HAVING been away from the Mission for three months, I found a lot of work waiting for me, such as baptisms, marriages, etc., and also a good many sick people to visit. The Sunday services, however, had been regularly conducted in my absence by the licensed lay readers.
After spending two Sundays at the Pas, I visited the two Missions at Pas Mountain, Shoal Lake and Red Earth; and afterwards Cumberland, Birch River, and The Barrier.
It was now late in the autumn, and I remained at the Pas until winter travelling had become safe, and then I visited Moose Lake, Cedar Lake, and Grand Rapids Missions. I must confess that my visits to those Missions in winter were not all pleasure, for the reason that one could never feel sure of the ice to be travelled over. The water in Summerberry River would freeze to the thickness of one and a half feet before Christmas, and then, for reasons I cannot explain, the snow and the ice on the river for a distance of twelve or fifteen miles would vanish, and the water would be as free of ice for the rest of the winter as it is at midsummer, notwithstanding the thermometer would register from thirty to seventy degrees of frost during the months of January, February and March; and what made it still more mysterious is that the water in this particular river is very sluggish. At dozens of other places between the Pas, Moose Lake, Cedar Lake, and Grand Rapids the ice used to melt away from beneath and become very thin; there would be no signs of this wearing away on the surface, and hence the danger.
Very often Indians who were experts at travelling were deceived, and without any warning precipitated into the water, and several Indians were drowned in this way whilst I had charge of the district. On one occasion when visiting Grand Rapids with my train of dogs I very nearly came to grief. There were quite a party of us at the time, that is to say, there were three or four other sleighs besides my own. We camped the night with an Indian at a place called the Narrows, and we asked him the condition of the ice at the foot of Flying Post Rapid, a place which we had to pass, and we were told that it was quite safe; consequently in the morning when we started we did so without anticipating any danger. The river at this point is nearly a mile wide, and has the appearance of a lake; the actual channel is not very wide, but the current there is strong the whole of the year. We crossed this expanse safely, and saw no indications of the ice being weak, and we arrived at Grand Rapids about noon on Saturday, where we remained until Monday morning. On the Monday as we returned my team was first on the trail, and as I had a man with me and the weather was very cold, I left the management of the dogs to him, and I rode in my cariole. The other dog trains were following behind, and, as very often happens when no danger is anticipated, the men were all congregated together, and running behind the last sleigh. Finally we come to the foot of Flying Post Rapid, and as we had so recently passed no danger was feared, when suddenly the leading dog in my train fell through the ice and disappeared. As quick as thought I threw my weight on one side, thus upsetting the cariole, and caused it to stop instantly; had I not done this the impetus of the cariole would have pushed the whole of the dogs into the water, and, humanly speaking, I should have been deprived of this opportunity of relating my experiences. When the men behind saw what had happened they came along very gingerly, but as quickly as they felt it safe to do, and each man seized the tail line of his own sleigh and stopped his dogs, and my man, who was usually of a dark complexion, would this time have easily passed for a Saxon as he was white with fear. He caught the tail end of the line and pulled the cariole back, and in so doing the front dog was helped in extricating itself from the water. Then working his way up gradually until he was able to take hold of the traces of the hindmost dog, he pulled them all to him until he could reach the collar of the foremost dog; then, tying the lash of his whip around the dog's neck he began to retrace his steps leading the foregoer on to stronger ice. I was forbidden to get out of the sleigh, as my weight was spread about farther than if standing on my feet, and so less liable to break through. When we all got on to solid ice we looked back in the direction we knew the channel ran across this open space, and we could see the water showing in several different places--all this change had taken place in about forty-eight hours without any perceptible change in the atmosphere. One of the Indians with a rat spear in his hand now walked before the dogs, travelling parallel with the course of the channel, and every step he took he struck the ice with his spear two yards in front of him to make sure it was strong, and we travelled back for nearly half a mile before he found a place where the ice was strong enough to permit of us crossing to the other side. This is only one instance of many that could be told of similar narrow escapes, as well as others that proved fatal.
Now that I am writing of the dangers of winter travelling I will tell you of another experience in crossing Cedar Lake, though the event took place three years after the one referred to above.
