DURING the winter of 1875 and 1876 I taught my own day school, in order that my new help, when he came, might be at liberty for work at Big Child's camp.
Teaching school, in addition to the work of learning the language, reading for my deacon's orders, and a variety and multitude of other things accruing to the work of starting a new mission, kept me more than busy. On every alternate Saturday, or as often as I could, I visited Big Child's band and gave them religious instruction, and as this band was located twenty miles from Sandy Lake, I used to return on the Sunday evening to be ready for my day school on Monday morning. During the autumn of 1875 the Rev. J. McDougall, a Wesleyan missionary, arrived at Carlton on his way to Edmonton, and was the bearer of a very important message for the Indians from the Government of Canada. It was to this effect: The Great Queen-Mother knew that her Red Indian children had roamed the prairies for centuries and had subsisted on the fruits of the chase, and the country of their nativity had been left undisturbed by the white man during all those centuries, but now in the providence of the Great Spirit, their part of this great country, like the rest of it, was undergoing great changes. The buffalo were becoming less plentiful and the influx of the white man was gradually becoming greater, and therefore, to protect her Indian children from any undue encroachment from the palefaces, she proposed sending out one of her wise and trusty servants to make a treaty with all the Indians of the great Saskatchewan country, some time during the summer. Due notice would be given as to the date and the different places named, when and where meetings would be held, and that in the meantime the Indians were to elect their chiefs, decide which chief they would belong to, hold meetings, and come to some understanding among themselves as to the terms of the treaty they would be willing to make with the Queen's servant. This, as the reader can imagine, caused no little excitement among the Indians, as it was an event the fruition of which meant an entire change for the Indian, both as regards his mode of living and scope of action; but this will be further explained by and by.
I met Mr. McDougall at Carlton, and my friend the chief factor of the H. B. Company told him what my hopes and ambitions were. Mr. McDougall gave me very little hope for success, saying they had tried to get the plain Indians to settle down in other parts, and make their home in one particular place, so that school and Church work could be carried on, but had not succeeded, and so long as there was a single buffalo to be hunted, the Indians would continue to follow it until it was killed, and he advised me to fall in with my friend's plans, namely, to make my home near the Company's post, and instruct the Indians whenever they came in to trade, and when absent following the buffalo, I could act as a sort of chaplain to the Company's people. I admitted that from what I could learn of the actions of missionaries of all the Churches who had settled in different parts of the country their policy had been to establish their mission near to a trading post, a sure rendezvous for the Indians, but the work I had in view, and which I believed God would prosper, would attract the Indians around me, and once they understood and appreciated the benefits of a settled life, they would take to it kindly, and by living among them and showing them, by example as well as by precept, how to live a civilised and Christian life, they would catch the infection which would ultimately lead to a new life, morally, socially, and spiritually. "Well," said Mr. McDougall, "there is nothing like being at a white heat with ambition, and as you appear to be full of hope, it is farthest from my mind to say a word that will tend to lessen your zeal or destroy your hopes, so I wish you much success and a hearty God-speed."
I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. McDougall again, for, some time during the following winter, he went out with some natives of the country to hunt the buffalo in the neighbourhood of Edmonton. A very severe storm overtook them on a Sunday, the party got separated, and Mr. McDougall perished on the prairies; his body was afterwards found and, I think, buried at his mission near Edmonton.
On the 9th January, 1876, I was ordained deacon by the Right Reverend John McLean, D.C.L., the first Bishop of Saskatchewan, in the first English Church built in the Saskatchewan, and I was the first one he had ordained since his consecration. I understand that when Bishop McLean was ordained to the priesthood, he had to preach the ordination sermon, and he took for his text Hebrews vii. ii. When t was ordained deacon I had a similar experience, and my text was 1 Timothy, i. 12. "I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who hath enabled me for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." The day was very dull, and as the Church was only imperfectly lighted, I found it impossible to see my sermon, which, by the way, I had written out for the occasion, so I took it up and held it in my hands like a book, and stood with my back turned to the side window in order to get as much light as possible, but without success; so I had to put my manuscript down and trust to memory, and the Spirit's guidance. Only those who have been placed under similar circumstances know how difficult it is, having relied upon their notes for guidance, to be deprived of them. It is like one who is making his first attempt to swim; there is a good deal of splashing and plunging without much progress. I did not, however, utterly fail, and when the service was over the Bishop congratulated me on my coolness and said I did remarkably well under the circumstances and promised that the next Sunday I spent in Prince Albert I should not be handicapped in a similar way. The following day I returned home via Carlton, and camped the third night at Snake Plain, the place where Big Child and his followers were spending the winter. At the service held that evening I baptised seven of the school children--these were my first baptisms. Soon after reaching Sandy Lake I baptised in my house Ka-Ka-soo and his two daughters, and another man. Ka-Ka-soo received the name of Peter, and like his namesake of old, he was the first man to carry the Gospel message to the Gentiles of the plains. More will be said about Peter later on.
As soon as the snow had melted, Big Child with his followers and the teacher returned to Sandy Lake and at once began to prepare logs for future buildings, and cut down fence poles, etc., with which to enclose a field, and many an axe (literally) I had to grind. When the frost was out of the ground every one became busy, and having no teaching to do since the arrival of the teacher from Snake Plain, I was able to get about among the people and with practical help and advice assist them in what they were doing.
