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Brief Reviews of the Past History of the Different Missions

The Cumberland Station of Our Northwest America Mission

From Church Missionary Intelligencer, pages 474-480

London: William Mavor Watts, 1850.

OUR Number for January last contained an historical sketch of the commencement of Missionary effort at the Red-River Colony, and the formation and progress of the Indian Settlement near the southern extremity of Lake Winnipeg. Interesting documents recently received enable us to carry forward this review to our advanced Stations on the [474/475] Saskatchewan and Rapid Rivers, and "to refresh and encourage the Church at home by the gracious tidings that the Lord is blessing the land, and that He is making the wilderness to rejoice and blossom as the rose."

In the North-West-America Mission, as well as in other portions of the Missionary field, the power of successive reproduction which genuine Christian possesses is beautifully exemplified. The Gospel is introduced into a heathen land. Foreigners bring it; and they, and the message which they bear, are looked upon as new and strange. The incipient effort is confined to a given spot and within circumscribed limits, and is carried on, perhaps for a considerable period, amidst much difficulty, and sometimes very great discouragement. At length, that which had been transplanted from a foreign land seems to have apprehended the new soil in which it has been placed, and exhibits evidences of rigorous progress. Nor is its influence confined to the place of primary location, but with a kind of hidden operation, and in a manner imperceptible even to those most interested in its advancement, it affects the previously uninterested heathen mind, breaking forth here and there in a spirit of inquiry. Thus the work begins to reproduce itself, and the reflection of the first impression made is multiplied in different directions. As light reflects on tablets the images of distant objects, pourtraying them with an accuracy and precision which the limner's pencil cannot equal, and which the invention of the daguerrotype has rendered fixed and permanent, so spiritual light, with analogous action, transfers the image of the primary and central work to the distant Out-Stations, and each successive effort becomes the living counterpart of that which had preceded it.

The Saskatchewan River, one of the great feeders of Lake Winnipeg, enters that collection of waters on the north-west side. From the Red River across the lake to the mouth of the Saskatchewan, is a voyage of about five days. On entering the latter river, the Grand Rapids are encountered, about two miles from its mouth. The upward progress here is tedious and difficult. The boats have to be unloaded, and the cargo carried more than a mile by land; and then above the Rapids replaced in the boats, which have either been similarly conveyed, or else have been tracked up the Rapids with much labour. At this spot the river runs between perpendicular rocks, which rise fifty or a hundred feet above the level of the water. Ascending the river against a stream of considerable force, Cross Lake is entered; then Cedar Lake, about fifty miles in length from east to west, and with a varying breadth of five to fifteen miles; and, finally, Muddy Lake, about ten miles in length by three or four in breadth; after which the channel of the river, about 200 yards broad, is resumed, and Cumberland Station is reached after some eight days' voyaging from Lake Winnipeg. Its distance from the Red River is computed at about 600 miles.

The work of evangelization carried on amongst the Indians at the Red River had, in the exercise of that reproductive power to which we have adverted, extended its influence in this direction, and rendered necessary to this remote place the extension of Missionary agency.

Strange Indians occasionally visited the Indian Settlement at the Red River; amongst others, some from Cumberland House. Eventually they established themselves there, and, with broken yet joyful hearts, received the hopes and consolations of the Gospel. The Indian, awakened himself, becomes acutely sensible of the necessities of his relatives and friends. So it was with the Cumberland Indians at the Red River: they did not forget the friends they had left behind in the gloom of heathenism. They communicated with them in various ways; sometimes visiting them, at other times sending messages, until, in answer to their prayers, a desire for Christian instruction was awakened.

The cry for help having been made, it become necessary that it should be attended to with as little delay as possible. If the opening had not been filled up by us, the Roman Catholics were preparing to avail themselves of it, a Priest at the Red River having been already selected for the purpose; and accordingly Henry Budd, a Christian Indian, a native of the Cumberland district, and acquainted with the Cree language, was appointed to commence the work. It is remarkable that he was one of the two Indian boys entrusted by their parents to the care of the Rev. John West in 1820; one, the son of Withaweecapo, received at York Factory, and this other obtained at Norway House--one of the first of his race consigned to a Missionary's care, and now the first to be employed in direct Missionary work amongst his countrymen. He had been for the space of four years discharging the office of Schoolmaster at the Upper Church, and had given general satisfaction. The experiment was of a deeply-interesting nature. It was about to be ascertained whether an Indian could with propriety be so employed; whether his spiritual and intellectual qualifications would be found in such proportion to the undertaking, that the difficulties and responsibilities connected with it would not overwhelm him.

