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The Life and Work of E.J. Peck
Among the Eskimos
by the Rev. Arthur Lewis, M.A.

New York: A. C. Armstrong, 1904.

Chapter VIII. Gathering Fruit--Ungava

"My sheep hear My voice."

THE last chapter closed with Mr. Peck's summary of a portion of his work. We were told that there were sixty-four baptized adult Eskimos. We wish to know more about these. What kind of Christians were they? Were they true followers of Christ? or were they what the scoffer sometimes calls "bread-and-butter" Christians?

Well, some have already been brought incidentally into the narrative that has gone before. The lives of two or three more may serve as examples to prove that now, as 1,900 years ago, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

"Apakutsuk was a man who came to the station an utterly ignorant heathen. He was suffering from some complaint which was gradually dragging him down to the grave. He was naturally an intelligent man, and soon learned to read, and very readily grasped the meaning of Scripture truth.

"The disease with which he was afflicted increased, wo and presently focussed itself in his hip; he became lame, and was obliged to use a rudely-fashioned crutch to move about at all.

"Poor Apakutsuk! His sufferings abounded, but so also did God's grace; and with much joy I was able to formally receive him into Christ's flock.

"He was baptized, and was in such wonderful earnestness for the faith in his Saviour, that he began to preach Him to his own people who came to the station.

"On every hand he was listened to with the deepest attention, and some of those who heard his earnest appeals were much impressed.

"The ravages of disease at last wore him to a shadow. I helped him as far as lay in my power, giving him such nourishments from our limited stock of provisions as he could take. But the Lord needed His ransomed one, and the call came, 'Come Home!'

"One morning I crept into his little house. His wife was weeping, and as I entered she pointed to the form of her husband, cold in death. The Spirit had returned to Him who gave it.

"We tried to give this dear saint in God Christian burial. We made a coffin out of some rough boxes, and a grave was dug.

"How did we dig it, since the sandy soil was frozen for many feet down? The Eskimos, with some bars of iron and one or two rough spades, literally chiselled out a space for the dead.

"We then lowered the body into its icy tomb, and so bitter and piercing was the wind, that all I could do was to ask the sorrowing relatives to kneel down while I offered up the Lord's Prayer, and afterwards spoke to them of Him who by His death and resurrection has plucked out the sting of death.

"As I looked upon the gloomy waste around, and that icy tomb, with the little band of sorrowing ones near me, I thought of the joy of the ransomed soul which had escaped the chill horrors of the body. We had sown the silent form, in corruption, to be presently raised in incorruption. It was sown in weakness, to be raised in power.

"Oh what mighty, far-reaching issues depend upon preaching the full Gospel of the grace of God!

"How earnest we ought to be in giving to the nations that wonderful message which can alone lead men's souls to God, and bring life and immortality to light through the story of a Saviour's love!"

We have previously had some account of a lad who lived in Mr. Peck's hut, and who as a result was brought to be a disciple of Christ. The history of another might also here be given as being both interesting in itself and typical of the vicissitudes of Arctic life.
"Joseph Ratynrok was one of the lads," the journals tell us, "whom I had the pleasure of keeping in my little house and instructing in the Word of God. His parents were both very respectable and intelligent. His mother died during the early years of my sojourn in Little Whale River.

"His father married again, and Joseph, with his father, step-mother, and brothers, left the station.

"Their after experiences were terrible. Wandering over the frozen sea, never meeting with any who could help them, and finding no game of any kind, hunger pressed them hard.

"Weak and faint and despairing, delirious doubtless with starvation, the poor mother at last sank down by the side of a rock, and taking her infant child from the hood (in which Eskimo women always carry their babes) she strangled it, and then laid herself down to die.

"The father, with the three remaining children, when all was over, pressed on. Thinking, in their desperate state, that by crossing over a bight in the coast they might meet with some of their fellow-countrymen, they ventured out upon what proved to be unsafe ice.

"One by one they broke through the icy sheet and perished. Joseph alone remained.

"Retracing his steps with a dogged perseverance, he travelled on by the longer route. He fell in at last with a wandering band of Eskimos, but only just in time, for he was ill and spent.

"He was tenderly cared for, and was at last brought by his succourers into Little Whale River. It was then that I took the poor boy, now so absolutely orphaned, and kept him with me.

"Being a lad of much natural intelligence he soon learned to read, and in a clear and decided way grasped the great truths of the Christian faith. He was also of much use to me in preparing my addresses, etc., and some of his sayings still help me greatly in speaking to the people.

"The poor lad suffered from a disease of the knee joint, and hoping that he might receive permanent benefit from being under proper medical treatment, he was sent to Moose.

