AT the time of which I am now writing, there were two steamboats plying on the Saskatchewan River between Lake Winnipeg and Edmonton, a distance of about one thousand miles. There had been, a few years before, a fleet of five boats, but three had ceased to run, and the remaining two were in the last throes of their existence, as the railways which were penetrating the country in different parts were being utilised for carrying freight to and from the interior. When the boating was at its best, the Indians in the Cumberland district were in a good position for getting constant employment, for in summer they worked as porters and crews on the boats, and in winter they cut thousands of cords of wood for fuel for the boats in summer. But when the boats ceased running, all this remunerative source of employment was taken from them, and, as there was very little other work for them to do in the district, their earnings were confined chiefly to trapping furs during the winter months. Consequently the Indians were in anything but a flourishing condition when I took charge of my new sphere. There is no farming land in the whole of that country worth speaking about, so my knowledge of agriculture, etc., availed me nothing there. There was one advantage attached to the district, namely, the rivers and lakes abounded in fish, but as there was no local market and no means then for shipping them out to Winnipeg, the nearest market, the only use these fish were to the Indians was that it formed their staple supply of food, and as the Indians ate fish four times a day and seven days a week, everywhere, everything, and every person, literally stank of fish.
I shall never forget my first Sunday in church at the Pas, The church, though large, was crowded with Indians, and not only the people's clothes, but the floor, seats, and walls of the building appeared to be impregnated with fish oil, and I felt that my stay there would be brief indeed, as I never could endure the smell of fish. But habit, they say, becomes second nature, and I soon became accustomed to the smell and ceased to mind it.
Before I proceed further, I had better describe the district I was destined to work in for another fourteen years, and give the names of the different stations under my charge.
First, the sphere of my labour was called the Cumberland district, after the head-quarters of the H.B. Company, which were situated on the south shore of a lake, called by the Indians "Min-nis-tee-ko-min-na-hik-oo-ska-we-sah-ka-he-kun" (Pine Island Lake), there being an island in the centre of the lake, whereon pine trees were abundant. To be correct, pine trees such as are technically known by that name do not grow in North-Western Canada, the nearest resemblance to them is the spruce tree, which is, after all, a kind of soft white pine.
The H.B. Company established a trading post at this place some years before the advent of missionary work, and finding the name too difficult for those in charge to pronounce, and fearing lest they should get their tongues entangled in such a string of syllables, they called their trading post Cumberland House, though why I do not know.
Although this was considered the head post of the district, it was not by any means central, in fact it was established on the southern border of its own district. The reason for this was, I presume, being near the main watercourse, the North Saskatchewan River, up which all merchandise was shipped into the interior, and all furs shipped out, so the position was considered advantageous as a distributing point.
The Indian mission work of the Church was begun in 1840, and made its head-quarters at a place about seventy-five miles below Cumberland on the same river, and for years it was known as Devon Mission, but the same place was called by the Company the Pas, and in course of time, when the post office facilities were extended to the same place, by giving us a monthly mail, and as the H.B. Company became the carriers of the mail, the name they gave the place was registered in the postal guide, and so it came to pass that the mission became known as the Pas Mission, and Devon Mission, the original name, was dropped.
At the present time, the Government of Canada is engaged in building a railway, which is to connect the wheat-growing district of the west with Hudson's Bay, and this line passes right through the Pas, crossing the mission property. If the route proves to be a workable one, it will shorten the hauling distance between Western Canada and England by about seven hundred miles, but at present, in my own mind, the undertaking is purely experimental, but it may prove to be feasible, and I hope it will. The lying advertisements, however, that are being circulated about the conditions of the country through which the line will pass, by unconscious real estate agents, are simply iniquitous.
The Pas then is the name of the C.M.S. Mission to which I was sent, and any further reference to the place in this book will be understood by the reader as referring to the head-quarters of the mission district.
Before the division of the district of Rupert's Land, one of the Archdeaconries took its name from this district, and the person who bore the title was called the Archdeacon of Cumberland. But when that part of the country was handed over to Saskatchewan and the original Archdeacon was dead, it was thought by some that the missionary in charge of the district should take the title, and Bishop Bompas wrote me as such, and when I told him that he was not only premature in one sense, but behind the times in another, for I was not an Archdeacon, and since the district had been transferred, the title had been allowed to drop--the Bishop wrote back, saying he did not think, legally, the right to retain the former title could be taken from the place, any more than a diocese could be deprived of its right to be called a diocese, just because its first Bishop had been removed by death. Be this as it may, the title was not revived, and the district was allowed to fall away from an Archdeaconry to that of a rural deanery, and I was made the first rural dean of the district and retained the honour until I left in 1902. After my return to the diocese in 1903, to take up work in another part of the diocese several hundred miles away from the Pas, I was asked by the Bishop to resume my old title, which I did for a year or two; but when the Bishop made his next visit through the Pas district, and I accompanied him, I expressed a wish to resign the position of rural dean in favour of the man who was then living at the Pas, for I felt I could not fulfil the duties of a rural dean, situated as I was so many miles from the district, and to hold on to a title without doing the work such a title required was contrary to my principles, and hence my resignation.
I find myself again writing of events out of their proper order as regards time, but I will guard against referring to them again. The first thing I did after taking charge was to make acquaintance with all the Mission stations under my supervision, and after spending a few Sundays at the Pas, I engaged a couple of Indians and a birch-bark canoe, and left for that part of the English River which belonged to my district. We had to paddle up the Saskatchewan River as far as Cumberland, about seventy-five miles, and after spending a day at our Mission there, we left in a storm for our destination; and here at the outset we experienced no little difficulty, for being heavily laden our canoe was not in a fit state to ride the waves.
