ON our return to the mission after the rebellion was over, we were agreeably surprised to find that not a thing in our Church, not even a pane of glass had been injured, and the interior of our house had been treated with the same respect. The only things that the marauding Indians and others had taken from us consisted of food, wearing apparel, bedclothing, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils, but of such things as pictures, furniture, and harmonium, not one had been injured. Quite a contrast from the treatment meted out to other white people in the affected districts; their pianos, pictures, as well as all kinds of furniture were literally smashed to pieces and thrown out of doors. This distinction made in our favour showed, as my wife had said before we took to flight, "that we had no enemies among the natives of the country." It will be only fair to state that some of the Roman Catholic Indian women from the Muskeg Lake reserve, when they heard of our return to the Mission, brought back unrequested many of the articles they had taken out of our house during our absence. Some of the things such as crockery and cutlery we were glad to have, but we refused to accept articles of clothing which had been used by them for several weeks.
In concluding my account of the rebellion, it will not be out of place to mention the following facts, namely, all those Indians with whom I had been associated since the commencement of our work remained loyal, notwithstanding the importunities of the French and other Indians to act otherwise; which, as a Government official declared afterwards, spoke volumes for our work.
Chief Star Blanket's reply to one of the French half-breeds may be read with interest. When the man was pressing him to come over with his band to their side, the Chief said: "I thought you were a Christian," and the man replied: "So I am, I belong to the priest's religion." "Well," the chief said, "I do not know much about that, as they never instructed me or my people, but my religion teaches me to pray for deliverance from privy conspiracy and rebellion, and if I consent to go over to your side I must turn my back on my own religion, and this I can never do, and so that is the end of it."
The Chief's brother soon after our return to the Mission. told one of the Government officials that it was not because they had no cause for complaint of his treatment of them, not yet because they were afraid of the consequences of being rebels, that they remained neutral, but naming his missionary, said, "That is the man that kept us quiet, and yet it was not he but the religion that he has taught us."
A year after the rebellion, at a public meeting in the town of Prince Albert, at the close of our session of Synod, when Chief Star Blanket, who was one of the delegates to the Synod, was asked to make a speech from the platform (which was interpreted by the present Archdeacon of Saskatchewan), he said that his band was known for its loyalty and the progress it had made in agriculture and that this was all due to one man, and that man was their missionary! I would rather some one else wrote these words than I, and it is only because it brings honour and glory to my Master and His religion, that I allow myself to record these facts.
The next important event that took place in the diocese of Saskatchewan, and which materially altered my future sphere of labour, was the death of our Bishop, the Right Reverend Dr. McLean. The diocese of Saskatchewan at that time included all the territory now occupied by three dioceses, namely, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan, and as civilisation in the far West began at the eastern end of the diocese, namely, Prince Albert, the Bishop made his head-quarters there. In the meantime, the C.P.R., the first trans-continental railway line in Canada, was being built across the prairies at the southern end of the diocese, which was destined to change the trade route to the interior, which had hitherto been by water via Lake Winnipeg and up the North Saskatchewan River by way of Prince Albert, to the overland route by rail which was shorter and quicker, and towns soon began to spring up along the new line.
The year after the rebellion, the Bishop made a tour of the southern and western parts of his diocese, which took in Calgary and Edmonton, and he was so much impressed with the growth of Calgary, that he decided to make his headquarters there in the near future. But, again, we have the truth of the saying forced upon us, whether one cares to believe it or not: "that it is God who disposes," for, during the same tour of inspection, the Bishop met with an accident which aggravated his former weakness, and intensified his sufferings, and it was feared for a time he would not live to reach home again. He was too ill to undertake the long land journey of about five hundred miles, and the jolting of a spring-less conveyance; so he ventured the journey down the Saskatchewan River in an open skiff, accompanied only by one of his sons, quite a youth. The autumn was coming on and the nights were cold, and his sufferings became very great--however it was not God's will that he should die away from his home, and so the journey was not only accomplished but after a few days' rest and home comforts he actually appeared to be getting quite himself again, so much so, that he sent for me to visit him. Immediately I obeyed orders, and visited his lordship, when I found him in his study, as busy and full of plans for the future welfare of his diocese as some men would have been in the full enjoyment of health. The Bishop then made known to me his object in sending for me. He told me that he felt God had brought him safely through his recent illness for a purpose, and as far as he could see he had years of service yet to render Him. That, owing to the progress the southern part of his diocese was making, he had made up his mind to remove his head-quarters from Prince Albert to Calgary the following spring, and his object in wishing to see me was in connection with Emmanuel College. He said: "I want you and your wife, who, we all know is a highly qualified teacher, to come here and take charge of the College, and I want you to come here at once. I feel it incumbent upon us to introduce a class in the College for the study of agricultural chemistry; I know your practical turn of mind for such things, and I will send East at once for chemical appliances, and you and I together will work up the scientific and experimental part during the winter." I did not say 'Yes," neither did I say "No," but I said, "I will go home and consult my wife first and let your lordship know our decision as soon as possible." I returned home and during the following week I paid a visit to the Stony Lake band of Indians and spent the Sunday with them. To show how active the Bishop's mind was at the time, he wrote some time during the next two days to an Eastern city for the chemical appliances, and he also wrote to the missionary then living at Sturgeon Lake, whom we will name D. P------, telling him to hold himself in readiness to remove to Sandy Lake at a few days' notice, and it appears that a few days after this the Bishop died, for a special messenger arrived at Sandy Lake, the Sunday I spent at Stony Lake, asking me to come into town to bury the Bishop. It is needless to say that I did not go, for the time mentioned in the letter for the funeral to take place was past before I reached home.
