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"The Apostle of the Indians of Guiana"
A Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Rev. W.H. Brett, B.D.
For Forty Years a Missionary in British Guiana

By the Rev. F.P.L. Josa
Rector of Holy Trinity, Essequibo

London: Wells, Gardner, Darton and Co., 1887.


Chapter X.

The Tumulus at Waramuri--Cannibalism--Governor Hincks' Visit--Famine--The Death of Cornelius--Progress of the Missions from 1869-1874-0The Rev. Walter Heard.

ANTHROPOLOGICAL science is greatly indebted to Mr. Brett. Within a stone's-throw of Waramuri Mission Church there may be seen a mound of considerable size, about 25 feet in height, and with a diameter of about 130 feet. It was evident to Mr. Brett that this was not a natural hillock, but one of human construction. About this time it appears that his attention was being drawn to the "kitchen-middens" that were discovered in Denmark and elsewhere, and this threw for him some light upon the origin of that mound. So Mr. Brett determined to cut through it. In so doing he found the mass of the tumulus to be composed of fish- bones and shells of various kinds, with the fragmentary bones of quadrupeds and birds, along with other substances, chiefly relics of meals which had been consumed many ages before.

"Among these were the bones of men, women, and children, with their skulls all broken and the long bones split open. 'This,' our people said, 'was done by a man-eating race who, in ancient days, lived there; and they did it to get at the marrow.'

"The human relics, old stone axes, &c., found therein were removed for scientific investigation."

A similar mound was discovered close to the Mission dwellings at Cabacaburi. How wonderful that on those very spots where those cruel sacrifices or horrid meals were wont to take place now the

"Sweet name of Jesus
Sounds in the believer's ears!"

Other mounds were soon after found by Mr. Brett--five in all--whilst other discoverers have brought the number up to eight. One measured by the Rev. W. Heard is situated at Sireeki, and is 250 feet long by 90 feet wide, and between 20 and 25 feet high. It is oblong in shape.

Mr. Jim Thurn, who has studied the subject as only a scientific man can study it, has come to the conclusion that these mounds "all occur about the Pomeroon, and northward from that to the Orinoco; that they consist mainly of shells of one species (Neritina Lineolata), arranged in layers, the upper surface of each of which has been hardened, apparently by the action of fire; that a few other shells are included, and especially of an oyster, which occurs more and more abundantly in the mounds the nearer these are to the Orinoco; that stone implements occur comparatively in abundance, but that domestic implements, including pottery, and body ornaments are almost entirely absent; that remains of mammals occur, but in strikingly less quantity than relics of mollusc fish; and that human bones occur in a condition which clearly indicates cannibalism." From these facts Mr. Tm. Thurn concludes that these mounds "(1) were made not by the resident inhabitants of the country, but by strangers; (2) that these strangers came from the sea and not from farther inland; ( and that these strangers were certain island Caribs, who afterwards took tribal form in Guiana as the so-called Caribisi, or true Caribs."

The discovery of the Waramuri shell-mound, as well as a desire to see the Mission, induced His Excellency Governor Hincks to visit the Mission at Waramuri. This visit took place in February i866. It is thus described by Mr. Brett

"The Governor, accompanied by the Bishop and a party of gentlemen, left Georgetown by sea for the mouth of the Moruca; and the next day they were conveyed by Mr. M'Clintock in bateaux and canoes, and attended by a large Indian flotilla to the Mission. There they were received by the Archdeacon, Mr. Campbell, and myself; and welcomed by a feu de joie and loud cheers from a far greater number of Indians than had been seen together in those countries during the present century. The school children, bearing banners, and having their ranks lengthened by a great number of little naked Warau and Caribi recruits, lined one side of the wide path, with the men ranged behind them; while the women and infants occupied the other side. The Governor and three gentlemen of his suite appeared in full uniform, a circumstance which gave immense delight to the assembled multitude.

"After an interval of rest during the noon-tide heat the Indians again assembled on the plain before the new chapel. The pressing forward of all, men, women, and children, to shake hands was now resumed with increased vigour, and endured with much patience by the Governor, who after wards expressed, in a few words, his pleasure at meeting such numbers of the various tribes as were there assembled. He also announced his wish to explore the mound still further. To this the chiefs assented, as the work was to be done by black men brought for the purpose. As no tribe knew anything of the origin of the mound, or would own affinity with the people whose bones were there found, none cared particularly about their being disinterred for examination, if the risk of offending their manes were incurred by strangers, not by themselves.

"The next day there was a distribution of presents which the Governor had brought. In the evening games of archery and foot-races among the school-children took place. Some wild-looking Waraus then brought forward their isalzi; or decorated shields, and engaged in friendly contests with each other for the entertainment of the visitors. Many severe struggles took place, in some of which the unsuccessful Indian rolled on the sand, one champion, by a peculiar and dexterous manceuvre, over turning three antagonists in succession.

"The total number of Indians present was about 2000. About 2 more were on their way from Barima, but being too late, turned back again.

"The unusual excitement of the day was followed by the calm quiet of a glorious moonlight night, the stillness of which was broken by the low hum of voices from the multitude housed or encamped over hundreds of fires around, and by the occasional sound of a hymn sung by our Christian Acawoios, who, with their usual perseverance, were holding one of their religious meetings for the instruction of their wilder brethren.

"On the morning of the third day the Governor and his suite departed."