An Indian living on the other side of Cumberland Lake whose house we should have to pass, offered to relieve us of some of our load, as he had nothing in his canoe, and we handed over to him all our provisions and one of my bags. He took the lead, and on account of the waves his attention was wholly occupied in manipulating his own craft, and so could not look behind him to see how we were faring, and soon he was beyond the reach of our voices. When we had paddled about half a mile from the shore, and had reached the full force of the waves, my men proclaimed it too risky to venture across the lake. To return was equally difficult, so turning at a right angle, we ran before the wind and succeeded in reaching a small heap of stones, which for the sake of dignity we will call an island. There was no vegetation upon it, and the widest part was not more than thirty yards in extent. Here we landed with difficulty, as the island being so small, the motion of the water on the lee side was almost as turbulent as it was on the exposed side. We remained here until sunset, hoping the wind would go down with the sun, and then we could reach our provisions before dark, but we were doomed to disappointment, and we had to make up our minds to pass the night on this exposed heap of stones without any fire or anything to eat. The island was about a quarter of a mile from the "Tearing River" which receives its water from Cumberland Lake, and was right in the centre of the channel. The bed of the river being so much lower than the lake, the first few miles was one succession of rapids, and hence its name of" Tearing River."
To say the least, it was anything but a satisfactory or pleasing place for a camping ground. The Indian, however, can sleep on the branch of a tree, if necessary, or curl himself up quite comfortably on the top of a big stone, but with me it was otherwise, and the stones proved too rough and hard for me to get any enjoyment out of them and I suggested I should sleep in my canoe. The only way to do this was to push the canoe well out from the island, so that when the canoe sank between the waves, the water would be deep enough to keep the bottom off the stones. One advantage of being near the river was, there was quite a current in the lake, and as the wind was blowing with the current, the two together would keep the boat straight on her anchor. The custom when making a long journey with a canoe or boat of any kind, is to take with you a long line for tracking purposes, for use when going up stream. We had one such line with us, and this was fastened to the head of my canoe, and after spreading my blankets in the bottom of my canoe I embarked and my men guided the frail craft out into the deep water, and soon I was separated from them by the full length of the line, and after my steersman had fastened the other end of the line around his waist, he laid himself down on the stones to sleep, and I, in my birch-bark to be literally "rocked in the cradle of the deep." If the line had broken when I was sleeping, the men could not have helped me, for the current and the wind would have taken me to the river in a few minutes, and I should have been at the mercy of the rapids. But, and but, like if, sometimes stands for a good deal; and in this case it means I took no risks, and I did not go to sleep, I merely rested, and kept myself in readiness to battle against wind and tide with my paddle in the event of the anchor line breaking.
The nights are fairly long in the middle of September, but that night seemed exceptionally so; notwithstanding the wind abated, and by 4 a.m. we were paddling for the other shore. It happened to be a very dark morning and the air was heavy with fog which shut out everything from our view. The noise of the rushing water on the rapids helped us with our bearings at the start, and after two hours hard paddling, we came to the conclusion we were very hungry, the result of having no supper the night before, and we then began to fear lest in the darkness we had passed the house where the man lived who had charge of our food, so we rested on our oars and began shouting, and I never before or since hailed with so much pleasure the bark of a dog as I did on that occasion, for on hearing our voices the man's dog responded with a counter blast, and we knew Indians were near, though we were not sure it was the man whom we were seeking; but being guided by the continuous bark of our canine friend, we not only reached the shore but in the right place. One of my men made his way inland up to the house, and so fortune had favoured us, as it was the home of the man we were seeking. Having regained possession of our provender, instead of eating at once, we paddled on to a narrow part of the lake where plenty of dry wood was to be found, and there we kindled a fire, made ourselves some good strong hot tea, and we ate two meals in one, and did not feel the least inconvenienced thereby.
The next four days were very windy, but as it was a fair wind, we used our little square-sail as well as the paddles, and so we made good time, notwithstanding the whole of the journey was against the stream, and we had to disembark several times and carry our canoe and belongings across portages to get past the rapids and waterfalls.
We reached Pelican Narrows the fifth day out from Cumberland, and spent a day there, holding services, as this is an out-station belonging to the Stanley Mission. The services at this place were conducted by the Indians themselves except when their clergyman visited them, which was about four times a year. The Roman Catholics have a strong mission here with one or more priests in constant readiness, yet in spite of this fact, and the fact that our people form only a small minority, when the Government made a treaty with them, one of our Indians, the one who conducted the services, was chosen to be the chief of the band, I think, by the unanimous vote of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Indians of the place.
The same day we left Pelican Narrows we reached Frog portage on the English river, and the next night we camped at the Stanley Mission, making, I was told, a record time. The wind was strong and dead aft the whole of the last day, so that in addition to the men's paddles, I sat in the middle of the canoe and kept the sail aloft, and the speed we travelled against the current was not equalled on our return journey, notwithstanding the current was in our favour.
Mission work at Stanley was begun a few years after the Pas Mission was established, and like the Pas, the work was initiated by a native Christian Indian, both being sent out from Winnipeg. These teachers were the first converts from the Red Indians at Lake Winnipeg. The name of the one who started the Pas Mission was known to many readers of C.M.S. literature in days gone by as the Rev. Henry Budd, and the name of the one who started the work in the neighbourhood of Stanley was afterwards known as the Rev. J. S. Settee.
The church at Stanley is quite a landmark owing to its position, and it has been greatly admired by those who have seen it, for its symmetry and architectural design. It stands well out on a point of land jutting on to the river, which is more like a lake at this particular point. The interior, as well as the exterior of the edifice is what one would expect to find in a well-to-do parish at home. There is a very large amount of carved work on the pillars which divide the body of the church into three aisles. The church is what may be called a three-decker, with three rows of windows on each side and it has a tower and spire at the end next the water. A few years after the commencement of the work at Stanley by the native catechist James Settee, an English clergyman and his devoted wife, the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Hunt, were sent out from England to take charge of the mission and were responsible for the erection of such a fine church; too fine and costly it has frequently been said for such an out-of-the-way place, and for the use of a purely Indian congregation. But if, as I understand, Mr. and Mrs. Hunt were personally responsible for its original cost, disinterested parties have no right to complain. One of the sons God gave to Mr. and Mrs. Hunt whilst at Stanley, is at the present time an influential clergyman in the Church at home, and he sometimes travels abroad as a special missioner.
After spending a day at Stanley, I left with the native missionary who was in charge, and who, thanks to the C.M.S. and his own ability, was a B.A. and B.D. of the University of Manitoba, for the farthest out-station in my district, known as the "Little Hills." This place is situated at the western end of Lac-la-Ronge; here we were met by a number of Indians, and the Sunday we spent there the services were conducted in the schoolroom, which was too crowded to be either pleasant or edifying. This out-station was situated at the extreme end of my new district and was about four hundred miles from the Pas. Stanley proper is situated on the height of land called by some the "Divide," for on our way out and until we reached Stanley, we were constantly ascending the streams, but as soon as we made our first portage on the other side of Stanley, we found the streams running in the direction we were going.
