My dear Mrs. Batty.--I have allowed too many opportunities to pass without acknowledging your kind letter of July, 1879. Many thanks for the kind gifts from the Coral Fund workers, Mrs. Plummer, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Neve, Hon. Alice Baring, and Miss Christie, etc. I am glad that you did not get my letter before the bale was forwarded, as my needs were after all Much greater than Mr. Trivett's at Stanley. My main reason for wishing to have the things sent to Mr. Trivett was, not that we did not need them, but because while I was at Stanley you were accustomed to send the things to me there, and I did not wish to divert your liberality from its old course. We were thankful indeed to get the gifts when they came, for about that time we were in the midst of a great deal of want and suffering. You will notice by the address on the letter that I am now at Prince Albert's, but we have only lately moved down here, about the end of last September, and the greater part of the summer was passed at Battleford. [4/5] There we had large numbers of Plain Indians around us, Crees, Blackfeet, Blood Indians, Assiniboines, Prigaus, and Sioux, all in a famishing state, the Buffalo having all migrated southwards into United States Territory. The Government assisted the Indians largely, but there was a great deal of suffering, and many of the poor creatures parted with their horses and clothing, and anything they could dispose of, for food.
The Plain Indians of the Saskatchewan have been, as you are no doubt aware, accustomed to depend entirely on the buffalo for the means of subsistence. The flesh supplies them with food, and the skins with clothing, and an article of barter. Now that this means of support is failing, they will have to settle down to tilling the land. The next few years will decide whether they are to disappear off the face of the earth, or whether they will be able to adopt the labouring life of a farmer. I have good hopes for the future of at least a large proportion of the Indians, especially if we are able not only to teach them the arts of civilized life, but the godliness that is profitable to all things.
I have removed to this place, Prince Albert's, in order to assist in the work of preparing missionary agents. A Training College has been commenced here by the Bishop of Saskatchewan, and my special work in it is to train Indian teachers through the medium of their own language. I trust, with God's blessing, it will be of great benefit to the work, the results so far are very encouraging. When summer comes, I expect to be released from the college work and to go on a missionary trip to the plains for two or three months.
We have had a very severe winter so far, one of the coldest that I have known. We have no good thermometers in the place, but ordinary mercury thermometers have been frozen for days at a time. Our house is an unfinished log building, hastily put up, and it is a common thing when I get up in the morning to find everything in the house frozen solid. One of the residents here had forty-seven degrees of frost in his house one morning. Out of doors it has been, I have no doubt, repeatedly over fifty [5/6] degrees below zero (Fahrenheit). I have frequently to drive forty miles on Sundays in the performance of my duties. You may imagine it is sometimes very cold work. And yet, after all, when we are accustomed to it, and prepared for it, we don't mind it so much as might be thought. Our dry atmosphere makes even very cold weather not unbearable. People who come from the lower provinces, Ontario and Quebec, and even from England, do not find the climate much more trying than the climate to which they have been accustomed. One thing is certain, our cold climate will not keep out emigrants, and, I believe, the Saskatchewan is destined, in the future, to become one of the greatest wheat raising countries on the face of the earth. The crops this last autumn were magnificent, wherever here is any farming done, and agriculture is as yet only in its infancy, in this part of the country. The blessing of a good harvest is one that we have reason to be devoutly thankful for, as large quantities of food are required to keep the Indians from starving, and during six months of the year we are completely cut off from help. The roads are blocked up with snow for hundreds of miles through an uninhabited country, and the transport of heavy freight is simply an impossibility. At Prince Albert's we have not very many Indians who are not able to provide for themselves. The chief dependants on public relief are the Sioux, of whom we have about eight hundred around us. They are, however very willing to take employment and earn most of what they get.
I am afraid that my remissness in writing will discourage your workers from sending me any more help. I should be sorry to lose the help that you have so long and so kindly sent, especially now that we are trying to extend our work, and the means of the Church Missionary Society are not equal to the strain on them at present. My old station, Stanley, will shortly be under the charge of a native clergyman, a pure Indian, who is at the Training College here, and will be ordained before he returns. Mr. Trivett will leave in spring to commence new work out west. There will be two native catechists associated with the [6/7] native clergyman in Stanley Mission, and we need help for them. We also have an old and faithful catechist at the Nepowen, for whom we need assistance. Clothing is as good as money, especially as, under the new Canadian custom's regulations, mission gifts pass free, while goods ordered are liable to a heavy duty.
I shall be equally grateful for any help sent to me direct, or to Rev. John Sinclair, Stanley Mission. I have never been in the habit of asking for help myself, and, therefore, I trust my appeal for others will be felt to be necessary, or it would not be made.
Many thanks for your interesting letter, as well as for your kind help, and
Believe me ever,
Yours most respectfully and gratefully,
J. A. MACKAY.