After leaving the Cedar Lake Mission on our way again to Grand Rapids we called at the only Indian house at the left-hand side of the lake, and took breakfast. The owner of this shack--Which was not more than ten by twelve feet--was the only heathen in the district, and he particularly requested me to camp with him on my return, as he wanted to hear more about religion. Before leaving, he warned us not to approach the Narrows if it was at all dusk or dark, as several holes had been seen in different parts of the lake near the Narrows. We thanked him for his timely information, and resumed our journey. We had not gone far before a terrific wind storm came on, and the particles of frozen snow drove against our faces with such force that the sensation became quite painful to bear; the drift was such that the snow almost prevented us seeing the dogs in front of us. It often happens in a storm of this description that the sun can be seen shining brightly above the drifting snow, and it was so on this occasion, and the sun helped to keep us in our proper course. After travelling for a number of hours, we concluded we were not far from the danger spot. It was 4 p.m., so we decided to stop and wait for the sun to go down, hoping that at sunset the wind would cease, as is mostly the case with the west wind. We had no shelter, being out on the lake, but the wind was not cold, so I sat in my cariole and my man and dogs came and curled themselves up on the lee side of the sleigh. But instead of the wind getting less, at sunset it increased in violence, and blew quite a storm the whole night through, and we had to remain where we were, exposed to the full fury of the gale for sixteen hours without anything to eat or drink, and, of course, without any fire. About ten o'clock the next morning the wind suddenly dropped and the sun shone brightly, and right in front of us about half a mile away, we saw the Indian's house, where we received the information about the state of the ice below the Flying Post Rapid, mentioned above. We saw no open places in the ice, for these had been filled up by the drifting snow during the storm, but this increased the danger of the journey even by daylight, for the dogs might lead us over these spots covered only with snow which might be strong enough to bear them up, but would give way under the weight of our sleigh, and so precipitate us into the icy water, so we had to move cautiously. On our return journey I had two trains of dogs with me, having engaged a man and his dogs at Grand Rapids to take home some goods for me which had arrived there in the autumn after navigation on the Saskatchewan had closed.
The journey back was very trying both to men and dogs on account of the deep drifts we encountered, the result of the recent storm, and it was sunset before we arrived at the old Indian's house with whom we intended to camp, but our intentions were frustrated by what had happened in the meantime. The day before we returned, about a dozen men had arrived from another part of the Jake, and as there was only this one house on the island, they had taken possession of it, and literally crowded us out. As all these men were engaged in fishing for sturgeon, and the day's catch was being disembowelled inside the house, the stench was such that even my man, Indian though he was, could not stand it, and had to remain outside. The Indian apologised to me for what had happened during my absence, and expressed his sorrow for not being able to entertain me that night. There was no alternative for us but to travel on to Cedar Lake Mission, which was about twelve miles away. The snow was falling heavily, the night was very dark, and the wind was moaning in the tops of the trees, which foretold the approach of a storm. Not being sure of finding our way in the darkness, I asked the old man if I could engage his son to guide us to the mission. He readily agreed to our request, and the son, a man of over twenty years of age, was quite confident that he could take us straight to the mission in any kind of weather. By this time our other man had arrived, and we informed him we could not stay there as the place was full. "Full or not," he replied, "I cannot go any further as my dogs are played out," so I left him behind, at the same time telling him I should spend a day or two at Cedar Lake Mission, and he would have ample time to overtake us there, so he could follow on at his leisure. We started on with the Indian for our guide, the wind was not blowing more than fifteen miles an hour, but the snow fell heavily, which prevented us making very much headway. After wandering about in the dark for four hours--two hours longer than it ought to have taken us to reach the mission--our guide stopped in front of the dogs, and declared himself lost! He said he had never been so confused in his life before. Not a star was visible to guide us, and the darkness was such that it was difficult to see one's hand at arm's length. After discussing the probability of our whereabouts the man started on again, but he had not gone far when my driver called out to him that we were going back on our own trail. It was by accident that my man discovered this, for he stumbled on to a piece of stick that he had been using on the way to help his dogs along by pushing at the hind part of the sleigh, and the stick having broken was of no further use, so he left it on the trail. This led to another discussion as to what we had better do. I suggested a plan which, to say the least, was not safe to follow. It was this. "When we started," I said, "the wind was blowing fair on our left cheek, and I do not think it has changed since we started, as I have not noticed any abatement in its force," and I asked if they had, and they both said the wind was about the same as it had been all the way. "Then," I said, "in that case, land should not be far from us on the right side; turn your back to the wind, and travel in that direction for a while, and let us see what will be the result." The guide did so, and in fifteen minutes we could see the tall spruce trees looming through the darkness like a precipice in front of us. The snow being deep close to the shore, my driver said: "We had better leave the dogs where they are, and I and the other man will go and kindle a fire in the woods, and we will have a cup of tea and something to eat"--for it was then about midnight. Whilst they were occupied in making a fire, I busied myself looking among the stuff at both ends of my cariole for the tea, food, etc., but without success. Finally my man returned to the sleigh to see why I was so long, and when I informed him that I could not find either tea or provisions; "Why, of course not!" he exclaimed, "William"--meaning the other man--"had all our food and cooking utensils on his sleigh," and when we left him behind we forgot to take anything from him, and so, hungry as we were, we had no food to eat; but we sat around the fire for a time and warmed ourselves, and ate a little of the melting snow we picked up near the fire, and then we started on our journey again. The sky by this time had become clear and we were able to recognise our position, and we travelled on in doubt no longer. But with the passing of the clouds the wind became much colder, and we all suffered intensely.
