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 first Missionary Bishop. His consecration was appointed to take place October 28th.

And now I must tell about the opening of our Home, which took place on Monday, the 22nd of September.

It was a fine bright day, and preparations began early in the morning with the hoisting of flags, ringing the church bell, and firing of guns. A string of flags–blue, yellow, red, and white–adorned the face of the building, and a large Union Jack, given by Mrs. Buxton, was hoisted on the centre of the roof. Men on the Reserve met first, early in the morning, for a “clearing bee” on the farm; and at 4 p.m. a general gathering of all the people was appointed to take place at “The Home” for the opening ceremony.

We had at this time the promise of twenty-three pupils, but only sixteen had as yet arrived–eight boys and eight girls. Six came from Sarnia, two from Walpole Island, two from Manitoulin Island, and six belonged to Garden River. Among the latter were Eliza Pine’s little orphan boy Benjamin. They all seemed very happy and contented in their new home. Those who came from a distance had their travelling expenses paid by their band; and we thought, if anything, it was rather an advantage to get them, as their homes were too far off for them to be likely to run away if they became home-sick. Both boys and girls worked very well, helping the matron (Mrs. Shunk) and schoolmaster to get everything ready by 4 p.m. The dining hall was prettily decorated with stag-horn, moss, and flowers, and laid out with tables bearing, on one side of the room, a “heavy dinner” for those who had been toiling at the “Bee,” and on the other side a light repast for other visitors. The hall was soon crowded with people, and all came in for some share of the feast. Then we had croquet and other games in the garden until 6 p.m., when a bell was rung, and all gathered in the hall.

The two Indian Chiefs, Buhkwujjenene and Augustin Shingwauk (Little Pine), Mr. Frost, and myself, sat at a table at one end, with the boys and girls of the Home ranged on our right and left, the rest of the room being occupied by the people.

The opening ceremonies were conducted in a very simple manner, with a short service, a special prayer for the occasion, hymns, and the declaration that the building was now open, and was to be known by the name of “The Shingwauk Industrial Home,” Shingwank (a pine tree) having been the family name of the Garden River Chiefs, for several generations back.

Then I invited the whole crowd of people to follow me in order through the building, that they might see every part of it. I went first, with a lamp, and was followed by the Chiefs and all the Indians, and the schoolmaster, with another lamp, brought up the rear. We ascended the boys’ staircase, through the master’s bedroom into the boys’ dormitories, looked into the clothing store well supplied from English and Canadian Sunday-schools, then down our own staircase, into the dining-room, out again into the hall, through our kitchen and the Institution kitchen, and the matron’s sitting-room, into the girl’s work-room and dormitories, and so back to the dining-hall. Then all again took their places, and the meeting was continued. I read over the rules which had been placed on boards and hung up in the dining-hall; read over the names of the children already admitted, gave a few particulars about our work, and then invited the Chiefs each to give an address. They spoke very warmly, and expressed themselves as highly gratified with all that had been done and was being done for their advancement, and thanked God that this “big teaching wigwam,” which they had so long wished for, was now built and opened for use. We then concluded the meeting with another hymn and the blessing.

I had been very successful in getting support for my Indian children. Several Sunday-schools in Toronto and elsewhere had kindly undertaken the support of individual children, and Tommy and Jimmy were provided for by kind friends in England. We thus had much reason to be hopeful and to thank God.

During the remainder of the week our Indian children attended regularly every day at school.

At last, Saturday night came; tea and prayers were half an hour earlier than on other days. Mr. Frost played the harmonium, and the children sang sweetly “Shall we gather at the river?” Then they had their baths, and all retired to rest, looking forward to a happy day on the morrow, the first Sunday in our new Institution.

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

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