It was in the early part of November, 1886, that the Bishop ceased from his earthly labours. The appliances sent for by the Bishop arrived at Prince Albert some time after his death. The cases were addressed to Emmanuel College, and the carriage must have been prepaid, and as no one appeared to know anything about them they remained in the lumber room for some years until, out of sheer curiosity, the cases were opened and the discovery made.
The new Bishop was the means of bringing an old worker back to the diocese, and he was given charge of the College for a time until he was succeeded by another, who, it was thought, would do better, and so it came to pass that I was destined to continue at Sandy Lake a few years longer. Shortly after this, a very virulent kind of measles swept the country north of us, and attacked my Indians at Stony Lake, and about one-fourth of them died from its effects, and its victims were mostly men. Being so far away from Government or missionary head-quarters, we did not hear of their distress for some time. It appeared the men were getting better, but still in an unfit state to venture out in the cold, nevertheless they had to do so to provide food for their families, and in their endeavours they had actually to creep on their hands and knees over the snow as they moved about in the bush setting their snares for rabbits, being too weak to walk. As soon as I heard of their condition I went to see them, and gave an order to a trader to supply them with tea, flour and anything else he had in the shape of food. I visited every house and had prayers with the sick and dying, and the heat and odour of their confined dwellings pen cannot describe.
One of my dying converts said: "Whilst alone and suffering, for a time everything seemed to leave me; I had no hope and no faith, and I was wishing for you to come, and then I remembered what you had told us on former visits, that we were not to think that because we had no missionary near us in case of sickness we should be alone, because God never leaves His people, and His eyes and ears never grow weary, and His heart never sleeps, and so I spoke to the Great Spirit and it filled my heart with joy to know He was an ever-present friend, and now I am quite resigned." When we parted, he knew we should not meet again, but I did not think the end was so near, as his voice and strength seemed anything but weak, but a few hours after I left for home he died, "looking unto Jesus." I hastened home, and I think it was the seventy-five miles drive against the piercing wind that disinfected my clothing and kept me from taking the disease.
On reaching home, I sent a message to the Indian commissioner, telling him of the condition of the Stony Lake Indians, and what I had done for them in the shape of food, and a reply came back immediately, thanking me for taking such prompt measures, and requesting me to send in my bill for what I had spent upon them. Instructions were also sent to the local agent to kill a couple of oxen they had on the reserve, as well as to supply them with flour, rice, tea and sugar, and with instructions that no one was to leave his house until quite recovered. Disinfectants without limit were also sent out.
There was a French half-breed (R.C.) trader at the reserve, who, to say the least, was afraid to die, and he, and his, attended my services and availed himself of the opportunity of taking my medicine, and obeying my instructions with regard to disinfectants, etc., with the result that only one member of his family took the sickness and that one recovered. But as is the case, I believe, with measles of any kind, there is a danger of something else being left lingering behind; anyway, this was the case with one of the men at Stony Lake, and for weeks he did not appear to gather strength, so the trader told the Indian that he would not get better, neither would their house become free from infection, until the priest had paid them a visit and sprinkled them and their houses with holy water; and whether the Indian asked for the priest to come or not, I never rightly understood, but it was believed to be the entire work of the half-breed that the priest was sent for. The trader, I believe, went to Green Lake and fetched the priest, and he made himself very busy while he was among the Indians. The chief's youngest son was ill at the time, and the priest re-baptised him without anyone in the house knowing that he had done so, excepting the sick man's wife, though there were many in the house at the time it was done, even the man himself knew nothing about it. The woman told the Sandy Lake Chief's brother who was there, having volunteered to wait on the sick, and the dressing down he gave to the priest was such that he soon after returned to Green Lake.
