the Church, and had been from time to time visited by a Missionary. I promised to visit them again on my return from other Indian settlements and see what could be done. The following day, Monday, I took train to Toronto, and thence to Collingwood, from which place I intended to branch off to Owen Sound and visit the Cape Croker and Saugeen Indians. I had with me as interpreter a young Indian named Andrew Jacobs, his Indian name being Wagimah-wishkung, and for short I called him Wagimah. At Owen Sound we met with some Cape Croker Indians, and engaged their boat and two men to take us the following day to their settlement, about forty miles up the Lake Shore. Soon after four the next morning we were up and dressed, and an hour later were on our way. It was fine, but rather foggy, and the sun scarcely visible through the mist. Not a breath of wind was stirring, so we had...

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How It Came About That I Went To Canada.

All things are wonderfully ordered for us by God. Such has been my experience for a long time past. If only we will wait and watch, the way will open for us. Where shall I begin with my history as a Missionary? When I was a child, it was my mother’s hope and wish that I should bear the glad tidings of the Gospel to distant lands. She was a Missionary in heart herself, and it was her earnest desire that one of her boys would grow up to devote himself to that most blessed work. However there seemed little likelihood of her wishes being fulfilled. I disliked the idea of going to Oxford as my brothers had done. A wild free life away from the restraints of civilization was my idea of happiness, and after studying agriculture for a year or two in England, I bade farewell to my native shores and started for Canada. Then God took me in hand. I had been only three days in the country when He put it into my heart to become a Missionary. The impulse came suddenly, irresistibly. In a few days it was all settled. Farming was given up, and I entered upon my course as a theological student. That same summer I spent a month or six weeks on an Indian Reserve, and became, as people would say,...

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Fire! Fire!

At 10 o’clock that Saturday night (September 27th) I went my rounds as usual to see that all was well. Earlier in the evening we had fancied that we smelt burning, but it was accounted for by the matron, who said that she had put some old rags into the washhouse stove. Everything seemed to be safe and comfortable, and at 11 p.m. I retired to rest. About 3 o’clock in the morning Mrs. Wilson and myself were simultaneously awakened by the running to and fro of the boys in the dormitory overhead, and the shouting of the schoolmaster. We were both up in an instant. I lighted a candle, put on a few clothes, and opened the door leading into the nursery. The cause of alarm was immediately apparent. Flames were leaping up at the back of the house, seeming to come from the cellar, which was entered by a staircase from the outside, just under the nurseries. Every one now was crying “Fire!” and all seemed to be rushing about frantically. Mrs. Wilson called to the servants to wrap our children in blankets, and escape with them. I ran from the nursery to the kitchen, where was a door that led out to the back; there I found Cryer and Frost vainly endeavouring to stifle the flames by throwing on buckets of water. It was raining in...

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Coasting And Camping.

Quite a high sea was running on Thunder Bay when, on _July_ 30, having parted with the Bishop, I started off in _The Missionary_ with my seven Indian boys. A stiff south-east wind was blowing, and, as our course lay in a southerly direction, we had to tack. We managed, however, to run across Thunder Bay within five or six miles of our point, and then tacked about to reach it; and about three miles further ran into a nice little sheltered bay, where we camped for the night. The boys were merry, and soon had a capital fire blazing up and the camp-pots hissing and bubbling. By eight o’clock supper was ready, and then, after prayer and singing and each one repeating a verse of Scripture around the camp fire, we all turned in for the night, having safely accomplished the first twenty miles of our homeward trip. It may be well to state at this point, for the information of those who are not acquainted with the topography of Canada, that Lake Superior, upon which we were now sailing, is the largest body of fresh water in the world, the length of it from end to end, by the course which the steamboats take, being 623 miles. The breadth of the lake at the widest point is 160 miles. Its area is fully as large as Ireland,...

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Christmas On The Reserve.

We were anxious as soon as possible to have both church and Mission-house built on the Sarnia Reserve, so that we might move down among the Indians and dwell in their midst. When therefore the matter of the land was settled, and one acre of Antoine Rodd’s farm had been given over for the use of our Mission, we began preparations for the erection of the two buildings. For the building of the church, I wished the Indians to give as much in the way of labour and help as possible, so as to show their earnestness in the cause; but for the erection of the Mission-house, we had to depend largely on contributions from our friends in England. However, the Church Missionary Society made us a grant of L100, and friends helped liberally, so that we had no lack of funds, and by the time the two buildings were completed and fenced round with a board fence, all was paid for. We moved into our new house on the 29th of January, 1869, just six months after our arrival in Canada. It was a nice little frame cottage, with a large room or hall in the centre, study and bed-room on one side, and sitting-room and bed-room on the other; and at the back, connected by a covered passage, were the kitchen and pantry, with servants’ bed-room over....

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Charlie And Ben.

During a short visit which I paid to England in the winter of 1877, the idea was formed of building a separate Home for Indian girls, and now it became necessary to make the project known also in Canada. Accordingly, in the summer vacation of that year I started off, taking with me two little fellows from our Institution–Charlie and Ben, and also a model which I had made of the Shingwauk Home. My object was not so much to collect money as to tell the friends who had been helping us what, by God’s help, we had been enabled to do, and what, with His blessing, we still hoped to do. The first part of the journey was a dash of two miles along a muddy road in a buggy drawn by my spirited little mare “Dolly,” with only ten minutes to catch the boat. The next 300 miles were passed on board the steamboat _Ontario_, which, after rather a rough passage, landed us in Sarnia on the night of Tuesday, May 22nd. From Sarnia we took train to Toronto. Here we passed the Queen’s birthday, and the boys saw a splendid display of fireworks in the evening. The most remarkable part of the entertainment was a races between a pig and an elephant in mid-air. They were fire balloons shaped like those animals, and it was really...

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Chief Buhkwujjenene’s Mission.

It was sugar-making time, and Buhkwujjenene was at work three miles back in the bush collecting the sap from the maple-trees, and, with the assistance of his wife and a large family of daughters, boiling it down in huge black kettles to transform it into maple-sugar. It was rather a labour getting out there, and I had to take my snow-shoes. About two miles back from where our parsonage stood is a long range of low, rocky hills, about 300 feet high, nearly parallel with the course of the river, and for the most part bare and naked, only sprinkled with a few ragged balsams, pine, and birch. It was April, and the snow was gone from the exposed parts of the hill, but beyond, in the valley where sugar-making was going on, it was still a couple of feet deep. Wandering along through the bush, the first sign of your approach to a sugar-camp is generally the sound of an axe or the barking of a dog; these help to direct your steps; then, in a little while you see snow-shoe tracks, and then–here are the little birch-bark troughs, one or two to each maple-tree, and a slip of wood stuck in the tree about two feet from the ground, which serves as a spout to convey the sap from the tree to the trough. It does not...

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