Thirty Years Waiting For A Missionary.

At 8 p.m. Chief Winchaub came over, having had a friendly cup of tea, he delivered his promised answer.–The Indians, he said, approved all that we had said; they were glad to see us, and that we had built this big teaching wigwam for Indian boys, they would like to have their children educated, but most of them thought it was too far to send their children. He, for his part, if he had a child, would send him, and another man was willing to send his little boy when older, at present he was too young. We asked him about one promising-looking lad we had seen, the dark-eyed boy with the bow and arrows. The Chief said he had spoken to that boy’s father, but he was not willing to send him, it was too far, and he would never know how it fared with him.

The Chief then said he had one other thing he wished to speak about,–there was one band of Indians on the lake, not belonging to him, who, he understood, wished to embrace Christianity and become members of the Church of England. At the time of the great council at Sault Ste. Marie, thirty years ago, the great White Chief had told them that they should have a Missionary of the English Church, and they had been waiting for him ever since. After telling us this he bade us adieu and left.

We had already gone to bed, in preparation for an early start in the morning, and I was lying awake, when my attention was attracted by the splash of paddles and an animated conversation going on upon the water.

Esquimau came to my tent and said, “One of those men that the Chief was talking about has just arrived, and he has two boys with him.” I said to William, “This is God’s doing,” and we both got up and went out to see the man; the Bishop also got up and came out. It was a most interesting interview. We stirred up the dying embers of the camp fire and sat around it on logs. This man, whose name we found was Mesten, had travelled about forty miles, not knowing that we were here till he met Esquimau. He said that he and his people, though at present pagans, were prepared to accept the English religion. Their former chief, who was now dead, had told them to do so thirty years ago. He had waited for a Missionary to come until he died, and since then they had been waiting on year after year; they would not accept the French religion, but were waiting for an English Black-coat to come and teach them.

He did not know how many they were in number, but he thought about a hundred; our guide, Uhbesekun, he said, was one of their number. We then made inquiries as to their location, and found it would take us about ten miles out of our way to visit them. The Bishop was so impressed with the evident leading of God’s Providence in the matter that even, though it might cause some alteration in our plans, we determined to pay them a visit.

_August 12th_.–Uhbesekun was commissioned to wake everyone at half-past four, but I was the first to wake, and sent William to arouse the others. A head-wind was blowing, so we had to paddle and row hard; we accomplished about thirty miles in seven consecutive hours. We had dinner on a rocky island, and then five or six miles more brought us to the Indian encampment in Chiefs Bay. There were only two wigwams visible, with six or seven people in each, a few canoes on the shore, and seven or eight large dogs prowling about. After introducing ourselves to the men and telling them the object of our visit, we paddled on about a mile further to deposit our baggage at the portage, and left two boys and the guide to light a fire and erect the tents, and then the Bishop, Joseph, William, and myself, returned to the Indian camp. The men were away when we got there, so I sat down and made a sketch of the camp and our boys showed the photograph of the Shingwauk Home to the women, and told them all about it. By this time the men had returned, a fish-box was brought for the “Big black-coat” to sit on, and a tub turned up for me, and then the pow-wow began.

The Bishop briefly related what had led us to visit them, how one of their number had fallen in with us the night before, and had told us that they were desirous of embracing the English religion, and so we had come on purpose to see them.