We arrived at the Mission about 2 a.m., and the inmates got up and wanted to cook us some food, but we were too weary to eat, all we desired was warmth, and as we grew warm we became heavy with sleep, and rolling ourselves up in our blankets on the floor we became dead to the world around us; but at breakfast, six hours later, some one exclaimed: "I do not mind if you cook me another rasher of bacon," and that voice only echoed the sentiments of the rest! I could tell of similar experiences innumerable which happened to me on my journeys both by land and water in the execution of my work, but the reader must be satisfied with these few samples.
The following spring, as soon as it was open water, I visited all my out-stations with my canoe, so that I might feel at liberty to fetch my launch as soon as the freshets from the Rocky Mountains had reached our district; for be it remembered that the country bordering on the Saskatchewan River from the foot of the Rocky Mountains to Lake Winnipeg is flat, and the soil porous, and local rains be they frequent and heavy do not materially affect the stage of water in the large rivers. This depends upon the heat waves in the Rocky Mountains, which melt both the snow in the gorges and the ice on the glaciers, and bring down floods of water to the rivers and valleys below.
The freshets caused by the first heat waves towards the end of May do not affect the stage of water on the rapids on the other side of Cedar Lake until the end of June or the beginning of July, for between Cedar Lake and the Rocky Mountains there intervenes a river bed 1,200 miles in length, and varying from a quarter to half a mile in width, and besides this, there are large lakes to be filled, and thousands of square miles of marshlands to be inundated before any change is observable in the lower regions of the Saskatchewan.
I left with three of the Pas Indians about the aoth June to fetch home my launch, and on arriving at Grand Rapids I engaged other Indians to help in launching the boat into the waters of the Saskatchewan. We had some thrilling experiences in bringing the boat over the rapids. The Red Rock and Halload Rapids which were a terror to all steamboat men, had to be encountered and passed, an undertaking both friends and foes had predicted I should fail in. The builder of the boat assured me that my launch was capable of ascending any rapids I had described to him if I would "put her to it"--so I made up my mind her powers should be put to the test. Unfortunately the stage of the water on these and other rapids we had to ascend was such that I could not run my engine as hard as I would have liked to have done, for fear of striking the rocks at the bottom and breaking the propeller; and so we had to depend largely on the strength of men who were treking from the shore. I stood there, however, with my hand on the throttle valve, and whenever the man at the wheel signalled "full steam ahead" I opened out, and it was interesting to see the actions of the men on the line, and to notice the expression on their faces when I did so. Ordinarily they were creeping along on their hands and knees straining with all their might and main, catching hold of boulders so as not to lose an inch they had made; but the opening out of the throttle infused such a lively interest into the propeller that the men pitched forward as if the line had broken, and then when they realised that the line was not broken, but the boat was gaining on them, they would give expression to their joyous feelings by a vociferous yell, and start running so as to keep the line straight and prevent it getting entangled among the rocks.
It would require many pages to write a full description of our journey home, but suffice it to say we took our boat home safely and she did excellent work in the Mission for eleven years, and required no repairs other than those that I could do myself!
I not only used the boat on my missionary journeys, which enabled me to visit the out-stations more frequently than I could have done otherwise, but by making quicker time on the way, I was able to stay longer at the Missions when I got there. And not only this, but when missionaries and their families had to be moved from one station to another it was the Mission launch that did the work, and when the Bishop paid my district his periodical visits for Confirmation, etc., he was taken through the district in the launch, which saved both time and expense. When I began my building operations it was the same boat that towed the barges of lumber from Prince Albert to the different stations in my district; in fact, the steamboat proved not only a safer mode of traveling than a canoe, but more expeditious, and preferable in every way. But it made a lot more work for me, for when on a journey I was my own engineer and did all the lubricating as well as operating the injector, and when travelling we very rarely worked less than sixteen hours a day; sometimes when men were scarce, I only took one man with me to steer the boat, and I did the stoking myself.
