Christmas at Fort Yates, Dakota

Our readers will be glad to welcome Miss Josephine E. Barnaby to her new field of work, and to a place in the pages of the Missionary. She is of the Omaha tribe, was a student at Hampton, then spent some time in a training school for nurses in New Haven, Connecticut, and is now the assistant of Miss Collins at the Grand River Station.

Miss Collins writes of her: “Josephine is very much interested in her work. She said to-day, ‘I wish every one interested in Indians could come here and stay long enough to see how the foundation ought to be laid, and how much better off our native teachers, Elias and Wakanna, are with the Bible knowledge they have without the English, than the Indians are who speak English and are without Christ.’ She knows, for her people are largely godless but English-speaking.”

My Dear Friends:

We have been so busy getting ready for Christmas that we have had no time to write to our friends. Miss Collins told the Indians on Sunday last that we were going to have a tree and wanted all the Indians to come, the real old ones as well as the young men and women. She told them of how our Savior was born on Christmas day, how the people came and gave him gifts, and we, in remembering his birthday, would give them little gifts. The next day, a very old woman came to the school-house and told Mary (that is the native teacher’s wife) that she heard we were going to have a “Ghost feast” and give away everything we had, so she thought she would come and ask for one of the school-room lamps for fear she might not get it if she waited, as there would be so many people to get the things, and she needed a lamp very much.

Doesn’t that sound like an Indian? I was very sorry the poor woman did not get the lamp.

Yesterday morning, while Miss Collins pinned the names on to the presents, I went up to the school-house, and by the help of two native teachers planted the tree in a cracker-box and put the little colored candles on. In the afternoon, we took the presents up and hung them on the tree; we put up a curtain to hide the tree, and then in the evening put out several Japanese lanterns on the corners of the house and over the door, and rang the bell; while the bell was ringing, you could see the Indians coming from all parts of the village. It was a pretty sight. The ground was covered with snow, it was just between the light and dark, and a few bright stars were shining through the clouds.

The room is not very large, so Miss Collins proposed that they should stand. It was well they did, for they were packed tightly together, the men and boys on one side, the women and girls on the other.

After all came, we sang “Joy to the World,” in Dakota, with several other hymns; they all sang very loud. Then Wakanna told them about Christ’s birthday, then we lighted the little candles and took the curtain away, and you can imagine there were some wide-open eyes and big, smiling faces. There were over two hundred, and each one received something; as one man came to day and said to Miss Collins, “Why, Winona, you did not forget the little babies; their names were read out the same as the old men.” The tree was very pretty, and it would be useless for me to tell what each one received, but the boys were delighted with their tops as much as the girls were with their pretty dolls; the old men received feather fans and were delighted. After they had their gifts, we passed refreshments; we then had the fireworks; the red light was wonderful to them—the first they had ever seen. They went home seeming very happy.

We want to thank our friends who were so kind as to send us those pretty things for the Christmas tree.

I myself have never before spent such a happy Christmas, because previously all my kind friends have always tried to make me happy, and this time I worked hard to make some one else happy, and I find that is the best kind of happiness.

My benches were almost crowded to-day in school, as I had so many children; married women come with the children; they are all very anxious and earnest to learn to read and write. I ask you to pray, my dear friends, that there may be some good seed sown each day, that may spring up and bring forth fruit for His service.

Truly your Indian Friend,


Christmas, History,

Various. The American Missionary, Vol. 43, No. 8, August, 1889.

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