Big Child had a daughter married to a Scotchman, a retired servant of the H.B. Company. This man was beginning to farm at a place called Lily Plain, which is eighty miles from Sandy Lake by the trail. This man was in a position to help his father-in-law with seed, grain and potatoes. The difficulty with the chief was, having joined us late in the autumn, he had no land prepared, but rather than see the seeds spoiled and the people disappointed, I allowed them to use three-fourths of the Mission land under cultivation. The Indians had no oxen at that time, and as their ponies were not accustomed to pulling a plough or harrow, they did not take kindly to the work, consequently our two teams of oxen were heavily wrought, and practically all the tilling of the soil was done by them. All the wheat and barley I sowed broadcast myself. In the meantime, news had reached us that the Government official would meet the Indians in the neighbourhood of Carlton about the middle of August; consequently the Indians were anxious to get to the plains, complete their summer's hunt, and return to Carlton in time to meet the Commissioners. I, too, was equally impatient to get through the work, as I had other business pending, which would need not only my personal attention but my actual presence, and as the other partner in this important transaction was living in Winnipeg, between six and seven hundred miles away, and as the contract between us could only be rightly and duly ratified in Winnipeg, I was put to the necessity of making another long trip across the plains, in order to complete this transaction. The evening before I started on my journey, Big Child came to see me, and to my grief complained bitterly about having to stay another day at the Mission, in order to finish planting his potatoes, and added he thought I might have done that for him. I told him that had I not given him the use of the Mission field, he would have been in a much worse plight, and instead of railing at me in the way he was doing he ought to have been here to thank me for what I had done for him, as nearly all our time and labour had been devoted to him and his band, and I told him he had so hurt my feelings, that I felt if it were not for the other chief and his party I should find it hard to return to the Saskatchewan, and he left me at that. Star Blanket and his followers came later on to wish me a pleasant trip and to thank me and my co-workers for what we were doing for them. The old chief said he should still remain at the Mission during the summer and keep guard over the fields. For some reason or other the Indians had got it into their heads that, because I was making a trip to Winnipeg, David, whose home was there, would also go with me, but when they understood that David and the school teacher would remain at the Mission, they felt greatly relieved. There were distinct reasons why I should not take either of my assistants away from the place, had I felt myself at liberty to do so, which I did not. First, the school, which was an important factor in our work, must be kept going, otherwise the children might lose interest in it, and that branch of our work receive a set-back. Second, David's services on the Sunday could not be dispensed with. He had acted as my interpreter ever since George was taken from me, and now I relied on him to continue the services in my absence. Let no one think that the religious part of our duty had been neglected during our rush of secular work, for such was not the case; school had been regularly taught and religious truths instilled into the minds of the young, and Sunday services had been regularly held in my room, in the open air, and from tent to tent.
David, being my senior partner, was left in charge of the Mission during my absence, and a part of his work was to erect a small house at the end of my present dwelling house, which the reader has been informed was a single room. This new building, i8ft. by i6ft. was for his own and the schoolmaster's accommodation, as I expected the contract I was about to enter into would necessitate greater accommodation than that which I had been accustomed to.
I made a very early start in the morning for Winnipeg, taking with me a team of ponies, a light wagon and one Indian. Big Child with his band were camped about half a mile from the Mission and not far from the road I had to travel over. Just before I came opposite to his tents, I saw some one sitting among the tall grass near the road, smoking a pipe apparently in deep thought. This turned out to be Big Child; he came up to me, gave me his hand and tried to smile, though it was evident in his expression it was not a happy smile, there was a tinge of either shame or regret about it; and he asked me not to think any more about what he had said the previous evening, and added, "You will come back, won't you?" "Yes," I said," I should have come back, even if I had not seen you this morning, but now that you have shown an interest in me, I shall have more pleasure in returning, and I hope to spend many years with you and your people if God spares my life." I then told him the object of my visit to Winnipeg, and this gave him great satisfaction as he felt assured I meant to prolong my stay among them, and so we parted.
It is needless to describe my journey into Winnipeg in all its details, we accomplished the journey in one month. I called at Touchwood Hills on my way in, to see my brother missionary and his wife, who had a little son to show me, of whom they were very proud, and after spending a day and a half with them, speaking together of each other's experiences, and of the loving kindness of the Lord, revealed to us in many ways since we parted two years before, I resumed my journey.
My stay at Touchwood Hills was prolonged on account of a twelve hours storm, which for violence and duration was very exceptional for that time of the year, being the middle of June. In many places the snowdrifts were three feet deep There is an old saying, "What is the good of having a friend unless you use him," and I imagine my missionary brother was familiar with this saying, and thought it an opportune time for putting it into effect, and so he asked me if I would take a horse and cart for him to Winnipeg and bring him out a load of "shop things." This was rather a big favour, considering the distance there and back would be over six hundred miles, but as I had a man with me I concluded he could drive the horse and cart and I could drive my own team, and I consented.