As I have not yet mentioned the name of the boat, perhaps the reader will be wondering if I had forgotten to give it a name. I had not forgotten to give the boat a name, though I had almost forgotten to mention it. It will be remembered the part my seven-year-old daughter took in raising most of the funds for the purchase of the boat, and I thought I could not do better than name the boat after her, and so I called it Henrietta, and the name was inscribed on the bow of the boat in letters of light blue on a black ground embellished in gold. This was done by the builders of the boat in Toronto, and the colours were their own choice, so I suppose they were correct. When I wrote to my daughter who was at school in England, telling her that the boat had reached the Mission safely, and also what I had called it, she wrote back saying she hoped it would prove worthy of its name!
I have stated that I found the district greatly in need of churches, schools, etc., and so I set myself the task of improving the existing state of things.
I have also stated that the old Mission house at the Pas had been replaced by a semi-new one; that is, as many of the boards and doors from the old house were used in erecting the new one as were considered fit for use. But so far, nothing had been done in the way of church or school building. As regards the schools, the Government preferred to hire Indian houses for school purposes, but these were not satisfactory, as they were void of suitable internal arrangements, in fact the lack of interest in the education of the Indian children by the local agents of the Government will be understood when I state that all they had to do was to forward requisitions from the teachers to the department for supplies to have them granted, and yet in most of the schools in my district there was not a piece of slate large enough to contain an addition sum of medium proportion, and the pencils were not more than an inch long, and when new pencils were sent, they were not sufficient to serve out one to each of the children and the teachers had to break them in halves to multiply their number. Books likewise were sadly lacking and very much torn, so much so that the same lessons could scarcely be found intact in any two books in the school; therefore under conditions of this kind, it was wrong to expect advancement in the schools, and it was also wrong to blame the teachers for lack of same.
Things of this nature went on for a time, the Church did not see its way to help in building schools as it held the Government under the articles of treaty were bound to build them. But this was a disputed question, as nothing was definitely said about the school building in the said articles. All that was definitely stated was that the Government would pay the teacher's salary when the Indians desired to have their children taught, provided the number justified a school being opened, but the officials of the Church argued that before the teacher was appointed it was necessary to have a suitable building erected for school purposes, and as the Indians were wards of the Government, and as the Government had assumed the responsibility of educating the Indian children, it was incumbent upon it to provide the necessary buildings. The local agents of the department, who acted as spokesmen for the Government, maintained that so long as the Church claimed the right to nominate the teachers and used the buildings for Church purposes the schools ought to be erected at the expense of the Church. This was an extraordinary comparison for the simple reason that the Church did not profit financially by the transfer of the country by the Indians to the Government, but the Government did, the latter realising thousands of dollars yearly from the sale of land which was once owned and occupied by the Indians, as well as from fish and timber permits, etc., but the Church received no advantage from this transaction other than is meted out to every settler, viz., the right to homestead their missions. The officials might just as well argue that every homesteader was under an obligation to build schools for the Indians!
As to the matter of nominating the teachers, this came from the Government itself, and the course adopted saved the Government a great deal of trouble and anxiety. The missionaries were in the field before the Government in most cases, and as far as the Church of England was concerned suitable buildings had been erected at the principal stations for school purposes, and it was considered only right by the Government that the Churches should have the right to nominate such teachers as would work in harmony with the Church that had assumed charge of the Indian work in any particular mission. The department saw no danger in pursuing this policy, as the schools were subject to Government inspection, and any inefficiency in the school and delinquency on the part of the teacher was noted by the inspector, who communicated the same to the Government at Ottawa, and the department acting on the report of its agent would notify the missionary in charge that such and such a school in his district was not up to the standard of efficiency required by the Government, and would he do his best to bring about the necessary improvement before the next annual visit of the inspector, because if there was no improvement in the next year's report, the Government would have to ask the missionary to find a more competent teacher; thus admitting the right to nominate was conceded to the Church by the Government.
I, personally, have received several letters of this character regarding some of the teachers and schools in the outlying parts of my district. This system of nomination by the Church saved the Government officials a lot of trouble, and it not only gave a lot of extra work to the missionary, but it was very often the means of creating an unkind feeling between the teacher and the missionary which was brought about in this way. The inspector would say nothing to the teacher at the time he inspected the school one way or the other, and when he left, the teacher would be under the impression that everything was satisfactory, and the department acting on this report of the inspector, did not make their complaints to the teacher but to the missionary, and he was the one who had to convey the complaint to the teacher, and very often the teachers found it hard to realise that the complaint emanated from the Government, as the inspector appeared to be satisfied on the day of examination, and it was not until I showed the letter from the Government that they were convinced that the complaint I had made was not the result of my own ambition for greater progress, etc., in the schools.
