Chapter VIII. Missionary Work in Patagonia
WHILE the station on Keppel Island was being formed, with, a view to sustained missionary effort among the islands of Tierra del Fuego, voyages were also made to the coast of Patagonia every year. The wandering habits of the Patagonian tribes, however, rendered visits to their coast very unsatisfactory. Plans were suggested for forming a station on the Rio Negro, and for acting from that station as a basis; but, as it was clear that means were not at the time forthcoming for carrying this out, Mr Schmid volunteered to go alone, and travel with some one of the Patagonian tribes, hoping that in this way something might be done [towards acquiring the Patagonian language, or at least that a beginning of friendly communications might be made.
With this end in view, Mr Despard and Mr Schmid, in the Allen Gardiner, visited the Chilian settlement of Sandy Point, in March 1859. On their arrival, leave was obtained from the Chilian governor for Mr Schmid to reside there till an opportunity should present itself for carrying out the plan which he had made. He accordingly remained there, receiving much kindness from every one, till the Indians came on a trading visit. Mr Schmid's account of the result of his interview with them is as follows:--
"The chief and other Indians declaring themselves willing and glad to let me go with them, I promised the chief that if he would protect my person and property, supply me with sufficient food, and otherwise treat me well, I should pay him, on the return of the Allen Gardiner, one barrel of bread, one of flour, half a barrel of sugar, and tobacco; and that the vessel would bring presents to all the Indians. I wrote out the contract, read it to the Indians, and then delivered it to the governor, according to his request.
"It was Saturday, April 23, the sun shone brightly after two days' heavy rain, when I bade farewell to my friends, who had shown me so much kindness during my stay here, and then to the governor, who took much trouble to insure my safety and welfare during my wanderings with these Indians. This done, I left the colony, riding between my new companions, and talking to those who knew a little Spanish. Trusting in the omnipresence of Him whom the heavens cannot contain, I went on. Little, however, did I think I should have to travel such a distance that day, and several hours of the night. From the colony, our road was along the beach, at the edge of the wood, and a horrible road it was; trunks of trees lay in the way, and it was necessary to go over large slippery stones. So we went on till we came towards Laredo Bay, then through swamps and water for many miles. When I was standing before the tent which was now my shelter, many Indians were sitting or standing round the tire, ready to look upon the unexpected stranger that had so suddenly come to them. When they had satisfied their curiosity they dispersed each to his tent. Weary, I laid myself down, but I rose refreshed, having slept well.
"The chief, Ascaik, with whom I live, has a son about twenty-four years old, called Gemoki; it is with him that I go when we move from place to place, but when we are in the encampment I live in Ascaik's tent. He calls me his son, and his children call me their brother.
"During the first three months our encampments were in the neighbourhood of Gregory Range, because in winter the guanacoes frequent that place, and we should most likely have remained there all the winter, had it not been for the intelligence that was brought to Ascaik, that many ostriches were seen about the east end of Gregory Range; so next day we left to travel northward. We wandered several successive days, until we arrived off the entrance to the straits, where the Indians found a wreck, a fine barque of iron, called the Anne Baker, of Liverpool. It was already late and dark when Gemoki and I came to our new encampment, which was about half a mile from where the wreck was. Most of the Indians had arrived, had gone to the wreck, found wine, and were terribly intoxicated. It was a terrible night; few of the Indians went to bed. It was said that two men were killed, and others wounded, in drunken brawls. Travelling northward again, we met two chiefs, Kaili and Watchi, with some other Indians coming from the neighbourhood of Rio Negro. Casimiro arrived a few days after. [This man had said that he would welcome a teacher for his people.] The Indians prepared themselves to give him a distinguished reception. They saddled their best and finest horses, and arrayed themselves in their gayest dresses, and those who had lances set them up; others armed themselves with muskets or fowling-pieces, which they fired when they met Casimiro. As soon as Casimiro saw me he called me, and invited me to his house, where he entertained me with guanaco meat, which he cooked and prepared with his own hands. He showed me two papers which the captains of two men-of-war had given him, one in English by Captain Rowan, and the other in French by Captain Gros. Both speak well of him, and recommend him to other captains for his dealing honestly in the sale of guanaco flesh. Owing to his knowledge of Spanish, and his visits to Chili, he is a man of some influence with these Patagonians, but he is not considered a chief, although he is inclined to give himself out as one. Kaili and Watchi are chiefs, acknowledged as such, like Ascaik, and related to him. These men told us that many of their children had died on the way, which news made the encampment a scene of lamentations among the women.
"Next day we were again on the move towards the wreck, where, after six days walking, we arrived. Then scenes of drunkenness were again renewed till we left the place.
"You will, no doubt, he anxious to know what progress I have made in the acquisition of the Patagonian language. I have progressed so far that I can ask many little things and speak a little, hut to converse is not in my power yet. I am obliged to learn by listening to others, for those who speak Spanish know it so imperfectly that they do not understand what I ask. There is one man who is very ready to tell me the Indian for Spanish if he knows it, and understands the latter, but I cannot persuade him to teach me every day. If I wish to know the name of a thing or action, I ask those who do not know Spanish at all by saying, Kete ama win? what do you call this?
"In regard to religion, their minds and understandings are dark. God, the living God, and Maker of all things, is not known to them. Nor do they worship any other object, or acknowledge a Supreme Being. Their lamentations over the dead are generally very affecting, and their demonstration!-: of grief so loud that they can be heard at a distance."