Everything went well until we reached Fort Ellis, the place where we met the grasshoppers on our way out in 1874, and here we were delayed three days by incessant rain; the result of this was all the country through which we had to pass was very soft, and the streams very much swollen. On our second day out we came to Birdtail Creek, now known as "Birtle" and we found the stream very deep, and the current was such that it looked as though the horses would be carried off their feet as soon as they entered the stream. Still, some one had forded the river since the rain, as the tracks of a conveyance going down into the water clearly showed, so without any alarming apprehensions I drove into the river. The banks were rather steep and there was quite a dip as I entered the water, and before I knew what had happened my horses were swimming, and the water had entered my wagon box, and I sat on the seat half up to my knees in water! I managed to keep my horses' heads directed towards the landing on the opposite side, but before reaching there, I found them getting farther from me, and my reins in consequence getting shorter, and I asked myself what was the cause of this, and had not long to wait before the cause was revealed. Now, in order that the reader may understand, I must describe how the wagon was made. The wheels, reach, and pole were made like an ordinary wagon, and on top of the axles were the usual bolsters or rests, and at each end of these bolsters was attached an upright piece, these pieces were for the purpose of keeping the body of the wagon in its place. When the body or box, as it is called in the West, was not required it was simply lifted off; there were no bolts to hold it in its place, its own weight was sufficient under ordinary circumstances to keep it in position. Now what had happened to my wagon was this, the water had lifted the box off the front bolster and it was rapidly gliding off the hind one, and it would soon have been carried away down stream with myself on board, when something happened which saved the situation. It was this. When the box got clear of the front bolster, the upright pieces at the ends appeared on the surface, and fortunately the force of the water caused the bolster to turn round bringing one end near to the front of the wagon box, when, much quicker than I can tell how it was done, I leaned forward and seized the upright piece with one hand, and by keeping firm hold of this I prevented the box from being carried off the hind axle, and I thus saved both myself, wagon box and all it contained. My man who followed after me had worse luck, for he failed to keep his horse's head up stream, and so was carried with the stream, and before I had landed and had time to look around he had passed a bend in the river and was out of sight. I could not leave my horses as they were very restive, so I unhitched them from the wagon, removed their harness and turned them loose to graze. Just as this was done I saw my Indian come out from the willows about three hundred yards distant, and seeing I was safe, he called me to his assistance. On going to his aid I found he had managed to save his horse by guiding it on to a shallow point on a bend in the river, but the bank was too steep there for the horse to get out with the cart, so we detached it from the cart, and then with a good deal of encouragement the horse managed to get on to the bank. We then began to make a slope in the face of the bank by kicking down the top edge with the heel of our boots, and after displacing as much of the soil as we could, we tied one end of a rope to the shafts and the other end we tied to the horse's tail (there were no docked horses in the country at that time). Then my man entered the river again and raised the shafts of the cart to keep them clear of the bank, and I encouraged the horse to pull, and very soon everything was on the top of the bank.
When we got our conveyances together our first thoughts were about the condition of our food, bedding, etc., and I shudder now as I relate this incident of our journey, to think of our feelings when we discovered that all our bread, tea, and sugar had been literally spoiled, and not only so, but our bedding was in such a state that we had to take it down to the river, rinse and wring our blankets before we could think of drying them. This meant our remaining where we were until the next day, and that night I dared not go to bed as my blankets were not yet dry.
The next three days we travelled through a flat country which was literally under water, and for three consecutive nights we could not find a dry spot on which to pitch our tent, so had to lie down in our wagon box. The greatest disaster was the loss of our food, practically everything was lost, and what we lived upon for five days would be hard to tell. My health suffered much in consequence of this long fast, and long exposure in damp clothes, and I was very unwell when I got to Winnipeg, but I had other things to encounter before we reached there.
We had no further mishaps until we reached Headingley twelve miles from Winnipeg. Settlements were being formed in this locality, and as we were driving along we saw a very suspicious looking mudhole right on the road, and we also saw that the fence on one side of the road had been taken down, and that a road passed through the field, but as it led in the direction of a farm-house, we took it for granted that the road was a private one only, and so we drove straight on, when to our horror, the horses and conveyances became almost smothered over in an almost bottomless pit of miry clay. The horses could not move their legs, and owing to the strain in trying to extricate themselves, they exhausted their strength and so they threw down their heads in the mud as if they preferred to die rather than live. Of course we quite expected they would become choked in the puddle and so we hurriedly chopped down arms full of willows and placed them under their heads to prevent such a catastrophe happening. After waiting about half an hour, we saw a man coming towards us with a wagon and yoke of oxen, and seeing our predicament, and having with him a long rope, he helped us out in this way. We had already detached the horses from their conveyances in order to set them free in case they managed to get on their feet--but as I have said, they were not able to get up--so after tying the rope to the hind axle of the wagon, and then to the hind parts of our conveyances, the oxen pulled these out from behind the animals--this was done to prevent the horses breaking the pole of the wagon and shafts of the cart in their struggles. We then took the oxen and wagon to the other side of the hole and doubling the rope we tied it round the neck of one of the horses, placing the rope under the head, so as to keep it from doubling under the body. Everything being ready the man drove on his oxen so as not to jerk the rope, and in a short time all our horses, one after the other, were standing on firm ground. The safest way to pull an ox or a horse out of a hole or ditch is by the neck. The rope must be tied so as not to tighten round the neck, and the strain must be gradual and straight, and then no harm will happen to the animal. But our work was by no means completed, the condition of our horses, harness and conveyances can only be imagined, and we spent the rest of that day and all the next in trying to wash off the clay from our horses, etc. And every time the sun dried them, they had the appearance of having been whitewashed and it was in this condition that we drove through the town of Winnipeg, and on to St. John's College; the white glitter on everything seemed to indicate that we were either going to, or returning from a wedding, and for the matter of that, they gave a right impression, for the object of my visit to Winnipeg on this occasion, was to be married. In due course I was married at St. John's Cathedral, the officiating ministers being two of its dignitaries. My wife's brother, the Rev. W. Moore, one of the three ordained or our first arrival in Winnipeg, being very ill in "galloping" consumption, cast a gloom over what otherwise would have been a happy event. One of the horses I had purchased for my return journey proved to be badly broken, and was given to bolting, and a few days after our marriage very nearly made me a widower. Not knowing her restiveness, I drove up to Winnipeg, and left my wife sitting in the conveyance holding the reins whilst I went inside a store to settle an account. I had taken the precaution of tying the horse's head to a post erected in front of the store for such purposes, but when I came out everything had vanished. Upon enquiry, I was told that a horse had broken its halter line, and turning round suddenly had thrown the conveyance over; the lady who was in charge had been picked up insensible and carried into a butcher's shop on the opposite side of the street, while the horse had been captured and taken in hand by a farrier. I went to the shop indicated and found my wife, though much bruised, had no broken bones, and the doctor assured me that after a couple of weeks' rest, she would be able to start for the West. I was thankful for this encouraging news, which proved to be correct; the horse was not hurt apparently, but the axle and wheels of the conveyance were much bent.