As to the Church using the schoolroom for Sunday services, the leading officials of the department regarded the Christian teaching given on Sundays as part of the machinery for the uplifting of the Indian race, and no objection to the use of the school for such a purpose ever reached me from head-quarters, even in after years when the Government had assumed the responsibility of erecting schools. This conciliatory act on the part of the Government proved quite a saving to the Churches, as for years in a small mission no other building was necessary for the services. It was the underlings whom I have called local officials who were responsible for many of the misunderstandings.
But the erection of churches was another matter, and no one was responsible for this work but the Church, and as the Indians were too poor to erect their own places of worship, and the diocese had not the funds to do so even if the will existed, I decided to ask the C.M.S. to allow me to pay a visit to England to try and raise the necessary money to build a new Church at the Pas, as the old one was considered unsafe--the logs being in an advanced state of decay as the picture will show.
As it was twelve years since I last visited the homeland, the Society gladly invited me to come, and a few months after my arrival I was placed on the deputation staff, and this gave me a good opportunity for meeting and making many friends.
The organizing secretary for deputation work at the beginning of every month presented me with a list of the places I was expected to preach or lecture at during the month. The advantage of this was, I knew beforehand my appointments, and so had the opportunity of arranging meetings of my own in between; that is when the proceeds would be given to my Church Building Fund. I opened two funds, one was called the Church Building Fund, and the other was called the Catechist's Fund, and I appointed the Missionary Leaves Association my receivers, and any sums that were given to me direct I used to pass on to the M.L.A. I ought to say here that six months before I left the Pas, the Indian women made a quantity of articles for sale, some of these were made from the bark of the birch tree, and were ornamented with porcupine quills. They also made slippers, and bags, and a variety of other articles from the leather they had made from the skins of the moose and deer, and these were ornamented with beads, silk work and ermine skin. These were given to me to sell in England, to help raise the funds necessary to build their new Church. (Before I left the Pas the men promised as their gift to supply all the stone required for the foundation, and all the sand necessary for the mortar both for the stone work and also for plastering the Church inside.) Other friends in England contributed such articles as are usually sold at Church bazaars, and when everything was ready bills were printed and sent out telling of the place, date, etc., where and when the sale would take place. The result was most satisfactory, and the Indian work sold especially well. I also had the Society's permission to speak of the needs of my district (which by the way sounded like a diocese to an English audience, the size was so enormous) and accept any gifts that might be offered to me either at the meeting I was taking for the Society, or sent to me afterwards by people who had been interested in my work during the meeting.
I remember on one occasion when speaking at an anniversary meeting at Plymouth, I received in cash and promises, which were all realised, no less a sum than £72 before I left the platform, and on several occasions I received gifts of £40 from individual people who had realised the call as from God, to help me in my work! Of course it meant a lot of hard work for me, but the practical sympathy of God's people acted like a powerful tonic and nerved and strengthened me for the work I had set myself to do.
On one occasion when doing deputation work for the Society in the Wigton deanery, and having finished my work there, I returned to London via Carlisle late in the afternoon. I was suffering from the effects of a heavy cold and my throat shewed signs of weakness, but as I had booked myself for a meeting the same night at St. Albans, I took train at once for that ancient city. I never felt less fit for speaking and I told the people so, but laboured and imperfect as my appeal was, the Holy Spirit applied the message and one lady in the hall promised me £40 and other ladies present pledged themselves to make up another £40, and so £80 was the cash result of that feeble effort. But friends who sympathised with me when present did not forget me and my work, when I was back again in the field, but constantly by their prayers, and frequently by their contributions, continued to cheer us in our lonely and laborious sphere of work.
I was once speaking at a missionary exhibition in Bedford, and I noticed a lady dressed in black standing near by who seemed interested, and when I descended from my rostrum, she came to me and said: "What I have heard has made me long to hear more," and she asked me if I could go on one side for a time and tell her and her friend more of my work. I did so, and when she left she said, "You will hear from me again soon," and I did so, and I continued to hear from her annually. The letter I was led to anticipate soon contained a cheque for £50, and for several years after this lady sent me the same amount until I wrote and told her that my work was in such a condition that I had no further need of her contributions. The donations I received from this lady alone enabled me to open a new mission, build a little Church and practically support a teacher for the children, and this mission up to the time I left in 1902 cost neither the C.M.S. nor the diocese a single cent. But here again I am premature in my statements.
Having received not only sufficient funds to build a new Church at the Pas, but also two others that were needed in the district, I longed to return to my people and my work and to set about spending the money I had received during my stay in England.
I wrote in advance to a builder of "flat boats" living in Prince Albert to make me two such boats and have them ready by a certain date. The advantage of these boats is, their bottoms, ends, and sides are square, and so no material is wasted in building them, and having served the purpose of a boat, they can be taken to pieces and the material dried and used on the building. (These flat end barges are only made for going down stream.) On my arrival I ordered the necessary materials for the Pas Church, as well as my year's supply of food, groceries, etc., and I also engaged two first-class carpenters and a plasterer who could also do stone work.