Mr Schmid gives the following anecdote of Ascaik:--
"On one occasion some seamen belonging to the Chilian colony were returning home from a wreck. They were without food for some time, and their way to the colony was yet a long one. Ascaik, as soon as he heard of their being in the neighbourhood, brought the case before me. He proposed that two or three should go with him, each with a spare horse, on which to bring the sailors over. Accordingly, Ascaik, Kaili, and two other men went, and in the meantime some of the women made up the fires, and set about preparing a pot of rice, with which to regale their expected hungry guests. The fact of my having lived among them for so many months, and this anecdote of Ascaik, are very encouraging."
Mr Schmid arrived at Sandy Point in February 1859. When the year came round, and the schooner had not arrived with the necessary supplies for himself, and the promised presents for the Indians, he felt his position to be no longer tenable, especially as the noble-minded chief Ascaik had died suddenly. Mr Schmid did not know how sad and sufficient a cause withheld the vessel from coming as expected, and as he had no means of going to the Falklands to inquire, and to confer with Mr Despard, he gladly accepted the offer of a passage to Valparaiso. Here he received much kindness and hospitality from Mr Dennett, the chaplain, and went thence to England.
The following year he went out again, joined his fellow-labourer, Mr Hunziker, at Keppel Island, and with him arrived at Sandy Point on the 10th of June 1861. They were kindly welcomed by the governor, and by Mr Schmid's former friends in the colony. On the 27th of July they left Sandy Point, in company with Casimiro and a few other Patagonians, and arrived at the encampment of the main body on the banks of the river G alleges on the 18th of August. The chiefs were much pleased with the presents brought them, and behaved in a very friendly manner, Gemoki in particular never omitting to give them some ostrich meat when he came in from hunting. Casimiro intrusted his two sons to the missionaries for instruction, and Galbez, the eldest, behaved very well, but the other appeared to be slow and indolent. On September 14 Mr Schmid writes:--"I am given to understand that the Indians feel great sympathy with Casimiro's younger boy, because they think that his father sold him to us, and that he is now our slave. Now, let me describe the slavery to which these two hoys are subjected. They sleep on a better bed, and in a warmer tent than they were used to. They live with us, and share everything we have. We supply them with decent clothes; they receive instruction in reading, writing, and speaking English; they fetch two or three kettles of water. These Indians are an ignorant, and yet withal a mischievous set."
The missionaries continued to move from place to place with the Indians till the 9th of November, when, stiff and weary from a long clay's ride, they again arrived at the Chilian colony. On the 12th, Mr Schmid distributed the rest of the things which, by agreement, were to be given to the natives for their former kind treatment of him; and he writes on the 13th:--
"This evening came Gemoki's mother, and brought no less than five bags, expecting that I would fill them with provisions. In consideration of past kindness I gave her some biscuit and some rice, but not enough to fill even two bags--far from it. The more one gives this people the more they ask.
"Let me now tell you our daily routine. On getting up, we had morning worship; and, that the Indians might see what we were doing, we opened the tent: this was not necessary, because they came often before we were ready, creeping in underneath. Whilst we were at prayer, we were often watched by men, women, and children; some were silent, others talked or made some noise, some wanted to talk with us, to borrow some tool, or call our attention to something else. We told them repeatedly not to disturb us, but scarcely a day passed without some unpleasantness of this kind whilst we read a portion of God's Word, and offered up prayers. Casimiro's two boys, who were with us, joined us in our worship, and knelt. We neither have, nor can have, a fixed hour for meals as long as we live this disagreeably unsteady life. We dressed the hoys in shirt, trousers, and a blouse. We taught them to be clean and orderly, and so far they made satisfactory progress. When we were not engaged in teaching the boys, I collected words, arranged them, and tried if I could not discover some grammatical construction. I am now in possession of 1050 words."
After so much experience of Indian life, the missionaries took passage to the Falkland Islands for Christian intercourse and advice. Having now made some progress in the language, it was thought better to have a fixed place of residence in one of those places which the Patagonians are in the habit of frequenting on their hunting excursions, in the hope that some others might be induced to follow the example of Casimiro, and entrust their sons to the missionaries for instruction.
Captain Gardiner and Mr Schmid had, at different times, with the same object, entered Patagonia from the extreme south. Both found reason to doubt the expediency of working from thence. The net was to be cast on the other side. The north seemed to present wider and more reliable opportunities of access to the Indians. But before moving the basis of operations entirely from the Straits of Magelhaen to the Rio Negro, a preliminary attempt was made to form a station at Santa Cruz.
The river Santa Cruz is in latitude 50° S., and flows from the Andes to the Atlantic, a distance of about 200 miles. The valley of the river, flanked by step-formed terraces, is supposed to have been formerly a strait of the sea, like that of Magelhaen, joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The current of the river is strong. In 1834, when the late Admiral, then Captain, Fitz-Roy, explored the river, it took seventeen days of hard towing to ascend 140 miles, while four days sufficed to bring the explorers back to the point of departure. The country is barren, and, except in the valleys, where streams of fresh water are found, wears an arid and bronzed complexion. Guanacoes and ostriches are frequently seen in large numbers, yet on the whole the Indians consider game scarce in that district, and do not consequently resort much to it. Pasturage, too, for their horses is not abundant. The puma is very common, and a small fox; geese, swans, and ducks of many kinds, swarm on some of the lakes, a few leagues from the coast.