[476] The prospective difficulties were indeed considerable. The character and habits of the Heathen Indians presented in themselves a formidable obstacle. "Their indolent, wasteful, and erratic habits, are hostile to the spread of Christianity and civilization. Famine often drives them from place to place. The chase is always precarious. One week they will have superabundance, and the next absolute want. The Indian seeks only the gratification of his sensual passions, and takes the shortest and easiest path to accomplish his wishes. How he may command the object of his wishes quickly, and with little toil, without any regard to future consequences, is the sole occupation of his thoughts. He steals upon his prey by cunning, and takes away its life by cruel violence. He is thrown into an ecstacy on beholding the flowing of the blood, and the writhing of his prey in the agonies of death. Thus deceit and cruelty are the component parts of his character. By these the insignificant mouse, the majestic buffalo and deer, have been prostrated at his feet, and formed a luxurious repast. These have been the life of the man, the study of the man: they have constituted the man. Thus a sly, deceitful, cruel, and malicious character is formed, every way calculated to answer the purpose of the Prince of Darkness."

Moreover, it was apprehended that considerable difficulties would arise at Cumberland Station with reference to food. Doubts were entertained as to the possibility of raising any grain crops there on which dependence could be placed, and, consequently, that the main supplies would require to be forwarded from the Red River. Even if the soil would better than it was expected to be, still, with Indian hands to bring it into cultivation was a laborious task, requiring unconquerable perseverance. The Indians, in their natural state, have little taste for cultivating the ground, and are averse to the hard labour which it requires. When the School-children of the Indian Settlement were employed in agricultural labours, the parents came and said to the Missionaries--"We sent you our sons that you might teach them to say prayers, but you are making slaves of them: we will take them away, if you ask them to do any thing but say prayers." Even when this disinclination is so far overcome as that the Indian can be persuaded to begin, still he is likely to be discouraged, and to give it up as useless labour. The winter frost preserves from decomposition a quantity of small roots, which are so interwoven with the soil, that perhaps two years elapse before it becomes productive. Thus a complication of difficulties seems to present itself. The indolent habits of the Indian, and the discouragements attendant on a commencement of tillage, drive him away in search of food, by fishing or the chase, to a distance from the Missionary, and thus place him beyond the reach of that Gospel, which, in the renewing of his mind, and the accomplishment of a divine change within, can alone prevail to the surrender of old habits and associations.

Such was the work to which the Indian Catechist went forth--an humble instrument for a difficult undertaking; yet if, under a deep sense of his own insufficiency, relying on the power of God, not the less likely to be employed by Him who is often please by weak instruments to accomplish remarkable results; as when the "cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came into a tent, and smote it that fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along." On the morning of June the 22d, 1840, when the boat was loaded, and all ready for their departure, the Rev. J. Smithurst addressed to Budd and his wife a few words of encouragement, urging upon them the importance of the undertaking, and entreating them to seek the Divine guidance in fervent prayer. Relying entirely upon the Holy Spirit for strength and assistance. "I pray," he adds, in his Journal of the above date, "that God may bless our Brother Budd and family, and conduct them in safety to their destination, and make them a blessing to the poor Crees at Cumberland House." It is with thankfulness to God we have to record that this prayer has been abundantly answered.

His first interview with the Crees was not of an encouraging character. A large number of them were met at the Grand Rapids of the Saskatchewan. They were in the idle of their grand conjuring feast, and seemed little disposed to listen to any thing on the subject of Christianity. Some said they wanted no Missionaries; others, that when they came to Cumberland they would call and see. On arriving at his destination Budd found three Indian families, from whom he received the promise of ten children to teach; and about two months afterward we find him with an attendance on Sunday of about thirty-five persons, of whom twenty-four were children, most of them being very fond of learning. The man was now fairly in his work, and strength was given him to grapple with it. "The importance of the work," he says at this period, "I see more and more daily, as well as my own insufficiency for its performance. O that the influence of the Holy Spirit may be poured out upon me, that I may be made more zealous, more active and more successful in the Missionary cause!"

