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- Missionary Work Among The Ojebway Indians - 20/34 -


time to time, and I wanted, if possible, to make another trip up Lake Superior. One Indian settlement, about fifty miles up the lake, called Batcheewauning, I had already visited, and the Bishop had consented to my building a school-church there and placing a catechist in charge. So, as soon as the new Institution was fairly started, I arranged to pay a visit to this place, accompanied by Mr. Frost. We took with us a tent and a good supply of provisions, also lesson books and slates, and a voyage of some ten hours brought us to the saw mills, where we were to land. It was a dark night and raining a little. The outline of the saw mill and a cluster of small buildings was just visible. The inhabitants of Batcheewauning consisted of about twelve men and three women--white people, and some sixty or seventy Indians, whose village was six miles off across the bay. We landed our things, a sack of camp kettles and provisions, our bedding and tent. Jacob, the Indian boy who had come with us, was left in charge, while Frost and I went off to look for a suitable place to camp. The owner of the saw mill directed us to an open spot on the shore, and we bent our steps thitherward; but after wandering about for some time, searching in vain for a smooth spot, we espied a man approaching with a lantern, and, accosting him, inquired whether all the land around were as rough. "Yes," he replied, "it is only lately cleared, but you will see better in the day-time where to camp,--and to-night you had better turn into the shanty here." To this proposition we agreed, and following our guide, were led into an old log shanty with crevices in its sides and roof. He lighted us a dip, and pointed to an unoccupied corner, where he said we could fix ourselves for the night. The accommodation, certainly, was rude, and the place by no means clean; yet we were glad of the shelter. We laid our blankets on the floor, and, oiling our faces and necks to keep off the mosquitoes, were soon asleep. At first streak of dawn we awoke. The mosquitoes would not let us rest. They became exceedingly voracious, as always, just at sunrise. It was a fine morning, the water in the bay sparkling in the sunlight, and the thickly wooded mountains looking soft and blue in the far distance. Frost and myself set out again to look for a place to camp. There was not much choice. About eight acres had been roughly cleared around the saw mill, and beyond this on all sides was the thick bush. We overcame the roughness of the ground by borrowing some old boards from the mill, with which we made a floor, and erected our tent over it. Frost kindled a fire, and I made some oatmeal porridge for breakfast, after which we strolled along the shore, and were surprised to find an encampment of Indians quite close to us. They belonged to the Indian village six miles off, and were camping here for the summer for the sake of the fishing. They occupied the ordinary conical-shaped wigwams made of poles covered with birch bark, a tire in the middle, and an aperture above for the smoke to escape. We spoke to several, and they said that there were no Indians now in the village; most of them were camping here, and others had gone to Point aux Pins. We told them the object of our visit, which was to ascertain their condition and wants, and, if they appeared desirous to have their children taught, we intended building a school and sending them a teacher in the summer. All to whom we spoke appeared much pleased by this intelligence. Many of them knew me, as I had visited them once before, and they seemed very glad that we could both speak to them in their own language and understand what they said. These people were nearly all Christians. Some had been baptized by Mr. Chance, some by myself, and others by the Methodists; but they had no school for their children and no regular services, and they appeared to be delighted with our proposals to build a school and to send them a teacher. By way of proving their sincerity we invited them to begin sending their children at once to school, and said that while we remained we would teach every day in our camp. This proposal was readily accepted. We commenced at once with twelve children, but found that unfortunately we had come without any alphabet cards. However, this difficulty was soon overcome. We cut the letters of the alphabet out of a newspaper, and pasted them on to a sheet of paper. Mr. Frost taught the children to sing several Indian hymns--"There is a happy land," "Here we suffer grief and pain," &c. They learned the hymns readily, and soon began to join quite nicely in the singing. On Saturday evening we held a council of the people, and I propounded all our plans to them. I told them of the "big teaching wigwam" which we were building of stone at Sault Ste. Marie for Ojebway children from all parts, and told them also of the appointment of a Bishop to reside at the Sault, who would take an interest in them, and would come round in the course of the summer to visit them. Then we spoke of the school-house which we proposed to build for them, and agreed on the spot which seemed to be the most suitable for the site, just at the mouth of Batcheewauning River, near to the Indian village. On Sunday we had three services, and Sunday-school twice. The morning service was in an Indian wigwam, for Indians only. In the afternoon at the saw mill, in English; all the settlers and some Indians attended--in all about thirty. In the evening we held an informal meeting at our own tent. The Indians came together about sun-down, and, it being cold, we all sat round the camp fire. We sang several hymns and I read the latter part of the I Thess. iv, dwelling on the subject of the death of Christians as distinguished from that of unbelievers, and then offered prayer, asking God's blessing upon them and their children, and upon Missionary effort among them and their heathen brethren. After the service I was asked to baptize a child, which I did, and then the people returned to their camp.