The climate is undoubtedly healthy. The prevailing winds are, more or less, westerly. The rain-fall is slight. On the western coast of Patagonia, on the slopes of the Cordilleras, the rain-fall is very great, and there is in consequence a plentiful vegetation. Throughout the vast territory of Patagonia, however, eastward of the Cordilleras, the case is very different. Here, if we except the valleys of a few rivers, the appearance of the country is hopelessly barren. The rain-bearing clouds formed in the Antarctic circle are attracted by the mountains of Tierra del Fuego, and Western Patagonia, and on them empty out all the moisture with which they are so heavily charged; hence the wooded aspects of these high lands. The intumescence of the atmosphere, consequent upon the discharge of moisture from the air, is constant and great, and causes, probably, those heavy gales which make Cape Horn so formidable. But, dried in their passage over the mountains referred to, the prevailing southwest winds descend upon the plains of Patagonia with no fertilising power, only to revel over their parched surface, and create the blinding dust-storms so common in that land.
The attempt to form a mission station in the neighbourhood of the Santa Cruz river was experimental. It had already been proved, by the experience of Messrs Schmid and Hunziker, that no permanently good effect could be looked for from the necessarily irregular efforts to instruct the Indians, made during their wild life in the plains. A place, and a plan, where and by which an orderly course of instruction could be carried on, seemed to be primary conditions of success. Accordingly, in May 1862, the rudiments of a station were formed at Weddell's Bluff. The hope was cherished that Indians might be attracted to the spot, and the nucleus formed of a future settlement.
On June 1, 1862, Mr Schmid thus reports his arrival in those parts:--"After a stormy passage of ten days from Keppel Island, we anchored in Santa Cruz river-mouth. The point of the southern bank presented no favourable locality for a station, there being neither water nor grass, and it having other disadvantageous characteristics. We moved, therefore, ten miles up the estuary, and anchored off Weddell's Bluff. Here, on examination, we found a fine sheltered valley, with a running stream of good water, good and abundant grass, and plenty of fuel..... To-morrow we shall begin to erect our cottage."
On August 11 Mr Schmid speaks of the first visit received from the Indians:--"I have the pleasure of informing you that the Indians are in the neighbourhood. They have supplied two vessels which happened to be lying in the river with guanaco meat. One of the captains came up here yesterday with an Indian, about 8.30 P.M. They remained over night, and returned this morning to the vessel. The Indian was a stranger to me, having never been south of Santa Cruz before. He asked me my name, and when I told him he remembered it, having heard it from others who came from the south two years ago. There is an encampment of them on the north shore, and there are some among them who know me, having been down south when I was first amongst them..... I do not think we have anything to fear from these Indians. They speak the language, a great part of which I have learned."
The visits of vessels to Santa Cruz are few and far between, but an opportunity of sending a letter occurred some two months after the above was written, and from it we gather that Mr Schmid had determined to travel with his new Indian acquaintances to the southward, in order to induce, if possible, some of his southern friends to visit Santa Cruz, and place their children under the instruction of himself and Mr Hunziker.
The journey of Mr Schmid was long and wearisome, lasting sixteen days. The effect of the solitude on Mr Hunziker in his absence was painful. They had, however, been content to submit to loneliness and wanderings in order to prepare the way for the entrance of the gospel of Christ amongst the heathen. Not till the first week in December did Mr Schmid return to Weddell's Bluff, accompanied by Casimiro, and having a promise from the tribe whom he had been visiting that in some two months they would reach the mission station.
On New-Year's Day 1863 the Allen Gardiner, on her voyage from England to the Falklands, entered the Santa Cruz river to visit the missionaries. "That day was to us a day of joy," writes Mr Schmid. Eleven months had elapsed since any letter from their friends, or relations, or from the committee, had reached them. The isolation of their position, the delay in the approach of the mission schooner, which had been looked for since October, and the disappointment consequent on the non-arrival of the Indians, had proved very trying to the faith and patience of the brethren at Santa Cruz.
Our readers can scarcely have failed to observe the peculiar difficulties of missionary work in Patagonia. The natives hare no fixed abodes, and move over the vast ranges of the wilderness according to the requirements of the chase, or of pasture, or it may be of trade. For in the extreme north of Patagonia, on the Rio Negro, and in the extreme south, at Sandy Point, these Indians seek an opportunity for disposing of the spoils of the chase, bartering their splendid ostrich robes and feathers, and guanaco mantles, &c., for spirits, and rice, and sugar, and cutlery, and tobacco. In order to draw them with any certainty to a particular locality, it seems necessary to afford this nomad race an opening for barter. No arrangement of this kind was made in connexion with the experimental mission station on the Santa Cruz; and the difficulty of making it a centre of attraction for the Indians was in proportion to their inability to comprehend the prospective advantages of the instruction offered. On the arrival of the Allen Gardiner with the superintendent missionary on board, this matter necessarily received his attention, and by him was submitted to the committee in England for their serious consideration. It was suggested that, without trespassing upon the duties assigned to the missionaries, collateral arrangements might be made for a regulated system of barter, whereby, with great advantage to the Indians, and the certainty of drawing them into the neighbourhood of the station, the hands of the missionaries might be strengthened, and the objects for which they had come be greatly furthered. Such a plan was not of course free from theoretical objections, and would have demanded great caution in its execution, but it was, perhaps, worth a trial, being almost essential to success under the circumstances of the projected work on the Santa Cruz. With these preliminary remarks, we give portions of Mr Stirling's journal on the occasion of his visit in January 1863:--