After spending three weeks at Winnipeg, making purchases, we commenced our homeward journey. We had with us, in addition to the Indian, a young English schoolmaster, whom I had engaged for Sandy Lake. I had on this occasion three oxen and carts and a light single rig for use in the Mission when I returned, besides the wagon and cart that we took in. The single rig was drawn by Black Bess the runaway, and as was only to be expected, my wife was too much afraid to ride behind her, so I rode and drove alone, and Mrs. H. rode in the wagon and drove the team herself. The other two had charge of the rest of the carts. The journey was slow and tedious for the first eighty miles but after that we made better progress. The old horse I had brought with me from Touchwood Hills was a failure, refusing absolutely to take his load up a hill, or pull it out of a hole. I afterwards heard my missionary brother had only just purchased the horse, and therefore knew nothing of its qualities further than the vendor had seen fit to disclose, and refusing to pull was one he happened to forget! After about a week on the road the black mare became as docile and tractable as a lamb, and quite affectionate towards my wife, and behaved as though the handfulls of grass she pulled for her were so much sweeter than that she had to bite for herself, and would constantly rub her shoulder for more. Mrs. H. was so won over by the mare's affections that she ventured to drive her alone, when my presence was required elsewhere.
When we reached Fort Ellis, the chief factor of the H. B. Company having heard our complaint about the horse belonging to the missionary at Touchwood Hills, said he would lend us one to use in its stead, and after reaching the Mission it could be handed over to the trader in charge of the post there. We had now one spare horse, so when we got within, as we thought, sixty miles of Touchwood Hills, we decided to drive on, leaving our men to follow after. In addition to the black mare I also took one of the other horses from the team, putting in its place the other spare horse, and so we started driving one horse and leading the other. My intention was to make them haul time about. No one noticed at the time we started that the second horse was ill, and the first indication I had that something was wrong, was, when I started the black mare to trot, the other horse hung back, and the only way to get her out of a walking pace was to tie her beside the mare in harness and touch her up with the Whip, but I soon saw from the dull look in her eyes and drooping ears that she was feverish, and so we had to content ourselves with going a little faster than a walking pace. When we left the carts in the early morning, the weather being fair, we brought no bedding with us, and only food sufficient for our midday meal, but owing to the condition of our second horse, we did not reach the trading post, which was twelve miles nearer than the Mission, until noon the following day, and so we had to camp on the ground lying under, the conveyance, using the knee rug for our mattress, the seat cushion for our bolster, and my coat and an umbrella with which to cover ourselves. Fortunately, the night was warm and fine, and if there had been a few millions of mosquitoes less, we might have passed a fairly comfortable night, but as it was we had altogether too much company, and so we had a riotous time. Going to bed without one's supper was not pleasant, but getting up in the morning and having to proceed on our journey without breaking our fast was decidedly objectionable. One did not like to be heard complaining so soon after one's marriage, but I believe we both I thought at that particular time that the composition of our first moon of married life was not properly portioned out--that considering our recent experience with others of a similar nature en route, hi conjunction with the upset at Winnipeg, we had more moon than honey!
We did not spend much time with our friends at Touchwood, as our carts were not very far behind us, and nothing of importance happened until we reached the South Saskatchewan river, where we met several French half-breeds who knew me, who informed us that all the Indian chiefs with their followers were camped about five miles south of Carlton and near to the trail. Messages were dispatched to the Indians telling them of our arrival, by what is known there as Mokissin Telegraphy, that is by native runners. It is quite amazing to the uninitiated, the distance that news is carried by relays of these messengers in an incredibly short time. The result of this message was, that when we approached the encampment, the Indians were anxiously awaiting our arrival, partly to hear what news we had to give as to the whereabouts of the commissioner, and partly to see ourselves, and after a. wonderful amount of handshaking, etc., etc., owing to the fact that I had to hold a sort of reception for my wife, we prepared to continue our journey, as my plans were to take Mrs. H. home to the Mission and leave her there with David, returning by myself to the encampment, and remaining with the Indians until the treaty was completed.
