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Or, Five Years of Church Work among Ojibway Indians and Lumbermen, resident upon that Island or in its Vicinity.

By Harold Nelson Burden

London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1895.

Chapter IX. The Bishop's Arrival

When every trace of winter had disappeared, and the land had clothed itself in rich vegetation, the missionary was busily occupied in holding classes for confirmation. The Bishop was expected to make his tour early in July, and Mr. Frost was anxious that the candidates should be well prepared. Many of these candidates resided at long distances from each other, consequently a larger number of classes was necessary than is usual. This, and the bad state of many of the roads, made the work very laborious, and occupied a large amount of the missionary's time.

During the time Mr. Frost was thus engaged in preparing the young Indians for confirmation, their parents worked hard in erecting several objects of public use; a bridge was constructed in the reserve, and also a dock to provide accommodation for larger boats which might occasionally visit their settlement.

In the early part of June, an old Indian, who had for many years refused to listen to the claims of Christianity, came to Mr. Frost and wished to be baptised. When the missionary had given him a course of instruction, and assured himself of the [66/67] sincerity of the Indian, he baptized him, giving him the name of Mark. At Little Current the attendances at the Church services vary much with the weather. When the weather is bad and the roads impassable, those who reside in outlying districts cannot attend; but during the summer, when the mill is working, there are a large number of people residing in the village, and these increase the congregations. At this station Mr. Frost had eight candidates for the forthcoming confirmation. Sucker Creek Reserve continued to keep up its services, and the majority of its inhabitants greatly appreciated the missionary's visits.

On July 10th, the Bishop commenced his tour. Leaving Spanish River in the "Evangeline," he steamed thirty miles to Little Current, called at the post office there, and proceeded eight miles further to fetch Mr. Frost and his tent, as he was going to hold a service at Birch Island, and then confer with the Indians about the site of a schoolhouse church, which they hoped soon to erect.

Returning from Sheguiandah, calling at Little Current for provisions, and steaming thence the remainder of the forty miles to Birch Island, took all the afternoon. It was nearly seven o'clock when having passed the narrows with its high laurentian rocks and an innumerable number of islands, with here and there a shoal, what is perhaps the most beautiful scenery in Algoma was reached.

[68] Looking towards the main shore at the foot of a high bush-covered hill was a clearing, in front of which stood several wooden cottages, built and owned by the Indians. The principal cottage belonged to chief George. It was entirely whitewashed, whilst the window sashes were painted a brilliant blue. The sun, setting opposite behind the wooded islands, was gilding the channels of water and gleaming on the windows of the chief's house. As the "Evangeline" approached, a very ragged Union Jack was hoisted in chief George's garden. In Indian settlements where there is no bell, the coming of the missionary is usually thus announced.

Notwithstanding the clouds of mosquitoes, the Bishop (who was accompanied by his daughter and two friends, one of them a lady from England, much interested in the Diocese), rowed to the landing-stage, which consisted of two trunks of trees nearly submerged, and was met by Chief George, who greeted him with courteous and friendly and yet independent bearing. As the Bishop and his party stood by the door of the Chief's house, they could see several sail-boats bringing people to the service, whilst on the right wound a path, along which the Indians were approaching. The women love bright shawls and ribbons, and the girls often plait red or green ribbons in their hair. One girl of about fourteen was holding a baby dressed in bright blue, whilst she herself was clad in a claret-coloured gown, [68/69] made with pannier, velvet trimming and flounces. This looked very incongruous on that lonely island; but now that their wild animals are so diminished, the Indians are almost dependent on gifts of clothing from England and the other districts of Canada.

Having spoken to all the members of the Chief's family, the Bishop waited to say "Boujou" and shake hands with every individual of the congregation, which numbered about thirty. Service then took place in the Chief's house, Mr. Frost acting as interpreter during the Bishop's sermon. As the Bishop had promised to give a service at Collin's Inlet, the next day they went to Kiliarney, where he hoped to engage a pilot, not wishing to steer across the swell of the Georgian Bay in such a high wind. One man after another refused, but at length a young fellow undertook the duty, and they started. It was decidedly rough, but the "Evangeline" was safely brought to Collin's Inlet and moored to the wharf. The service was held at some distance from the Mission Steamer, the congregation consisting of thirty young Englishmen.

On the following day the Bishop returned to Sheguiandah. It is too shallow for the "Evangeline" to draw up to the ordinary row-boat pier, and the Indians so much appreciated the Bishop's visit, that they proposed to construct a new pier which should stretch out sufficiently far to suit the steamer on future occasions. When the Bishop and his friends [69/70] went on shore, they found a young Indian planting two trees near the Church in order to commemorate the Episcopal visit. The old log church was inspected, and a visit paid to the new frame church which had recently been erected by the Indians under the missionary's instructions.

In the course of the evening Manitowasing, the Chief, brought some of his family and paid the Bishop a ceremonious visit. The Bishop made a number of enquiries with reference to the well-being of the tribe, and heard from the Chief an account of their doings since he was last among them. After a time he withdrew, and the Bishop, first spending some time writing, followed the example of the other members of his party and sought rest so as to prepare for the labours of the coming day, which were to be very heavy, and the narrative of which we will reserve for another chapter.

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