[477] In 1842 Mr. Smithurst proceeded to visit Cumberland Station. After twenty-six days' voyaging they came in sight in sight of the Station on the 25 of June, precisely two years' lapse from the departure of Budd from the Red River. "It appeared like an oasis in the desert: the School-house in the centre, Mr. Budd's house on the south side, and the children's house on the north." The particulars of that visit we shall not enter upon: they may be found in the "Church Missionary Record" for December 1842. It will be enough to state, that the results of the Missionary efforts which had been carried on during the preceding two years were in the highest degree encouraging and satisfactory. On entering the School-room, where the adult Candidates for Baptism had assembled, our Missionary was quite astonished to see so many, and began to fear that they could not be sufficiently aware of what they were about to undertake; but a searching examination of each individual convinced him to the contrary. In speaking of their past lives, and the delusions under which they had laboured, the Indians were deeply affected: "their hearts," to use their own expression, "were so sore at the same time that, with simple faith, they looked to Christ as their Saviour, and stated their determination to trust entirely to Him. On that occasion thirty-eight adults, together with forty-nine children and infants, were baptized. This, too, had been accomplished, notwithstanding the opposition which had been experienced from the Chief. Yet this man, before Mr. Smithurst's departure, smoked with him the calumet of peace, and acknowledged that he should not be surprised if the Indians went over, one by one, to Christianity, until he was himself left alone. "Indeed," he added, "I will not say but I may yet come to you."

After Mr. Smithurst's departure, the work continued to progress; new Candidates for Baptism placed themselves under instruction, and the growing importance of the Station rendered a resident Missionary indispensable.

The arrival of the Rev. J. Hunter, on the 26th of September 1844, was a joyful event to Budd and his Christian Indians. They had been anxiously expecting him, nor would they leave for their hunting-grounds until the arrival of the fall-boat, by which it was hoped that he would come. As he landed from the boat they crowded round him to bid him welcome; and, from their manner and address, Mr. And Mrs. Hunter immediately perceived that they were surrounded, not by Heathen, but by Christian Indians. There were thirty-one adult Candidates for Baptism. The deep emotion of many of them, when under examination, indicated the godly sorrow that was within. They came up "for baptism by households; and a most interesting and delightful scene it was to see the father and mother, with their children, approaching together. All was breathless attention, many a tear was shed, and old and young appeared to be affected."

As yet, however, no attempt had been made to form a Settlement, and very little had been done in the way of tillage. Mr. Smithurst, when at the Station, had marked out some lots, and one Indian had prepared wood, but no house had yet been built, and the Indians continued to dwell in tents. On an island, distant about half-a-day's journey, they had planted potatos, but had not sown any barley or wheat. They had been told by the Heathen Indians, and the few from amongst them who had joined the Priest, that no Clergyman would be sent, and that it would be usefulness for them to build houses or cultivate the land.

The despatches recently received enable us to present the Station in one more interesting period of its history--the first visit of a Bishop to this remote branch of our Missionary work, the opening of the new Church, and the Confirmation of the baptized Indians. Mr. Hunter had met the Bishop of Rupert's Land at Norway House in September 1849, when on his way to the Colony, and it was then arranged that Cumberland Station should be visited, the Lord willing, in the subsequent summer. During the interval the combined work of Christian instruction and general improvement energetically advanced; the one, through the blessing of God, infusing new principles into the hearts of the Indians, and the other evidencing the change which Christianity had effected in these once indolent and improvident Heathen.