The following is taken from a more particular account of the Governor's visit by the Hon. J. L. Smith:--

"In the evening the sound of singing was heard from the Acawoio quarter, and on proceeding thither silently an interesting scene presented itself. The house was crowded with Acawoios, and a number of young Indians of both sexes, who had been taught at the missions, were singing, 'Angels from the realms of glory,' a most intelligent young Acawoio, named Philip (Capui), giving out each verse of the hymn. Then he took up his Bible and began to read from the seventh chapter of Matthew, interpreting each verse as he went along to his countrymen in their own language. With much fervour he read to them: 'What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?' The affection of the Indians for their children is extreme, and the appeal seemed to come home to their hearts with extraordinary force. Earnest murmurs of assent showed how deep an impression this passage had made upon them, and that it had sunk into their minds with all the freshness and power of a new idea, and Philip enlarged upon the theme with a sincerity which evidently had a great effect upon his audience."

Is it any wonder that the missionary's heart overflows? He says:--

"How great the difference between the scenes which must have occurred during the construction of Waramuri tumulus and that which took place after its excavation! In the evening of the day following the completion of the latter work the Indian congregation, neatly dressed, went in procession, with their pastor and teacher, from the chapel to the mound, and ranged around and over it, the various tribes joined us in singing the glorious hymn--

'Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run,' &c.,

while the Lamb, the Dove, and other Christian emblems and inscriptions on the banners borne by the school-children waved over the yawning cavity which had disclosed to us such relics of barbarous days.

'In the region and shadow of death light is sprung up."

Later on in the same year the Indians suffered very greatly from famine, in consequence of the continued rain which had fallen during the previous year, as the Indians were thus prevented from burning their fields previous to planting them, and also because the cassava and other root-crops which were at the time in the earth rotted. Still, notwithstanding this, seventy-eight baptisms are recorded, two-thirds of which were adults.

In the years 1867-1868 Mr. Brett went home for a change, and the missions were left in charge of the Rev. C. Morgan, who, Mr. Brett reports, did his work "with zeal and ability." In 1868, 109 baptisms are recorded at Waramuri alone.

During this year old Cornelius, the Araw√Ęk, the first Indian convert, was called to his rest. He had worked for God for twenty-eight years. Mr. Brett felt the blow in tensely. He thus writes to the Venerable Archdeacon Jones, the Secretary of the Church Society:--

"His early labours for Christ I need not mention, as they are known unto many. Looked up to as a Christian example by the Indians of other tribes as well as of his own, and equally respected by the settlers, he had seen all our early converts drop into the grave, and at length remained the sole link between them and the present generation.

"Of late years he had felt the effects of old age and become very feeble, though he still continued to act as Warden of the Mission Chapel. When I left for England he made me a last and most affectionate adieu, saying, 'My eyes will no more see your face in this world!' One Sunday morning in February last he sent word to the Mission teachers that he was too weak to come to Divine Service, but that they were to expect him on the following Wednesday. On that Wednesday his remains were brought for interment by his sons. His dying exhortation to these young men--' to do all in their power for the prosperity of the missions and the house of God, and to do it of a willing heart '--showed that the spirit which had animated him during so many years of his life had been equally strong in the hour of death."

The death of Cornelius was followed by another great loss in 1869. Mr. D. Campbell, the excellent catechist stationed at Waramuri, died; and it was not till August 1871 that Mr. Griffiths was appointed to take the charge of the orphaned Mission. This same year the Bishop met 1200 Indians at the different stations, seventy-one of whom he confirmed.

In the year 1872 we find Mr. Brett still as anxious as ever to extend the Kingdom of Christ in these parts; and so, accompanied by the Bishop, whom neither fatigue nor age seems ever to tire, he proceeded to other rivers--notably the Waiini, towards the mouth of the Orinoco--to see whether another mission might not yet be started amongst the Caribs of the river Barahma; but no mission could be started then.

In 1874 Mr. Brett gave the results of the census taken in 1871 to show that the Indians were not being exter minated by coming in contact with civilisation. Thus in the river Pomeroon in 1851 there were 977 Indians, whilst in 1871 the number had risen to 1420. Up to June 1874 there had been baptized by Mr. Brett and others 2299 Indians!

Soon after this date Mr. Brett obtained leave of absence, and went home for the benefit of his shattered health. During his absence the charge of the missions devolved upon the late Rev. G. M. Woodhouse, colonial curate of St. Bartholomew's, and acting rector of Holy Trinity Church. Mr. Woodhouse, after his first visit, came to the conclusion that the congregation at each of the stations was so perfect, and the plan of superintendence so simple, and yet so good, that the management of these missions bade fair to be the most pleasant part of his duty during the rector's absence. The schools were then progressing favourably. At his visit he found 41 children at Caba caburi, and 108 at Waramuri. The services which were held at Waramuri were well attended, the church, as usual, being more than crowded, and Mr. Woodhouse called these missions "a wonderful success."

The following year Mr. Brett returned to the colony, and he visited the missions in October, not with the idea of resuming his work, but for the purpose of introducing the Rev. W. Heard, who had volunteered for service in that district, and whose salary was benevolently supplied by the colony. Mr. Heard, who had already seen work amongst the aborigines of the Corentyne river, threw his whole soul into the work; indeed a better appointment could not have been made.

"During the visit just referred to Mr. Brett baptized 77 adults and Mr. Heard 77 infants at Waramuri alone. The adults had been receiving instruction from "the hard working catechist, Mr. Adams." At Cabacaburi 31 Indians were admitted into the Church through the waters of baptism. Mr. Brett writes:--"Mr. Heard was most heartily welcomed by the people at every station. He has gone with his family to reside at Cabacaburi. This will be his headquarters, and from thence he will itinerate to the other stations. It is no small comfort to me to give over the immediate charge of those important missions to one who evidently loves the race. He will chiefly have to labour amongst them; and should I be spared to visit them from time to time, I trust to see abundant fruits from his labour there, through Him who alone 'giveth the increase.'"


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