We chose a very pretty spot for the school; the soil was good, and I purchased 120 acres at 2s. per acre to be the property of the Algoma Diocese; I made a rough plan of the proposed school-house, with rooms for the Catechist overhead,--pointed windows on either side to light both floors, which, with a bell-tower, would give a church-like look to the little building. The cost I estimated at about 500 dollars. We intended to return to the Sault by steamboat, but none came, so we got some Indians to take us back in their boat,--a man, a boy, and two squaws,--and a leaky old tub it was with old rags stuffed in between the boards. Happily we had fair weather. We camped one night on the road, and got home in about twenty-two hours from the time of starting, after ten days' absence. Very soon after my return I engaged a carpenter, and the following week sent him up with a couple of men to begin erecting the building. Within a month afterwards a Catechist was engaged and placed in charge of the Mission.

CHAPTER XXVII.

THE WINTER OF 1874-5.

By the time winter set in, the walls of the new Shingwauk Home were erected and the roof on, but beyond this nothing could be done until spring. However, we could not wait for the new building to be completed before re-organizing our work. The two frame cottages, already mentioned, had been finished and furnished, and these we intended to utilize for the present. The first pupil to arrive, singularly enough, was named Adam,--Adam Kujoshk, from Walpole Island. We had eighteen pupils altogether, boys and girls; a lady was engaged to act as matron and school teacher; they had lessons and meals in a large common room in one of the cottages, and in this one the matron and the girls resided. The other was occupied by the laundress and the boys. For ourselves we had engaged an old house at the Point, not more than half a mile distant across the bay; so all fitted in very well.

It was a hard winter, but the children kept well, and they had a merry and a happy Christmas. On Christmas morning we all drove in to the Sault to church; such a sleigh load--twenty, I think, altogether,--some sitting, some standing or hanging on, and two brisk ponies to pull. Then there was the Christmas dinner of roast beef and plum pludding, to which all the children did ample justice; and in the evening they came over to our house, and we had a few amusements for them, and sang some Christmas hymns. New Year's night was the time fixed for the Christmas Tree and the prize-giving. Prizes were to be given not only for reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also for laundry work, sewing, baking, cutting wood, carpentering, &c. Such of the children's parents as lived near enough were invited to be present, and a general invitation had been given to our friends at the Sault, so we had a good gathering both of whites and Indians, and the room was crowded. In the building occupied by the matron and girls, coffee and refreshments had been prepared for our guests, and in the other cottage was the Christmas Tree. Passing from one building to the other, a pretty sight was presented by the new Shingwauk Home, illuminated with half-a-dozen candles in each window. The Christmas Tree was loaded with presents, a large proportion of them being gifts from friends both in England and in Canada, and prizes were given to the successful children. We had several Christmas Carols and hymns during the evening, and all passed off pleasantly and happily.

After these festivities were over, I thought the matron needed a rest, for what had been play to others had been in a great measure work and anxiety to her. So I offered to take charge myself while she went to a friend's house for a couple of days.

I was curious to see how the children would manage after three months' training in the ways of the Whites. Our principle was to teach them to _do everything for themselves_, and so we kept no servants; the matron superintended, and every week the children were appointed to their various duties--two cook girls, two laundry girls, two house girls, and so on; and the boys in like manner, some to farm work, some to carrying water, some to chopping wood. Every Saturday the workers received pocket-money from two to five cents each--that is--if they had no bad marks. Well, as I have said, I was curious to see for myself how these rules would work, and how the children would manage, and in no way could I do better than by becoming at once their visitor, teacher, and quasi-matron. Another point, too, I was anxious to ascertain, and that was how "the four cents a meal" plan could be made to answer.

For three months now had these children been fed, and by dint of wonderful care and economy, the matron had managed to keep within the mark. How she could do it had been rather a puzzle to me. The only time that I had undertaken to cater for them, was in the Fall, when I took a number of them down to Garden River, to dig potatoes on our land there, and on that occasion I remember I gave them bread and jam for tea, and found that the jam alone which they devoured cost more than four cents a head, leaving out the bread and the tea.

Well, it was half-past two when I arrived at the cottage. The matron had just left, and it was time to commence afternoon school. The children sat on benches round a long table, Eliza Jane and Betsy, and Benjamin, David, Adam, eighteen of them altogether,--some of them rejoicing in long Indian names as well: Menesenoons, the little warrior; Puhgoonagezhigooqua, hole in the sky; and so forth. In ages they ranged from the eight-year-old little warrior up to Adam and Alice, the two eldest, who were both turned sixteen. And as regards education, one (_not_ the little warrior) was still stumbling over the Alphabet; while one or two who had attended school before they came to us had advanced as far as the Fourth Reader, and were learning English Grammar and Geography.

School was over at 5 p.m., and then the workers fell to their duties, and the non-workers went forth to play. Alice Wawanosh (grand-daughter of the old Chief at Sarnia) was girl monitor for the week, and Mary Jane and 'Hole in the Sky' the cook girls. I was interested to see how very systematically they set to work: Alice got the scales and weighed out the bread half a pound to each child; Mary Jane set the table with a bright array of tin mugs and plates, and 'Hole in the Sky' put the kettle to boil and measured out the tea. Then the bread and butter was cut up, and in a very little time all was ready. At another table a cloth was laid for me, and everything placed ready in the nicest order.


Missionary Work Among The Ojebway Indians - 20/34

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