"From you sounded out the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad."--1 Thess. i. 8.
THE rays of heavenly truth that had penetrated to the neighbourhood of Cumberland Lake did not stop there; they travelled onward through the dense forest and extended plain; and it shall be our present object to trace somewhat of their farther progress.
The Cumberland Indians, in their various expeditions, frequently met with people from different places, and of other tribes. To these they would speak of Christ and His salvation; and, led by their example and persuasion, persons from various quarters often arrived at the Mission Station to hear what "this new thing" might be.
One of the earliest of these inquirers was a chief named Heche Hookemow, from Lac la Ronge, four hundred miles to the north-west of Cumberland. No Missionary, or even native catechist, had ever visited those distant regions; but he had, while hunting, heard of the Gospel from some of Mr. Budd's first converts; and now, in 1842, came down to make inquiry for himself. [There is a small outpost of the Company at Lac la Ronge, dependant on the still more distant post of Ile de la Crosse.]
Mr. Budd received him gladly, gave him as much instruction as the shortness of his stay permitted, and on his departure supplied him with some elementary books, by which he might continue to improve himself. [Probably spelling-books, &c.] His appetite for further knowledge was quickened at every step he took; again and again he re-visited the Pas, each time gathering up from Mr. Budd or Mr. Hunter some fresh crumbs of eternal truth, and on his return home distributing them to those around.
So anxious were these poor people to hear of Christ and His salvation, that on these occasions they gave their chief no rest. One party after another came into his tent to listen to his tidings; when some retired to seek for rest or refreshment, others took their places; the night as well as the day was spent in telling and hearing of the love of God; and on one occasion Heche Hookemow was thus kept up for four successive nights. His desire for knowledge still increased; and in 1846 he paid a longer visit to the Pas, put himself under regular instruction, and was, in June of the same year, baptized by the name of Paul; his wife and two children being admitted to the same privilege.
A few weeks earlier, Mr. Hunter had also baptized another of the Lac la Ronge Indians, whose history runs, in some respects, parallel with that we have just related. His heathen name was Mistinisquavoo; he was a noted conjurer, and a leading man among his people. But there was something in him that attracted the attention and awakened the interest of Mr. Mackenzie, the gentleman then in charge of the post; and about the same time that Heche Hookemow first visited Mr. Budd, Mr. Mackenzie took Mistinisquavoo to Norway House. There he remained for some months, under the instruction of a Wesleyan Missionary, and returning to Lac la Ronge spoke to others of the things he had himself received.
Anxious for farther instruction, and for admission into the fold of Christ, he and his wife went to Cumberland early in 1840, and were, as we have said, baptized by Mr. Hunter, receiving the names of Abraham and Sarah.
The spirit of inquiry among the Lac la Ronge Indians was not confined to the two cases we have mentioned; others had visited the Mission Station, but could not remain long enough to gain much knowledge; and Mr. Hunter had already, in 1845, sent thither James Beardy, one of his own Indians, to help them forward as far as he could. [One of these visitors was a man who, with his wife, set off in the summer of 1844, in a canoe, taking with them the two daughters of one of their friends, who were to be left behind at the school. Before they had gone much above half-way, the frost set in and the rivers were impassable. Nothing daunted, they pitched their tent where they were, supported themselves and their young companions as best they could during the winter, and as soon as the rivers were again open pursued their voyage.]
Beardy found twenty families ready at once to embrace Christianity. He became so much interested in his work, as to determine to remain there through the winter. Though but a beginner in the school of Christ, he diligently laboured to teach thorn all he knew himself, aiming, to use his own words, to "make them feel that they were sinners and had broken God's holy law, and thus stood in need of the salvation which God has provided for us in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ."
He daily taught and prayed with any that were within reach, and on Sundays met them in the large room at the fort, which was kindly lent to him for the purpose, and which was always completely filled.
In 1846, Mr. Hunter sent Mr. James Settee as catechist to this promising station; and provided, as Mr. Budd had been in 1840, with flour, pemican, clothes, tools, and everything he was likely to want till the following spring, he set out early in June, and in about three weeks arrived at his destination. [Mr. Settee had, like Mr. Budd, been one of Mr. West's earliest pupils in the Indian School; like him, he was bringing forth the fruit of the seed then sown, and was now sent forth to he another proof of the value of native agency.]
