Project Canterbury

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 XIV. An Episcopal Visitation

This annual visit of the Bishop of Algoma to the Sheguiandah Mission duly took place. Accompanied by Mr. Frost, his Lordship visited the bomes of the Indians in Sheguiandah village, and expressed the pleasure he felt on seeing the improvements that had been made in many of the houses since his last visit to them a year before. The Indians were delighted with their visitor, and with the kind words addressed to many of them. On Sunday the Bishop preached in St. Andrew's Church and a very large congregation, consisting almost entirely of Indians, listened to his sermon with great attention. Then followed the confirmation service, the candidates being a young man and his wife. Many Indians and the few white people that worn in the congregation remained for the celebration of Holy Communion which followed the confirmation. When the morning services were over the Bishop had a drive of eleven miles to Sucker Creek, and preached in the Indian church, where the service was announced to commence at three o'clock. The Indians listened very attentively to the Bishop's address and thanked him for it when the service was over. Here the church was prettily decorated with [97/98] flowers and vine leaves in honour of the event. Then followed another drive, and in the evening at seven o'clock the Bishop officiated at the Church of Holy Trinity at Little Current. The sermon was based on the text, "Whatsoever ye would that men should to you, do ye also to them." The next day an old Indian remarked, "That was good advice that the Bishop gave the people, if they will only mind and act on it." Besides this service and sermon there was also a celebration of the Holy Communion at Little Current. After the evening service the Bishop drove back to Sheguiandah very tired after all his exertions.

On Monday morning the Bishop and Mr. Frost started for Birch Island in the missionary's little sailing boat, taking with them a man to help. There was little or no wind to help them along, so rowing was the order of the day for the first ten miles, and for parts of the last ten; the Bishop taking his share. Birch Island was reached at eight o'clock in the evening; a camp fire was lighted, and supper cooked and eaten on the shore. The repast was spread on a box, stones being used for seats. The Bishop appeared much pleased with the success of the meal. The night was spent in the garret of an unfinished house; fortunately it had a roof, for it was pouring with rain all night. Next morning breakfast was obtained at a fish house close by; and then the Bishop held a service in the new church.

[99] This church, a frame structure built on stone pillars, was quite a model of Indian architecture, for it had both been designed and built by the Indians. The Bishop, who had not seen it before, was very much pleased with it. The services connected with the opening of this church were of a most interesting character. Indians had gathered from all parts to be present; upwards of a hundred managed to crowd into the building, but others were unable to gain admission. Among the ceremonies of the day was the presentation to the Indians of a new Rag. The Bishop when in England had addressed a small drawing-room meeting in a country house in Sussex, and had told his hearers that the Indians were very loyal and would like a Union Jack, not only to show their allegiance to their great mother the Queen, but also to hoist on Sundays as a signal for divine service, for these Indians did not possess a bell. Before the Bishop left England a flag was entrusted to him to be delivered to the chief; and it was this Union Jack that was now presented to the Birch Island Indians. In the afternoon the Bishop and Mr. Frost sailed to La Cloche, a village on the north shore, about sixteen miles off. As the wind was very favourable they reached their destination about six o'clock, and encamped for the night in an empty house at the deserted Hudson Bay Post. The Bishop slept on the floor with some rugs under him.

[100] Next morning, having breakfasted at half-past five, a start was made for the Indian village on the Spanish river. First a portage of a mile, then the canoe for three miles, then another portage of a mile, then a paddle in the canoe for a mile across the lake, then a walk of a mile and a half brought the Bishop and the missionary to the schoolhouse at Spanish River. They found John Esquimaux and other Indians building a turret for a new bell which had lately been presented to them. The missionary examined five candidates for confirmation, who had been prepared by John Esquimaux the catechist, and finding their replies to his questions were satisfactory, presented them to the Bishop to be confirmed. Service was held at twelve o'clock and included an address from the Bishop. Here also there was a celebration of Holy Communion at which there were thirteen communicants. These services were not concluded till half-past two, when the Bishop and Mr. Frost returned by the same route as they had travelled in the morning, reaching La Cloche at eight o'clock, much fatigued by the day's work and tiring journey. After breakfast next morning at half-past six o'clock they started on the return journey to Sheguiandah in the sailing boat. The voyage took eight hours, for the wind was very unfavourable. The next day the Bishop had intended to leave Sheguiandah for Gore Bay, but the steamer by which he had hoped to go passed without calling, [100/101] so he was compelled to stay another night with Mr. Frost.

The next morning Mr. Frost drove him to Manitowaning to catch a steamer there. This was his lordship's last chance. He caught the steamer, however, and after a sleepless night, was up by half-past six next morning. Having breakfasted, he was driven by Mr. McLeod, the resident missionary, to one of his out-stations, Kagawong, twelve miles distant from Gore Bay. The leturn journey was taken in the afternoon under a broiling sun. There was no shade and much of the road was corduroy--a road made by placing trunks of trees across a given track. Such a toad is usually made through swamps, and would be built in the following manner. First the tops and smaller limbs of the trees are thrown into the swamp, thus forming a foundation, upon which are placed three or more lengths of tree trunks running parallel with the road. These act as sleepers upon which other tree trunks are rolled and placed at right angles to the road. The roadway is now complete, and we will leave it to the reader to imagine the amount of comfort to be got out of a drive of twelve miles over such a road under a burning sun, the wheels bumping from one tree trunk to another.

Project Canterbury