Shortly after this, I visited the Indians again, when I found the Chief most indignant at what had been done, and had given instructions to his people never again to show hospitality to the priests, because after what had happened in his house, there was no telling what they might be up to.
About a month after this, the priest again visited the Mission, but this time he met with such disappointment that he took upon himself to write me, saying that upon his former visit he found the Indians at Stony Lake glad to welcome him and disposed to accept the true religion. He went on to say how many miles he had travelled in connection with his work since he became a priest, and that he valued more the conversion of an Indian to his Church from Protestantism than he did the finding of a purse of gold! All of which seemed eloquent in its way. In my reply, I said I did not attempt to deny his zeal for his Church, but that did not prove he made better people of those he succeeded in proselytising, and I asked him to read St. Matthew xxiii. 15, which in the face of what had recently happened in the country I thought quite appropriate, and I drew his attention to the two rebellions 1870 and 1885, which were begun and ended with those professing the faith of his Church!
He wrote back challenging me to prove or even dare to say, that the priests of his Church or their teaching had anything to do with either rebellion.
In my answer I pointed out to him that the inefficacy of a religion was shown as much in its omissions as well as in its commissions, and as the religious teaching of the priests of Rome was not sufficient (if it had been applied), to check the rebellious instincts of its followers, therefore it was my opinion that their religion, or the way it was propagated, must be at fault.
I heard no more from this man, nor did the priests from that quarter again, during my charge of the Mission, visit the Stony Lake Indians.
But Rome is not deficient in stratagem, and they changed their point of attack from the north to the south, and the priest at Muskeg Lake decided to try his hand, as since the Indians had cut out a road through the woods, etc., for me to visit them, it made the lake accessible for others who wished to approach it from the south.
It so happens that the winter storms fell many a giant tree in the forests, and a good deal of clearing is required every spring before the roads can be considered passable. On the occasion of my first visit to the lake the following spring, I took with me a little boy about twelve years of age, just to help me around the camp, and fetch up the ponies from their pasturage; he was quite capable of doing this, as the ponies were very much attached to him and he could even take them when I failed. We camped about halfway the first night, and such a night for mosquitoes it was that I seldom, if ever, experienced the like. The result was, in the absence of a smudge, the horses, being unable to graze, took to wandering, and reaching the road, they made for home, and in spite of their hobbles, they travelled back about fifteen miles during the night. Not knowing this, we spent some time in the morning searching for them, and finally we tracked them on the road and followed them up, but it was nearly noon before we overtook them.
During the morning, when the sun happened to shine full on the road between the trees, the heat was terrific, and I do not think I ever suffered so much before or since from heat and thirst as I did that morning.
We could tell by the footprints of the horses, that they never stopped to eat until they got free from the woods, and when they had reached the open prairie, where the breeze was sufficient to drive the mosquitoes into shelter. Just as we were stooping down to unfetter the horses, we heard the sound of a wheeled conveyance, and looking towards the direction the sound came from, I recognised the French trader's team, and in a few seconds more, we recognised the Muskeg Lake priest in the conveyance; they were heading for Stony Lake as we were. The sight of this party put new life into me, for what with the long hot walk, and the thought of a fifteen miles ride on the bare back of one of the ponies, I was nearly collapsing, but now I sprang on to one of my ponies' backs, and the boy on the other, and we started into a canter at once, which we kept up until we reached our encampment, and the excitement of trying to get away from the priest drove from me all feelings of fatigue as well as hunger, and as soon as we could put the harness on our ponies and attach them to our conveyance we resumed our journey without having either food or drink.