Anyone who is interested in wild rugged scenery, with picturesque watercourses interspersed with turbulent rapids and not infrequent waterfalls, coupled with good fishing, would find on a trip such as I made on this occasion all they could desire, and I have no doubt when the interior becomes fairly well settled many an excursionist will be found travelling over this same route. We have nothing like it in England.
On our return trip to Stanley we encountered some very large waves on the lakes, and on one occasion we deemed it advisable to lay by for some hours, until from very shame we had to put out to sea, for looking out on the lake, we spied two small canoes coming towards us, and as it was a beam wind that was blowing, they had constructed a sail with a small blanket and one of their paddles, and this small sail kept the boat steady as well as accelerated the speed, and when they got near enough to be within speaking distance, we found it was a man and his wife and family bound for the place we had left. The man sat in the stern of one canoe guiding it with his paddle and the woman occupied a similar position in the other canoe. In the front of each canoe sat one of the bigger children manipulating the blanket sail, The man's canoe was loaded up with their food, utensils, etc., and in the centre of the woman's canoe lay two little children apparently enjoying the motion of the boat.
On reaching Stanley, we held two more services in the Church, and administered Holy Communion to a large and deeply interested congregation, and had a public meeting to hear and answer questions. Practically all the Indians were baptised in this part of my district, but although belonging to one or other of the three stations mentioned, namely, Pelican Narrows, Stanley and Little Hills, they were seldom to be found at these places, but occupied the intervening spaces, living in tents and temporary dwelling-houses which they erected along the streams and on the shores of the lakes. On our way out we halted at all these encampments and informed the people as to the day they might expect us on our return journey; this gave them time and opportunity to let the other Indians know who were living back from the line of travel, and so give them an opportunity of meeting us at the different encampments, and so it came to pass that on our return journey we had several services, at which children were baptised and the Holy Communion administered, and our Church was literally the world, its ceiling was the canopy of Heaven and the decorations were the undisturbed vegetation, fresh from the Maker's Hand, and our music was contributed by the warbling of the birds and the rippling of the streams. On my return to the Pas, I wrote my Bishop giving him an account of my recent trip, and suggested that the Stanley Mission and out-stations could be better and more cheaply reached from Prince Albert, via Montreal lake, than from the Pas, and as this commended itself to the Archdeacon, it was added to the Prince Albert district, and I had no further occasion to visit that place.
My next journey was to the stations east of the Pas, and I took with me two Indians and my birch-bark canoe. We followed the course of the Saskatchewan River for about twenty miles, and then we left the main channel and followed a branch of the same great stream, called Summerberry River, and after following this stream for about forty-five miles, we came to Moose Creek. This creek connects Summerberry River with Moose Lake, and is about five miles long. This stream though called a creek is worthy the name of river, as it is fairly wide and quite deep, the peculiarity about this river is this: when the water is high in the Summerberry River, it flows into Moose Lake, and when the water becomes low in the river it flows back from the lake to the river again, so that the direction of the current in Moose Creek is subject to several changes during the same summer.
The H.B. Company's trading post and the Mission are situated at the nearest end of the lake about two miles from the mouth of the creek, but when I first took charge, the Indians lived at the Narrows, fifteen miles up the lake. On this, my first visit, we encountered a great storm of wind, and with difficulty we landed on an island, where we remained wind bound for three days, and had very little to eat. This delay on the island, though it deprived us of food for the body, provided me with food for thought, and as our American cousins would say, I began "to calculate" as to how I could most efficiently attend to the work committed to my charge. A birch-bark canoe was all very well for a missionary who had only one Mission to attend to, but I had several, and the number of miles I would have to travel to make one tour of my district, even after Stanley was taken from me, was between six and seven hundred miles, so whilst on the island I wrote to my wife (who it will be remembered had gone to England to put our daughter to school) and described my district to her. I told her of the three large lakes that intercepted my course, such as Cumberland, Moose, and Cedar Lakes, and in order to do my work expeditiously and economically, I should require something safer and swifter than a birch-bark canoe, and I suggested that a small steam launch might be useful to me. Both my wife and daughter at once became interested and active, and in answer to a letter my seven-years-old daughter wrote to a magazine, appealing for funds, a lady in Brighton replied saying, she would give all the money asked for the purchase of the launch, if the sum required to freight it out to the Mission could be raised. In less than a month the full amount had been sent in to the Society appointed to receive subscriptions; but as, in the meantime, I had much travelling to do, I will continue my account of the different stations. Moose Lake is bounded on two sides by a low-lying marsh or muskeg, which, when the water is high, becomes inundated, and has the appearance of an endless lake, on the opposite shore it is bounded by a ridge of limestone, and the graveyard which had been located right among the houses became very dangerous to the community, as the bodies were not buried more than a foot or two at most below the surface, and in the mornings and evenings, quite a blue mist could be seen hanging over the graves of the recently departed, and the mortality among the Indians was such as to threaten the extinction of the whole band. The attention of the Government was drawn to the fact, and the reserve was changed from the north to the south end of the lake, which, after the change was made, brought the Mission fifteen miles nearer to the Pas. But it took two or three years before the change was effected, for, although the Indians knew that deaths among them were frequent, they were loath to believe that the shallow graves were the cause of so much sickness among them. I have tried time and again to explain to the Indians the nature of infection, and that the expectoration from consumptives is impregnated with microbes which get into the air, and we breathe them into our lungs, and so the disease spreads; but the Indian is impressed with the idea that anything that is too small to be seen with the naked eye, is too puny to do them any harm!
There was a school in operation at Moose Lake, and the teacher was a Roman Catholic. He was not very bigoted in my presence, but behind my back he was quite active in more ways than one which were detrimental to our work, and I was not sorry when he told me he was leaving the district.
Having completed my first visit there we paddled back to the south end, and through the creek into the river, which we followed for about thirty miles when we again joined the main Saskatchewan River which we left twenty miles this side of the Pas. After following the main channel for about four miles we came to the Che-mu-wha-win Mission--the meaning is "where seine-nets are used"--but now called Cedar Lake Mission.