"The estuary of the Santa Cruz was entered on the evening of January 1, 1863, and on the following morning I landed at Weddell's Bluff, and received a most cordial welcome from our fellow-workers there located. It removed a weight of anxiety to find them well, for it had not been without many anxious thoughts that my mind contemplated the possible inconvenience imposed on them by the tardy approach of the Allen Gardiner, yet we had lost no time that it was in our power to save..... If energetically supported, the mission at Santa Cruz is, in my opinion, likely to lead to important results. The work of your missionaries is a life-labour; there is no hurrying it on. The sphere of action is too quiet to gratify those who yearn after stirring dramatic movement, but it has all the richness and fulness of the life of faith, and has a heroism of its own. The site of the station is good, within a few yards of high-water mark, and at the mouth of a valley which retreats towards the southwest for a considerable distance inland. A stream of pure water flows perennially through the valley, and a broad belt of grass, offering fine pasture for cattle, gives a cheerful and fertile aspect to the low land. The hills on either side are intersected with ravines, or lift up their bronzed faces out of some intervening dale, and refresh the air with the aroma of shrubs and plants growing everywhere about them. .... Messrs Schmid and Hunziker occupy what was formerly Mr Gardiner's hut on Keppel Island. It is very small, but two compartments have been added, one for sleeping, the other for cooking purposes. The tent was pitched, and used as a kind of store for such goods as would not excite cupidity in the Indians, or suffer from comparative exposure. The white canvas of the tent, and the English ensign waving its welcome from the flag-staff; a neatly-thatched goat-house, whose sleek tenants were picturesquely browsing on the hill-side by the water; and a fine stock of firewood, industriously provided for the coming winter, gave an air of cheerfulness and comfort to the scene of the first Protestant Christian mission in Patagonia. The meeting with these brethren in Christ was a most happy one to us all."
During the stay of the Allen Gardiner in the river, to Indians made their appearance, much to the disappointment of everybody. Nevertheless, it had been a period of refreshment to all. On January the 28th the vessel sailed for Keppel Island. "On the Sunday before our departure," writes the superintendent, "we celebrated the Lord's Supper in the cabin of the Allen Gardiner, having many times before joined together in prayer for the Divine guidance and blessing." It was not till the middle of May that the Allen Gardiner was again off Weddell's Bluff, and still the Indians were away hunting. In consequence, the disappointment and depression of spirit on the part of the missionaries there located were very great. On the following morning, however, the long-expected Indians made their appearance, an account of which, and the subsequent interviews with them, are found in the subjoined portions of the journals of the superintendent. It will be seen that Mr Stirling deemed it expedient to provide refreshment and change for the missionaries, and that they were accompanied to Keppel Island by three members of the southern tribe of Patagonians:--
"On Tuesday morning the captain announced from the deck the signal fires of the Indians, distant some three miles along the beach. There were two men, two lads, a woman, and an interesting little girl four years old. They promised the arrival in a few days of a numerous body of Indians, some 800 of whom were encamped not many miles off. The new-comers were soon entertained at the little station with coffee and biscuit, and the most friendly sentiments were exchanged. Like all Indians who are brought in contact with Europeans in these parts, one of them asked for brandy, and I scarcely think he believed me when we assured him that we had none; but some lime juice he greatly relished. His son came on board with him, a nice, well-conducted, good-looking lad. To my surprise, he expressed a wish to visit the Falklands, to see the governor, and so on; this wish he again and again expressed, as also that his daughter and son should accompany him. Mr Schmid carefully explained to him that the governor of the Falklands gave no brandy to the Indians, and that our mission station was very far away from where the governor lived; with these explanations he was quite content, but still wished to go in the ship. This posture of affairs suggested to my mind a release from the difficulties affecting the conduct of the mission in Patagonia.
"On Wednesday morning some Indians appeared on the heights overlooking the station, and then in picturesque groups descended to the position which we occupied. On Thursday the number of arrivals rapidly increased, so that some four hundred must have been present by night-fall. The leading chief of the southern Indians is Gemoki, son of Ascaik, the faithful ally of Mr Schmid during his first sojourn amongst the Patagonian Indians. I slept on shore that night, in order to form some estimate of the probable conduct of the Indians now bivouacked around the Crimean hut of our missionary brethren. Once I went out and took a view of the scene in the moonlight. The camp fires, still burning at uncertain intervals, and the baying of the dogs, alive to every strange footfall, contrasted strangely with the gloom of night, and the slumbering forms of many men crouched around the gray embers of the burnt-out wood. A hard frost had set in, and no unfrequent coughing showed that the effects of exposure were not to be disguised even amongst this hardy people. They had in fact come in most instances without their tents, a report of the presence of the Allen Gardiner at Santa Cruz having reached them somewhat unexpectedly, and drawn them to our station in irregular groups, according to the time and place at which they received the news, and the temper of the individuals interested in the matter. The neighbourhood of Weddell's Bluff was occupied by the advance guard of the Indians, whose main camp was pitched some fifteen miles to the south-west. Mr Schmid acted for me as interpreter, and most efficiently: through him I communicated to the chiefs and influential persons of the tribe the great objects of our coming to them, and in particular our desire to form a school for their children, and to have some of their families resident, or at any rate frequent visitors, at the station. Our wishes were to be made known throughout the camp, and on Friday morning a reply was to be given. The time arrived and I took my seat outside the house, Mr Schmid being on my right hand, Gemoki on my left. Casimiro was placed immediately before me, and all about him in a semicircle were seated on the ground some fifty men. Here and there were groups of Indians engaged in conversation, or watching us from a distance.