Translational labours, as most important, were diligently prosecuted. In the spring of the present year this department of labour had so far advanced, that the whole of the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Communion Service, the Baptismal Service, the Church Catechism, the Order of Confirmation, the Marriage Service, part of the Service for the Visitation of the Sick, the Burial Service, and the Service for the Churching of Women, had been translated into the Cree language. A language abounding with particles and compound words, it at first appeared a complete puzzle; nor was it [477/478] possible to discover and fix its grammatical elements without some difficulty and study. This, however, has been successfully accomplished; Mrs. Hunter--the daughter of a chief factor in the Hudson's-Bay territories, and well acquainted with the Cree language--and Mr. Henry Budd rendering important aid. In such efforts our Missionary's knowledge of the language has been much increased, and his employment of it, as a medium of oral instruction, greatly facilitated, so that, on the 28 of July last, he was enabled to preached to the Indians, for the first time, in their own tongue. "They can now say," says Mr. Hunter, "with those of old, 'We do hear them speak in our tongue the wonderful works of God!' I am becoming more and more convinced of the necessity and importance of acquiring the native language: it gives us great influence among the Christian Indians as well as among the Heathen, and they pay the most breathless attention when addressed in their native tongue. The Indians not only like to hear but to understand the Praying Chief, and our addresses lose much of their effect in passing through an interpreter. Their interest indeed evidently depends as the Missionary is enabled to employ, as his medium of instruction, the native tongue; and some touching instances are recorded, in the Letters and Journals which have been recently received, of their anxiety to improve the opportunities afforded to them. "Our Indians," says Mr. Hunter, "have a very nice plan of assembling together on Lord's-days in their own houses, and talking over the Sermon they have heard at Church; when the old people take the opportunity to press the subject upon the attention of the younger members of the family, adding some suitable words of advice."

While under special instruction preparatory to Confirmation, some of them were known to have stayed up occasionally all night, that they might learn, from the more advanced Indians, the Ten Commandments and portions of the Church Catechism in Cree. Nor is this confined to the adults. One Sunday Mr. Hunter observed a blind boy present at the Church. On inquiring his reasons for coming, he said, "Although I cannot see to read, yet be pleased to teach me the Lord's Prayer and the Belief by heart, that I may be able to repeat the same." Mr. Hunter says--"This poor blind Indian boy is led daily to the School by his little sister, and his face brightens with joy when the Teacher calls him to repeat the Prayer of our blessed Lord, which he is so anxious to learn." It is encouraging, also, to find that the instruction received is inwardly digested, so as to strengthen Christian principles, and enable the Indians to maintain a holy consistency in their daily walk and conversation. Mr. Hunter writes--

"Oct. 15, 1849--To-day the Chief came over to me, and expressed his astonishment that White Men, who have been brought up in a Christian land, and taught to read the Word of God, so often act as if they were entirely ignorant of the name of Jesus and His blessed religion. He said, "I was travelling last summer with them in the boats, and was often surprised to hear them quarrelling and angry with each other"--faults of which the Indians are seldom guilty. "One day they were disputing as usual, and, from their loud talk and gestures, I thought they would go from words to blows. I was anxious to tell them that so much quarrelling did not become Christians; but as they could not understand me, I thought of my Bible, which I always carry in my box, and taking it out, I went to the men, and presented it to them, saying, 'I am not able to tell you what is right, but I am sure if you read this book it will tell you that your present conduct is very sinful, and displeasing to God.' They immediately became quiet. I thought," he added, "that perhaps the sight of the Bible reminded them of the time when they were taught to read it, and of their Minister who, I am sure, would tell them not to forget the many good things it teaches."

The Chief Wetus, or Louis Constance, has yielded to the subduing power of the cross of Christ, and unites with the other Christians in endeavouring to recommend to all around that Gospel which he once used his influence to hinder. "With the Chiefs Cook and Constance," writes Mr. Hunter, "I have frequent intercourse, especially with the latter, who is a great help to me in every good work, and is really a sensible man. He visits my house very often, and we have a good deal of conversation together. The Bishop was much pleased with him, and thought him a sensible and intelligent Christian. Book Cook and Constance, as far as they have opportunities, are very diligent in speaking to the Indians, Christians as well as Heathen; indeed, all the Indian Christians do the same, and many of our Converts are made through their instrumentality. When alone in the woods, they conduct Prayer-meetings and hold Services.

