Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion

Western Canada

By L. Norman Tucker

London and Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1908.

Chapter III. History (Religious)

Work among the Indians

ONE great division of the work in the Canadian mission-field is that among the Indians the first in point of time if not of importance. These Indians were the original inhabitants of the country, and though divided into various tribes and speaking different dialects, are probably nearly all, except the Eskimos, of the same stock. In general terms it may be said that the Eskimos are to be found on the northern shores of Hudson Bay, and on the Arctic Ocean; the Tukudh, in the basin of the Yukon; the Tinnes or Chipewyans, in the region from the mouth of the Mackenzie to the Churchill River; the Crees and Ojibways, south of the Churchill River; the Blackfeet, Peigans, Bloods, Sarcees, and Assiniboines, in the southern plains; the Tsimsheans, Haidahs, and other tribes, on the Pacific coast.

[26] When the missionaries first came among them they had neither town nor village, farm nor field. They lived by hunting and fishing. Their deeply-rooted habits of improvidence exposed them at all times to the ravages of famine. They had no other shelter than a miserable wigwam, in which their only furniture was an iron pot. and their only implements a knife and a gun, a war club and bows and arrows. Some were clothed in dirty, ragged blankets; others in still dirtier dresses of worn and tattered skins. Their life was spent in struggles for its support, and they passed on from infancy to death without comfort and without hope for this life or the next.

The Hudson's Bay Company, in conjunction with the Church Missionary Society, resolved to send a missionary to them; and for this purpose the Rev. John West was chosen. He arrived at York Fort, by the Hudson Bay route, at the end of August, 1820; paddled up the Nelson River; in about a month he reached Norway House on Lake Winnipeg; and on October 15th he arrived at the Red River settlement, having travelled in six weeks some eight hundred miles. There he found about five hundred English and Scotch settlers, and a number of half-breeds and native Indians, [26/27] in whose midst he immediately began to exercise his ministry. He held services at Fort Garry, now Winnipeg, where he found an attentive congregation. He established a school, and was much encouraged by the progress of the children. His activities embraced the regions beyond. In January, 1821, he set out in a cariole drawn by dogs over the snow, in a temperature sometimes 400 below zero; visited two of the Hudson's Bay Company's posts, at Brandon and at Beaver Creek, and returned early in February, having travelled between five and six hundred miles.

The most hopeful plan that he was led to adopt was a school for native boys, who might be taught, in addition to the Way of Life, the rudiments of general knowledge, methods of agriculture, and the simpler usages of civilization. Thus early did the industrial idea enter into the work of Indian Missions. Two of the boys he had brought with him from York Fort, Henry Budd and James Settee, made remarkable progress and became in time most successful missionaries among their own people.

Early in 1823 a small wooden church was opened for Divine service, on the site of the present Cathedral of S. John's, in the city of [27/28] Winnipeg; and in October of that year Mr. West was joined by the Rev. David Jones, who, on his arrival at Red River, found that marriage, till recently unknown, had now become general; that parents were making use of the educational advantages provided for their children; and that the Sunday was well observed, and the public ordinances of the Church were well attended. On the arrival of Mr. Jones, Mr. West returned to England, and, during a detention at York Fort, he made on foot a journey of two hundred miles to Fort Churchill, which then for the first time received a visit from a minister of the Gospel.

During the following winter the little church was so crowded that it became necessary to provide an additional place of worship; a substantial church was in consequence erected ten miles lower down the river, at Image Plains, now known as Middlechurch, which was opened in January, 1825. The school contained twelve boys; and one hundred and sixty-five boys and girls of all classes were attending the Sunday School.

In 1825 Mr. Jones was joined by the Rev. Mr. Cochran. The two worked together till 1829, when Mr. Cochran settled at Grand Rapids, now S. Andrews, taking up his abode in a log house he [28/29] had built about fifteen miles above the upper church and two miles from Image Plains. Here he took a considerable tract of land, partly to support his own family, and partly to teach agriculture to the Indians. He became minister, clerk, schoolmaster, arbitrator, and agricultural director. In 1831 his congregation had increased to three hundred. Hitherto the services had been held in the schoolroom, but it now became necessary to erect a church, which he was enabled to do with the assistance of his people. In the school the boys were instructed in husbandry and carpentry work, and the girls were taught to spin. About sixty children were attending the schools; the communicants numbered seventy, and the congregation amounted to six hundred.