"Here, however, the terrible disease developed. Then rapid consumption set in, and it was evident that poor Joseph was dying. My friend, the Rev. H. Nevitt, was then at Moose, and as Joseph knew something of the English language he was able to understand some at least of the comforting truths spoken to him.

"From the testimony of Mr. Nevitt, it is evident that the lad died fully trusting in the Saviour."

John Angatansage was an instance of the power of Christ to save the very vilest of sinners and to cast out devils. "When a heathen he had been a murderer of the deepest type. He had not only killed an enemy of his, whom he had hunted about for years, but when he had speared his wretched victim he turned upon the wife and children, and although the poor wife pleaded most pitifully for mercy for herself and her dear little ones, he would not listen, but murdered them all.

"This incarnate fiend was dreaded and loathed for years by his own countrymen, and was, as he justly deserved to be, morally excommunicated by the whole community.

"After my arrival at Little Whale River, and when the Eskimos came together to hear the Word of God, he inquired what these things meant, and was told in reply that a white man had come to tell them of one named Jesus, who died for sinners.

"Fearing to come near me, he inquired through my old friend and helper, John Molucto, if such a wretch as he would be allowed to listen to the Gospel.

"I sent him word that if he was really sorry for his awful deeds, and wished to hear the glad tidings of Jesus, he might certainly come.

"Come he did, time after time, and began to inquire most earnestly regarding heavenly things. His hard heart was softened, and he confessed, with the most abject sorrow, his awful sin, and declared solemnly--and oh, how truly!--that before he had seen the Gospel light, while he was in heathen darkness, he had been moved by Satan to kill and destroy.

"Believing this man to be truly penitent, I baptized him, after a long probation.

"His life and conversation ever after exhibited the mighty change which God's pardoning grace had wrought in his heart."

Another case will tell of the power of Christ to enable a man to meet pain and physical trial in his own life.

Henry Oochungwak was a mighty hunter, and a. man of much force of character and intelligence. He was looked up to by the other Eskimos, and was generally recognized as a chief among them.

"My old friend and helper, John Molucto," writes Mr. Peck, "being on the most friendly terms with Oochungwak, often spoke to him regarding the wonderful tidings of a Saviour's love. The result was that he, while at the station, began to attend our meetings, and his inquiries showed that the Holy Spirit was moving him considerably.

"Poor fellow! How fiercely was his faith to be tried! Satan desired to sift him like wheat. While out upon the frozen seas an old and painful complaint began again to develop itself in him, and his suffering became most intense.

"It is the custom of the Eskimos, when they suppose that they are suffering from an incurable complaint, either to commit suicide or get a neighbour to kill them.

"Suffering as this poor fellow was, he asked a man named Akpahataluk to strangle him, but the man refused to do it. News of this was brought into the station, and the gentleman in charge of the Hudson's Bay Post (D. Gillies, Esq.) and I went off on the frozen sea to visit the sufferer.

"When the awfulness of the deed which he had contemplated was explained to him, his sorrow was most acute. Great scalding tears rolled down his pain-worn face as I reasoned with him, and reminded him of the strength and grace of Jesus to meet his deepest need.

"Through the kindness of Mr. Gillies he was taken to the station and cared for. So I had constant opportunities of speaking to him of divine things.

"John Molucto also spoke to him most lovingly, and through his few remaining days, before he finally succumbed to the fell disease that killed him, his soul was cheered and solaced, I believe, by the comforting, sustaining presence of Jesus."

These few short narratives of personal life help the reader to generalize and to picture with considerable truth not only the success of the Gospel when faithfully preached and lived, but also the character of the Eskimos, the hardships they have to endure and the dangers to brave. Others might have been given, varying slightly according to the characters of the individuals who are brought into the great drag-net of Christianity and the circumstances of their lives. Sometimes they are converts from heathenism; sometimes the children of converts, baptized in infancy, and growing up in the calm atmosphere of the Spirit of God. We read in one place of a little girl: "I spoke to her many times of the Saviour's love, and I was constantly encouraged by the beauty and consistency of her Christian life when once she had yielded herself to Jesus."

In another case we find a bright, intelligent man, born Christian, who not only learns to read the little books printed in the Syllabic character, but actually masters the Moravian New Testament in Roman type. We must not suppose that perfection is attained all at once, that the missionary never has to lament a fall on the part of one who has given himself to God, or a yielding to old temptations amid the surroundings of the new life. English Christians after many hundreds of years of the Gospel can still find flaws in their own morals. Then it is hardly to be wondered at if the Eskimo Christian of yesterday causes his teacher sometimes moments of anxiety and hours of prayer. But enough has been said to show that thus far work among the Eskimos was full of joy and encouragement, and spoke of the truth of the promise, 'I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you." "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

And now, having given these individual introductions, the first seven years of Mr. Peck's missionary life must be drawn to a close.