We travelled on until dusk before we halted for the night. The place we had reached was called Ladder Lake, the country was open and abundant in grass, so the horses had a refreshing time. About 5 p.m., we came upon a huge tree that had been blown down during the winter and was lying right across the road and in a place where it was impossible to get round it without a great deal of chopping, and there was no other way of getting past it than by climbing over it or cutting it through in two places, and rolling the centre piece out of the way. The latter we could not think of doing as our axe was too small, and climbing over it might result in injury to our ponies or our conveyance. But knowing my horses to be very gentle, I decided to try and get over it, so we first chopped the branches off the trunk immediately opposite the road, and then I drove my horses up to the tree, and to my surprise they placed their forefeet on the trunk and stepped over it with as much intelligence as human beings. But when the wheels came up against the obstruction it was too abrupt, and if I had forced on my ponies I should have either broken the conveyance or the harness, so I stopped the horses as soon as they got on the other side, and we lifted up the front wheels of our buckboard and drove the ponies on gently so as to allow the wheels to drop down on the other side, then we raised the hind wheels in the same way and drove on again with the same result, and in a shorter time than it takes to tell how it was done, we had accomplished the feat.
We were up early the next morning, and after a hasty cup of tea, we were on the road again, and after driving about ten miles, we came to a place where a trail left the road for the mountain, and which was only used by the Indians when going out to hunt the moose; here we found the Chief and about four families camped awaiting my arrival. I told him of our experiences on the way and what we had seen the day before. The Chief advised our having service with them at once, and then going on to the lake as quick as possible and having our service there before the priest arrived. "Tell the Indians from me," he said, "to leave the lake as soon as the service is over." I was expecting to baptise seven adults on this visit, and these, the Chief said, were waiting for me at the lake. The service being over we each departed from the place, I to the lake, and the Chief and his party to the mountain. On arrival at the lake, I found the people waiting for me; their canoes were in the water and loaded up ready to start as soon as the service was over, as they, too, were leaving for another part to hunt the moose. We had our service in the school house, and I baptised four men and three women, and just as our service was over we saw some one on horseback appear in the open space where the road through the bush leads up to the clearing where the houses stood, and the Indians recognised the man as the French trader. As soon as the rider saw the Indians were there, he turned sharply round, and rode back for the priest, whom we afterwards learned he had left at the place where I met the Chief, for seeing Indians had been there quite recently, they were not sure that any were still at the lake, and rather than drive over the rest of the road, which was very rough, and then find no one there, they took the precaution of investigating first. The sight of the horseman was the signal for more haste, and by the time the trader returned with the priest, the Indians were about a mile across the lake, paddling for the other side. In a short time the priest came over to see me in the school house, and after asking me a few questions about the Indians, and when I intended to return, the purpose of which I thoroughly understood, he began to call the trader, behind his back, all the "Bad Frogs" he could think of, for having brought him on such a long bad road. He said, "He told me it was a good road and quite smooth, but it is the worst road I have ever travelled over with wheels, but never mind, I have heard much about this lake, and as it is nearly the only place where Indians live in the country that I have not seen, I thought I would come with him and see the lake." "Well," I said, "if it is only the lake you wanted to see, you are not disappointed, for the lake is here in all its natural beauty." "Yes," he said, "the Jake is very pretty, but where have the Indians gone? There are none about." I told him that on my arrival I found them with their canoes loaded up and only waiting for me, and as soon as my service was over, they departed and "those specks you see out there on the bosom of the water are the said Indians in their canoes, going off on a hunting expedition." "When we saw the encampment on the road," he said, "we could not make sure whether the Indians were returning to their homes or going from them, and my man decided to go on horseback and see." "That is where you made the mistake," I said, "for if you had come with your man you would have been in time to have seen some of them. As to the encampment you saw on the road, the Chief and four or five families were there waiting my arrival, and as soon as the service was over they pitched off to the mountain." "Then," he said, "you saw all the Indians." "Of course," I said, "I came by appointment and they were expecting me, and now to be frank with you, the reason why they left so soon after the service, was, they did not want to see you! I told them that you were behind me, and it is well for your feelings that you did not hear their remarks." Then as quick as thought he asked when I was going back. "That," I said, "depends upon yourself. I was the first here, and I am going to be the last to leave." "We shall start back," he said, "just as soon as we have eaten." He then suddenly remembered the tree that was lying across the road, and he asked how we got past it. "Why," I said, "we simply surmounted the difficulty," but this he did not appear to understand. Then I said plainly: "We drove over it."