When we began to load our barges it soon became apparent that another barge would have to be built in order to take down the material necessary for the Church. Finally all was ready and a start was made, and photographers were out on the river bank taking pictures of us as the three barges floated past the town.
The water from the Rocky Mountains had not yet. reached Prince Albert, consequently we had a very tedious journey. Just before we reached Cumberland Lake I cautioned the men not to attempt to cross it if it was at all rough, and then I went on ahead in a canoe to visit the mission so as not to delay the boats when they arrived; for, be it understood, the carpenters' wages were i6s. a day each, and their time began the day we left Prince Albert and would not end until they returned to the same town.
I left the party about noon, and about five in the afternoon a big storm came on and the lake became white with the fury of the gale, but as the barges were not in sight we concluded that the storm had come on before the men had started to cross the lake and they were therefore safe on the other side. Just after dark an Indian came and informed us that he had heard shots fired in the lake and I felt sure our barges were in distress. The H.B. Company lent me one of their inland boats and we soon got a crew together of six or seven men and started to cruise the lake. Soon we heard shots fired which helped to guide us in the darkness, and following the direction from which the sound came, we soon came within speaking distance of each other. No lives had been lost was the first message we received but the barges were water-logged and not only was all the building material absolutely soaked, but most of my year's supply of food was either under the water or floating about on the surface. We pulled alongside the barge which carried my provisions and took off the most perishable things such as tea, sugar and sundry other articles of a like perishable nature, also a few sacks of flour that appeared to be drier than the rest, and having put these into the Company's boat as the storm was now past, I took the exhausted crew from the barges and we pulled for the shore, leaving the fresh men to follow after with the barges. The next day we spent at Cumberland bailing the water out of the barges and stopping the leakages by rubbing hard fat into the crevices. Most of my groceries were spoiled; among these were about fifty pounds of fancy biscuits for use on special occasions during the year; when I opened the boxes I found them in a flat saturated mass at the bottom and fit for nothing.
On our fifteenth day from Prince Albert we arrived at the Pas, just nine days longer than we should have taken under ordinary circumstances. The boats in the meantime had started leaking again and the boards, etc., were just as soaked as it was possible for them to be. The white men I had with me could not see how I was going to get the lumber out of the barges, but not having seen the Pas Indians work under such conditions, the doubts they expressed were excusable.
When our boats came in sight at the Pas Mission, the men, women and children flocked to the water's edge to greet us, and as soon as the shaking of hands was over and the Indians told what had to be done, about seventy-five men set to work and waded through water and mud and carried all the boards ashore and piled them up in such a way as the carpenters indicated. As the Indians laboured under their heavy loads the water ran off the boards and down their backs until not a dry thread remained on them, and all the time this was going on no murmuring voice was heard, but all laughed and chaffed each other as they passed to and from the boat on each other's bedrabbled appearance. In three hours all the material was ashore and piled up to dry close to the spot where the Church was to be built. On my way home from England, I called at Hamilton, and a friend introduced me to one of his churchwardens, who was a partner in a tobacco manufacturing company, and he gave me twenty-five pounds of tobacco as a contribution towards my Church building fund. This tobacco was in 4-02. "plugs," so the work being over, I opened the case and gave one plug each to the men who had unloaded the barges, and as remuneration of any kind was not expected, they were very grateful for the tobacco, as the Indian is very fond of his pipe.
The next day the leading Roman Catholic in the place took the barges to pieces, and the material with winch they were built was also piled up to dry; the nails had been abstracted and straightened ready for use, and practically all the material that had been used in building the barges was now ready for fresh service.
In speaking with the carpenters after supper about the work the Indians had done so cheerfully and without pay, they said it would be difficult to find a gang of white men to undertake such work at a high wage, and if any did take it, they would be grumbling and cursing all the time about having to carry such wet loads up to their knees in mud and water!
The material once in the field, the weather turned in our favour, the wood dried rapidly and the work went on apace. The old Church was demolished and the new one was erected in its place, but not on the same spot. The old Mission house at the Pas as well as the old Church contained a fair amount of carved work about them. This is reported to have been done by the men who went out under the leadership of Sir John Richardson, who had charge of the first party who went overland in search of Sir John Franklin, 1848-49. It is stated that the party arrived at the Pas too late in the year to proceed to the north, and so Sir John Richardson made arrangements with the missionary at the Pas to this effect, viz., that if the missionary could arrange to keep half the party through the winter free of charge, the men, being artisans, should give their labour free at the Mission. This the missionary agreed to do, and the men made most of the chairs and tables which were still in use at the Mission when I took charge. The ends of the pews in the Church were also carved by the same party, as well as the ornamental work on the old pulpit and font. The seats, pulpit and font (being in a good state of preservation when the new Church was built) we removed to their respective places in the new Church, and they are doing duty in it to-day.
