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 we walk up the central drive we notice that the Institution is a substantial stone building, the bareness of the walk relieved by a pretty trellis-work, up which hops and other creeping plants are climbing; to our right is a cottage-wing, which is the principal’s residence, and to our left the entrance hall, with an ornamental belfry over it; a little further to our left is another small stone building–the dairy. We enter the hall, and, having written our names in the Visitors’ book, we ascend the oak staircase and visit the school-room. Here the boys are all busy at work with their slates and books, and Mr. Wotton, the master, is instructing a class by the black-board. The school-room is nicely fitted up with modern desks and other appliances; on the walls are large maps and pictures, which give it a cheerful look; the ceiling is panelled in woods of two shades. Opening into the school-room is a smaller room, a class-room separated from it by three folding-doors. Ascending the staircase, we visit the dormitories. The east dormitory for the senior boys is fitted with English iron bedsteads, the junior dormitory has wooden bedsteads painted blue, and wide enough for two little fellows to sleep in each; the front dormitory, which is the largest of them all, is hung with hammocks,–there is sleeping accommodation altogether for about sixty-five boys. Descending once more, we pass through the lavatory and the matron’s sitting-room down to the dining-hall, and we note as we go along every here and there a shelf with three white pails full of water and an ominous F painted on them. Evidently experience has taught caution. The dining-hall is a fine large room, the ceiling panelled like the school-room. It has five long tables, at each of which twelve or fourteen boys can sit comfortably. One side of the room we notice is railed off–this is called the pen, and here the boys have to wait in patience while the tables are prepared for meals. Adjoining the dining-hall are the kitchen on one side, the work-room on the other. Every thing looks clean and tidy and well kept–the matron takes pride in having her department all in good order. In the work-room we find the Indian servant, Eliza, working at the sewing-machine making garments for the boys. Passing on through the other doorway, we cross a passage, and enter the class-room where John Esquimau is sitting at his studies, reading theology and studying Latin and Greek, with a view to entering the ministry. Adjoining this room is the office and dispensary.

And now we must leave the Institution building and visit the Chapel (see Frontispiece), a little winding path under the trees leads us to it. The building is of stone, set in a frame-work of wood, which, painted dark, gives a most picturesque appearance. There is a deep porch at the western entrance with stained glass window; within are heavy oak doors with ornamental mountings, and these, being opened, give us a view of the interior of the Chapel, and a very pretty view it is. In front of us are pillars supporting the chancel arch, and on either side a smaller arch, one enclosing the vestry, the other the organ-chamber; the space between the top of these arches and the roof being filled with fretwork. The windows are stained glass. The pulpit and prayer-desk and all the seats are of oak, and nicely carved. Under the chancel window is an oak reredos, on which are inscribed the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments in Indian. The altar-cloth is a very handsome one, given by a lady in England, and the stone font was presented by relatives of the late Bishop. Service is held in the Chapel twice every Sunday, the pupils from both Homes attending; and on Wednesday evenings there is a short service and catechizing.

Crossing to the other side of the road after leaving the Chapel, we enter the sash and door factory, and are immediately deafened by the din of the various machines in motion. Three Indian boys are at work here under the foreman, making doors, window-sash mouldings, and turned work of all descriptions. The boys are old pupils who have passed through the Institution, and now receive wages for their work, but they attend school every evening, which is a great advantage to them. One or two of the younger boys are also commencing to learn carpenter work at the factory. Crossing to the other cottage to the left of the Institution, we enter the boot shop; here we find another old pupil at work,–Harry Nahwaquageezhik,–and a very good boot maker he is. He does all the work for the Institutions, both mending and making, and has one or two younger boys under his instruction. When not required at the boot shop, Harry goes to garden or farm work.