He found the people in as promising a state as he had expected; but soon after his arrival he experienced a severe trial in the death of many of the converts from measles. Five men and twelve women, besides several children, were thus carried off, and it was a grief both to themselves and their teachers that they had had no opportunity of being received into the visible Church of Christ, That many, if not all, were living members of His mystical body, there is every reason to hope; all had forsaken their heathen practices, regularly attended every means of grace, and were in the habit of daily family prayer; and many of them, with their dying lips, declared their simple reliance on the Lord Jesus, often using such expressions as these:--"I love my Lord and my Saviour, and I will praise Him while I have breath."
In the summer of 1847, Mr. Hunter himself visited this new station, and one or two incidents that occurred on the way are worth mentioning. One of these was his meeting with Kinnakahpoo, chief of the Rat River, and his wife, who were on their way to Cumberland, anxious to be received into the Church of Christ. Mr. Hunter had a good deal of conversation with them, and finding them well instructed in the chief truths of our holy faith, he baptized them both on the banks of the river. A few days after he met with two other canoes full of Indians, also on their way to Cumberland; but as their knowledge was far below that of Kinnakahpoo and his wife, he persuaded them to tarn back, and accompany him for farther instruction.
When he reached the lake, he proceeded to a small dwelling which Mr. Settee had built for himself, under a lofty rock of granite, on the opposite bank to the Company's fort. A number of Indians had pitched their tents round the fort, and as soon as they espied Mr. Hunter's boat, they came paddling their canoes across the water, and welcomed him with an overflowing joy that almost overcame him.
He found a school already established, at which thirty boys and twenty-three girls received daily instruction, and on Sundays the adults who attended raised the number to sixty-eight.
The day after his arrival, he examined the candidates for baptism, and found them sufficiently well instructed to allow of his baptizing forty-eight adults and fifty-nine children on the following Sunday. Besides these, several had been previously baptized at Cumberland, fifty or sixty more were candidates for the sacred rite, and not one heathen now remained among the Indians of Lac la Ronge.
One of the men who was at this time baptized by Mr. Hunter, and who had received the name of John Venn, died soon after. He was ready for the summons, and often said to his wife, "Prepare your mind, my wife; I must soon die. I am looking for the time when my Saviour shall send for me. I hope I am ready for Him who has so loved me as to die for my sins, and on whom I wholly east myself. Pray to Him, my wife, pray to Him for our little girl, that we may all he saved in the day of His appearing."
When Mr. Settee was appointed to Lac la Ronge, James Beardy pushed on to the neighbourhood of another of the Company's trading ports, called Ho de la Crosse, four or five hundred miles still farther in the interior, and from whence Mr. Hunter had received many applications for a teacher. [These calculations are, of course, but vague; the distance represented on the map is a very imperfect guide, as the windings of the rivers and lakes often double the apparent length of route, which can only be judged of by the time it occupies.]
When Beardy arrived there, he found that two Roman Catholic priests wore in the neighbourhood, and that some of the poor people, despairing of obtaining a teacher of what they called "the English religion," and yet unwilling to remain in heathenism, had been baptized by thorn. The priests had, after their baptism, tied round their necks the same kind of cross we have spoken of before, and instead of giving them instructions from the Word of God, had distributed among them a paper, "marked in small dark lines with the names of patriarchs and apostles, representations of heaven, earth, angels, saints, stars, churches, the flood, Solomon's Temple, &c.; the principal object being a straight road leading to heaven, intended to represent the Roman Catholic religion, with branch roads marked 'Pretended Reformations,' &c., leading, of course, to a very different place." [Let our readers compare this with the heathen roll mentioned in the last chapter, as having been given up by Louis Constant.]
Some of these Indians had, however, resisted all the solicitations of the priests; ignorant as they were, they seem to have felt that these outward things could not satisfy their souls; and they had still waited for an English teacher. Several even of those who had been baptized had, soon after, of their own accord, thrown away their crosses, and were anxious to receive instruction.
Distant as Ile de la Crosse and Lac la Ronge were, the desire for instruction had spread still further, and in 1848, our Cumberland missionary received a message from a chief named Tripe de Roche, [Rockweed] near Fort Chippewyan, in the Athabasca country, said to be a thousand miles from Ile de la Crosse, speaking of his own and his people's unwillingness to put themselves under the Roman Catholic priests, and earnestly requesting a teacher; but hitherto there have been no means of complying with this request.