In December, 1882, he was contemplating a visit to England in the following summer.

After so many years he had undoubtedly earned his rest and a return to civilization for a season. But nevertheless he was willing to forego his own pleasure and refreshment for the sake of those to whom he had been sent. Rather more than a year later, on January 3, 1884, he again wrote to Miss Tolley: "You will doubtless have heard by the time you receive this the reason of my not having gone to England as I intended. We were anxious to see some heathen Eskimos living at Ungava Bay, and not being able to push north on account of the very severe weather, we were obliged to give up the journey. Thinking then that there might be a more favourable opportunity the following year, I determined to remain and make another trial."

It is easy to sit at one's writing-table and make extracts of this kind from Mr. Peck's letters and diaries; it is easier for the reader to sit in his easy chair and read them. It needs, however, some effort on the part of both writer and reader to appreciate, or in any degree realize, the missionary's position and work. Here he was voluntarily giving up his hard-earned leave. And none but the exile knows what home-hunger is. He was also contemplating a most difficult and adventurous journey to Ungava, over a country rarely, if ever, traversed by an Englishman before. The unknown only lay before him in this deserted, icy road of some 700 or 800 miles. And as the apostolic party of old "assayed to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them not." So it might also have been written of him. No less than three times did Mr. Peck fail to accomplish this journey. Three times, from some cause or another, he was driven back. His first attempt has already been mentioned as having taken place in the summer of 1882. "In the following summer," he writes, "we started again, but could not force our way along the coast on account of the vast piles of ice which lay in our track, and we were again with reluctance obliged to postpone our arduous undertaking.

"In the winter of the same year we tried once more with sledge and dogs, thinking to cross the Labrador Peninsula by this means. We were not, of course, able to carry a large supply of provisions, as the load would have been too heavy; but we expected to meet with reindeer and other animals which sometimes frequent those parts. In this, however, we were disappointed. For eleven days we struggled on over the frozen waste, but not a vestige of animal life could be seen. We were, therefore, obliged with heavy heart to retrace our steps or perish by starvation. The next attempt, through God's help and guidance, proved successful, and great was our joy when at last Ungava was reached, and our trials and disappointments were at an end."

The start was made on July 17, 1884. The party consisted of Mr. Peck himself and four Indians with a canoe. It was about 8 a.m. when they commenced their journey. At first they took the coast line of the open sea from Little Whale River to Richmond Gulf on the north. They entered the latter about 1 p.m. Here they found themselves off a dangerous, rocky shore. Fish are plentiful in this region, especially in the summer and autumn. So the travellers were able to some extent to husband their provisions--an important matter with a long journey ahead, and the possibility of carrying nothing but light loads. When in the Gulf the wind freshened and a sea sprang up, and as the shore was inhospitable and impossible of effecting a landing in heavy breakers, they determined on camping for the night while the opportunity offered itself.

The next day the wind was fair, and they made an early start. The sea was running high, and was almost too much for the frail craft; but the Indians, as usual, handled her admirably, and they were able to accomplish the whole distance, 30 miles, across the southern portion of the Gulf without any mishap. About 2 p.m. they entered a small river, but close to its mouth an obstacle faced them in the shape of a large rapid which they were unable to surmount. So there was nothing for it but to pack up bag and baggage, shoulder the loads, and carry them for more than a mile. After this a halt was called, and the travellers encamped for the night. They could hardly say, however, with the Psalmist, "I will lay me down in peace and take my rest," for the mosquitoes and other insects of torture were quite unbearable.

How glad one is on the morrow of a bad night in camp to say farewell to the camping ground--a dirty-smelling camp, a noisy camp, an insect-pestered camp, a low-lying damp camp. These are the lot of the pilgrim who travels through strange lands. He tosses and turns in his not too luxurious bed and waits for the day, thankful when it comes to make a new start, hoping for better things when next he pitches his tent a day's march nearer home. Such, doubtless, were the feelings of this little party when we read that in the morning, "We passed from the river into a small chain of lakes lying about east by north. We had a hard day's work carrying our loads from lake to lake, or in other words, making portages. The country was hilly, and in some places even mountainous. Partridges were numerous near the shores of the lakes, and we saw several deer tracks during the day."

Each day closed with prayer and Bible reading, with a simple exposition of the passage read. On Sunday we find the note, "We rested according to the commandment."