In temporal matters, also, encouraging progress has been made. A substantial Parsonage, and other necessary buildings, have been finished. A new Church, commence in 1847, about 63 feet long by 27 feet wide, has been completed. Many of the Indians have been diligently occupied in erecting dwelling [478/479] houses for themselves. "I walked," says Mr. Hunter, under date of November 19, 1849, "across the river on the ice, to visit the new houses lately finished by the Indians. We called at seven houses, where we found fires burning, the houses clean and warm, and the families comfortably gathered round their cheerful hearth. All appeared thankful that they were now living in houses, which they found so much superior in warmth and comfort to their former wretched tents.

Great exertions were made to get the Church, and other arrangements, in readiness before the Bishop's arrival. He was true to his appointment. On June the 19, he left Norway House, where the Council of Rupert's Land were sitting, and passed Sunday, the 23d, on the table-land above the Grand Rapids of the Saskatchewan. About forty Red-River Indians were found encamped at this place, who formed a Congregation in the wilderness. "We were all anxious," writes the Bishop, "to reach the Missionary Station before the following Sunday; and, by the good hand and blessing of God, we reached the Pas, and landed at the Parsonage-house, just as the sun was declining in the west on Saturday evening. It was the very moment I could have chosen for my arrival, and for my first sight of the spire of the pretty Church which stands erected there through your benevolent exertions. Not half-an-hour before, Mr. Hunter had said that he was no quite ready for me at whatever moment I might arrive: scarcely had he said so, when our boat was announced, and the flag immediately raised, which was the first object I discerned before we made the last turn on the river, so as to catch sight of the Church and House."

The next day, Lord's-day, June 30, the new Church was opened for Divine Service. "The Bishop," says Mr. Hunter, "opened this, the first Church of England beyond the Red-River Settlement built in the wilderness, in connexion with this Mission, and purely among the aborigines; and here we had a Congregation of Natives, who for the first time entered a Church: and if our dear friends could have seen the devout and reverential manner in which they joined in the Services, and repeated the responses, they would have thought that they had been accustomed to the ordinances of the sanctuary from their earliest infancy. Five years ago, and there was no Mission-house or Church at this place; but God has so blessed our labours, that this day we enjoy them both.

The Bishop describes the Church as occupying so conspicuous a position that it cannot fail to attract every eye. May it prove, in this respect, a suitable type of that fabric of living stones, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone, which our Missionaries have been engaged in raising amidst the wilderness. May the Christian profession of our believing Indians be beautiful and conspicuous in its consistency, and be the happy instrument of attracting many to Christ!

The Confirmation was held on July the 5th, Friday. The Service was read in Cree by Mr. Hunter, the Bishop delivering an address before and after the Confirmation from Joshua xxiv., taking the 21st verse before, and the 22d after, the Confirmation. He also read the Confirmation Service in Cree remarkably well, to the astonishment and delight of the Indians. His own narrative of the proceedings of this day, and of the subsequent Sunday, is very interesting.

"All the preparation of the week had been directed toward the Confirmation. Each day I had seen and examined many. I took them in parties; started with the Catechism, the Lord's Prayer, or the Belief, or the Ten Commandments, in Cree; and then I diverged, and asked them questions, which it was impossible to imagined would be put. This tested their knowledge and practical acquaintance with the truths of the Bible; and again and again I said to Mr. Hunter, that I was surprised at their intelligent and experimental acquaintance with our holy faith. Two were from Lac-la-Ronge, and they evinced an equal amount of knowledge, and full as deep piety as any of the others. I believe them to be as far advanced at Lac-la-Ronge as at Cumberland. It was my happy privilege to confirm 110 on Friday, July the 5th; and, to do so, using over them, two by two, the beautiful prayer, "Defend, O Lord," &c., in the Cree language. It was a beautiful and stirring sight. The interior of the Church is pretty, and they came up very reverently and devoutly, and knelt in prayer before the Communion-rails, and then, retiring to their places, joined, after all had been confirmed, in the remainder of the Service, the prayers of which were all offered up in their own tongue. Indeed, the thing which most struck me at Cumberland was the way in which the Indians join with lip and voice themselves in our Liturgy. Mr. Hunter reads the whole Service, Morning and Evening, in Cree. In the Confession, the Lord's Prayer, and the Litany, they all follow: if he but give them the first word, they carry it on throughout themselves.

