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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.


"Fancy suggesting that any lake in North America contains an island over one hundred miles long where the ice bridge is in winter the only means of access to the mainland twenty miles off! The atlas shows no such dimensions for any of the few islands lying in Lake Huron."

Such was the reply of an old gentleman, who brought an antiquated atlas with him to prove me mistaken, when I mentioned these facts to stir up his sympathies, and get him to contribute clothing and magazines towards the box I was about to pack, and send to the Bishop of Algoma, for the benefit of dwellers on the great Manitoulin.

"Indeed, but I am speaking the truth," I said, "and if you look at a recent official atlas, you will find the area of Manitoulin Island such as I describe. You will also find innumerable islands scattered throughout the two hundred miles between Saulte Ste Marie in the West, and Parry Sound in the East." In the Georgian Bay alone, Commander Wakefield noted 27,000.

In Spring and Autumn the islanders are cut off from the mainland for weeks at a time, by reason of shifting ice. In summer they travel by boat or canoe, and the steamers of the Great Northern Company call twice a week at points on the islands, and stations on the opposite mainland across the inside channel.

As an example of a winter journey between mainland and island, I quote the experience of a missionary, then in charge of Algoma Mills. Mr. G. re-crossed the frozen channel more than twenty miles [7/8] in width, in the teeth of a blinding snowstorm, with the thermo-meter so low that several lives were lost on the same day, not far from the route he took; while he himself was so crippled by the intense cold, that though he had bread in his wallet, his hands refused their office, unable to raise it to his mouth, and he was compelled to drop it on the snow, and go on his way, famishing with hunger, in hope of reaching his destination at Blind River. This, however, he missed by two or three miles, striking a point to the east, where the only shelter to be found was a deserted fishing shanty. Here he passed the night, without fire, light, or blankets, resuming his journey in the morning, astonishing his friends by his unexpected appearance in their midst. Weary and exhausted as he must have been, he resisted all their entreaties to lie down and get a few hours sleep, contenting himself with a quiet rest till evening, when he held service and once more delivered his Master's message."

I once wrote to the late clergyman of Gore Bay enquiring if his district would be a good locality for emigration. I insert his reply, thinking it may be of general interest and give a peep at the life of the neighbourhood.

"You can form an idea of the want of religious influences in new settlements, when one clergyman (as in this mission) has to work single-handed over some 700 square miles of territory, while, 'beyond the hills' there are people who may be said never to see the face of a clergyman from one year to another. Of course, as these regions become peopled, efforts will be made to supply them with the ministrations of religion. Still, for all the drawbacks inseparable from new settlements, the wonder is that thousands in the overcrowded districts of the old country do not come out here. The ordinary settler's house is built of logs, either hewn flat on two sides, or left in the round, and their houses or huts are eighteen by twenty-four feet. The work of this mission is hard, sometimes dangerous, but always encouraging.

[9] "I might mention for instance, how I have been caught on the open ice in blizzards (heavy snow-storms) and have had to travel for miles without being able to see ten feet in any direction, and having to trust to the sagacity of my horse to bring me safely through. I could mention being forced to lie on the beach all night without food or shelter, not being able to face the waves in my open boat. I could mention how I travelled on New Year's Eve for twenty-four miles over roads, sometimes covered with ice and water, from two to three feet in depth, for a quarter of a mile at a stretch. When I came to open up this mission about four years ago, I found that the people were fast becoming atheists, and all manner of scepticism was to be met with, which was the result of the absence of Church teaching. But things are changed now. The strange notions which the people had adopted have mostly been given up for better things; they have learned to speculate in religion less, and to read their Bibles more; and wherever the Church's standard has been planted there has sprung up religious life and activity, in place of the old spiritual deadness and indifference. Already three churches "have been built in this mission, and more will be undertaken before very long.

"Your letter came to hand a few days before Christmas together with the books, cards and mottoes. Their arrival was most opportune, as we were getting up a Sunday School Christmas festival, and were hard pressed for materials. Through the medium of the Christmas tree, the beautiful cards and mottoes have been distributed all through the mission and the recipients appeared greatly delighted. The prettily bound books and most of the testaments were distributed at the same time, the latter going to the more deserving children; and we were enabled through this help to present every Sunday School child with a useful and attractive gift."

[10] These letters were dated 1884. It is now 1895, and notwithstanding all his efforts to obtain additional clergy the Bishop of Algoma has now only the same number of ordained missionaries for that portion of his diocese, as when those words were written.