There was no Church building of any description at this place, and no agent of the Church resided there, though the majority of the people were baptised, and regarding them from a Government point of view they were a part of the Moose Lake band. After spending some days with these Indians we started after sunset to cross Cedar Lake on our way to Grand Rapids. Cedar Lake is forty miles across, twenty-eight miles brings one to a point of land jutting out into the lake called Rabbit Point, and from there to the resumption of the Saskatchewan River on the farther side of the lake is fourteen miles, and, as the wind is generally the calmest during the hours of darkness, most travellers cross this wide expanse during the night. The river on the other side of the lake is about twenty-five miles in length (including Cross Lake, which is four miles wide) and is one continuous succession of large rapids which finally end up with what is called "The Grand Rapids," which is seven miles in length and defies navigation. At the foot of these rapids is the extreme north-west corner of Lake Winnipeg, and the Mission is situated at the mouth of the river. At this place there was a church building, and the day school was taught in the church. Strange to say the teacher here too was a Roman Catholic, and during his short stay there had had things mostly his own way. I did not dislike the man, nor his wife, but being of good families, they felt the work of teaching an Indian school and its emoluments just a bit too small for them, and they too left the district. At that time, as the reader knows, the Government salary for a school teacher was £60 per annum, which, owing to the price of food, clothing, etc., was not more than £30 would be here in England; but when the Church officials appointed a teacher, they chose a man who could take a service in the absence of a clergyman a sort of catechist as well as teacher, and in such cases, they augmented the Government grant from £20 to £40 a year. But the two teachers referred to had not been appointed by the Church and did no work for the Church, and so received no remuneration from us. I found that the school at Moose Lake was closed for a month at a time, there being no one at hand to whom the teacher was responsible, and upon inquiry I was told the said teacher would go off with the Indians trapping furs and neglecting his school duties.
Grand Rapids was a big place at the time of which I am writing, and had been more so a few years previous, as First, all the commerce for the interior and away to the Arctic regions, was brought into the country via Grand Rapids. The Lake Winnipeg boats had to discharge their cargoes at the foot of Grand Rapids, and large warehouses were erected to receive the goods, a tram line was built across the point of land round which the river ran, to connect with the river boats at the head of the rapids. This tram line was a little over three miles in length, and the trucks, or cars, were drawn across by horses. It was a single line with a switch about half way across, and a telephone connected the warehouses at both ends, so that when the loaded cars were ready to start, the des-patcher of the empties was notified and the cars left simultaneously so as to meet at the switch, and so no time was lost. Second, the fishing companies on Lake Winnipeg had a large plant just opposite the Mission, where the fish were cleaned, frozen, and shipped by boats to Winnipeg, whence they were conveyed by rail, in refrigerator cars to the large cities in the United States; scores of fishermen were employed all summer, in addition to the men employed as crew men for the boats, and in the winter numbers of men were employed putting up ice for summer use. Third, Grand Rapids, on account of its nearness to the Lake which formed a direct connection with Winnipeg, and the high and dry limestone ridge the houses were built on, coupled with the pure white shingle that formed the beach, became quite a summer resort for people living at Winnipeg, and the boarding houses at times could not accommodate all the visitors, and some of them used to bring out their tents with them, and pitch them on the ridge. Grand Rapids was also noted for its wild fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries and many a Winnipeg family, in making their summer trip to Grand Rapids, combined business with pleasure and manufactured their household jam during the holidays. But in course of a few years this once thriving little place became like a pelican in the wilderness, and shared the same fate as the Pas and Prince Albert from the same cause, viz., from the diversion of the traffic from the rivers to the railways.
Having completed my visit to the Lake, and having made the acquaintance of my new parishioners, we began our return journey, which, be it understood, was all the way up stream, and the water for the first twenty-five miles moved along at cataract velocity. We had to pass Cedar Lake Mission on our return journey, but instead of going round by Moose Lake, we kept to the main channel of the Saskatchewan, calling at one or two small encampments on the way. The distance I travelled on this journey was about 330 miles.
After spending another Sunday at the Pas, I started off again in a southerly direction to visit two Mission stations at the foot of the Pas Mountains, and having ascended the Carrot River about eighty-five miles, we came to the Shoal Lake Mission. This lake was not only shoal, but perfectly dry on this occasion, and having walked through the mud and grass for about a mile, we had to travel another mile through the forest before we came to the Indian settlement. On this particular side of Shoal Lake there are many salt springs, which I have no doubt will some day be worked to advantage. But salt springs are not the only things peculiar to this place, and which adds to its notoriety, for the mosquitoes are such, both in numbers and viciousness, that a stranger could neither understand nor believe if one attempted a description of them. The Indians at Shoal Lake have built their houses in the centre of a pine forest and trees had to be cut down to make room for the houses, and each year as they extended their gardens, fresh trees had to be cut down, and by the time I left the district, some of them had as much as an acre under cultivation. Their principal productions were carrots, onions, and potatoes; the land was excellent, but owing to their isolation nothing else was attempted.
After spending some time with these Indians, we paddled on about fifteen miles further to a place called Red Earth. The Indians' houses at this place are built on a point of land almost surrounded by the Carrot River. The place is unique in the Saskatchewan country, and, personally, I have not seen another place like it in all Western Canada, and it would compare favourably with any of our natural parks in England. The ground is perfectly level, and the trees, which are mostly maple and elm, grow to an enormous size. The Indians had cut off the lower branches of the trees to an even height from the ground so as to enable them to get about without interruption. When one ascended the banks of the river and entered the plateau where the houses and tents were standing, it was easy to imagine oneself under a huge canopy of evergreens, and the whole of the unoccupied ground was densely covered with huge bracken. The land, what little there was, was of excellent quality, and vegetables grew to an enormous size, but the people here were mostly heathen. Wild ducks and geese were abundant in both these Missions, and moose were plentiful in the forests, but there was practically no fish, and at times the people were hard up for food. The medicine man at this reserve had great influence over the people, and he was opposed to instruction of any kind. It appears that my predecessors had seldom, if ever, visited these Indians, and when I asked the man I succeeded why he always returned to the Pas from Shoal Lake, he replied he had no work to do among the Indians at Red Earth, they were heathen. That his object for going to Shoal Lake was to baptise, marry and administer the Holy Communion. I reminded him that as an agent of the C.M.S. his premier work was to evangelise the heathen. I told the Indians that so long as I was in charge of the district I should consider them a part of my flock, and should visit them each time I came to Shoal Lake.
