I shall now close this little volume with a letter from, the Rev. R. Renison, who is labouring most devotedly among the poor Neepigon Indians. It is dated February, 1884, and it speaks for itself.
"On Monday, Feb. 12th, Oshkahpukeda and myself left Ningwinnenang to visit a family of pagan Indians about forty miles from this Mission. Our blankets, overcoats, provisions, and cooking utensils, made a pack of forty pound weight for each to carry; over lakes, through the dense bush, up steep hills which were sometimes almost insurmountable. It was one of the most beautiful winter mornings that I have ever yet experienced. The sun shone brightly, and it was just cold enough to render a brisk walk enjoyable. At 11 a.m. we reached a wigwam at the north end of McIntyre Bay, which was occupied by Mishael Obeseekun, their wives and children, who had left the Mission some time previous for the purpose of snaring rabbits, which at present is the chief support of the Indians. Here we received a hearty welcome; a large pot of rabbits was quickly cooked--we enjoyed them thoroughly; and all the little children declared that they were glad to see their Missionary. Mishael's wife having noticed that my moccasin was badly torn, took her needle and thread and had it fixed 'in less than no time.'
Before leaving I took the Indian New Testament and read the following verse:--'This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.' I find it a good plan, when reading to the Indians, to take one text at a time. They differ very much from the white people in this respect, as you may read it over and over twenty times and yet they will be glad to hear it again. The result of this plan is, that many of the Indians at our Mission have committed to memory several verses. I was much astonished as well as delighted a few days ago to find that Obeseekun could repeat accurately ten texts.
Well, at 2 p.m. we reached 'Kookookuhooseebee' (owl river). We followed this river for about half an hour, and then entered the bush. We walked till sun down, and then camped near the shore of Black Sturgeon Lake. We had a splendid fire, as there was plenty of dry pine close at hand. We ate heartily, but slept little, as the night was very cold. We had breakfast by moonlight, and then recommenced our journey.
Our route lay through the middle of the lake, which is about ten miles long. As we again entered the bush at its north end, to our great astonishment we met the very pagan Indian whom we were so anxious to see. He had a small tebaugan drawn by one dog--was on his way to the 'Neepigon Post' for pork and flour. His wife and children were very hungry, rabbits and fish this winter being so scarce that several of the Indians are obliged to abandon their usual hunting grounds.
'Kebuk,' for this is the pagan's name, was very glad to see us, a large fire was quickly made, snow melted, pork fried, and soon the Missionary, guide, and pagan were enjoying a hearty meal.
About two years ago, and upon two different occasions, I had visited this pagan family. I tried to preach Christ to them the Saviour of all men. I must confess that after twice travelling a distance of eighty miles through the dense bush, that I was a little discouraged and depressed in spirits to find that the invitation was refused, and full and free salvation through the precious blood of Jesus rejected.
And now for the third time the Missionary and pagan meet face to face. He knows full well the errand on which I have come. As we sat for a few minutes in silence around the blazing fire I prayed to my Father in secret to enlighten his understanding, and give him grace to receive the Gospel message and enter the fold of the Good Shepherd.
'Owh suh kadabwayandung kuhya kabaptizooind tahbemahjeah, owh duhyabwendusig tahnahneboomah.' ('He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned.') The once proud pagan now kneels in prayer; he receives Christ rejoicingly; accepts, this time, the Gospel invitation. 'Proceed on your journey,' said he, 'go to my wigwam, baptize all my children, and next spring, when navigation opens, I will go to the Mission and myself and wife will be baptized in the church at Ningwinnenang. This is my wish, I will build a house on the Mission ground and am very anxious that my children should be properly instructed.' After bidding us a friendly 'boozhoo,' he proceeded on his journey to the Neepigon Post, and we hastened toward the wigwam from which we were still ten miles distant.
At about 3 p.m. we reached Muskrat Lake, which is four miles long. On the opposite shore we saw the pagan's daughter fishing for pike with hook and line under the ice. When she first noticed us approaching, she quickly disappeared in the bush, entered the wigwam and apprized them of our coming.
When we arrived we found eight pagans, including two old women of 80 and 75 years old, one girl and four children. After many friendly 'boozhoos' and hearty expressions of welcome, the Missionary and guide seated on shingoob branches rested their wearied limbs beside a blazing fire, whilst the two old women smoking their pipes and preparing rabbits and pike for dinner, were heard to say 'pooch tah pukedawaug pooch tah-kadishkhusk-enawug' (they must be very hungry and must have a hearty meal). After dinner the Indian New Testament was introduced, the simple Gospel expounded and some of Christ's beautiful invitations read. I tried to prove to them from God's own Word that we all need a Saviour, for that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; that there is one way only by which we can be saved, namely, by entering the fold of the good Shepherd; that Jesus Christ himself is the door, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.'
It appears that nearly two months ago these nine pagans had unanimously agreed to become Christians and join our mission at Ningwinnenang. The seed sown two years ago was not sown in vain, the bread cast upon the waters is found after many days, God's word will not return to Him void. One of the old women, 80 years old, with only one eye, determines to return with the Missionary, a distance of 40 miles through the dense bush and over frozen lakes, to be instructed at the Mission and prepared for baptism. The young woman and four children were baptized. The rest of the family, namely an old man of 75, 'Kebuk,' and his wife will (D.V.) be baptized in the spring in our little church, and then we hope to have quite a nice congregation.
In conclusion, let me add that poor old Wesqua, who returned with us to the Mission, has not yet recovered from the fatigue of the journey, the last day's travelling in particular for her was very trying. We had to cross an arm of the lake about 15 miles in breadth, and the piercing north wind was too much for an old woman of 80, whose entire clothing consisted of an old canvass bag rent in two and rolled around her legs for leggings, her skirts of blue calico did not reach much below her knees, and a piece of old blanket thrown over her head and shoulders was all that she had to save her from the sharp wind which blows at intervals across the Neepigon Lake. When she arrived the blood had almost ceased to circulate, her hands were numb, and she was indeed in a pitiable condition. Half a teaspoonful of stimulant in a cup of warm water was all we had to give. She revived, and after a supper of bread and tea was soon herself again.
Let me ask some of my Christian friends to whom 'the lines have fallen in pleasant places' to remember the poor Indians at Neepigon. Cast off warm clothing even of an inferior quality, will be thankfully received and gratefully acknowledged; and we trust that those who cannot assist us from a pecuniary point of view will at least remember us in their prayers."