"After presents had been given and received, the question of forming a school for the Indian children was formally opened, and many pros and cons were stated. It was my endeavour to dispel from the minds of this people any suspicions of sinister dealing on our part, and to persuade them of the simplicity of our object in coming to teach them about the 'true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He had sent;' not to occupy then- territory; not to display the power of foreigners; not even to trade, was our great purpose; but to instruct them about another life, and a better world which lies beyond the grave. We wished to see the Indians numerous and happy, becoming, as Mr Schmid translated my meaning, a great nation. We were Christians, English Christians, not Spanish, not Chilian; and our single object was their good. In reply, Casimiro, who acted as spokesman, said, 'the neighbourhood was not good for hunting; that it was the intention of the people to go northward in the winter; that for himself ha should like his own children to be instructed, but that others would not promise. When would the ship be back again?' We answered, in about two months, wind and weather permitting. They then said they intended to remain in the district about that time, and expressed frequently and anxiously their desire that the Allen Gardiner would be again at Santa Cruz before their departure.
"You thus see a summary of our first formal palaver; other palavers took place, but in the main the results were the same. The Indians would make no promises, especially Casimiro, who in fact was rather jealous, Mr Schmid told me, of instruction being offered to any but his own children. He wished to augment a waning influence at our expense. The issue did not disappoint me. I should have been less satisfied if the Indians had made full and free promises of agreeing to our proposals. They do not underhand now the nature of those benefits which we seek to confer upon them: and they have had too much experience of the duplicity of so-called Christians to place themselves unhesitatingly under their control. It is not therefore surprising that they should be cautious in accepting our novel and disinterested proposals, the aim and scope of which glimmer doubtfully on the horizon of their minds. My own view of the matter is, however, far from gloomy. I see a people presenting many most interesting features of character, a fine race, barbarous indeed, and superstitious, but practising no cruel rites, and shut out of the pale of the Church of Christ, not from hostility to its truths, but by the perverse example of a conquering race too little amenable to the precepts of the gospel. The language of the people is now familiar to our missionaries, who have gained their confidence by the blameless character of their lives while wandering with them for months together, away from all European presence, over the hunting grounds of the south. I see, too, the children of this people capable of instruction, giving every indication of intelligence, and offering a most inviting field for sowing the seed of the Word of God. No heart that ever loved a child could fail to acknowledge the appeal which the little bright-faced Patagonian children make for a share in one's interest and natural affection; and to us; as Christians, what does not this appeal mean? . . . . Our friends, Mr Schmid and Mr Hunziker, were quite at home with this people. Evidently in possession of their good will, and recognised as honorary members of the southern tribe, 'Ophilo,' (Mr Schmid) and 'Fredrik,' (Mr Hunziker) were introduced to a northern chief as attached to the Tsonica of the south. We reached Keppel Island on May 29. The three natives were rather sick, but behaved very well."
Two persons were left in charge of the mission property at Santa Cruz in the absence of the missionaries; and the hope was entertained that, the Indians having now been attracted to the spot, and put in possession of their wishes and intentions, the work might be resumed, and expanded in accordance with the experience gained.
Respecting the sojourn of the three Patagonians on Keppel Island Mr Schmid thus writes:--"My last letter informed you of our arrival at Keppel Island, whither we had gone from Santa Cruz for a little refreshment, by intercourse with our friends residing there. Platero, who is an old friend of mine, had asked to come with his daughter Mariquita and his son Belokon. The Fuegians, already there, were not a little surprised to see Patagonians come to Keppel. No intercourse took place between them, for they could not understand each other except by signs, and our Patagonians rather looked down upon their Fuegian neighbours. Platero, the father, was anxious that his son should learn to read and write, and be instructed generally; and when the lad was receiving his lessons would often stand beside him and encourage him kindly to apply himself to the task before him. I explained to them the origin of our Sabbath; why we set apart one day in seven for the especial worship of God, and do no work on that day. They attended divine service regularly every Sunday during their stay at Keppel."
With regard to the Patagonian language, Mr Schmid writes:--"I have prepared a vocabulary, arranging the words in alphabetical order, and an outline of grammar; a considerable enlargement of that which was printed in 1860. It is all written in the usual alphabet; for, as the inventors of the phonetic system are always changing their alphabet, I thought it best to do without it, and I should therefore not like to return to phonetic. The words which I have collected have been subjected to several tests, and they have come out true and genuine; but as for abstract words, I am getting more and more convinced that there is nothing which could enable us to set before the Indians the truths of our holy religion."
On the 1st of July the Allen Gardiner, with the superintendent on board, left Keppel Island for the Rio Negro, in the north of Patagonia. Ten days after, Mariquita was taken ill, and died suddenly. This caused deep regret to every one at the station. "When the old father," says Mr Schmid, "saw that his daughter had actually ceased to exist, he gave vent to his grief in wailing, and singing doleful strains, as their manner is. Belokon also cried bitterly for his sister, for they were greatly attached to each other. The bereaved father laid the blame on some Indian whose name he mentioned to me, saying that he had killed her by witchcraft. This idea is deeply rooted in their minds. Many Indians regard each other with suspicion, and are very much afraid of being killed by witchcraft. It is not mere talking that will convince them of the error and folly of their belief. Mariquita died on Saturday evening, and was buried on Monday at noon. That morning and the day following Platero went up and down among the hills singing a dirge. I went and fetched him, and tried to soothe his grief by assuring him of our deepest sympathies with him in his affliction. In the evening we had a prayer-meeting, at which we supplicated our heavenly Father that He would in His own wise providence overrule this sad event to the furtherance of the cause, and to the glory of His name..... Platero was present listening, or rather watching our proceedings. He assured us of his friendship. Mariquita was not ill, he said, but bewitched by the Indians, and killed by them. They had killed his wife, and would kill him too."