On this occasion I visited every house, and spoke to each family separately, and in this way I found out that very few were opposed to Christian teaching. I called again at Shoal Lake on my return journey, and arranged with two of the Christian laymen to conduct Sunday services between them at their own reserve, and to invite occasionally their Indian friends from Red Earth to attend their services, and I specially exhorted the young men and women to let "their lights so shine" when in the presence of their heathen neighbours, that they might be left with a desire to know something of the religion that made people better and happier in this life as well as fearless in death. I also promised to have a day school started as soon as possible for the children at Shoal Lake, and drew up a petition for the head men to sign, and forward to the proper authorities, that a grant be put on the estimate for a teacher without delay. The Government, as I have stated on a previous page, were under an obligation to provide £60 a year for a teacher, plus the school material for each band of Treaty Indians as soon as they desired to have their children taught. But to create a desire in the mind of the Indians for instruction was the work of the missionary, for the Government officials took no aggressive interest in their intellectual improvement. As this was in the autumn, matters had to remain as they were until the following midsummer, when the Inspector of Agencies paid his annual visit.
Having completed the object of my visit to the mountain reserves, we returned to my head-quarters, the Pas.
A little addition sum will show to my readers that in visiting the principal stations in my district I travelled over 1,300 miles, and each journey I made was by water. Perhaps some one will ask, "Could not some of these stations have been reached by land?" My answer is "No!" There are certain elevated spots in the district, but these are not connected, being intercepted by broad rivers, inundated marshlands, and lakes, consequently there were no roads in the district, and all travel in summer was by canoe, and boats. In the winter, however, conditions were entirely changed and the water in the rivers and lakes was frozen to the depth of three or more feet, and the ice and land put on their winter garment of snow. The snow that fell after the middle of November, remained unthawed until the middle of the following March, and the days were scarcely ever warm enough to make the snow damp and uncomfortable for travelling. In this respect the province of Saskatchewan and the country farther north has an advantage over the maritime provinces and the. country to the south; for there the fall of snow is greater than in the north, and is seldom if ever dry enough to make walking clean and comfortable.
I must now describe the habits of the Pas Indians. I have already said that their staple food in summer is fish taken from the Saskatchewan River and its tributaries near the Mission. In the beginning of October those who intend to spend the winter at the Mission move off to a lake about twelve miles distant, called Clear Water Lake, in order to gather in a supply of "white fish" for their winter's use. The Indians were permitted to take white fish during the spawning season for their own use. It appears fish are easily captured during that season, but as this season only lasts about ten days the take is not enormous, though ample for private use. But the majority of the Pas Indians, and, in fact, the majority of all the Indians in the district, leave the principal Mission stations, with their families, in the month of October, and take up their winter quarters along the lakes and rivers, thus forming hamlets of two or three families at each place, consequently the Indians from the Pas Mission alone are divided into fifteen or twenty hamlets scattered over an area varying from ten to one hundred and fifty miles from the central station. The object for this is to hunt the fur-bearing animals which inhabit the woods, and others such as the musquash, beaver, and otter which build their houses near to the water.
In selecting their winter quarters, the Indians always locate themselves near to places where fish are plentiful, as these help materially to eke out their supply of food. The palate of the Indian is indescribable, and I have often wondered if they can distinguish between one flavour and another, and owing to their precarious way of living, it is well for them that it is so. The Indian eats every animal he kills with the exception of the wolf, and on visiting their winter quarters I have seen large kettles holding about five or six gallons apiece, suspended by a tripod over an open fire, and in them were fish, foxes, rat, wild cat, mink, etc., all stewing in the same pot and all eaten at the same time off the same dish!
The first trip I made through the eastern part of my district after open water the following spring, the gentleman in charge of the H.B. Company's business at Moose Lake kindly gave me three or four steaks of dried moose meat when taking our departure. And as we were paddling on towards Cedar Lake Mission, my Indians asked me if I had ever eaten sturgeon? "No," I told them, and up to that time I had not even seen a sturgeon. They said: "The Indians at the Mission to which we are going kill any quantity of sturgeon at this time of the year, and they will be sure to offer us some. May we take it, and will you eat it?" "Take it by all means," I said, "we must not refuse a gift; but as to my eating it, that will depend on whether I like it or not." But the way they kept on praising the fish made me anxious to try it.
As I have said before, there was no Church building or agent of the Church living at this Mission, and as it was late in the evening when we arrived, I pitched my little wedge-shaped tent on a sheltered spot close to the water's edge, and turned in for the night. Before I had time to get to sleep, I heard a strange voice talking with my Indians, and soon after one of my men came to my tent and informed me that an Indian in passing had given them a piece of sturgeon, and he wanted to know if they might cook it for breakfast. "Certainly," I said, "fish is always the sweetest when it is fresh." Sleeping under canvas one generally wakes early, and I was up and out by six o'clock next morning, but my men must have been up two hours earlier, for the fish was cooked, and the embers of the fire were rapidly dying out. In going up to the kettle, I saw the fish floating in its own liquor, covered with about an inch of yellow liquid oil, the very sight of which destroyed my appetite for fish. I told the Indians that I had changed my mind and would breakfast off hard tack (a kind of sailors' biscuit) and a little butter, and they could have the fish between them. Their gratitude for my generosity, though unexpressed, was evident by the smile on their faces. Breakfast over, I prepared for service in one of the houses near by, but as one of my Indians had to stay with the tent to keep the Indian dogs from devouring our food, I told him to boil some of the dried moose meat for our dinners, and soon after I left to take the service. Before the service was over I had a faint feeling come over me, which I attributed to the light breakfast I had had, but the thought of having a good dinner of moose meat seemed to revive me. The service being over, I returned to the camp, when, to my dismay, I found the Indian had boiled the moose meat in the fish liquor, and again I was robbed of my meal. Before the evening service began, an Indian returning from his hunt saw our tent, and paddled towards it, and when he saw who it was he presented me with a wild goose he had shot the day before. It was the other Indian's turn to keep watch over the tent this time, and I told him in preparing supper, to cut slices off the goose's breast, and toast it over the fire for my supper, and the rest of the goose they could cook as they liked for themselves. Everything this time was done according to order, at least, my orders were obeyed with regard to the piece I wanted for myself; but the Indian, after disjointing the goose, so as not to take up so much room in the kettle, put it in the remainder of the fish liquor and made a pot stew of it! I could not help expressing my satisfaction at their economy, but at the same time I felt inclined to quarrel with their appetites, when the elder of the two replied, saying: "The white man will eat a piece of fish, and then he will eat a piece of meat, and then several other things one after the other. What is the difference between eating your way, and our way, they are all eaten at the same meal, and all go into the same stomach?" It is needless to say I regarded his logic as culminating.
