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The Missions of the Church Missionary Society in the Diocese of Saskatchewan.

By John McLean

From The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, February, 1884, pages 97-101.

THE Diocese of Saskatchewan has been recently enlarged, so that it now stretches from Lake Winnipeg on the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. It offers a very large and interesting field for missionary work among the Indians. It embraces the Cree tribes in the east and centre, and Blackfeet, Bloods, Piegans, Surcees, and Assiniboines in the west. The great majority of the western Indians are still heathen.

The diocese is also a great field for English emigrants, from its millions of acres of fertile soil, its beds of coal, and its healthy climate. It is not, however, from this point of view that I now propose to regard it, my object being to give a brief sketch of the Missions of the Church Missionary Society to the Indians within its bounds.

A reference to the map will show a group of the Society's Missions [97/98] at the east end of the diocese, marked Devon, Cumberland, Moose Lake, and Grand Rapids. This group belonged to the Diocese of Rupert's Land till August last, when it was transferred to the Diocese of Saskatchewan. The Society's missionaries have been many years at work in the district, and God has signally prospered their labours among the Indians, who are nearly all Christian. The Missions were under the supervision of the Ven. Archdeacon Cowley, as Archdeacon of Cumberland, whose wise counsels, long experience, and thorough knowledge of the Indian character have, under God, not a little contributed to the result. I have a very vivid remembrance of a visit paid to Devon nine years ago, when it was under the charge of the devoted Native brother, the late Rev. Henry Budd. It was in the depth of winter, and after two or three weeks' travelling by dog-cariole on the snow, the comfort of Mr. Budd's neat parsonage was very grateful, while the crowded services in church and schoolroom, the large number of candidates I confirmed on commission from the Bishop of the Diocese, the band of communicants numbering over a hundred, formed such a cheering contrast to what I knew must have been the state of things before the Mission was opened that my heart was filled with thankfulness to God for the work of the Society. At present the Mission is held temporarily by a venerable Native clergyman, the Rev. James Settee, who has been a faithful missionary of the Society for upwards of fifty years, and who has been transferred from his own Mission to Devon for a few months until a more permanent arrangement can be made. The post at Cumberland is held by the Rev. R. R. McLennan, a young clergyman educated at St. John's College, Manitoba, who gives promise of being an earnest missionary. Moose Lake and Grand Rapids are in the meantime under the charge of efficient Native catechists. [This eastern district of Devon and Cumberland is about to be placed under the general charge of Archdeacon Mackay, who will be invited to move from Prince Albert for that purpose.--Ed.]

About two hundred and fifty miles north of Devon lies Stanley Mission on the English River. There are three stations in this Mission, Lac la Ronge, Stanley, and Pelican Narrows. The Christian Indians number about five hundred. The ordained missionary in charge is the Rev. John Sinclair, a Cree Indian, trained first at St. John's College, Manitoba, and latterly at Emmanuel College, Saskatchewan. He resides at Stanley, and is assisted by two trained Native catechists, Mr. Hunt, at Lac la Ronge, and Mr. James Roberts, at Pelican Narrows. Both the catechists received training at Emmanuel College.

The Mission at Stanley was held by a succession of faithful and devoted missionaries before it passed into Mr. Sinclair's charge, but it will gratify the friends of the Society to know that this trained Native Indian clergyman has discharged its duties most efficiently daring the four years it has been under his care, that his preaching of the Gospel in the Indian language of the people is most acceptable to them, that he presented ninety-four persons to me for confirmation at my last [98/99] visitation, and that on that occasion one hundred and eighteen communicants came up to the Lord's Table.

The next group of the Society's Missions has Prince Albert for its centre. The Ven. Archdeacon Mackay, the Society's Secretary, resides there, at Emmanuel College, where he acts most efficiently as tutor in Cree. The Society's Native students for the Saskatchewan district are trained at the College, not only in theology and English, but also in the grammar and composition of their own Indian tongue. In this work of training students Archdeacon Mackay has been doing most valuable service to the Society's Missions. He has also translated some devotional works from English into the Cree language, which are very useful among the Indians. In addition to the discharge of these duties he acts as missionary to the Indians on the south branch of the Saskatchewan River.

The Rev. James Settee (temporarily stationed at Devon) is also resident in this district. Though a very old man he is still a most active missionary. He travels from time to time from Prince Albert to South Branch, Pahoonan, Fort la Corne, Nepowewin, and Sturgeon Lake, distances varying from fifteen to fifty miles. The Society has several catechists and schoolmasters at these points, whom he visits and guides as Rural Dean, besides holding services with the Indians and administering the sacraments. The Mission of St. James, South Branch, is a most prosperous one. At all my visits to it I have found large congregations of attentive worshippers. There is a very neat church and churchyard fence, which the people helped largely to build, under the guidance of Archdeacon Mackay.