But it is time to direct the reader's attention to another point of interest in connexion with the work of the mission. This is Patagones, or El Carmen, on the Rio Negro, in the north of Patagonia. In December 1862, on her voyage out from England to the Falklands, the Allen Gardiner visited this river, and two young men were located there with the view of acquiring first the Spanish, and next the Indian language. In Tierra del Fuego, and in the south of Patagonia, the Protestant missionary has little to fear from Roman Catholic influence. But in the north he comes into contact not only with an Indian, but a Spanish-speaking and Roman Catholic population. Accordingly, some of the early difficulties at Patagones arose from the opposition of the padre, and the suspicions of the Indians aroused by this man's jealousy, and active interference.
Some few years short of a century ago, certain colonists from old Spain formed a settlement on the Rio Negro; but it is now included in the Argentine Confederation, and, if we except the projected Welsh colony on the River Chupat, some 200 miles farther south, is its last outlying post of civilisation in that direction. The settlement is intersected by the river Negro. The name Patagones includes both divisions of the settlement; that on the north side is called El Carmen; that on the south, El Merced. The inhabitants are muck knit together by family ties; but here, as in other parts of the Confederacy, an immigrant class is being introduced, and the genius of the place begins to be disturbed.
During five months of the year Indians from all parts come in to trade. Here they bring for sale their manufactured woollen goods, ponchos, and cloths, and robes of various kinds, patterns, and colours. Here, too, they supply themselves with spirits, and yerba, and sugar, and other things. They, as a matter of course, are relentlessly cheated and spoiled. A resident in a neighbouring town to the north-east, who had been seriously injured by a foray of the Indians, in which they had swept off some 10,000 sheep, opened a store in the town in order to compensate himself by "trading" with them. The feeling towards the Indians, on the part of the Spanish-speaking population, is generally one of mingled hatred, fear, and contempt. That missionaries should come from England to instruct them seemed at first hardly conceivable, and many sagacious explanations were ventured on which could scarcely be brought into accord with the integrity of the missionaries' profession.
A few leagues from Patagones is an Indian tolderia, or village of tents. The inhabitants are rather more than 200. The men are in the pay of the government, being what are termed "mansos," or tame, and watch the frontier along with the regular troops against the independent tribes. Several of these "Indies mansos" have been baptized, but no instruction in the Christian faith has been seriously given, and they mingle a few popish ceremonies with their own superstitious rites at their religious festivals.
All these Indians are famous for their horsemanship, ami. present a strong contrast to the canoe Indians of Tierra del Puego; but there are affinities of race, and persons acquainted with the former have, when introduced to the Fuegian lads who visited England in 1865, supposed that they belonged to them. In stature the fisher Indians of the south are dwarfish; in Chili the Indian race is below our average stature. In the north of Patagonia the aborigines are not tall; yet in the south of that country, next neighbour to the Fuegian, inserted and wedged in between men physically smaller than himself, is the so-called Patagonian giant. The representative of a mere fragment of people, he there stands out with a grand average height of five feet ten--a physical anomaly--a fault in the physiological strata of South American races.
In ascending from the southern Archipelago through the plains of Patagonia to the Pampas beyond, there are religions as well as physical contrasts to be observed. The Fuegian has no name for God, and no worship; all is blank in this respect. The Patagonian proper betrays in his funereal rites a belief in a future state, and presents in his traditions, although too languidly for practical expression, traces of the old sun-worship. Higher up, the Indian of the Pampas holds strongly his faith in the good and evil spirit, and seeks to propitiate both by gifts and sacrifices. In his journeyings over the lonely plains, as often as he sights the Ombu tree he greets it with shoutings, and, ere he passes, leaves upon the altar of the Unseen--for so he regards it--some tribute of respect. Is he well to do? he sacrifices a horse, or pours spirits as a libation about the roots. Is he poor? a cigar, it may be, or a thread drawn from his poncho, indicates his reverential awe. Once a year, however, a great religious festival takes place--a festival which is probably the only bond that now preserves these thinned and scattered tribes from losing even the semblance of national life. It occurs about midsummer, and is preceded by preliminary ceremonials of three days' duration. A solemn parliament is held, and questions affecting the Indian commonwealth are discussed--questions of peace and war, of supply and demand, of health and sickness, of the favour and disfavour of the Supreme Being, of sacrifice to Him, and sacrifice to the devil, (Wallechu.) These things being settled, dancing follows--dancing for three days; no intoxicating drinks are allowed at this period. The excitement which follows arises from religious fervour. The lances of the Indians are planted in the ground, forming a long file of glittering steel, midway in which are two lances, distinguished the one by its white, the other by its black flag floating in the air. If you see three flags, the third being red, the Parliament has decided on war, and the Deity is invoked to give a blessing on the projected enterprise. Two young girls stand constantly in front of the banner-bearing lances, having in their hands vessels containing spirits, which ever and anon they sprinkle reverently towards the symbolic standards. Headed by two women playing tambourines, the whole company of Indian females dance round the file of lances; the men, again, in an outer column move likewise in the dance, but in a direction the reverse of the women. Thus, if the females pass from right to left, the men more from left to right, so that in two orbits, and separately directed, the dance revolves about in lance-line as an axis. The voice of the entire multitude is meanwhile lifted up in prayer and singing, and the air rings strangely with outbursts of religious fervour, and a rude chorus of superstitious sentiment. These things having lasted three days, the sacrifice is appointed for the next dawn, when a prayer is offered by the priest for special blessings.