The influence of the Cumberland Indians was not felt only in these distant places; several of the inquirers who visited the Pas were from nearer parts of the country. Some were from among the Nippeweens, a tribe important, not only on account of its own numbers, but as being in continual communication with the fiercer and still more numerous tribes, called the "Plain" Indians. Others came from Moose Lake, a secluded spot, two days' distance from the Pas, where the officer in charge of the Company's post had a care for the souls of the Indians round him, and added his own instructions to the information they had obtained from their companions in the hunting-grounds.
Mr. Hunter several times visited this place, and in his different journeys had opportunities of seeing more of the Indian idolatry and superstitions than he had before witnessed; but our limits forbid us to linger here, and we must only add, with regard to Moose Lake, that several of the Indians who frequent it have been baptized, and that it is considered so promising a field, that, as we shall hereafter see, steps have been taken to make it a permanent station.
We have taken a new motto for the concluding part of this chapter, for it will contain a history very different from those we have already related, and will afford another proof that though a Paul should plant, or an Apollos water, it remaineth with God alone to give the increase.
The Rev. A. and Mrs. Cowley arrived from England in the autumn of 1841; and, early in the summer of 1842, they proceeded to what had for some time appeared a promising station on the shore of the Lake Manitoba. This lake lies to the north-west of the Red River, and the spot proposed now to be occupied is about three hundred miles from that settlement. It is partly accessible by land, and Mr. and Mrs. Cowley performed most of the journey in the rude carts of the country, carrying with them, as usual, provisions for the next twelve months, and a little live stock for the commencement of a mission farm. After a very fatiguing journey they arrived at the spot, and were delighted with the landscape all around. Before them was the lake, stretched out in quiet grandeur, reflecting, as in a glassy mirror, the scene around; the shores were bordered with a belt of pasturage, and beyond lay what seemed interminable woods of oak and poplar; while the numerous fish that sported in the clear waters, and the birds that skimmed along their surface, gave life and animation to the whole.
Far different was the moral prospect: the Indians that frequented the neighbourhood were of the Saulteaux tribe, and we have before spoken of the fierceness of their character, and their impatience of control, even on the banks of the Red River; and here, where the silver trumpet of the Gospel had never yet been sounded, they were still more wild and untamed.
A tent was soon pitched for our wearied travellers; and Mr. Cowley, with the help of a servant he had brought with him, set about the erection of a more substantial dwelling.
It contained only two rooms, sixteen feet square; one of which was for their own use, and the other for their servant's: but, small and inconvenient as it was, they were thankful to take possession of it in the following October, though they were still destitute of bedstead, chairs, or any other article of furniture, except one table given them by Mrs. Cockran.
There is a Company's trading-post on the shores of the Manitoba Lake, and this, added to the unfailing abundance of fish, renders it a favourite resort of the Indians, who sometimes collect there in considerable numbers.
As was the ease with Mr. Hunter at Cumberland, Mr. Cowley came in contact with many Indian superstitions which had long before disappeared from the neighbourhood of the Red River. The Saulteaux chief here had in his possession a birch-rind roll, very similar to the one we have before described as having belonged to the Cree chief, Louis Constant; and on one occasion Mr. Cowley observed an instance of superstition different from any we road of elsewhere. He says:--
"One day I saw something hanging on a tree, and went to look at it. It consisted of twenty small rods, peeled and painted red and black, and fastened together in a plane, with cords of hark. A piece of tobacco was placed between the tenth and eleventh rods, and the whole was suspended perpendicularly from a branch of the tree. It belonged to the old chief, who told me that when he was a young man he lay down to dream, and that, in his dream, the moon spoke to him, and told him to make this charm, and to renew it every new moon, that he might have a long life. He had regularly done so ever since, till the preceding summer, when he almost forgot it, and was taken so ill as to be near dying; but he remembered it, his friends did it for him, and he recovered."
Is not this an example of untiring perseverance worthy of a better cause?
From the time of their first settling among them, Mr. and Mrs. Cowley left nothing undone to win these people to the truth. Their small house was open to them by night as well as by day, for conversation, or for shelter. or for food; they never sent them away, but on more than one occasion submitted to the dirty and disgusting habits of their visitors for two or three days together.
The people seemed disposed to listen to the Gospel; those on the spot generally attended at the daily family devotions, and absent ones would, if possible, return to the Sunday services.
While near, they would also willingly send their children to the school, but generally, after a little while, would suddenly decamp, take their children with them, and not return for months.