As the experience of the missionaries increased their horizon widened, and they gradually became convinced that the only effective mode of permanently benefiting this people was by forming an exclusively Indian settlement. For this purpose, in 1832, they fixed upon a spot much frequented by Indians, about fifteen miles below the Rapids, called Netley Creek. There Mr. Cochran began to teach them how to cultivate the soil. [29/30] Only seven could be prevailed upon at the outset to make the attempt, but in the following year the number was increased to fourteen. In 1833 he began a new settlement at a place two miles distant, called Sugar Point. There he built a house for the chief, whose name was Pegwys, a name which has been given to the Indian Reserve in that vicinity, where S. Peter's Mission and the Dynevor Hospital now stand. Then he built a schoolroom and prevailed on the parents to send their children to school. Gradually small but comfortable cottages were built; the walls were of logs plastered with mud; the roofs were thatched with reeds and covered with earth, and the windows were of skins of fish. In course of time a mill was erected, which proved to be one of the greatest means of improvement. Moral and religious progress kept pace with material development, so that after about a year of patient and prayerful work the foundations of a Church were laid here by the baptism of ten adults and as many children. In 1836 the regular attendance at the services had increased to one hundred, and in June Mr. Cochran began with his own hands to dig for the foundations of a church building, which was completed before the end of the year, and [30/31] opened on January 4, 1837. At the time of the opening of the Church there were forty-seven Christian families, consisting of two hundred and sixteen individuals. The congregation averaged two hundred, and Indian chiefs, conjurers, and medicine men were baptized. Look at this picture: a poor Indian woman, in the depth of winter, hauling her half-naked children on a sledge over the frozen snow to some lonely creek, there to cut a hole in the thick ice, let down her hook, and, shivering, wait for hours till some fish should come to serve for their scant)' meal. Then look at this picture: twenty-three little whitewashed cottages shining through the trees, each with its stacks of wheat and barley; around them various patches of cultivated ground; here and there pigs to be seen busilv seeking for their food, and cows lowing for their calves; while in the centre is the schoolroom, where sixty merry children are leaping, running, wrestling, and all is life and cheerfulness, and two hundred of these once naked savages joining with seriousness in the responses, listening attentively to the sermon, or, with sweet and well-tuned voices, singing the praises of Him Who had done such great things for them.

[32] Mr. Jones left in 1838, and the Rev. W. Smithers joined Mr. Cochran in 1839 and took charge of the Indian village. There were then ninety-eight children in the day school; and at the Rapids there were about seven or eight hundred attendants at public worship, and one hundred and forty-five communicants. In 1841 the Rev. A. Cowley joined the Mission forces, and the report of the Mission was "Our churches are crowded, and the cry is, Send us more teachers, give us the Word of God."

It was at this juncture, in 1844, that Bishop Mountain paid his memorable visit to the North-West, having accomplished a journey of nearly two thousand miles, after six weeks' of fatigue and exposure in an open canoe. The Bishop visited each of the four churches, and confirmed 846 persons. In 1845 the new church was begun at the Rapids, now S. Andrews, which ministered to the spiritual needs of 1,800 people and 150 communicants. In 1847 the first public assembly was held in Rupert's Land, and, as was fitting in that missionary land, it was a missionary meeting, the collection in all amounting to £21. 7s. 3d.

The expansive force of Christianity, its essential [32/33] missionary character, is perfectly illustrated by the next step in the development of the work. The Indians of Red River, who had become Christians, were naturally anxious for the spiritual welfare of their friends who lived at a distance. They prayed for them continually, and, at the earliest opportunity, were ready to send to them the message of the Gospel. Red River, too, being a centre to which Indians from far and near converged, the visitors could not but learn of the marvellous work that had been done among their friends, by the men from across the sea, they carried home to their relatives and friends the news of the wonderful things that had been wrought by the Gospel on the banks of the Red River; and the desire was naturally aroused in them to share in the wonderful temporal as well as the spiritual blessings that came in the train of the Gospel. In this way the "good tidings" were carried to the banks of the Saskatchewan, to the Peace River and Lake Athabasca, and even to the mountains of British Columbia and to the Pacific coast. It was only a question of time when the whole of this vast field should be covered with the regenerating influences of the Gospel.

[34] And together with this outward preparation of the field there was the inward preparation of the Church. The work done by the devoted missionaries in the churches and schools, had awakened in many hearts the desire to go and tell the glad tidings to those who were still in heathen darkness. This marks a new stage in the condition of the infant Church, when its message was about to be carried to the remotest limits of the West.