I have said the Indians of the Pas are very much scattered in the winter, and it had been their custom, previous to my taking charge, for the men at least, to return to the Mission for the first Sunday in each month, to partake of the Lord's Supper, and in some cases the women accompanied their husbands; and whilst I could not but commend them for their fealty and endurance, I made up my mind to suggest to them another plan; for, as I pointed out to them, there was not only the hardship of long exposure to the cold winds of winter in travelling to and from the Mission, but in many cases it meant the best part of a week's loss of time to the hunters; so I told them that instead of them leaving their work every month, I would travel round with my train of dogs, and visit their different encampments, and baptise their infants, marry any couples that wished to get married, and administer the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper to those who wished to partake, but I should expect them to give a fairly good offertory. It is needless to say this idea met with their approval, and the amount of their offertories was increased accordingly. This change necessitated a large amount of extra travel for myself, and not only so, but unlike the H.B. Company and Government officials, I could not keep to the beaten trail, for these gentlemen, when they travelled, kept to the well-beaten trail which led from one trading post to the other, whereas I had frequently to make my own trail in order to get to the different camps.
When I took charge of the district, the system in vogue for keeping the Church accounts was most extraordinary, and was as follows: the officer in charge of one of the trading posts received the offertory from the churchwardens, and took it home with him, without having it counted first, and kept the account himself, and when anyone was entitled to pay for any work done in connection with the church, such as the church-keeper's salary, or any special cleaning done to the Church, he paid the parties with goods from his store, and charged it to the offertory account. The result was, every Easter the Church was in debt to the trader, and the last Easter previous to my taking charge, the offertories were between forty and fifty dollars below the expenditure for the year, so I decided to take charge of the offertories myself. The result of this all-round change, was that we not only paid our local expenses, but we contributed to all the different appeals from the diocese. We also resurrected a fund, which was formerly known as the "Devon Mission Endowment Fund," and contributed annually to this, as well as sending annually £20 to the C.M.S. in England, and the word debt or deficit dropped out of our vocabulary.
I have already hinted at our winter mode of travel, viz., with sleighs drawn by dogs, and it will have been noticed by the reader that no mention of horses has yet been made. The fact is, there were not more than three horses at the Pas at the time of which I am writing, and these were used for doing work in the settlement, such as hauling firewood in winter. The state of the ground prohibited the use of horses in summer, and they could not very well be used on a journey in winter, as the trails made by the dog-sleighs, though hard, were not firm enough to bear the horses on the surface, and horses would tire before travelling many miles on a dog-trail.
The question may very well be asked? Who conducted the services at the Pas during my absence. The answer is: two of the Indians were chosen by the congregation at our Easter meetings for this purpose, and were recommended to the Bishop as fit persons for lay readers, and a licence was granted them for this work, and during my fourteen years' stay at the Pas, the same two men were always chosen. It may be interesting to know that regular Sunday services were conducted at all the out-stations in my district by the Indians themselves, in the absence of a clergyman, and as I was only assisted by one ordained man for a number of years, and for several months I was quite alone; by far the majority of the Sunday services in the district were conducted by Indian laymen. Men for this work were elected, or re-elected, at our Easter meetings, which took place as near to Easter as I could visit the different stations, and the reason why I left it with the congregations to elect their own man was, as I told them, they knew the men better than I did, and they were not likely to elect men they would not care to listen to in church, and having chosen a man to read and preach to them, it became their duty to attend the services and take a general interest in the work. The reserves and encampments were situated so far apart that it was impossible in most cases for me to visit more than one place on a Sunday.
The names of the different places under my charge at which regular Sunday services were conducted during the winter months were as follows: The Pas, Big Eddy, Shoal Lake, and later on Red Earth, the Barrier, Birch River, Cumberland, the Fir Hills, Rocky Lake, Wu-pow-Was-ka-he-kun--in the rocky country about 120 miles from the Pas--Grassy Point, Poplar Point, Moose Lake, Cedar Lake and Grand Rapids. So that at twelve places at least the services were conducted by Indians, most of whom were honorary workers! Those at the principal stations received 2S. a service, which was paid out of the offertory.
When I visited the Pas a year previous to my taking charge it was noticed that both the Church and Mission house were in a very dilapidated state on account of age, and required replacing with new buildings, consequently I was commissioned to build a new dwelling-house as soon as convenient after taking charge, so during my first winter there I gave contracts to the Indians to cut, square and deliver a certain number of timbers for upper and lower plates, beams, rafters, and logs for the walls, etc. Timber suitable for the logs was found about four miles from the Mission, and when cut, had to be hauled to the Mission by dogs on the snow. The larger and longer timbers were cut fifty miles up the Saskatchewan River, at the place called the Barrier, and these were floated down the river to the Mission soon after open water. The same summer I had sent me from Prince Albert a number of windows, boards, hinges, paint, etc., and a carpenter to take charge of the work. The old Mission house was taken down and the inside boards, such as were fit for use, were used in the new building, and as the old house was much larger than the new one, a sufficient quantity of usable boards were obtained to practically complete the inside work of the new house.
