YOUR kind letter of December 12th last reached me by mail yesterday. We are very thankful indeed for the prospect of getting again some assistance from you. I fear I may have led you to think that we did not value your kindness. My only motive in asking you not to send to us was the desire not to divert your gifts from our dear old station, Stanley.
I still hope you will continue to remember the work there, which is now under the charge of the Rev. John Sinclair, a pure Indian, ordained last winter. At the same time our needs are so pressing here that I would earnestly beg a little help also. I want the gifts chiefly for two objects--to help Indian students training for Missionary work at the college here; and to assist our native agents actually at work. The C. M. S. is straitened for funds, and the gifts will be as good as money to help forward our work.
As I told you, I think, in my last letter, my work is now somewhat different from what it used to be at Stanley. We are living now in the midst of a settled population, most of them white people, and the chief object of my removal here has been the training of native students intended for Missionary work. My work as tutor occupies me from Monday to Friday included, and every Saturday I drive out twenty miles to an Indian Mission, where I spend the Sunday. I have three services every Sunday, and when my work is over I drive home again, reaching home generally between 10 and 11 at night, so as to be ready for my work at the College on Monday morning. Instead of a train of dogs as at Stanley, I travel now with the more civilized conveyance of a horse and sleigh, but in winter it is sometimes very cold driving.
This winter has been milder than last winter so far, and we have had very little snow. Not more than nine inches [99/100] has fallen altogether since the beginning of winter. It never melts here during the continuance of our five months winter. What we call mild weather is when the thermometer keeps above the forties. I think a thermometer done up in a little box would come safely enough in the middle of a bale. It would be very little use sending one with mercury. The poor thing might be hard frozen for a week or so at a time. We do not mind the cold very much. New comers are astonished how little discomfort is experienced in this country even when the glass is down to 40° or more below Zero. Certainly the country will soon attract a large immigration in spite of the cold winter. The railroad is now pushing westward, and in the course of a few years there will be a wonderful change in this part of the country. The Saskatchewan was formerly the home of the buffalo, but now for two years these creatures have disappeared, the few remaining are all in United States territory. What vast numbers there must have been in by-gone times! In travelling over the prairies one constantly notices the deep paths worn by the feet of the buffalo, to every pond and stream, and everywhere the ground is strewn with skulls and bones. The plain Indians are now obliged to commence farming, and they are assisted by the Canadian government.
At Prince Albert we have a good many Sioux Indians, who were formerly on the South side of the line, but fled to this side after the Minnesota massacre of about 20 years ago. The Sioux here are now peaceful enough, and very industrious, living chiefly by working for the white settlers. A Sioux woman is our only domestic, for servants are too expensive a luxury in this country for any but comparatively wealthy people to indulge in. We have done very little as yet in making known to the poor Sioux the truths of the Gospel. One of the students at the college is training for this work, and has made already considerable progress with the language.
Mr. Trivett, who was at Stanley last year, is now out south-west from this, commencing a new mission among the [100/101] Blood Indians, a branch of the Blackfoot natives. It is our first effort among these people, and there appears to be a promising opening among them. In fact, there is now every encouragement to work among the plain Indians, who, only a few years ago, were almost unapproachable, being in a state of constant warfare. Now their means of subsistence, the buffalo, is gone, and they begin to feel that they are destined not only to adopt the white man's mode of life, but also to accept his religion. Our chief fear now is, not that the Indians will turn a deaf ear to our teaching, but that before we can overtake the work, the Priests of Rome will occupy the field; for they are active and numerous in this part of the country.
May God bless you and all your fellow workers abundantly in your own souls. I feel that I do not strengthen your hands as I ought, for I indeed have been very negligent in writing, and yet not through ingratitude or want of thought, but each day, week after week, and month after month, seems to bring its crowd of duties.
Believe me to remain,
Your faithful and humble servant in the Lord,
J. A. MACKAY.