"We thought so, and we tried to do likewise, but our horses would not face the tree, so we had to cut down small trees and make a way round it and this delayed us a considerable time." I said, "It took us about ten minutes to get past it. Now, I am going to speak plainly to you: you must not think to get a lead on me, or step in between me and my people, and so you may as well stop coming here and trying to upset this people. During the winter, the priest from Green Lake visited them and tried to upset our work, but as he cannot approach the lake in summer without much difficulty, you propose visiting them from this side over the very road they cut out for our own use. When I first came to this country I was sent out to start a mission at Green Lake, but on my arrival, I found there were not many Indians there, and the few who were, were being visited by some of your priests, and what did I do? I withdrew from the place and started a mission more than a hundred miles from it, as I was not sent out here to proselytise but to evangelise, and I want you to treat me and my work as I treated you and your work." "But," he said, "the Sandy Lake Indians should belong to us, our priests baptised many of the young people when they were children." "Quite true," I said, "but your Bishop failed to keep his promise to give them a priest to live with them and teach them; the people were longing to be taught, but your Church did nothing for them but baptise a few children, and that too, without the consent of their parents. But even this offence would have been condoned by the Chief and others if some one had been sent to live among them as the Bishop had promised to do, but to use the Chief's words 'you appeared to despise them and passed them by,' until after waiting eleven years he could wait no longer, and as soon as I came into the country he invited me to settle with them, which I did. Then after four or five years had passed, and it was seen that Sandy Lake Mission was going to be a success, the priest began to be interested in the people, and wanted to build a church inside the reserve, but the Chief, as no doubt you know, refused them permission, and so finding the Chief had thoroughly made up his mind, the priests, as well as the Bishop of your Church respectfully left them alone. Your conduct now towards the Stony Lake Indians is the same, their trading post has been Green Lake for a generation or more, the priests from Isle-a-la-Crosse have visited that post for many years, yet they never took any interest in these Indians until after I had shown an interest in them, and as soon as you saw the Indians were not only willing to be taught, but that we had erected a day school and given them a teacher. When all this was done, you show a similar desire to create a division among them, as you did at Sandy Lake, but so long as I am here with the Indians, you will never succeed in your designs, so you may just as well discontinue your visits, and I promise you I will not interfere with your work at Muskeg Lake. You know, I suppose, in your predecessor's time the Indians came to me and asked me to take their children into my school and teach them as I was teaching the other children, but instead of taking them in I suggested they should tell their priest if he did not keep a school for the children they would lay their case before the Government and the Government would appoint a teacher if the Church refused to do so, so the priest had to open a school at Muskeg Lake in order to keep his people quiet. Now if I had wished to interfere with your work, I should most probably have taken your Indians from you, but I did not choose to do so, and now that you understand this, let us be neighbours and do our own work without either interfering with the other." This suggestion was agreed to, and he left the same afternoon for home, I followed about two hours afterwards and reached his camp about 9 p.m., when he very kindly offered me shelter for the night, and we travelled together the whole of the next day. The priests never again visited the Stony Lake Indians either from Green Lake or Muskeg Lake all the time I was at Sandy Lake. The Muskeg Lake priest would visit me occasionally at my mission, and on one occasion he came to learn how to manage sheep, and bought two from my flock.
In the year 1887 a report was received by our Bishop, in which it was stated the work of the church in the eastern part of his diocese was not being carried on satisfactorily, and his lordship asked me to go down on a tour of inspection and report to him on my return.
I reached home again in the autumn and soon after the Bishop came to Sandy Lake for Confirmation, and when there he received my written report. The result was, I was asked to take charge of all the Indian work in the eastern part of the disocese, and make my head-quarters at the Pas. It took some time to arrange matters before I could leave Sandy Lake, such as the finding of a suitable man to take charge of the mission I was leaving. Ultimately a native clergyman was brought up from the district I was going to, and I bade my Sandy Lake people farewell the following July, 1888, about fourteen years after I first entered the country. At that time, 1874, I was a stranger to the country and its aborigines. I knew very little of their language and they knew less of mine. They knew practically nothing about the life and duties of a settler, all they had been brought up to was to ride a horse and hunt the buffalo, and as hunters they were experts, and our strangeness to each other was emphasised by the fact that we had not yet met. The work God enabled me to do during these fourteen years can be summarised in the following brief statement of facts, viz., I had learnt the language and had induced three Chiefs with their followers to settle down, and I had taught them how to make their living by farming and rearing stock. I had baptised the three Chiefs and ninety per cent, of their followers from heathenism and taught them the Christian faith. I built a school for each separate band, and their children were being educated, the teacher for the Stony Lake band being one of my former scholars at Sandy Lake. The Indians from my home station had become intelligent delegates to our diocesan synod, and the Chief sometimes spoke from the platform, and in Bishop Pinkham's time he always sat on the Bishop's right hand at luncheon, etc. Four of the school teachers whose first work in connection with the Church was with me, received the call to enter the ministry, and in due course were ordained; one was made an Archdeacon before I left Sandy Lake, and another has since been made a Canon. Apart from these there was my old and faithful Indian friend David, the man I took out with me from Winnipeg in 1874 to help me with secular work only; he too received the call, and was trained and ordained for Indian work, and had he lived he would have succeeded me at Sandy Lake, but God had willed it otherwise, and his work being done, he was called home.