Those who are marching day after day appreciate the rest of the seventh day more, perhaps, than any one else. They understand what is beyond the comprehension of the present-day pleasure seeker--that the dull old Sabbath is a God-given institution.

Probably the best way to give an adequate impression of this journey will be to transcribe some of Mr. Peck's notes, merely inserting a few words to make the sentences complete for publication:--

"Monday, July 21.--We had another heavy day's work carrying our canoe and baggage from lake to lake.

"Tuesday, July 22.--We passed through another chain of lakes lying about east by north, then we camped for the night. We shot several partridges during the day, and caught some fine white fish and trout in the lake. The country was hilly, and vegetation scanty.

"Wednesday, July 23.--We made our long portage, and then passed into Clear Water Lake. This is a fine, deep lake, about forty miles in breadth and fifty long. True to its name, the water is surprisingly fresh and clear. As the wind was fair we pushed out into the lake, and had made some thirty miles when a heavy storm came on. We then made the best of our way to a large island which was fortunately close at hand, and camped for the night. We saw some reindeer on the island, but did not succeed in shooting any. The wood growing on the island is rather large, but not fit for building purposes.

The storm continued the next day, making it impossible for the travellers to venture in their canoe; but on "Friday, July 25, the wind mode rated, though it is still heavy. We ventured, however, to cross from the island to the northern shore of the lake. Our little craft rode the sea admirably under the skilful guidance of our steersman. We reached the shore, thank God, safely, and then passed into a small river. We made a few portages, and then camped. The country about here is much lower than that hitherto seen. We have been more or less troubled with mosquitoes ever since leaving Little Whale River. They sometimes attack us in' great force, and sting in a most unmerciful manner.

"Saturday, July 26.--Made a few portages, and then passed into Seal Lake. This is about seventy miles long, but varies much in breadth. In the middle it is quite narrow, but in other places it measures perhaps from thirty to fifty miles in width. It is quite studded with islands which are the favourite haunts of reindeer, especially in the winter months. The wind was fair and strong, so we made a good run and then camped. We saw a seal, some gulls, and a few ducks during the day.

"Sunday, July 27.--We rested during the day and had a pleasant reading and conversation. There is something appalling and solemn in passing through these desolate regions. Day after day one looks upon the same little band and hears the same few voices. How well to look upward to Jesus who sits upon the throne, and to remember that one is never really alone if we are His and He is ours.

"Monday, July 28.--We reached the south-eastern boundary of the lake, and then made portage into a small river.

"Tuesday, July 29.--We passed from the river into a rather large lake, the river from which continues its course to Fort Chimo. The country is very mountainous. Trees and willows grow by the banks of the rivers and lakes. Partridges are very numerous. We frequently saw deer tracks from two to three feet wide.

"Wednesday, July 30.--We continued our journey on a small river which runs from the lake. It was very shallow. We had to lighten our canoe by carrying portions of our goods. This is terrible work, especially when clouds of mosquitoes attack one from every quarter. The country is still mountainous. Fish are plentiful in the river.

"Friday, August 1.--The current was strong, but the river shallow. We had to be very cautious, as our canoe has been broken three times since starting. We had a narrow escape once. We struck a large stone in passing down a rapid, but we were fortunately carried into shallow water before the canoe filled. We were able to patch up our shattered craft and proceed on our way."

Enough has been written in the transcription of these notes to convey some impressions to the mind of the reader. The appalling solitude, the merciless swarms of insects, the danger, the toil continuing for three and a half weeks, must rouse a certain amount of sympathy in even the most apathetic. That it was a journey worthy of consideration from other than the missionary point of view is attested by the fact that it was noticed by the Royal Geographical Society, and Mr. Peck's notes were republished in its journals.

At last, on August 11, the travellers found the tide flowing with such force in the afternoon that they were unable to make headway against it. This was a clear indication that they were nearing their goal, as the coast could not be very far distant. It turned out they were twenty miles from the mouth of the river, and as the rise and fall of the water at Ungava Bay is about sixty feet, it can be readily understood that to stem its adverse torrent was out of the question. So they waited for the turn of the tide, and then went down the river at a swinging pace. Towards evening Fort Chimo was reached. A hearty welcome was given them by the officer of the Hudson's Bay Company in charge of the station, and so they "were glad because they were quiet, for He had brought them into their desired haven." Three weeks were spent at this port, during which the Eskimos were instructed and the few Europeans ministered to. And what was the result? Mr Peck had written, "Our object in taking the journey was to reach the Eskimos living in those parts, and to lay before them the glad tidings of salvation."