The Missions in this district are very interesting from the fact that they embrace many Indians who were born of Christian parents or who have been Christian converts for many years trained at the Society's old and well-known Missions of St. Andrew's and St. Peter's, Red River, under the pastoral charge of Archdeacon Cockran, Archdeacon Cowley, Archdeacon Hunter, Rev. Dr. Gardiner, Dean Grisdale, and Rev. R. Young.

Farther up the Saskatchewan River, and about fifty miles north of it, is the Society's Mission of Asisippi. It was begun about nine years ago by the Rev. John Hines, when the surrounding country was a complete wilderness. Mr. Hines' labours have been signally blessed; many conversions have marked the progress of his ministry. At my last visit he presented about sixty persons for confirmation, and I was satisfied froth the replies they gave to my questions that they were well-grounded in the main truths of Christianity. In no Indian Mission in the country have I listened to more satisfactory evidence of appreciation of the truths of the Gospel than what fell from the lips of some of the Indians of Asisippi. Mr. Hines has been assisted by a Native brother--the Rev. David Stranger--a Cree Indian of sterling piety and good common-sense, who, after doing good service in the Mission as interpreter and servant, was sent by the Society to Emmanuel College, where he was trained for Holy Orders.

Still farther up the north branch of the Saskatchewan lies the [99/100] Society's Battleford group of Missions. There are five Indian Reserves in the district, but the Society has only been able to occupy three of them. The chief one of these three--that at Eagle Hills--is exclusively held by the Society, the other two are partly in the hands of the Roman Catholic priests, who are very active in this neighbourhood. The Society's missionary--the Rev. Thomas Clarke--has had an arduous work, but he has done it faithfully. I was through his Mission in September last, and was satisfied that a good work was going on, both among adults and children. I was exceedingly pleased at the care bestowed in the training of the Indian children. It is probably this feature in his Mission work that obtained for him from the Canadian Government the important post of Principal of their Indian Training School at Battleford. Though by accepting this office he is no longer able to act as the Society's missionary at the Reserves, he is still available to help by his counsel in the management of the Mission, and will, I know, be very helpful to his successor, while the work in which he is now engaged will further the very object which the Society has so much at heart--the welfare of the Indians.

We now pass on to the Missions of the Society in the district of Alberta, the western part of the Diocese of Saskatchewan. Here the field is a very large one, but the labourers are few. All the Blackfeet, Piegans, Bloods, and Surcees, and part of the Assiniboines are in this district, but the Society has only two Missions there--one to the Bloods, and one to the Blackfeet.

The Rev. S. Trivett is the missionary to the Blood Indians. They number three thousand on the reservation where he is stationed, about fifteen miles from Fort Macleod. He is vigorous, earnest, and faithful, but he has to deal with Indians who till within the last few years were wild, lawless savages, and who are even now, with few exceptions, heathens. They are making progress in learning to cultivate the ground, that they may be able to earn their bread by honest industry. They listen readily to the Gospel, and Mr. Trivett has been cheered by signs of a spirit of inquiry. Many of their children are sent to school--a much larger number would come if there was a second and even a third school opened in the Mission. My wife went with me through the Mission. We were both saddened by the destitution of the Indians, both old and young, in regard to clothing. We felt that if the ladies in England could only see that destitution for themselves, Mr. Trivett would have a much larger quantity of Mission gifts to distribute; and that this proof of kindly interest in the temporal welfare of the people would have the result of opening their minds more readily to the Gospel message.

Mr. Trivett is assisted by the Rev. H. T. Bourne, who acts both as schoolmaster and missionary. His salary is partly paid by the congregation of St. James's Cathedral, Toronto, who take this way of showing their sympathy with the work of the Church Missionary Society. Mr. Bourne was trained at Emmanuel College, and gives promise of becoming a zealous missionary.

About eighty miles from Fort Macleod the Society has recently [100/101] opened a Mission to the Blackfeet Indians. It is at the Blackfeet Crossing, where there is a large reservation of two thousand Indians. The missionary is the Rev. J. W. Tims, from Islington College. I visited the Mission shortly after his arrival, and we arranged that he should erect his buildings about twelve miles from the Crossing, where he would be surrounded by nine hundred of the Indians, all heathens. There is no other missionary there, though a Roman Catholic priest is stationed at the Crossing. Mr. Tims has entered upon his Mission in a hopeful, earnest spirit. May God the Holy Ghost be with him and all the other agents of the Society, that so these poor heathen Indians may soon be led to the blessed light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

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