Mrs. Hines returned from England the same summer, 1889, and was just in time to help wait upon the workmen. The custom of the country in those early days (and indeed it prevails to-day in the rural districts) was to cater for all your employees: that is, a man received so much per day and his board. During the latter part of the same summer I was called up to Prince Albert to attend the meeting of Synod just at the time I was needed at home, and I was very much put out on my return at the way some of the work had been done, but my ire was considerably mollified when I found that, in addition to her other work, my wife had mixed her paint and painted all the doors, walls and ceilings in the new house, thus saving a good deal of expense, and we were able after all to use the house that coming winter. The congregation at the Pas was a large one, in fact the largest Indian congregation west of St. Peter's, Winnipeg. It was not an uncommon occurrence for me to have 130 communicants on a Sunday, and I have known the number to reach as high as 185 at one service. The day school was also well attended, though very inefficiently conducted. The gentleman I found in charge had been appointed by the Government, and had no connection with the Church further than being a Churchman. I have often heard that in the wilds of Australia there are M.A.'s to be found herding sheep for men who can scarcely write their own names. Well, the man I found teaching the Pas school, and who remained in charge for two years after my arrival, was an M.A., and a graduate of one of our universities in England; he had studied law, and was a member of the Inner Temple, and had contested one case if not more against the renowned "Lockwood," of Tichborne fame. It appears this gentleman, with a number of others in England, had bought a tract of land in the U.S.A., through some agency at home, and when they arrived in the States to take possession, it was found to be a vast swamp, and utterly unfit for settlement in its present state, and they threw it up. Those who had money enough to return to England did so, but this poor man, who had staked his all, had to remain in the land of his misfortune, and he wandered from place to place seeking work; finally he turned up at the farther end of Lake Superior, and got employment with a railway contractor, and found himself blasting rock on the C.P.R. line which runs into Winnipeg. Whilst in the city of Winnipeg he made himself known to the Archbishop and other dignitaries of the Church, who gave him considerable help, financially and otherwise, and for a time he read the lessons in the Cathedral, and one of the present Bishops in the West told me that he never heard a better reader, a statement I was able to corroborate; but though he possessed the ability to acquire knowledge, he Licked the gift of imparting it to others, and hence his failure as a teacher. The troubles that had been forced upon him drove him to drink, which ultimately proved his ruin and hastened his death.
After leaving the Pas, he took up his old profession for a time in one of our important towns in the West, and I heard the judge say, in speaking about him after his death, that it was nothing short of a pleasure to listen to him pleading for his client, he used, he said, such beautiful language, and put pathos into every word he said, and I have no doubt he did, for he could speak from experience of trouble! The downfall of this man began with his dealings with an unscrupulous real estate agent: "Woe unto the world because of offences, but woe unto that man through whom the offence cometh."
The teachers who followed the above at the Pas were appointed by the Church, and one of them, after spending two years with me, entered St. John's College, Winnipeg, and in due course was ordained, and at the present time has a church in the U.S.A.
The school was reopened at Grand Rapid, and the man employed was a thoroughly efficient teacher, holding English certificates, and he was also helpful with the church services.
I also started a new school at Cedar Lake Mission; the teacher was an Englishman and very enthusiastic in his work for a time, but he was not very efficient. By his dogged persistency in getting children to commit things to memory, they sometimes showed up well at a viva-voce examination, but when cross-questioned, the weakness of such a system came out, perhaps never more so than on one occasion when the Government Inspector was examining his school in my presence. The subject was the name, use, and respective values of the different metals. Now the reader must remember that the children under examination were Indian children, and the questions and answers were put and given in English, a language they knew very little about at that time; still the names of several of the metals had been committed to memory and their colours helped to impress upon their minds their use and relative values, so that when the examiner held up a tin kettle and asked the name of the metal, etc., having seen these in use in their own houses, they answered readily enough, and they were able to distinguish between tin, iron, copper, and brass, by their colours, as all these they had actually seen and handled, but when the Inspector took out his gold watch, and exhibited it before the school, and asked what it was made of, the children did not answer at once, as it seemed to them to differ somewhat in colour from any of the metals they had ever seen. Finally one little fellow, having by comparison come to a decision in his own mind what it most resembled, held up his hand, waiting for an invitation to speak. "Well done, my little lad," said the inspector, "now tell me what my watch is made of." "Brass," said the boy, "because it looks like the teacher's ring, and I heard somebody say it was brass." It is needless to say both the teacher and examiner were nonplussed for a time by the unexpected answer and comment.
The Moose Lake school was opened at the north end of the lake by an Englishman who worked for me for a time, and then returned to his friends in England, who were in fairly good circumstances. But he could not rest in the homeland, and returned again to Canada, and worked under me again. He too studied for Holy Orders, and in due course was ordained, and worked with me in the diocese, where he remained until his father's death, when he had to return to England to his aged mother, and at the present time he has a curacy in the Isle of Jersey. This made the seventh man who had been associated with me in the mission field as schoolteachers and who had entered the ranks of the ministry.
The school at the Big Eddy was reopened after having been closed for two years, and a little about the new teacher must be told. When I was at Prince Albert, where I had been called on business, the Bishop informed me that a young man had applied to him for work in his diocese, but as he had no testimonials from the Bishop of the diocese he had last worked in, he felt reluctant about engaging him, but knowing I was expected, he had kept him there awaiting my arrival.
In the meantime he had written his previous Bishop for his character. This the Bishop refused to give as he had left his diocese without giving notice, but he indicated in his letter that my Bishop was at liberty to employ him if he thought fit to do so, so the Bishop asked me if I could find work for another school teacher in my district. I said I could, then he said: "Have a talk with this man and tell me what you think of him, and if you care to give him a trial." The interview took place, and then I saw the Bishop. "Well," he said, "what do you think of him?" "He is rather eccentric," I said, "but otherwise I believe he is not far out of plumb." "That is exactly the impression he gave me," the Bishop said, "but do you care to take him along with you?" "Certainly I will," I replied, and so he came down the river with me and I gave him the Big Eddy school.
The Big Eddy is about four miles from the Pas proper, and is the western end of the same mission. The Pas is the only single mission in the diocese of Saskatchewan that can boast of two day schools. There was no mission house at the Big Eddy, so the new teacher lodged and boarded with me, and every morning and evening I had him ferried across the river, and he walked the four miles each day to and from his school, which was on the opposite side of the river to the Mission. This daily walk had the dual effect of creating an appetite and warding off dyspepsia.