"On Sunday, July the 7, we met to commemorate the Saviour's dying love at His own Table; in all, fifty-four Communicants--as far as man may judge, simple-minded and humble believers, with a deep sense of sin, and a lively conviction of Christ's great love."

[480] Mr. Hunter adds--

"In the afternoon I read prayers in Cree, and Mr. Henry Budd preached from the 'strikingly appropriate text,' as the Bishop characterized it, of Matt. xii. 16 and 17, 'But blessed are your eyes, for thee see: and your ears, for they hear,' &c. The text was well chosen; and it would have rejoiced the hearts of the friends of the Society, could they have been present at that Service, and heard their Native Catechist, the first-fruits of their labours in this Mission, address his countrymen in words solemn, appropriate, and eloquent, and, at the same time, with much affection and feeling. His Lordship was much pleased with Mr. Budd's style and manner, and intimated that he hoped to ordain him Deacon at Christmas next."

The next morning, after Family Prayers, the Bishop left, and before embarking, the Indians collected round him on the beach, when he addressed them for a short time. Afterward they sang a hymn in Cree, and united in offering up the Lord's Prayer, the Bishop concluding with the Blessing in the native language, and after shaking hands with them proceeding on his return to the Red River. He was accompanied by Henry Budd and his eldest son, and the eldest son of James Settee, the Indian Catechist at Lac-la-Ronge. They are all now pursuing their studies at the Red River, under the Bishop's superintendence, with a view to future usefulness.

"The Bishop's visit," writes Mr. Hunter, "has been a delightful season, and his amiable and kind manner has won the hearts of all. An old Indian, Jacob Budd, said, 'Ever since the Bishop has been here, every day has been like a Sunday.' The Bishop's prayers and expositions in our family were beyond all praise: they manifested great knowledge of God's Word, accompanied with much fervency and holy warmth of affection; so that we feel edified and quickened in our blessed work. He read the Cree remarkably well, to the delight of our Christian Indians; and his addresses to the Indians were all that could be desired, just adapted to their capacity, containing similitudes taken from their every-day life, and delivered with great earnestness and affection. They will long remember his visit, and I am sure he has an interest in their simple prayers.

"The visit has tended to strengthen our hands, and give permanency and solidity to our work. We have, therefore, much cause to thank God, and take courage; and, I hope, are prepared to make some further effort to extend His kingdom around us."

The Bishop expresses his conviction that Cumberland Station must prove a centre of Missionary effort in that quarter of Rupert's Land. It has already afforded indications of this. Itself the reflection of the Missionary work at Red River, it is re-producing around it movements like that in which it has itself originated. Lac-la-Ronge Station, the history of which we hope to trace in a future Number, has originated in the Cumberland Station work; and now, the following paragraph from a Letter of Mr. Hunter's, dated July 30, 1850, shows that in another direction the same process has begun--

"Moose Lake, two days' journey from here, would be an interesting place to commence a new Station: there are more than twenty families of Indians, and some of them have already been baptized. The lake is large, and abounds with excellent fish: it is an out-post from Cumberland House, and also a boat-building establishment. I have visited it several times, and, if some one were sent there to reside, I am sure it would be attended with success.

"The Bishop wishes me to commence the same, by sending a pious Indian from here, called John Humphible, who was my servantman last winter, and reads the New Testament very well. John could build a small house, make a little garden, collect a few children and teach them to read, and conduct prayers ever evening, and also on Lord's-days, with the Indians who might be disposed to attend him. Thus a beginning might be made, and a way prepared, should God own and bless the work, for sending a Native Pastor to carry on the movement. The Bishop directed me to pay the expenses of commencing the Station, should John Humphible be willing to go, out of the 100l. placed by him at my disposal. Fifty pounds a-year would cover the expenses for some time to come, should the Society sanction my carrying on a new Station at that place; and it can be visited from time to time by myself and Mr. Henry Budd, when he returns to me in Deacon's orders."

John Humphible has consented to go, and, like Henry Budd when he set out from the Red River for Cumberland Station, or like James Settee when he left Cumberland Station for Lac-la-Ronge, had arranged to leave in a large canoe, with his family and all necessary supplies, on August the 19th. We commend him and his new undertaking to the prayers of our Christian friends.

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