Mr. Cowley's journals, though interesting in themselves, do not afford many materials for our present purpose. A narrative of blighted hopes and disappointed expectations, though borne with constancy and patience, and firm reliance on the promises of God, would not be interesting in detail; and we shall, therefore, only touch on a few points that may convey to the reader some idea of the work at Manitoba.
The outward trials and privations of our Missionaries were not, perhaps, greater than those of Mr. and Mrs. Hunter at Cumberland, and they were borne with equal cheerfulness; but their souls were cast down within them at the little effect produced by the preaching of the Gospel.
Occasionally Mr. Cowley's hopes were raised by one and another coming to ask what he must do to be saved; but all was as a morning cloud, and melted away before the next temptation. This was particularly the case in the autumn of 1845. Many had appeared more serious, and seemed to feel more interest than they had hitherto done in the truths of the Gospel; one man in particular, who went by the name of Robert, gave up his medicine bag and his heathen ways, and declared his intention to become a Christian. But just before the Christmas of the same year a trader arrived with a large quantity of rum, which he offered to the Indians in exchange for furs, or for anything else they possessed. They eagerly sought to procure the "fire-water;" everything they had was parted with to obtain it, and the scenes of intoxication and riot that went on for two or three weeks baffle all description. Not one escaped the snare; even Robert fell into it, and we never read of any after-change in him.
Had these poor creatures exercised only their reason, they would have been struck with the contrast their own condition at this time presented to that of two Indians from Red River, who happened just now to be at the station. They also were Saulteaux; but the grace of God had some years before taken possession of their hearts, and they were among the very few of their tribe who had, with Pigwys, settled at the Indian Village. They had left their home for some of the Saulteaux hunting-grounds near the Manitoba Lake, and had now come down to enjoy the Christmas services. They remained some little time with Mr. Cowley, receiving the Lord's Supper, attending Divine worship, regular in their own morning and evening devotions, and resisting every temptation; while their quiet bearing, and their happy, peaceful countenances, gave additional proof of the Spirit that dwelt within.
Year after year rolled away--Mr. and Mrs. Cowley had fixed their permanent abode at a place called Partridge Crop; the word was preached "in season and out of season," but still there was no response. Civilisation was, however, beginning to make some progress; eight little cottages were to ho seen beneath the shade of spreading oaks near the margin of the lake; each with its potatoe ground, one with its field of wheat and barley, while the owner of another was master of several head of cattle. The schools, too, went on well; and it often refreshed our Missionaries' drooping hearts to see these little ones neatly and comfortably clad in the garments they had given them, sitting round the room reading the word of God, or joining with their sweet voices in some simple hymn.
Occasionally, too, some little incident would occur to encourage hope: once, for instance, when Mr. Cowley was, as usual, taking advantage of the general absence of the Indians to go to some distant spot, he visited a chief called Kakepi, who was for a while encamped at a place forty or fifty miles from Partridge Crop. On his arrival, he was, to his surprise, shown into a new tent neatly lined with brushwood, and with a supply of logs for fuel; and he found it had been prepared for him, because, as the people said, he would want to pray, and their tents were too dirty for the purpose.
A gratifying proof was also given to our Missionary that his unwearied efforts were not wholly unappreciated, when, in 1847, the question was raised whether the station should not be abandoned. The Indians, hearing something of it, came to him, earnestly requesting him not to leave them, and saying, that though they were themselves too old to change, they wished their children to become "praying people." One man strikingly added, "I believe your message to he true, but if it is, why did you not sooner come and tell us? We might now have been a praying people, instead of having grown up heathens." What answer has the Christian Church to give this man?
The suspense in which Mr. Cowley remained till he could know the decision of the Parent Committee on this point, tested his own feelings; it proved that his affections were so drawn out to those people that, almost fruitless as his labours had been, ho could not bear the thought of leaving them, and great was his thankfulness when, in the following year, the answer came from home, "We must not yet give up the Saulteaux."
Even up to the last account, things still remain in nearly the same state; at times there seems a shaking among the dry bones, as though the Spirit of God were breathing upon them. But again all is still; and we can only commend the Manitoba Station to the special prayers of our readers, concluding our account with an extract from one of Mr. Cowley's letters:--
"In God is my trust, and in Him is my confidence. He will not, He cannot, fail mo in time of my greatest need. The assurance of your prayers and the prayers of my friends is a great comfort to me, but I pray to be kept from placing you or them in the stead of Christ. His merits and gracious offices of love are all-prevailing; I embark my all upon the ocean of His love, and trust His word of promise for every emergency."