The Indians are a very outspoken race, and do not hesitate to say what they think of people, and sometimes their remarks are such as might reasonably be considered rude by the palefaces when no insult is intended. My wife's hair, like that of the rest of her family, became silvered in early life, and when the old Saulteaux (the one I have spoken of before as working in my field, and clothed only in his breech cloth) presented himself to shake hands with my wife, with no other clothes on than what I have described, and after passing the usual salutations, he asked me again if the woman with me was my wife, and having answered him in the affirmative, he exclaimed, "Aye-wa-Ke-Kin Me-to-na-a wa-pis-te Kwa-nat noo-to-Kwao" (It is remarkable, she is a white-headed old woman). When I interpreted to my wife the compliment he had paid her, she took it good-naturedly, and complimented him on his elaborate get up, adding that he must be on very good terms with the mosquitoes to be enabled to go about with so few clothes on. This repartee caused a good laugh among the other Indians at "Push behind the tent pole's" expense.
We then bid them farewell, and proceeded on our journey home. On reaching there, my faithful old friend David had a great surprise for us, for over and above the work he was supposed to do, he had partitioned off one corner of my eighteen by sixteen foot room, thus making a bedroom seven by ten feet, which of course was very thoughtful of him, but it made the rest of the room rather small, considering the use it was put to, viz., kitchen, dining and sitting-room. But David's thoughtfulness did not end there, for besides the room, he had made a plain wooden arm-chair for his new mistress, which for size was more than ample, though the design and workmanship were very primitive, but we valued it, not for its workmanship, but for the kindly spirit and affection that prompted the labour.
There being no Indians at the Mission, I only spent one day there, and then returned to the encampment south of Carlton, so Mrs. Hines was practically left alone at the Mission, as during the daytime both David and the new teacher were busy among the hay. I remained some days at the camp before the commissioner arrived and stayed some days before the treaty was completed. I had open-air services among the Indians at different times, and on one occasion I was fortunate in securing the services of the commissioner's interpreter, and on that occasion I preached to the Indians from the 7th and 8th verses of the 4th chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Philippians.
The treaty being concluded satisfactorily to nearly all parties, certainly to all those who were responsible for its terms, the commissioner went to Battleford to meet other Indians there.
But, before leaving, he complimented Star Blanket and Big Child for the wisdom and reasonableness of their terms, saying he should adhere to those terms in any further treaties he might make with the Indians of the West. I have hinted that some of the Indians were dissatisfied with the terms of the treaty; what they wanted was a large sum of money down, besides an annuity. They cared nothing about receiving help from the Government in the shape of cattle, farm implements and things of that nature; many of them had no intention of becoming agriculturists at that time, and saw no use for such things, but the chiefs named had been told, and shown the use of farming, and they realised that their only hope for existence lay in becoming farmers.
I have not before me a list of the items mentioned in the treaty, but the principal ones were these: each chief had the privilege of choosing any part of the country he wished to settle upon with his followers. The amount of land granted to each band was to be governed by the number of Indians belonging to the band, and the provision called for 640 acres, or one mile square, for every five heads. For instance, if a chief represented 500 people, little and big, his reserve would include 100 square miles of country. They were not obliged to take the land in any particular shape; they could take it any length or width they liked, provided the boundary lines did not include more land than they were entitled to. The Government also pledged itself to pay every chief five pounds a year, and each of his four councillors three pounds, and every other man, woman and child one pound, and these annuities were to continue so long as the "sun shone and the river flowed." All deaths were to be recorded for the purpose of removing their names from the list of payees, as well as all births to be added to the list each year. It is from these official documents that the census of the Indian population is taken, and from which it is known whether the Indians are on the increase or otherwise. They were also promised a certain number of work-oxen, cows, farm implements of all kinds such as were used at an early date, with seed grain and provisions to a reasonable extent for a limited number of years. The chiefs were also promised that as soon as their people desired to have their children taught, and the number of children was such as to justify a school being maintained on a reserve, the Government would make a grant of £60 per annum towards the teacher's salary and it also stipulated that the choice of such teachers should be left with the Church whose agents were doing missionary work on any particular reserve.
They were also promised an annual supply of net twine, and ammunition for hunting purposes; all these promises have not only been honourably kept by the Government but very much more has been given to the Indians than they were entitled to by treaty rights. The reason for this liberality on the part of the Government was the sudden failure of the buffalo. When the treaty was made it was thought that the buffalo might last for a number of years, and so the Indians would continue, partially at least, to live by the chase, but owing to a sickness technically called the mange, which made its appearance in the country about the winter of 1877-8, which attacked both the buffalo and the Indian ponies, and as all their hair came off, many of them died from the effects of the cold as well as from the sickness itself. Some of the Indians lost heavily, Star Blanket's brother lost every pony he possessed, ten in all, and the poverty of the Indians for two or three years was most deplorable. Many of the Indians had not yet begun to do any farming and these suffered most, even my own Indians were driven to great straits, for whilst they had a few bushels of wheat, many of them did not possess a horse with which to take their grist to the only mill in the country, which by the way, at that time was one hundred miles from Sandy Lake. This is how they used the wheat, they roasted it whole in a frying pan, and ate it as though one might eat roasted coffee. It was exceedingly dry, and not being accustomed to a farinaceous diet, their constitutions suffered and consumption became very prevalent, and the decrease in the Indian population for a few years was very rapid. I have seen my Indians take their ponies, dying from the effects of the mange, kill them and boil their bones in order to get a little fat, with which to grease the wheat, when roasting, in order to make it more digestible. Those were trying times for the missionary, as well as for his people; parsons in the West at the present time can form no conception of the life and privations of a missionary at that time. Perhaps I may be pardoned for saying it, but many a time when starving Indians have called at our house to see us, my wife and I have felt compelled to share our scanty meal with them and very often these hungry Indians, after taking two or three mouthfuls of food would ask for a piece of paper to wrap the rest in, and when we have remarked they did not eat like hungry people, they replied, "We are very hungry, but so are our wives and children, and we wish them to have a taste of food too."