On his first journey to Red River, as has been stated, Mr. West had brought two boys with him from York Fort. One of these, Henry Budd, named after one of the devoted old-country friends of the work in Red River, had become a sincere Christian and had entered the service of the Hudson's Ray Company. This he now resigned to take charge of the school at the upper settlement, i.e. Winnipeg. He was chosen in 1840 to carry the message of the Gospel to the Indians at Cumberland Lake, some four or five hundred miles north of Red River. Here he erected a small log hut for his own family, another for a school, and a third to serve as a storehouse for domestic supplies. Subsequently, however, he took up his permanent abode at the Pas or Devon, on the banks of the Saskatchewan, where for many years he [34/35] exercised a ministry that was a blessing to the Indians and a credit to the Church. In August, 1844, the Rev. J. Hunter, better known as Archdeacon Hunter, reached Fort York, and, after a tedious journey of thirty days, arrived at the Pas, where he began his ministrations by the baptism of thirty-one adults and thirty-seven children. The candidates came up to the font in families--father, mother, and children. Soon these Indians also, as at Red River, began to adopt the habits of civilized life. They erected log houses, and their lands became covered with wheat, barley, potatoes, turnips and peas. In 1848 nearly all the Indians of the district had become Christians, and four hundred and twenty had been baptized.

From the Pas the Word was soon carried to the Indians at Lac La Ronge, four hundred miles to the north-west of Cumberland; in 1845 Mr. Hunter sent James Beardy to instruct them in the Christian Faith; in 1846 he also sent James Settee, who, like Henry Budd, had been one of Mr. West's first pupils in the Indian school at Red River; and in 1847 he went in person, found thirty boys and twenty-three girls attending the school, and baptized forty-eight adults and fifty-nine children. Then James Settee took charge of Lac La Ronge; [35/36] James Beardy pushed on to Ile a la Crosse, another of the Hudson's Bay trading posts, four hundred miles beyond Cumberland; and invitations from many places were sent to the missionaries, notably from Moose Lake and Fort Chipewyan, one hundred miles farther afield. The time had come when the Gospel message must be proclaimed to all the Indian tribes roaming over the whole vast region of the North-West.

It was fitting that at such a time the ministrations of the Church should be furnished to the Indians in their completeness by the appointment of a Bishop. To the Rev. D. Anderson fell the honour of being chosen as the first Bishop of Rupert's Land in 1849. In 1850 the Bishop confirmed four hundred persons at Grand Rapids, and ordained the first native in the person of Henry Budd, who preached his first sermon in the Indian language on Christmas Day of that year.

In 1851 the Rev. R. James began a Mission at Islington; the Rev. W. Cochran opened a Mission at Portage la Prairie and at Scanterbury; Mr. Charles Pratt, a native catechist, was placed in charge of Fort Pelly; and Mr. John Horden arrived at Moose Fort to take up the Mission which had been vacated by the Methodists.

[37] At this point detailed statement must give place to rapid enumeration of dates and stations.

Diocese of Rupert's Land--Red River established in 1820; Fort Alexander, 1864; Rainy Lake, 1874.

Diocese of Moosonee--Moose Factory, 1851; York, 1854; Albany, 1855; East Main Coast, 1877; Churchill, 1886; Blacklead Island, 1894.

Diocese of Saskatchewan--Cumberland and Devon, 1840; Stanley, 1850; Sandy Lake, 1875; Battleford, 1876; Prince Albert, 1879; Grand Rapids, 1881; Fort Pitt, 18S8.

Diocese of Calgary--Fort McLeod, 1880; Blackfoot Crossing, 1883; Sarcee Reserve, 1886.

Diocese of Athabasca--Fort Chipewyan, 1867; Vermilion, 1876; Lesser Slave Lake, 1887; Upper Peace River, 1888.

Diocese of Mackenzie River--Fort Simpson, 1858; Fort Norman, 1871; Fort McPherson, 1874; Fort Resolution, 1875; Herschel Island, 1897.

Diocese of Selkirk--Rampart House, 1882; Buxton, 1887; Selkirk, 1892; Moosehide, 1897; Carcross, 1900.

All the above Indian Missions are in the Province of Rupert's Land. There is, however, another class of Indian Missions outside that province which deserves a passing notice.

In 1858, at the instigation of Captain Prevost, R.N., a Mission was opened by Mr. W. Duncan, a young schoolmaster, among the Tsimshean Indians, in the northern part of British Columbia. [37/38] The condition of these Indians was deplorable in the extreme. They were illiterate, immoral, and cruel. Even cannibalism was of frequent occurrence among them; and they were entirely under the sway of degrading heathen practices and of ignorant impostors called medicine men.

Mr. Duncan soon met with remarkable success. Great blessing attended his ministrations, and in a short time many of the Indians were brought to Baptism. In 1862 was formed the Christian settlement of Metlakatla, which, for many years, stood before the world as one of the most notable triumphs of the Gospel in the mission-field. And apart from the spiritual results of the Mission, the change it wrought in the temporal condition of the Indians made them a living epistle known and read of all men. They are intelligent, industrious, and thrifty. They live in comfortable houses, built with their own hands. Some are carpenters and blacksmiths; some work in saw-mills and canning factories; while some are captains of steamers and occupy other positions of trust. And this remarkable transformation, which has taken place in less than half a century, may be traced directly to the influence of the Gospel and the Church.