Did they receive the Gospel? is the all-important question from the missionary's point of view. To this we have the answer given;

"Several of these people heard with amazement of that Saviour who came to save and bless. Many of them showed a great desire to learn, and some of them crowded in my little tent and asked over and over again various questions bearing on the things of eternity. Not a few of them, I trust, have received into their hearts seeds of saving truth which will, under the influence of God's Holy Spirit, draw them to Jesus for pardon and peace. Surely this fact ought to speak in no silent tone to the Church of God. Where is our faith and self-denial if a people so eager to learn are left without a teacher to point them to Jesus, the Fountain of Life? "

There are, however, no particular details given of this sojourn and the work accomplished, and it was not for years afterwards that anything more was heard of it. In 1899, after Mr. Peck had been at work for some years in Cumberland Sound, he received a letter from Bishop La Trobe, of the Moravian Church. It is so important, and so full of encouragement for the lonely worker for God, that it is given here in extenso as a completion to the sojourn at Ungava Bay.

November 13, 1899.

Rev. E. J. PECK,

MY DEAR FRIEND,--I have a story to tell which is of special interest to you who have sown the Seed of Life in Ungava Bay. It seems as if God will now give a reaping time. Having heard of "a great awakening" at Kangiva and Ungava.our missionary, Stecker, at Ramah, went thither last April by invitation of Mr. Guy, the Hudson's Bay Company's agent at Kangiva. He was accompanied by Ludwig, a Christian Eskimo, and joined at Nachwak by Mr. Ford, the H.B.C. trader at that post, and an Eskimo, who is still heathen.

I will not linger on their journey across the lofty ridge of that northern point of Labrador, but only say that its experiences were of daily perils and daily preservation and mercies. A southerly wind brought a sudden thaw, and part of the journey was through melting snow and flowing water, instead of over the frozen surface of land and river and sea. The men and dogs and sledge often sank deep into the soft snow, and some of the streams they came to were well-nigh impassable.

Arrived at length at Kangiva, Mr. Stecker found that there was a real awakening, and that it is to be traced to the Divine blessing on your own work at Ungava. From thence it has spread northward to Kangiva, the Island of Akpatok, and even to the other side of Hudson's Straits. It was soon plain to him--and he says it would be plain to every one--that the work is of God. No doubt some of the Eskimos are going on with the stream, but its flow is towards Christianity. The Eskimos have fully broken with heathen practices and sorcery, and their countenances showed the cheerful character of the change. They were quite candid and open with Mr. Stecker. They are eager to observe the Sabbath, counting the days week by week to the seventh day, when they rest from work. All the Eskimos, even the old people, are learning to read and write in the Syllabic character, and your extracts from the Bible and the Catechism are highly prized. It is astonishing what progress the Kangiva people have made in one year, since they began to learn from those of Ungava. They are diligently instructing their children to the best of their ability. They are hungry for instruction in the things of God, and could not hear enough from Mr. Stecker. They repeatedly said: "O, if we only had a missionary!" Again and again they begged him to come again next year, and he plans to do so in March, 1900, when he will visit Ungava as well as Kangiva. At the latter there are some 70 Eskimos, at the former more, and also some Indians living separate from, and some also among, the Indians from the interior, and Eskimos from Akpatok also come thither to trade. Mr. Stecker says there is really an open door. He thinks Ungava the best centre for a station. Kangiva can be reached from thence in two or three days.

The agents of the Company bear witness that the Eskimos are quite different to what they used to be, and really in earnest to live a new life. The traders at both posts would welcome and assist a missionary, and think there would be no difficulty in his getting provisions by the Company's ships. It remains to be seen how the H.B.C. authorities in Canada and London will view the matter.

The Eskimo dialect used in Ungava Bay differs in accent and in some words from that used along the Atlantic coast, but not so much that one of our missionaries would find any difficulty. If he were already firm in the language his ear would soon be accustomed to the new sounds.

And now, dear Brother, whose is the privilege and duty to take up the work thus begun in the Divine leading of Providence? Personally, I feel that it is laid on our Church as an extension of her existing work among the Eskimos, and I believe that you and the C.M.S. Committee will acquiesce in this. Being in London in 1897, I called on Mr. Baring-Gould at Salisbury Square, and spoke with him especially about Ungava. He expressed the hope that the way might be made clear for our Church to enter on work there. May God show us His will for Ungava. I do hope you are blessed and cheered in your work at Cumberland Inlet. I wonder if you ever come across any trace of our Missionary Warmow's visit there in 1858.

In sincere Christian regards, I am, dear friend,
Yours most truly,


The allusion in the end of the above letter is to a Moravian missionary named Warmow, who wintered on the northern shore of Cumberland Sound in a whaling ship in 1858. He was sent out to see what openings existed for missionary work.

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