I know such consideration on the part of an Indian for his family is not credited by some people; but those people speak from imagination, I speak from personal knowledge.
I have often seen depicted in books an Indian family on the trail. The man was represented as walking in advance, carrying only his gun, and the woman following after with her infant child on her back, and drawing a flat sleigh behind her with another child wrapped up in blankets riding on the sleigh, besides other belongings such as a kettle, frying pan, etc., and people have gathered from such pictures that the woman is the man's beast of burden, and that he is indifferent to the comforts of his wife and family. But this impression in the majority of cases is quite erroneous, for instance, when a family such as described above starts on a journey, they invariably have very little food with them, perhaps scarcely enough for one meal, and the journey they are undertaking will occupy some days. It is therefore obvious that they will depend for food on what the man can shoot as they journey along; but what chance will he have of shooting anything if he keeps to the beaten trail, which often leads across lakes of considerable size? The answer is, none whatever. Therefore what is done is this. The woman keeps to the beaten path across the ice with her children, etc., and the man leaves the trail and follows the shore, keeping near to the woods, and in this way he hopes to shoot a partridge or two or a few rabbits, and if fortunate, he may track a larger animal and succeed in killing it. Before he separated from his family, they arranged a meeting place, where, whoever reached there first would wait for the other. If the woman arrived first she would kindle a fire and commence melting snow to obtain water with which to make some tea if they were fortunate enough to have any, and also to cook the flesh it was hoped her husband would bring. If he was successful, there was general rejoicing among the family, but if unsuccessful, there was quiet submission to the irony of fate among those of intelligence, but the little ones would be heard crying for food, and it was this plaintive wailing of the children for something he had not to give that touched the heart of the Indian father more than any hardships he might be called upon to bear himself, and it was for their sakes that the father travelled miles out of his way among the loose snow, and the mother was contented to carry her burden, and draw her sleigh!
There may have been and undoubtedly were, exceptional cases among the Indians (just as there are among white people), who cared little what their families suffered, provided they got through life easily themselves, but the generality of Indian men I have come across were just as ready to bear their share of the burden of life as the women, in fact their willingness was mutual.
I have also heard some very unjust remarks made about the Indians by white people who, if they had known better, would have refrained from making them. For instance, during the Saskatchewan rebellion of 1885, a number of young men in the city of Toronto volunteered for service in the West, and during their brief stay there they saw a few Indians, the weaklings of their nation, who had not the strength of character required to resist the temptations of the designing pale-faces. These they saw loafing about the saloons in the different towns they visited, and when they returned to Toronto they told their friends about these Indians, saying they were fair samples of the Indians as a whole. As many of these young men were well connected, their evil report materially interfered with our work, namely--those ladies and others who had helped us in our Indian work by gifts of clothing, etc., began to show signs of failing interest. It so happened that I had occasion to pay a visit to the cities in the Eastern provinces about that time, and one of the clergymen for whom I preached had two sons who had been to the West as volunteers, and they among others had brought home this evil report. As we walked home from church together he said, "Your report of the Indians this morning differs very much from the report brought home by the volunteers, and as there will be two at the table with us today, I shall be glad if you will listen to their statements and correct them if they are false." So, whilst at dinner, they were asked to tell what they knew about the Indians. They repeated what I have already said, but admitted that they had not seen very many of such Indians themselves, and they also said they had not been out to any of the reservations where the Indians lived and where the missionaries were at work. "But," I said, "you are reported as having either said, or the way you told your story led your hearers to understand, that the drunken Indians you saw were fair specimens of the whole and I appeal to those present if such was not the case," and my host admitted that such was the impression they had received. "Well then, that being so, you have been guilty of a great injustice, not only to the Indian race, but also to the missionary cause. In the first place, I shall not attempt to deny your statement about the few you saw, because I know there are a few Indians from every tribe who suffer themselves to be led away by white people, and give way to excessive drinking, but we read in St. Matthew's Gospel, xviii., 7th verse, 'Woe unto the man by whom the offence cometh.' Let me ask you who is the cause of these Indians offending, and upon what do they get drunk? la it not stuff manufactured, imported and sold to them by the white man? And to speak more plainly, not only for money is it sold to them but in certain cases for what is of more value than money, the souls and bodies of the Indian maidens? You of course during your short stay in the country could not be expected to learn all these things, and the people with whom you associated, if they knew of them, perhaps would not care to speak to you about them; but what I do blame you for is for making such sweeping assertions knowing so little about the facts as you do. I saw only yesterday (Saturday) about 2 p.m., on my way to the Poison Iron Works, in crossing Front Street, four women and three men, well dressed, probably factory hands, staggering about the street, almost too drunk to tell which way they were going, and their language was vulgar in the extreme. Now, if, on my return to my Indians in the Saskatchewan, I related this incident to them, and in such a way as to give them the impression that these four women and three men were a fair sample of all the people in Toronto, should I be doing justice to the people of this fair city; or, to make it more personal, should I be doing justice to the people who worshipped with us this morning in your father's church? I am sure I should not, and I am equally sure that by spreading such reports about the Indians as you appear to have done, you have most unjustly wronged the Indians, and cast a slur upon missionary work."