They offer in sacrifice two young animals, always males, either two colts or foals, two calves, or two lambs. The living animal is cut open, and the heart is taken out and held up to the sun by the appointed priest, words being uttered significant of the hearts of the people being God's, and offered to Him accordingly. The sacrifice takes place always at daybreak.
During the three days when dancing prevails, and the women stop to rest, the men mount their horses, and ride round in a large circle, beating all kinds of noisy instruments, to frighten away the evil spirit. This mounted corps is preceded by two horses, one white, the other black, (the black horse having a ring of white paint round his eyes, and the white having a ring of black,) and both being covered with such things as when shaken produce a jargon of sounds. In this rude fashion do these Indian tribes express their dependence on the Most High, and worship the Invisible as He is represented by the sun and moon. The white and black flags, and the white and black horses, have doubtless a symbolic meaning; and the dance, too, represents probably the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies, and the great circles in which they move.
The Indians south of the Rio Negro are called Tchuelche, and their language it is of which Mr Schmid has made a dictionary and grammar, and to print which in the Spanish form the government of Buenos Ayres expressed a desire This government, we may here state, is not only tolerant, but liberal in opinion; and in 1863, when appealed to in connexion with the mission work on the Rio Negro, promised, through the Minister of the Interior, "all the moral support in its power" to the then superintendent of the mission.
The Pampas Indians to the north of Patagonia are principally under two chiefs--one Cafalcura, the other Rowke. The former has 600 spears at his immediate command, and can on great occasions rally 2000 to his standard. The Indians on the banks of the Negro chiefly occupy districts near the Cordilleras. They are called "Chilenos" by the people of Patagones, and speak the Chilidugu language, and are said to be more numerous than the other tribes east of the Andes. Las Mansanas--so called from the apple-trees there abounding near the sources of the Rio Negro--appear to be their head-quarters. The government is pursuing a conciliatory policy with respect to these various tribes, seeking by treaties and bounties to keep them from disturbing the country. The purpose of the government is to encourage immigration to the utmost, and tranquillity is essential to secure this. It is natural, therefore, that the pacificatory work of a Christian mission should be regarded with favour by the rulers of the country. As the civilised population increases, the aboriginal will be pressed more and more back towards the Cordilleras, and towards the south; and the government will probably offer inducements to the Indians, as their territory contracts about them, to adopt fixed stations, and pastoral pursuits. It was then for the benefit of these interesting races that a basis of missionary work was formed at Patagones. The first efforts of the missionaries were to master the Spanish language; and this done, to attempt to get hold of the Indian dialects. Again, we must impress upon our readers the necessity of patience.
We spoke in an early part of this chapter of the opposition of the padre. The poor man is no longer living. In his last illness, he was attended by the Rev. George Humble, M.D., a medical missionary, who, in October 1864, undertook the work at Patagones. But we are glad to record that for many months before the padre's decease there was a softening down of his hostility to the Protestant missionaries. In the first instance, he denounced the circulation of the Scriptures in Spanish, and visited houses even some leagues from the town, forbidding the people to read the Bible, or to receive the distributors of it. Either because this course did not answer, or because Ms own mind underwent a change, he ceased his opposition, and granted permission to his flock to read the ones forbidden book. His early attempts to set the Indians against the missionaries did not, in the long run, succeed, although, for a while, they retarded the work; for the local authorities were required, in consequence, by the central government, to re-assure the Indians of the friendly purposes of the missionaries.
Encouraged by these circumstances, a plan was formed for a mission-house, and school, and dormitory, and an appeal for funds was made to friends in Buenos Ayres. Upwards of £100 were at once provided for this special purpose in that quarter; and with a grant from home the work was proceeded with. In those out-of-the-world parts everything moves slowly. The ox-cart, with its huge wheels, is there the most progressive thing. If, however, adobes and roof-beams, and window-frames, take long in coming into shape, and the school is but a thing of the future, the Indians could nevertheless be visited in their own dwellings, and if not instructed much at least be impressed with the objects of their would-be teachers. And so we find one of the missionaries writing:--"Mr Andres and I visited the tolderia, and read and explained passages of God's Word to the Indians. The parable of the Prodigal Son seemed to arrest much attention, and the Beatitudes were likewise listened to eagerly. When, borrowing our illustrations from things about us, we spoke of the sword of God being love, and the house of God being love, and the lance of God being love, and that Christ came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them, the glimmer of a new light seemed to pass over the minds of the listening group, and an expression of satisfaction found its way from more than one mouth." The presence of the missionaries excited curiosity and surprise everywhere, but there were not wanting signs that among some a thoughtful and earnest spirit lent its sanction and sympathy to their work. "I have had," writes Mr Stirling, "deeply interesting and prolonged conversations with an Indian who belongs to Osorno in Araucania, but who is connected with, and much in the confidence of, the Indians of the Andes. He is a man of small stature, but keen and intelligent, a man of prudent counsels, and in favour of peace, if it can be honourably secured. The threatening of war arose out of a massacre of certain Indians in 1862 by the people of El Carmen. This man is most earnest in his entreaties for the location of a missionary among his own people. He would 'receive us with, open arms.' 'Many sleepless nights,' he said, 'he spent thinking of the woes of his country.' As we talked together far into the night on the subject of our work and its special features, he expressed a desire that the conversation might continue all night, for we 'might not meet again,' find he longed to see his wishes fulfilled. Having slept on board the Allen Gardiner, (lying at anchor in the Rio Negro,) he was up before myself, ready to depart; but asking permission to come into my berth, he most touchingly bade me good-bye, kissing my hand, and saying he regarded me henceforth as a brother."