I used to visit his school frequently in the winter months and drive him home in the evening. He did excellent work in his school; he not only got the children on well with their English, but he himself learnt the Cree rapidly. After he had been about fifteen months at the Eddy the Government inspector paid us a visit, and put up at my house. The first school he inspected was the home school, which at that time was not very satisfactory, for reasons which I have already stated. At the close of the day the Big Eddy school teacher returned to the Mission, and there appeared to be a slight recognition between himself and the inspector, but nothing was said to confirm the recognition. Tea over, we took a walk along the river bank, and the inspector asked me what I was doing with that man who took tea with us? I replied, "That is my teacher at the Big Eddy." "Where did you get him from?" he asked. I replied, "I first met him in Prince Albert and I understood he had worked for a time in the diocese of Qu'appelle." "Ah, I thought I recognised him," he said, "he is no good as a teacher, is he?" "Oh! yes," I replied, "he is doing exceedingly well as his work will show to-morrow." "Why," he said, "we refused to recognise his services in the diocese of Qu'appelle; whilst there he was worse than good for nothing. He was not only lazy, but disgracefully untidy in his own person, and the school children did not fail to copy his example, but certainly," he said, "he has improved in his personal appearance since I last saw him." He then explained to me how he had found him situated in his previous mission. It appeared he had lived at one end of the schoolroom, doing his own cooking, washing, etc., and as there were none but Indians living around him, he grew careless about his own appearance; as scores of other men have done living on their homesteads under like conditions. The inspector was the same as inspected the school at Sandy Lake and others in the west. On the morrow the Big Eddy school was examined and the children put through their facings, with the result that both teacher and children were highly eulogised by the Inspector. But just as we were leaving the school, he said to me aside, "This looks like an offshoot of the Sandy Lake school, and I think I recognise your hand in it." "Yes," I said, "I have certainly advised the teacher and arranged his time sheet, etc., but apart from that the work is his own." "Well," he said, "the change both in the man and his work since I last inspected his school is simply marvellous." "That comes," I said, "of taking a man by the hand when he is down and offering him a little help and brotherly advice." The man stayed with me a number of years and studied both for his deacon and priest's orders and passed in the latter examination "first class," so the Bishop wrote me, and he was given charge under my supervision of the Cedar Lake, Moose Lake, and Grand Rapids missions. This makes the eighth co-worker to enter the ministry.
If the custom of awarding prizes to the best conducted Indian schools had continued, undoubtedly this school would have received a prize, but the change of Government altered all this, for when the new Government came into office, for some reason unknown to the writer this stimulus was withdrawn from the Indian schools, and the only incentive for the teacher to do his work faithfully and efficiently was the hope of receiving a Government cheque for £15 for his quarter's work, about a month or six weeks after it was due! It could not have been for the sake of economy that this source of expenditure was discontinued, but to the uninitiated it seemed as if it might have been withheld from the school teacher to help pay the salaries of a class of new officials appointed from the ranks of political hangers-on; whose only qualification, in many cases, was their ability to create discordant notes, and do dirty deeds for their party at election time!
The next school I set myself to reopen was the Cumberland school, but I found strong opposition to progress of this character from the Government officials. They appeared to have been quite contented to witness the schools gradually closing down, but considerably perturbed at my wishing to reopen them, and more so in the case of starting a school where none had hitherto existed. But, in pressing my claims, I always fell back on the articles of treaty as the fulcrum on which to place the lever of my request, and to roll their objections out of the way. In due course the school was reopened, making six in my district.
My whole career in the mission field has been one continuous fight, it could not have been more so if I had been lineally descended from Ishmael, for it seems on looking back as though my hand was against every man's with whom I had to do, and every man's hand against mine. And yet, none of these grievances rose from troubles of my own, but from the troubles of those who served under me, and whose cause I was always ready to champion, when I felt they were being wrongly treated. Take for instance, our school teachers, their salaries were £15 a quarter from the Government, nothing was paid them in advance, and they could only apply to the Government for payment when they had taught three months, then at the end of three months they sent in their quarterly school returns in triplicate. In some of my districts, the Pas for instance, where we only had a monthly mail, it sometimes happened that the outgoing mail left a few days before the end of the quarter, and the forms had to remain for three or more weeks waiting the next outgoing mail. The same thing happened sometimes with the cheque when sent from Ottawa. It would reach Fort-a-la-Corne (the place where the Pas mail started from) a few days after the mail had left for the Pas, and the teacher's cheque had to remain there until the return of the next monthly mail, so that in any case the teacher would have completed four months service before he received any remuneration, and sometimes it would be five months. Now this having to work so long without any pay put the teachers at a disadvantage, viz., they had to pay higher for their goods in most cases than they would have done if they had been in a position to pay cash down or even pay at the end of each month. And again, if a teacher wished to leave his school at the end of a particular quarter, and he needed his money to take him out of the country, he had actually to wait from four to eight weeks for his salary which he required for immediate use. All this made it very hard for the teachers, and a knowledge of these facts militated against my work, as teachers were loath to engage under such conditions, and if they were not aware of the facts when they were engaged they became discontented when the facts were made known to them.
Before one can rightly appreciate the teachers' difficulties, it must be remembered, too, that in a new and sparsely settled country, the population is more or less of a migratory character, and school teachers have to be drawn largely from this class of people, and hence their friends are limited, and many of them have no homes or friends in the country where and with whom they can lodge and live. They are therefore thrown on their own resources and find it difficult to exist for four or five months without their earnings.
Now, I wanted my Bishop to apply to the Government for privileges that the Wesleyans already enjoyed, in a district bordering on mine, viz., that the whole of the teacher's salary should be paid in full through the church. This would not do away with Government inspection, and the Government would not be called upon to pay any money until the teacher had sent in his return, through the local agent, who would certify all was O.K. Then, instead of sending the cheque to the teacher to make it payable to the secretary of the diocese, and send it to him, and so reimburse his exchequer for the equivalent sum that had been paid to the said teacher, either in monthly instalments or punctually at the end of each quarter. But, no! either the Government was more in love with the Wesleyans than with the Episcopalian Church, or else my Bishop had not sufficient interest in the teachers, or influence with the Government to effect this change; and so it came to pass, that I personally had to fight the battles for my assistants with those in high positions, and this materially helped me in the future to shape my course for the upbuilding of my own district. Of course, I earned for myself the odious epithets of cantankerous, pugnacious, etc. But I never did mind fighting for a good cause; whether I succeeded or not, did not daunt me, as I had the satisfaction of knowing I had done what I considered my duty, and what I thought was for the best interest of those who looked to me for help and guidance.