To counterbalance the weak nature of some of the Indians referred to by the volunteers, I will relate here a fact which happened some years before I entered the country. At that period liquor used to be smuggled into the North-West territories by the American traders for the purpose of barter. These traders knew from experience among Indians on their own side of the border line, that the natives fell a ready prey to the "Firewater" (intoxicating liquor), and, when under its influence, would part with their last robe, or even their swiftest horse, just for one more drink, and so for the sake of gain they tried the same thing on with the Canadian Indians. The H.B. Company, in order to compete with these rival traders had to fight them with their own weapons and so took to selling liquor. Well, this went on for a number of years, and the Indians became very much demoralised, and the majority appeared utterly incapable of reforming themselves. They not only impoverished themselves and their families, but they did many cruel deeds whilst under the influence of liquor, which made them feel ashamed when sober. So Star Blanket and Big Child, before I knew them, held a council at which it was decided to petition the Government of Canada to prohibit the sale of intoxicating drinks in the Indian country. This petition was drawn up I was told by my friend the chief factor, and forwarded to Ottawa, and the Indians' prayer was granted, and this was the origin, known to a comparative few, of the Prohibition law in Western Canada, a territory which included all that part west of Manitoba and east of the summit of the Rocky Mountains, and from the divisional line dividing the U.S.A. from Canada to the North Pole, including Hudson's Bay. Of course it was only to be expected that owing to the great area under Prohibition and the number of ways and means for getting liquor into the prescribed district, the traffic would not be altogether stopped for a few years, and in order to enforce the law, a company known as the North-West Mounted Police was inaugurated and despatched to the West to police the country. But my object in relating these facts is that my readers may understand there were Indians in their natural state who possessed both character and powers of discernment, and who could exercise them to good effect. I need hardly say, that the once proscribed area is now deluged with intoxicants, for just as soon as our modern civilisation entered the country, petition after petition was forwarded to Ottawa, and the Government had no peace until the old law was abolished and the free importation of liquor allowed. The statutory law still prohibits the sale or giving of liquor to an Indian, as, according to the treaty, the Indian is a ward of the Government, and a minor in the eyes of the law; but I much regret to have to relate that this law is only very feebly enforced, and those Indians who wish for intoxicants can and do get them, as often as they choose. Indians who have been tried and fined by magistrates for having liquor in their possession, knew the said magistrates drank more gallons than they did gills, and so found it hard to reconcile law with justice, and I believe certain magistrates in passing judgment on the Indians were not altogether insensible to their own guilt, and realised the voice of conscience saying to them, "Physician, heal thyself!"
But I find myself again speaking of events in their wrong order as to time, and I must return to what took place immediately after the treaty was made.
Some of the Indians went at once to the plains to make their autumn hunt, and others returned to the Mission to make hay and gather in their crops, and our day school was reopened. Big Child and many of his followers went to the plains, and whilst there discussed their future location with his sons-in-law, and others, and they all advised him to take a separate reserve and not form one Mission by settling at Sandy Lake. So when the Chief and his party returned in the autumn, they halted at Snake Plain, and sent for me to meet them there and look over the country with them. I complied with his request and we all made an elaborate inspection. The soil I found to be even better than the soil at Sandy Lake, and hay marshes were abundant, but timber for building purposes, and fishing lakes were conspicuous by their absence; yet, notwithstanding this, they decided to make their future home there. They then came on to Sandy Lake to gather in their potatoes and stack their grain, and some of the band remained at the Mission that winter, but the Chief and some of his party returned to Snake Plain. The result of this move was, I had two Missions to look after instead of one, which also necessitated the employment of two school teachers. The young native school teacher again spent the winter with Big Child, and the young Englishman I brought out from Winnipeg taught the school at Sandy Lake. In addition to keeping the two day schools going, it meant that regular Sunday services would have to be provided at both places, but as by this time I could manage fairly well without an interpreter, either David or I went as often as we could to Snake Plain.
During the early part of this winter, the Indians at Sandy Lake erected a large log building which served the double purpose of school and church. The walls were made with round logs and the roof was covered in with sods, but as it was built by the Indians at their own charges, one did not feel inclined to find fault, either with its design or workmanship. This building did duty for three years. At the end of my second year in the Mission, I had only spent about £3 of the grant made by the Society for the purpose of erecting mission buildings. The reason why I was not in a hurry to erect substantial mission buildings was, that I was waiting until the Government surveyor had been sent out and had located the reserves, and then I should feel sure that the locations we had selected would be inside the limits of the survey, and so permanently secured to the Indians. Being released from the work of school teaching, except from giving the Scripture lessons, I used to go from house to house and tent to tent with my chalk and blackboard teaching the young men and women, in fact any who were willing to learn, the syllabic characters, and it is surprising how quickly many of them learned to read.
