An Indian Chief In England.

We were not long in setting the Chief to work. It was Friday when we arrived, and on the following Thursday our first meeting was held in Bishop Wilson’s Memorial Hall, Islington. Notice was given of the meeting in church on the intervening Sunday, the Chief occupying a seat in one of the pews, and a circular was also issued headed:–

“A Red Indian Chief’s Visit To England.”

The result was an overflowing meeting. The vicar occupied the chair and a number of clergy were on the platform. Chief Buhkwujjenene seeming to be just as much at his ease as if he were addressing a council of his own people, stood forth and in simple eloquent terms told his story, myself interpreting for him every time he paused.

“My brothers and sisters,” he began, “I salute you. I have come all the way across the great salt water to see you, and it does my heart good to see so many pale faces gathered together before me.” He then recounted what had led him to take the journey. It had not been his own wish, but he felt that God had led him to do so; God had preserved him amid the dangers of the ocean, and he trusted that God would prosper the cause for which he came to plead. “Many years ago,” he said, “I and my people were in a very different state to what we are now: we had no teaching, no churches, no missionaries, our medicine men taught us to believe in good and bad spirits and to depend on dreams. I, when a boy, was obliged by my father to blacken my face and fast for many days together, and while doing this it was believed that whatever I dreamed would come true. But now we Indians at Garden River are no longer heathen, we have all now accepted Christianity and we have our church and our missionary. The desire of my heart is to see our religion spread among the other Indians; we want more Missionaries to be sent to us, and greater efforts made to extend the blessings of the Gospel. We want our children to be taught to follow civilized trades as the white people do. We feel that the time is past for the Indians to live by hunting and fishing as our forefathers used to do. We wish to give up our old habits and adopt the customs of the pale faces. In order to accomplish this we propose that a big teaching wigwam should be built at Garden River where our sons may be taught to carpenter and make boots and other such things as are useful, and where our daughters may learn needlework and knitting and spinning. This is the desire of my heart, this is the cause for which I have come to plead. We Indians are too poor to help ourselves, and so we look to you white people who now occupy our hunting grounds to help us. We know that our great Mother Queen Victoria, loves her Indian subjects; often have we fought for her and we are ready to fight her battles again. We have readily given up our hunting grounds to you, and all that we ask of you is that you will help us in improving ourselves and in educating our children.”

After this the Chief put on his Indian dress and sang a war song. Much interest was stirred up by his address and the collection which was made after the meeting amounted to upwards of L11.

The following Sunday the Holy Communion was administered at the old parish church of St. Mary’s, and among those who knelt at the rails to receive the sacred emblems of our Lord’s passion and death, was the Indian Chief Buhkwujjenene. I repeated the words to him in his own tongue as I administered the bread and wine.

The following day we visited the Rev. Henry Venn, the venerable Secretary of the Church Missionary Society. He received us most kindly, and for his own part he hoped that the Committee, whom we were to meet on the morrow, would agree to continue their support of the mission at Garden River, and to assist us in our proposed scheme for the advancement and civilization of the Indians; he feared, however, we might have some difficulty in the matter, on account of our proposed plans not being strictly in accordance with the main object of the Society, which is to carry the Gospel to the heathen.

Among the earliest plans made for the edification and amusement of the Chief was a visit to the Zoological Gardens at Regent’s Park. Among the birds the Chief quickly recognized the Canadian thrush, and doffed his hat with evident pleasure at the rencontre. We went the regular rounds, as every one does, through the monkey-house, through the parrot-house, down through the tunnel and alongside the canal to the house of the reptiles, then back to where the elephants and giraffes are kept. The hippopotamus was on land so we saw him well; the giraffes walked round and round and bowed their necks to the visitors as they always do; the elephant obeyed his keeper, stood up on his hind legs, elevated his trunk, trumpeted and consumed biscuits. Then we saw the lions and tigers fed. The Chief had a ride on one of the camels, and looked very picturesque in his white blanket coat, though scarcely oriental enough in his appearance to produce a natural effect.