The other half of the party wintered with the H.B. Company at Cumberland, and before Sir John returned to England he took observation both at Cumberland and the Pas, and when he reached England, he had two sundials made to suit the latitude and longitude of the two places, and had them sent out, one to the Pas Mission, and the other to the Company's post at Cumberland as a memento of his visits and in gratitude for the kindnesses received. The dial at the Pas I should say is the better of the two, anyway the disc is three inches the broader of the two.
Having completed the new Church we named it after the old one, which was called Christ Church. The people and all concerned were grateful for the help received from Christian friends in England, who had so materially helped them to build it, or as some of the people put it, "from those whom they had never seen and who had never seen them!" This Church, which is 72 feet in length, is if anything too small on special occasions, as will be readily conceived by the reader when he is informed that on special days from 170 to 190 of the congregation would communicate and 90 per cent, of these would be Indians.
Having completed the Pas Church, the next work I set myself to do was to get the schools in a better shape, and I asked the Government, through its agent, if it could not afford to build schools in the outlying districts would it rent them from me if I undertook to build them? Having received his assurance that the department would rather pay a rent than take the responsibility of erecting buildings in such out-of-the way places, where everything had to be imported, and where it seemed doubtful if white mechanics would care to go to work, he gave me his guarantee that if I erected suitable buildings the Government would pay me an annual rent, and he placed the figure at £12 per annum for each building, but after the first year it was reduced to £8 per annum. So with the aid of the Henrietta I hauled certain material from Prince Albert to the Pas, and then up the Carrot River one hundred miles to the Pas Mountain Missions, and built first at Shoal Lake and afterwards at Red Earth. I had influenced the Indians living at the latter place, who it will be remembered were heathen, to accept Christian teaching and have their children taught.
Before passing from the district of which I am now writing I might say that before I left the district in 1902 the majority of the Indians at Red Earth had embraced Christianity, and one of the leading Indians of this particular band had become an honorary lay reader, holding the Bishop's licence, and preached to his own people every Sunday! From a copy of the Saskatchewan diocesan magazine, April, 1914, which is lying before me, I see his name is still mentioned among the list of honorary lay readers doing active service.
I might also add that this Mission (Red Earth) which I began soon after taking charge of the Pas district, was regularly visited from the Pas in the summer, and from Cumberland in winter; a school was built, a teacher appointed, who, in addition to his day-school work rendered valuable assistance as a catechist and worked shoulder to shoulder with the Indian lay reader.
All this work was begun and carried on without any extra financial assistance from the diocese or the Church at home, and I believe the diocese at the present time (twelve years after I left the district) is still drawing an annual rent for this and other similar buildings I erected in the district from funds I raised whilst I was in England.
The following picture gives an interesting scene at the Pas Mountain Missions--it shows "Old Yellow Bear" burning his idols, etc., outside the little school chapel at Shoal Lake, and while this was being done, the congregation (only a small part of which is shown in the picture) stood and sang the well-known hymn by W. O. Gushing, "Ring the bells of Heaven" in the Cree language.
Here is an account of the event given at the time through the C.M.S. Gleaner, December 1st, 1899:
"The place of which I now write is Shoal Lake, one of the many out-stations belonging to Devon, and is situated about ninety miles from Devon, at the foot of Pas Mountain.
"In one of the photographs you will notice an old Indian in the act of stooping.
"The old man is named Oosawusk (Yellow Bear). He is about eighty years of age, and was baptised fifty years ago by Mr. Hunter, the first ordained missionary who resided in this district.
"Although admitted into the visible Church by baptism, he seems never to have led a Christian life, but practised all the rites and ceremonies of the heathen. When the majority of the Indians of this band had embraced Christianity, he travelled about visiting other bands, where his services would be more appreciated. He was, until quite lately, known as the leading medicine-man and greatest sorcerer for many miles round.
"During the past two years I have had several earnest conversations with him, and he promised time after time to give up his heathen ways, and return with full purpose of heart to the Lord, but, alas! he failed to carry out his good intentions.
"Last autumn his wife died, a sincere Christian woman, and this made a very great impression upon him, which resulted in his making another promise of reform.
"On my way to the mountain in the spring I met him paddling his canoe alone, about twelve miles from the Mission. He was going to hunt rats, 'musquash.' As soon as he recognised me he paddled to the shore, and we did the same.