There were two principal men listening to us, and they several times expressed their approval as the Bishop proceeded. One of them then replied at length. He said, “Thirty years ago all the Indian Chiefs were called together at the Rapids (Sault Ste. Marie) to meet the Great White Chief in order to make a treaty with him about surrendering their lands to the Queen, My father was chief at that time; his name was Muhnedooshans. The Great White Chief (Sir John Robinson) made a treaty with us. We were each to receive L6 a year as an annuity. My father often spoke to us about it when he was alive. My eldest brother is now our chief; his name is Cheyadah. The chieftainship has been in our family for many generations past. We still carry out the precepts of our father; we do not do as the other Indians do. The Great White Chief gave my father a paper which showed the boundaries of the land set apart for our use by the Queen. My eldest brother now has this paper. My father said to us, ‘Do not travel about all the time as the other Indians do, but settle upon this land and farm like the white people do.’ We obey the precepts of our father. We have already cleared some land, and every year we plant potatoes. We cannot do much more than this until we have some one to teach us. We have built also three log-houses like the white people. Some of us live in these houses in the winter time. Our land is about four miles in extent. At present it is our fishing season, so we are scattered about fishing, and live in wigwams as you see us now. This is how we gain our living. Another thing that the Great White Chief said to my father was, that we should not join the French religion, but he would send us an English black-coat to teach us. So every year my father was waiting for the English teacher to come; he waited on in vain, year after year, and died a pagan. His last words to us were that we should still wait for an English teacher to come, and that when he came we must receive him well and ask him to open a school for our children to be taught. He also told us never to sell our land to the white people, but always to keep it, and not to scatter about, but to keep together. Thus to this present day have we kept to the precepts of our father, and we now welcome you as the English teachers that our father told us to look for.”

The Bishop then spoke again, and told them that he felt most thankful in his heart to hear their words; he was very thankful that the Great Spirit had directed his steps to come and see them. He had it in his heart to do all he could for them; he was sorry that he could not at once send them a teacher; that was impossible for the present. All that he could offer was to take one or two of their boys into our Institution at Sault Ste. Marie. Then, at the Bishop’s request, I gave the people a full account of the origin and history of our Shingwauk Home, much the same as I had said to Chief Winchaub the night before. They seemed much interested, though afraid to send any children on account of the great distance.

After this the conversation became general. They told us their names; they said they were very thankful we had come to see them; they knew the white man was right about religion, for he knew everything, their knives and axes and clothing were all made by white men; Indians were poor and ignorant, and needed to be taught. They had almost given up looking for a Missionary. When they went to the Hudson Bay Post in the spring, they were told they had better join the Roman Catholics, but they said, No, they would still wait, and they were glad now that they had done so. I then made a list of the heads of families and the number belonging to each, the total being about seventy. We showed them a hymn-book printed in Indian at the Shingwauk Home, which interested them greatly, though at first they held it upside down. Then I showed them the Indian Testament, and told them this was the Book that God had given to us. They handled it very reverently, and answered readily in the affirmative when asked if they would like to hear some of the words it contained. I read part of the 8th chapter of St. Mark, about the feeding of the four thousand, the curing of the blind man, and our Lord’s words about the worth of the soul. The people listened most intently, indicating their wonderment by suppressed ejaculations as I read anything that especially struck them, such, for instance, as the fact that 4000 men were fed with the loaves and fishes; but what produced the most intense attention was the account of our Lord’s mockery, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. Their sympathy with the suffering Saviour was most marked, and their simple astonishment most evident when I came to the part about the stone rolled away and the angels telling the women that Jesus was risen from the dead.

When we were preparing to go back to our camp, Oshkahpuhkeda said to me, “Well, if my son is not too big, you may take him with you; I know I shall be sad without him, I shall weep often for him, but I want him to be taught, and I will try to control myself until he returns to see me next summer.” I said I should be very glad to take the boy, and would treat him as my son, and I would write to the Hudson Bay Company’s agent at Red Rock, that through him he might hear how his son fared, and next summer his boy should go back to him, and he need not send him again unless he wished. I also asked him whether he would be willing that the lad should be baptized after he had received instruction. “Yes, yes,” he said, “that is what I wish; I wish my son to be educated and brought up as a Christian. My wife,” he continued, “is dead; I also have a sickness working in my body–perhaps I shall not live long. If I die, I wish you to take all my children: this boy who is going with you, his brother whom you saw with Meshen last night, this little girl sitting here (about ten years old), and that papoose,–you may have them all and bring them up as Christians.”

We thought it would be better to take the younger of the two boys, if Meshen (with whom he had gone) should get back in time, and to this the father also agreed.

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

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