Another day we had an interview with his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. It was not brought about in the way such things are generally accomplished, but still it did very well. The occasion was the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum. We had gallery tickets for the Chief and myself. It was an imposing display. The centre of the hall was occupied by all the great grandees in brilliant dress including natives of many a foreign clime. The arrival of Royalty was signalized by a clarion blast which thrilled through one’s veins and set one on the tiptoe of expectation. The Royal party entered, the necessary ceremonies for the opening of the building were gone through, and then commenced a tour of the galleries. The Prince and his suite would pass close to us. This was a chance not to be thrown away. I had a photograph of Buhkwujjenene in my pocket. Buhkwujjenene on his breast wore a silver medal presented to him in common with other chiefs by the Prince on the occasion of his visit to Canada some years before. I stepped up to one of the managers of the Institution–Here was an Indian chief, a medal on his breast, given him by the Prince of Wales. Would it be out of place for the Chief to present his _carte de visite_ to the Prince? The manager good-naturedly said that he would speak to one of the suite when they approached and ask if it could be done. Soon the word came that the Prince would be pleased to have Chief Buhkwujjenene presented to him. So space was made for us by a policeman in the front ranks of the crowd–and we awaited His Royal Highness’s arrival. The moment came. His Royal Highness greeted the Chief most cordially and pleasantly, examined the medal on his breast, and said that he remembered his face among the Indian chiefs who had been presented to him in Canada. “Tell him,” said the Prince to me; “tell him I remember his face perfectly.” We were then permitted to join the Royal procession and make the round of the building.

But our time was not all taken up in sightseeing. We had plenty to do, and only a little time to do it in. Nearly every night there was a meeting, and often we had two or three engagements in the course of a day. Never did an Indian chief have such a hard time of it. Wherever he went, he wore his blanket coat, his feather in his hat, his leggings and moccasins, and the skunk skin on his arm. Very seldom was any attempt made to treat him rudely, though occasionally it was necessary to hurry him through the streets to avoid a crowd collecting. Wide guesses were made at his nationality; one would take him for a New Zealander, another for a native of Japan.

One of our best meetings was a garden-party at Mitcham Vicarage. There was a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen beneath the dark spreading cedars on the soft lawn. The Chief put on his feathers and ornaments, and at once became the centre of attraction. I think it was on this occasion that he narrated the Indian tradition of the Flood:

“Nanaboozhoo,” said the Chief, “had a son. He loved his son. He told his son never to go near the water lest evil should come to him. The son disobeyed his father: he went out in a canoe and was never seen or heard of more. Nanaboozhoo then vowed vengeance against the gods of the water, who had destroyed his son. There were two of these gods, and one day they lay sleeping on the shore. Nanaboozhoo was looking everywhere for them, determined to kill them. A loon offered to show him where they were sleeping. He followed the loon till he found them, and then he made short work of them with his tomahawk and his war-club. But lo, and behold, no sooner were the gods dead than the waters of the great lake rose up in vengeance; they pursued Nanaboozhoo up on to the dry land, and he had to run for his life. He sought the highest mountain and climbed to the top of the highest pine-tree. Still the waters pursued him. They rose higher and higher. What could he do? He broke off a few of the topmost branches, and made a raft upon which he got and saved himself. He saved also a number of the animals that were kicking and struggling in the water all around him. At length he bethought himself of making a new world. How should he do it? Could he but procure a little of the old world he might manage it. He selected the beaver from among the animals, and sent it to dive after some earth. When it came up it was dead. He sent the otter, but it died also. At length he tried the musk rat. The musk rat dived. When it came up it was dead. But in its claws was clenched a little earth. Nanaboozhoo carefully took this earth, rubbed it in his fingers till it was dry, then placed it in the palm of his hand, and blew it gently over the surface of the water. A new world was thus formed, and Nanaboozhoo and all the animals landed. Nanaboozhoo sent out a wolf to see how big the world was. He was gone a month. Again he sent him out, and he was gone a year. Then he sent out a very young wolf. This young wolf died of old age before it could get back. So Nanaboozhoo said the world was big enough, and might stop growing.”

About L80 was collected on this occasion.

We paid two visits to the Archbishop of Canterbury, at Lambeth. On both occasions he was most cordial and kind, and appeared to take much interest in the work of evangelizing the Indians.


Wilson, Rev. Edward F. Missionary Work Among the Ojebway Indians. London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1886.

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