In a sermon preached during 1893 the Bishop spoke of our responsibilities to assist the emigrants to obtain the ministrations of our Church. Most of these people are your own. They speak your language, are attached to your throne and constitution, many of them are your own relations and friends. They need the same crucified Saviour of whom we have been speaking. You have sent them in a destitute condition from your shores. Canada has relieved you of the burden and given every family a free grant of 160 acres of land. But it cannot afford to supply religious privileges. That is your part. These men are doing all they can, and so I appeal to the inherent love of fair play, and deeply rooted sense of honour, which is part of the Englishman's very being, and I say "Have I not a claim on your support?" Help me to provide the men who shall go alike to Indian and emigrant proclaiming the gospel of Him, who was lifted up that he might draw all men unto Him. Let us consider the position of the Indian population of these regions. We so often listen to unfeeling remarks about 'survival of the fittest' and are told 'that the native races are dying out' that our sympathies become blunted, and we need reminding of the reply given by a chief, who said 'if we are dying out, at least let us die Christians'."

This little book gives a glimpse at some of the mission work done among the water-ways of the diocese of Algoma, where the coast-line covers a thousand miles.

I, who was privileged to accompany the Bishop and his daughter and her friend for a ten days' trip on board the [10/11] "Evangeline," in order to visit the Islands with their interesting missions, and who enjoyed the hospitality of the missionary and his good wife at Sheguiandah; and saw how brightly and uncomplainingly the whole family put up with annoyances (such as the only cow being lost for two days in the bush, and the children being therefore without milk) can recommend the following pages, as giving an insight into the working of Indian missions, which may be fresh to many readers, and will I trust be considered worthy of perusal.

May I take the opportunity of once more pleading for men of devotion and ability, who possess sufficient private means for their own support, to devote themselves to the work of the Algoma Mission, especially the Indian branch thereof.

The Sheguiandah Indians are very kind and courteous in their demeanour. From the old woman who let me enter her wigwam, destitute and poverty-stricken as it was, to the "belle of the neighbourhood" who shared with me her Ojibway prayer book, and sang softly the hymns during the solemn services, where, with the exception of the Bishop and missionary, every person around me in that crowded church, was a native Christian, I received every attention and kindness.

It is sad to think of the poverty amongst these loyal people. The Government, in granting reserves to the Indians, or free grants to emigrants, retains the forest trees as its own property, and only permits their being cut down under certain conditions.

When I visited Birch Island (July 1890) I was struck with the beauty of its tall trees, throughout the neighbourhood. A year and a half later the Indians were so starved with cold and hunger that permission was given for them to cut the timber, and I am told that now the beauty of the spot is gone.

Years ago wild beasts abounded, and their flesh and skins provided the Indians with food and clothing. Now we have [11/12] taught them to plant potatoes, but the following extract will show how few are the animals remaining.

"We are preparing for Christmas, and the Indians are getting in provisions in the shape of a large bear that they have killed-fat and big and good. They deserve the bear, having been at work about a week to get him. They found his tracks near a cave in the rocks, away back in the bush, and have been hammering and blasting the rock, till they reached and shot him. They skinned and then cut him up, and brought the meat home. He will grace the Christmas feast. We shall have service on Christmas Day. The Indians will decorate the churches beautifully, and it will be a happy season for all. We hope to have five or six Christmas trees in different parts of my mission and then dispense the bounty of friends in England and Canada."

That true Christmas joy may be the portion of many more bands of Ojibway Indians throughout the breadth of Algoma is the earnest desire of those who know this interesting people.

A. C. D.


In this little volume, it is proposed to give a brief and the Author fears a very imperfect account of some of the Church's work among Ojibway Indians and others domiciled, either upon, or in parts adjacent to, the Great Manitoulin Island in the vast missionary diocese of Algoma.

The Author commends it to all who are interested in the conversion of the heathen to the living God, or in the Church's mission to those whom business calls to reside in isolated places. He acknowledges his indebtedness to Miss Day for her great assistance and access to her publications; to the pages of The Algoma Missionary News; to the writings of the late Ven. Archdeacon McMurray; to the Rev. Canon Hurst, and to the Revs. F. Frost, J. H. McLeod, and Charles Piercey, three of Algoma's zealous missionaries, for much valuable information, which has largely assisted him in compiling this work. He prays that its many shortcomings and imperfections may be forgiven.

Cambridge, Easter, 1895.


Wayoosemegooyun kezhegoong ayahyun, Tahkecheahpeetandahgwud kedezhenekahzoowin; kedooge-mahwewin; tahtuhgwisehnoomahgud; azhenundah-wandahmun dahdoodaum oomah uhkeeng, debishkoo ewede ishpeming; Meezheshenaum noongoom kezheguk ka oonje pemahtezeyaung; Ahbwayane-meeshenaum kahmujjedoodahgooyunin azheahbwa-yanemungidwah egewh kahmujjedoodahweyungejig. Kagoo ezhewesheshekaun kankuhgwatebanedewining; Ekooneshenaum atuh mujje-ezhevvabezewening; Keen mahween kedebandaun oogemahwewin, kuhya dush ewh wahwezhanduhmoovvin, kahgenig kuhya kahgenig. Amen.

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