[39] In 1879 these Missions in the northern part 01 British Columbia were formed into a separate diocese. Unfortunately, Mr. Duncan found himself unable to continue to work along the lines of the Church of England. With some hundreds of the Indians he moved into the United States territory of Alaska in 1881; but the work has continued to prosper, and is to-day perhaps the most successful and hopeful Indian work in the whole Canadian mission-field. Kincolith was opened in 1866; Massett, 1876; Alert Bay, 1878; Ilazelton, 1880; Giatwangak, 1882; Aiyansh, 1883; Kitkatla, 1887; Tahl Tan, 1898.

About forty years ago a Mission was established by the Rev. J. B. Good, along the Fraser River, in the southern part of British Columbia. The churches in the district and the hospital at Lytton, under Archdeacon Small; the school for girls at Yale, under the Sisters of Ditchingham, and the school for boys at Lytton, under the New England Company, are doing an excellent work among some two thousand Indians scattered over a wide area.

The Mission at Garden River, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, opened in 1830 by Archdeacon McMurray and blessed for many years by the labours of the [39/40] Rev. Dr. O'Meara, was the means of bringing the Gospel to very responsive tribes of Indians on the shores of Lake Huron. Taken up in 1868 by the Rev. E. F. Wilson, the work has developed into the Algoma Indian Homes--the Shingwauk Home for Boys and the Wawanosh Home for Girls--which have been so widely and so favourably known for the last thirty years.

Nearly all the Missions mentioned above were founded and nurtured through the Church Missionary Society. They have produced a band of missionaries who, for self-denial and consecration to the most arduous task in the whole mission-field, deserve a place in the first rank of the missionary heroes of the Church. They have furnished abundant evidence of the Divine power of the Gospel to transform the hearts and lives even of the most ignorant and degraded of the human race. And they have occasioned an expenditure of money--from $80,000 to $100,000 per annum for many years past--that should be held in lasting and grateful remembrance by the whole Canadian people as well as by the Canadian Church.

This glorious work, however, has not been without its limitations. It has indeed brought the knowledge of CHRIST, under unparalleled hardships

and privations, to many Indian tribes in the most inaccessible regions of the earth, and its efforts have been rewarded by the ingathering of many sheaves into the spiritual garner of the Lord. But, in the main, it has not succeeded in training the individual convert in self-reliance, and the Christian congregation in self-support and self-propagation. And now that the Church Missionary Society has decided on a policy of withdrawal from this whole field, the prospects of the Indian Missions, are, to say the least, not reassuring.

There is still another aspect of the Indian work that deserves a passing notice. When the Canadian Government obtained possession of the West, it extinguished the title of the Hudson's Bay Company for an equivalent in land and in money. In like manner it satisfied the claims of the Indians by treaties which secured for them means of education, besides a reservation of land for each band, equal to a square mile for each family, and an annuity of $5.00 for each member of the band. The obligation in regard to education it has sought to carry out through the religious bodies that are working among the Indians. It has established day schools on nearly all the reservations, and [41/42] provided a small stipend of $300 per annum for the teachers; and it has made a per capita grant, varying from $60 to $150 annually, for the pupils attending boarding and industrial schools.

The Church has all along acted on the principle that the school was an integral part of the Mission; but, for a long time, its efforts were confined to day schools. When, however, Government aid became available, it began to introduce boarding and industrial schools. These are now to be found throughout the West; in the Diocese of Algoma, at Sault Ste Marie; in Moosonee, at Moose Fort; in Qu'Appelle, at Touchwood Hills; in Calgary, at Calgary and on the Blackfoot, the Sarcee, the Peigan and the Blood Reservations; in New Westminster, at Lytton and at Yale; in Columbia, at Alert Bay; in Caledonia, at Metlakatla; in Selkirk, at Carcross; in Mackenzie River, at Hay River; in Athabasca, at Lesser Slave Lake, at White Fish Lake, and at Wapuscow; and in Saskatchewan, at Onion Lake, at Battleford, at Prince Albert, and at Lac La Ronge.

These schools, carried on with a zeal and devotion that are beyond all praise, cannot fail to have produced the most blessed moral and spiritual results. But they, too, have had their limitations. [42/43] They have not succeeded, as it was hoped they would do, in equipping the rising generation of Indians for the battle of life, with the moral qualities of industry and self-reliance; and, for their financial support, they have imposed on the authorities of the Church a heavy burden of toil and care. But it should not be beyond the power of the Church, acting in concert with the Government, to place the whole question of Indian education on a basis that will result in training the Indian eventually to take his proper place as a free, independent, and self-reliant citizen of the Dominion of Canada.

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