It was not an easy matter to part with our sons and daughters in the faith, and my wife felt it as keenly as I did, for it was not only our first field of labour, but it was our first home of married life, and while at the mission God gave us our two children, a girl and a boy, but owing to our isolation and the absence of medical attention, we lost our son at childbirth. The wives of missionaries and teachers to-day in the same diocese are so conveniently situated, owing to the advance made in the growth of civilisation, that they can enter a hospital on such occasions as referred to above, and receive the care and attention of doctors and trained nurses, but it was not so in our early days of missionary experience.
At the time we left Sandy Lake rapid strides were being made in the country; railway facilities and doctors galore were getting to be the order of the day, though the nearest railway station and the nearest doctor to Sandy Lake were still sixty miles away. But by going to the Pas, the hand of the dial was moved backwards, so far as the conveniences of civilisation were concerned, for there the country was not adapted for settlement, and the district was only favoured with a visit from a doctor once in three years, and then the longest time he could stay at any one place was not more than three or four days. The nearest residential doctor to the Pas, as well as the nearest railway communication, at that time was Prince Albert, between three and four hundred miles away, which took about twelve days to reach by canoe, there being no overland connection between the two places.
When the day came for me to leave the Mission (my wife having left a few months previous to take our child to England to be educated), the people gathered around me to bid me good-bye and God-speed. It was most distressing to the human frame to witness the Indians, big and little, young and old, too much agitated with emotion to be able to express their feelings in words, and so, with trembling hands and quivering lips, we parted in silence. Yet, notwithstanding these outward signs of human weakness, we were all strong in faith, and we, each one of us, had a faint experience of that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
I had intended to close the account of my work at Sandy Lake with the concluding words of the last paragraph, but one's thoughts love to linger about the dear old spot, and among its inhabitants; and I cannot refrain from relating one more true story which will help to explain the stability of character of these Indians.
A particular family who lived not far from the Mission had grown-up sons and daughters, and some of the elder members had married, and the land adjacent to the old homestead was becoming too circumscribed for all the families of this particular household, so one of the married sons selected a spot about three miles farther away on which to build a home for himself and family, and before moving out with his family, he pitched his tent on the spot, and lived and worked there alone from Monday morning to Saturday night, ploughing up the virgin soul. After he had been working a few days, I drove out to see him, to know if I could be of any use to him, in case anything had gone wrong with his plough, and when I approached the nearest end of the field where his little tent was standing, he happened to be at the farther end of the field with his oxen and plough, and whilst waiting his return, I looked inside his tent, and there on one side, I saw a few pieces of stale bannock left over from his breakfast, and on his pillow lay open his Cree Syllabic Bible; evidently he had been reading his portion of Scripture before commencing his daily work! How many plough boys in Christian England, I wonder, ever think of taking their Bibles with them into the field that their souls may be strengthened by the Word of Life as their bodies are with the food that perisheth.
On my way from Sandy Lake to Prince Albert, to make connection with the steamboat which would take me to my new district, I met one of the Sandy Lake Indians returning home from the grist mill where he had been with a wagon-load of wheat to be ground into flour. He had one ton of flour on his wagon, besides bran, etc., after having bartered some of his flour away with the merchants in Prince Albert for bacon, tea, sugar and sundry other small articles. The flour, he told me, would suffice to pay labour and feed the men who helped him cut and stack his hay, and "I have another load of wheat at home," he said, "which, when ground, will defray the expense of gathering in the new harvest." This is sufficient in itself to show the improved social condition of the Sandy Lake Indians when compared with what they were, and knew, when I first took charge of them.
In the days of the buffalo the Indians were extravagant, because the buffalo cost them nothing to raise, and being so numerous, they could gather in a stock of provisions at a short notice, whereas a grain of wheat, though insignificant in itself, took a whole year to produce, and so it became very precious to them, and the process of producing it taught them the lessons of economy and persevering thrift, which they never would have learned if the buffalo had continued, and their old mode of living persisted in. The buffalo, however, was doomed to become extinct, and hence the wisdom of the Church Missionary Society was shown that in choosing their first missionary for work among the plain Crees, they selected one who had a knowledge of agriculture.