And now we must drive out to the Wawanosh Home and pay it a visit also. It is upwards of two miles from Shingwauk, up the northern road and away from the river. As we drive up the road bordered with fields of grain or grass on either side, or shaded by birch and fir trees, we catch sight of the stone building to our right, in a nest of green foliage; and on the left white garments flapping in the breeze bespeak the presence of the laundry, with the laundress’ cottage close beside. A number of the girls are on the verandah, or amusing themselves on the grass, for it is play-time and school is over. Miss Cunningham, the lady Superintendent, meets us at the door, and conducts us through the building; on the left as we enter are the school-room and work-room with folding doors between, and on the right Miss Cunningham’s little sitting-room, and the girls’ dining-room; then at the back are the kitchen and wash-house, and overhead the girls’ dormitories and lavatory and other bed-rooms. All is kept very clean and neat, and does credit to those who are in charge.

Such are our buildings and our work, and such the efforts that we are making for the evangelization and training of these poor Ojebway Indians.

And now perhaps the question will be asked:–

Do These Indian Homes Seem Likely To Prove A Success?

Have we reason to expect that we shall, in due time, achieve our object, and raise the Indian to a position equal to that of his white brethren? Is this idea of inducing them to exchange the bow and arrow for the carpenter’s bench, the war-club for the blacksmith’s hammer, the net and canoe for the plough, a mere visionary one, or is it a scheme that we have a good prospect of seeing carried into effect? The following questions suggest themselves and we are prepared with the answers:–

1. Are the Indians willing to make the change? Yes, for the most part, they desire it.

2. Are their sons capable of receiving education and acquiring a knowledge of the various trades sufficient to make a livelihood? We refer to the appended letters from the masters of the various trades that our boys are learning: and as to education, our own experience is that Indian boys can learn as fast as white boys, and many of them will _retain_ what they have learnt a good deal better. They read distinctly, without any foreign accent, write a capital hand, and are very fair arithmeticians.

3. Will they stick to their work? Yes. We were doubtful about this at first, but now we can say yes. Our apprentice boys work ten hours a day, six days a week, and very rarely ask for a holiday. Having once become accustomed to regular work, they like it, and will stick to it as well as any white man.

4. Will their love for a wild life ever be eradicated? Perhaps not. Why should it? Our boys, all of them, thoroughly enjoy a “camp out,” such as we have sometimes in the summer, but scarcely one of them would wish to go back and spend his whole life in this manner. They know that a life depending on hunting and fishing means poverty, dirt, and ignorance; and they don’t mean to go back to this. We don’t wish to un-Indianize them altogether, we would not overcurb their free spirit; we would not pluck the feather from their cap or the sash from their waist or the moccasin from their foot. They are a proud, grand nation in their way. An Indian was never a slave any more than a Briton. An Indian has no words of profanity in his language. An Indian is noted for his loyalty to the British Crown. Let them hand down their noble and good qualities to their children. But in the matter of procuring a livelihood let us, for their own good, induce them to lay aside the bow and fish-spear, and, in lieu thereof, put their hand to the plough, or make them wield the tool of the mechanic.

We hope to see the day, if it please God, when these Indian Homes shall be three times their size, and the number of the pupils deriving benefit from them shall be three-fold increased.

The tailor to whom one boy was apprenticed writes as follows:–

“Dear Sir,–Aubee has all the necessary qualifications to make a good tailor. I think it would be better for him to come every week, instead of every second week, as at present.

Yours &c.,

W. Vaughan.”

_From the Printer_.

“The Indian boys who are employed in the Shingwauk Printing Office–in charge of which I have been for the past eighteen months–have, during that time, made very considerable progress. I have found them, as a rule, apt, obedient, steady and clever, and do not doubt, that in course of time and with proper education, they will make excellent printers.

S. Reid.”

_From the Tinsmith_.

“Dear sir,–I think that you have not a boy in the home better deserving of praise than Pedahjewun. He will make a first-class tinsmith. He has been with me two years and I never knew him to tell me a lie in that time.

H. P. Pim.”

_From the Carpenter and Builder_.

“SIR,–From the time Jackson has been under me, he has learnt the trade fast. He is fond of it, is steady and obliging, and I think will make a good mechanic as joiner and carpenter.

Yours truly,

E. Murton (Builder).”

Missions, Ojibway,

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

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