Perhaps the most apt pupil I had was Peter Ka-Ka-soo. He became so efficient that the winter after he was baptised he volunteered to teach the characters to his fellow countrymen when out hunting together in the woods. He did it in this way. When he and the others pitched off for two or three weeks at a time to hunt the fur-bearing animals, they lived in a tent in the woods, and during the long winter evenings the men with Peter used to sit around the tent, a fire blazing in the centre, and with the use of a small blackboard, Peter taught them the Cree syllabic alphabet. When his pupils had learned the signs fairly well, he would come to me for any pieces of blank white paper I could find, and short pieces of lead pencils, and these he distributed among his class as they sat around the tent fire. He would then write a short note and hand it to them, and having read it, they would each write him an answer with the materials he had given them, and they all became so interested in making the "paper speak" as they called it, that sometimes the morning star would appear above the horizon before they fell asleep.
Before starting for the plains the following spring, Peter asked me to allow him to take some hymn books and a few copies of daily family prayers with him, so that he could keep our own people in constant touch with religion, for, he said, they will need it, as all those they will meet on the plains will be heathen, and they may be tempted to join their heathen friends in their pagan ceremonies. I was very much pleased with his suggestion and obtained some of the books he required from Archdeacon McKay. When those Indians who had gone out with Peter had returned, I learned from them what he had done. They said," We all rested on the Sunday, we did not hunt or do any unnecessary work, this our heathen friends found strange; then at stated times in the evening we used to congregate together and sing hymns, and Peter would read some of the verses and prayers you had marked for him. The singing used to attract the other Indians around us and they wanted to see the paper that spoke such fine words, and when they had become interested, Peter used to get into one of the empty carts and tell them about the Great Spirit and His Crucified Son, and what it was to be a Christian. Most of them were glad to hear such nice words and handled the paper that spake the Indian language, and they agreed that it was 'truly wonderful' (Tapwa-Mamus-kach). This kind of work Peter did every time he went to the plains, and he only ceased going there when the buffalo became exterminated. And so it came to pass that within three years of the commencement of my work at Sandy Lake, one of my converts, the first man I baptised, had became an evangelist, and many a heathen heard the good news from Peter's lips for the first time, and some never heard it from any other lips but his. What impressions were made in the minds and hearts of those who heard him, the Judgment Day alone can reveal, but may we not hope that when Christ comes to gather up His own, that Peter will be there and some at least of those to whom he spake of the Saviour's love.
About the time of which I am now writing, events were taking place on the continent of Europe that greatly agitated my Indians, especially those belonging to Big Child's band. It had reference to the Turko-Russian War, and more particularly to that feature of it when the British fleet was ordered to approach Constantinople. We only had an occasional mail at that time, and it appeared that since my last visit to Snake Plain, the news had arrived at Carlton (our nearest post office), and contained reports of which I will write. A few days before my arrival the French half-breed traders had brought the news to Big Child's camp, that England was going to war with Russia, and there was very little doubt about the British being conquered. The illiterate French half-breeds of that day were always glad to be able to say something disparaging about England and the English people. It is thought by some that this feeling of antagonism to the British on the part of the French Canadian is rapidly disappearing, and I sincerely hope it is, though, personally, I have my doubts about it, so far as it refers to the half-breed class of French in the West, who are very illiterate, and depend for their outside news upon their spiritual advisers.
Well, when I paid my visit, I found the people intensely anxious to see me and to hear my opinions upon the subject in question. The Chief asked me," If the English and Russians went to war with each other, did I think there was a chance of the Queen's forces being defeated?" I replied, saying, "The Russians were powerful inasmuch as they were very numerous, and it was possible they might prove too strong for the British!" "What!" said the Chief, "We were not surprised to hear what the French traders said about the English being overcome, but we are very much surprised to hear you express doubt about the success of the Queen's forces." I asked him "Why?" "Why," he said, "you have come all the way from England to teach us to pray, and we do pray every Sunday at least, that our Queen may vanquish and overcome all her enemies, and you tell us that God hears and answers prayer, and now, when your faith is put to the test you express a doubt about it. You stand before me and my people self-condemned." In order to recover myself from such a false position as I was supposed to occupy, I had to explain to them that there were such things as national sins and national punishments; I referred them to what I had already taught them from God's book about His dealings with the Jews; how that so long as they remained true and faithful to Him, one man could chase a thousand, but when they turned their backs upon God, and forsook His laws, He allowed their heathen neighbours to capture their land and rule over them; and so it may be still, if God sees that England is a nation requiring punishment, He can use the Russians for that purpose, but our duty is to pray fervently that God will look graciously upon our nation, and in the event of war, He will avert such a calamity.
The Chief thanked me for my explanation, adding they had much yet to learn, and turning to his people said that was one reason why he was reluctant to leave Sandy Lake, because when there the missionary was always at hand to give them advice or medicine when they needed it, but having removed to Snake Plain they had deprived themselves of such frequent favours.
I had felt all along that the Chief had been influenced by some one to leave Sandy Lake, or rather the Mission, against his will. This will be further explained later on. I might add here that the Chief was not baptised when the above conversation took place, for he, like several others, was a polygamist at the time. I was not allowed to baptise any man living with two wives, but I could baptise the two women, as rather than exceeding the orthodox number of husbands they were contented to share one between them. I always encouraged the Indians who lived with more than one wife to attend the services and send their children to school; and by and by; when God showed them what to do, I felt sure He would make them willing to do it. The reason why we felt bound to act considerately towards such people, was, they had taken these wives before they had heard of the law among Christians, and they had raised families by them both, and to bring pressure upon them, to make them put away one woman and her family was what we found hard and unreasonable, and so I gave them the same privileges as the others, as far as the law would allow me.