"After the usual greetings, he said, 'My grandchild, I have been longing to see you ever since we last parted. I must return with you to the Mission, as I must spend Sunday with you there, that the people may bear testimony to my constancy during the past winter.'
"I spent three days at the mountain, and heard from many, the catechist being one of those who said that the old man was thoroughly changed, that he never went near the heathen now, but associated only with the Christians, and was most regular and devout in church on Sundays.
"He wished very much to be received back again into the Church, and to partake of the Lord's Supper. I told him that nothing would give me more pleasure than to do as he requested, if I were sure he was seeking help from God to be faithful to his profession in the future. I reminded him of his former promises and the great hopes he had given me of his thorough reform, and how these had all been so many times dashed to the ground. I further asked him if he were really giving up everything that pertained to heathenism, because I had my doubts about it, and I felt sure that this was one of the causes of his former weakness.
"He admitted that he had still in his possession the rattle charm, some bad 'medicine,' and one or two other things.
"I then informed him that these must be given up, and I gave him the choice of either burning them or burying them.
"The poor old man's decision, and the remarks he made, convinced me more than all I heard before that he was determined, God helping him, to have done with Satan and his devices.
"'Noosesim' (my grandchild), he said, 'I am prepared to sacrifice all I have, and I am thankful (Ke&he ke-se-kowe ko tawe-now). Our heavenly Father has given me another opportunity of returning to Him; but knowing as I do my own weakness, and the power of the bad spirit, I dare not bury them, lest in an unguarded moment I might be tempted to recover them. No, Noosesim, I will not bury them; I will kindle a fire with my own hands, and cast the relics of my heathen days into it myself, and so once and for ever put the temptation out of the way.'
"Near the church door in the picture you see the old man in the act of burning what once he prized.
"The old man standing just behind him is handing the relics to him to be cast in the fire one at a time.
"In a similar picture all are engaged in singing 'Ring the bells of Heaven,' whilst the fire is consuming the old man's charms.
"The poor old fellow joined in singing the hymn as best he could, but his emotions would get the better of him, and he lost control of his voice. We finished the hymn with the old man leaning upon my shoulder weeping, and catching at a word or two of the hymn when he could control his feelings. The day when this took place was May 2ist, Whit-Sunday.
"After what had taken place, I received him back again into the Church, and admitted him to Communion. At the first 'rail' the old man knelt with his daughter, three married sons, and two grandsons, to feast at the Lord's table.
"The services of the day being over, we met in the evening for a talk on spiritual things, old Oosawusk being the chief speaker. He took up his parable and said:
"'You have all seen a little bird's nest; how nicely it is made, and how clean it is inside. Thus the care of the mother is shown for her young. Then you have seen the eggs, and finally the little birds. These little birds, when first hatched, lie motionless in the nest; they seem almost lifeless, as well as almost bare. By and by they gather strength, and their feathers take shape, and they are able to stand up in their nest and flap their wings. Then in due course their little wings are covered with beautiful feathers, some silver coloured and some gold, and they look very pretty. But why are these beautiful wings given to the little birds? Is it that they may lie still in their nest and adorn their own little home? No; they are given to them for a purpose, and that purpose is to enable them to fly about, and become useful in many ways. This is my parable.
"'Now to-day I am like those little helpless birds lying bare and motionless in their nest. My soul is like the nest. My heavenly Father made it for me, and it is therefore very good, and in His sight very valuable, otherwise He would have cast me away as unprofitable long ago (Che kd-ma mistake ne pamu-chatisin), because I have been very bad. Now He has given me His Holy Spirit to dwell in my soul; at present it is only weak in me like the very little birds I have spoken about, but by and by, perhaps soon, it will grow strong in me, and I shall be able to go about and be of use. I desire to bear witness to the truth in those places where I have in days gone by joined in heathen ceremonies, and let my new life shine like the beautiful feathers on the little birds' wings.' (Yellow Bear has since died--a faithful Christian.)
"The little Church shown in the picture is one of six I have built since my return to the Mission three years ago. The one at Shoal Lake is one of the smallest, as it is only a small station in the heart of a pine forest."
The picture of Yellow Bear was taken by my daughter at the Pas, where he had come on a visit shortly after his baptism.
The next picture shows the Bishop of Calgary (who at that time was Bishop of Saskatchewan) in the act of speaking a few kind and sympathetic words to some heathen Indians, who, after having joined us in the service of dedicating the Christian burial ground, had returned to their own, to think and weep over the graves of their departed. I always found Bishop Pinkham most interested in our Indian work, and most sympathetic and kindly disposed towards the Indians. At our diocesan synods, he seemed never so happy as when he had our Indian chiefs around him.