Thus were the missionaries engaged in opening the way for the furtherance of the gospel in this portion of South America. But we must, while the preparations for a mission-house and school, &c., are still slowly progressing, withdraw the reader for a moment from the Rio Negro to the Santa Cruz River, in order that with renewed and concentrated attention he may return to the work at Patagones.
We have spoken of the station on the Santa Cruz as experimental. The time was at hand when the experiment could no longer be supported, and the missionaries retired from the scene. Messrs Schmid and Hunziker, as we have seen, had suffered from their stay in Patagonia, and sought rest and refreshment of body and mind at the Society's station on Keppel Island in the Falklands. They were now, however, ready to return to the scene of their labours, accompanied by the natives, who belonged to that part. The Allen Gardiner arrived at the Santa Cruz in due course, with the mission party on board. Great, however, was their sorrow on reaching the station to find that a vessel from Stanley, in the Falklands, had been in the river for some time, the captain of which, under a plea of trade, had debauched with rum and other spirits the Indians gathered in the neighbourhood by the influence of the missionaries; and that, having set them in a state of restlessness and excitement, he had persuaded them to meet him in a few weeks at another spot for a similar process of trade. The ship, in consequence, was well freighted with ostrich robes and feathers, guanaco mantles, &c. The Indians were in no state of mind to profit by the counsels of their true friends, and their true friends were again filled with discouragement. Simultaneously letters from the committee reached the superintendent discountenancing his proposition and plan for giving an outlet, by a fair and regulated process of exchange, for the goods the Indians desired to part with; and as without some arrangement of this kind they could not be expected to visit the district regularly--in fact could not afford to do so--it became almost a necessity to abandon Santa Cruz as a basis of operation. This accordingly was done, and the Allen Gardiner having again reached the Bio Negro, bearing the missionary staff and property from Santa Cruz, the determination of the superintendent was to concentrate and direct the efforts of the Mission at and from Patagones.
Mr Schmid now visited England and Germany; was ordained deacon by the Bishop of London; married, and then returned in company with the Rev. G. Humble, M.D., to renew the work. A position was assigned to him at Bahia Blanca, where an opening for usefulness presented itself; but, we regret to say, his health, never robust, having given way with dangerous symptoms, has compelled him recently to retire from that place. Mr Hunziker, having married, was stationed with Dr Humble at Patagones, and under their joint care the work has proceeded. The following extracts from the letters of Dr Humble indicate the progress of events. It will be seen that, bringing his medical abilities to bear, he has opened a dispensary in addition to the church, school, &c.
Under date of June 12, 1865, Dr Humble thus writes:--"The schools and church ought to have been opened by this time, but are not, owing to the slow progress of the work, and the difficulty of getting labourers. There is, however, but little more to be done to the building, and two or three weeks ought to see their completion. The mission-house, when finished, will be a solid, substantial, and by no means unsightly building; it will give this mission a permanent basis, and be a centre of operations from which branch missions may afterwards spring.
"My position as a medical man gives me opportunities of getting at the Indians which I should not otherwise possess. I trust I may have grace and wisdom given mo so as to turn their minds from the earthly physician to the good Physician himself, who is able and willing to cure their souls with the healing balm of His own precious blood. I hope, too, that the friendly offices I am able to render to the Indians will give them confidence in our good intentions, and induce them to intrust some of their children to our care as soon as the schools are opened." The opening of the mission church is announced under date of August 17, 1865, and matters of faith are being thus gradually translated, as Mr Gardiner would say, into matters of fact. "The mission church on the south side of the river was opened last Sunday, August 13. Although the morning was wet and windy, the church was full; had it been fine, I believe it would have been overcrowded. I read prayers and preached, Mr Hunziker reading the lessons. We chanted the Venite, Jubilate, Gloria Patri, and the responses between the Commandments, and sang hymns appropriate to the occasion. Could the friends of our society at home have seen the church and congregation, it would have cheered their hearts, and they would have felt that a real work was going on in Patagones..... I purpose opening the boy's school in a week or two, and am only waiting the completion of the building. I am not quite decided about a girl's school. I fear it will be impossible to get a Protestant teacher in this place. For some months past the measles have been raging here, both among adults and children. Being the only doctor in the place, you may fancy how important have been the demands made upon me. I have often hardly time to take my meals." More recently, Dr Humble thus gives a view of his congregation:--"A few Sundays ago we had the church almost full of Indians in their quaint costumes and painted faces--Tchuelche-Indians come for trade. I begin to find the Indian work very interesting; and as very many speak Spanish, I am able to converse with them, though not, of course, with proficiency."
In this way the work is being carried on, and we trust that our readers will not fail to supplicate the Divine blessing upon it. The work they have seen in its weaknesses and in its trials. But encouragements by the way have not been wanting. The labours of Captain Gardiner will not be in vain--nay, more, have not been in vain. Heaven, it has been said, is for those who fail on earth. Such failures as those of Gardiner and his companions do indeed point heavenwards. They are prophetic, too--the preludes of great triumphs; for the cross and the crown are in the counsels of Heaven intimately related. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."