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Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate
Being Reminiscences and Recollections
of the Right Reverend
Henry Benjamin Whipple, D.D., LL.D.
Bishop of Minnesota

New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899.

Chapter XIII

AFTER my first visit to the Indian country, in the early days when the people of the frontier called me an "enthusiastic tenderfoot" whose eyes had not yet been opened to the fact that there were no good Indians save dead Indians, Mr. Kittson, one of the oldest of the traders of the Northwest, said to me: "Bishop, don't be discouraged about the red men nor make up your mind about them until you have met Madwaganonint. He is a man that no money could swerve from the truth." A few weeks after, I visited Red Lake, three hundred miles by foot and canoe, as described in my extract from a diary of that time. The chief had heard of my visit to his people and seemed favorably impressed. Upon my arrival he came from his lodge to meet me. He was a man six feet and four inches in height, straight as an arrow, with flashing eyes, frank, open countenance, and as dignified in bearing as one of a kingly race. I told him the object of my visit--that I wanted his people to know of the Great Spirit, the Father of all men, and of His Son, Jesus Christ, who had come into the world to teach men how to live. The chief said frankly, "I have heard of your visits to my people, and I think that the trail you have brought into my country is a good trail; those who have walked in it have not come to harm. I do not say that I will walk in it. I do not know it. I shall always be glad to see you and will listen with open ears to the words you speak. I will now talk to you about my people. We have never sold any land to white men. They will come some day and ask us to make a treaty. Will you tell me what to say to them? The Indians to the East have sold their land and have perished. I want my people to live."

I advised him when he made a treaty to make provision for houses, cattle, implements of husbandry, and schools,--all needed for civilized life. And I promised him that if it were possible I would be present whenever a treaty was made.

The following year a Commission was sent to Red Lake to treat with the Indians but, unfortunately, I was unable to be present, having been thrown from my wagon and severely injured. A few months later, when the lakes were frozen, Madwaganonint walked one hundred and fifty miles to see me. Anxiety and sorrow were stamped upon his face. Drawing on the ground a map of his country, he said: "The white men say they have bought my land. There are four principal chiefs. One-half the Indians are in my band and nearly one-fourth are in Ase-ne-wub's band. Asenewub says he has signed no treaty. Whether he has or not the Indians will believe him. I did not sign because there were no houses, cattle, nor schools in the treaty. The game will be gone, and there is a place for my people's graves. Will you help me? "

I was deeply touched by the artless plea of this wild man. I asked him why he spoke as he did about Asenewub. "He had a horse given him," was the answer, "and white men do not give Indians horses for nothing." I afterward learned that the horse was a return for signing a paper.

A short time after this I visited Washington with the Red Lake chiefs and some friendly Sioux and called upon the President and Members of the Cabinet. Secretary Stanton said to General Halleck: "What does Bishop Whipple want? If he has come here to tell us of the corruption of our Indian system and the dishonesty of Indian agents, tell him that we know it. But the Government never reforms an evil until the people demand it. Tell him that when he reaches the heart of the American people, the Indians will be saved."

I spent two weeks pleading for these Indians and failed. I went to the Indian office and said to the commissioner: "I came here as an honest man to put you in possession of facts to save another outbreak. Had I whistled against the north wind I should have done as much good. I am going home, and when you next hear from me it will be through the public press."

He replied, "Bishop Whipple, you have said many severe things about this Bureau!"

I smiled and said: "I have, and you will remember I have always said them over my own signature, and I have the proof of every statement that I have ever made. The darkest transactions I have never mentioned. The Government which protects my home is on the verge of destruction, and I cannot weaken the hand of our noble President by accusations against members of his administration."

The next day the commissioner waited upon ex-Senator Rice and said: "I do not want a fight with Bishop Whipple. What does he want? If it is money for an Indian school we will help him." Mr. Rice laughed and answered: "You don't know Bishop Whipple; I do. All that he wants is justice for these Indians, and he will have it. If he has made accusations, you may be sure that he possesses the proofs."

The treaty was made that day, but after one of the severest personal conflicts that I have had in my life.

From that time Madwaganonint was my devoted friend, and the next year he visited me at my home. We had long conversations upon religion, and finally he said to me: "I want your religion for my people; I can see it; it is good. I like it for two reasons. I hear that when you plant a mission you stay. You are patient and make the trail plain. Your Church cares for little children. I like it!"

I sent two young Indian clergymen to Red Lake, Frederick Smith and Samuel Nabicum, the latter the son of Shadayence, the Grand Medicine-man of the Ojibways.

When the question came up as to what the mission should be called, Mr. Gilfillan and I agreed that there could be no more fitting name than that of St. Anti-pas. In the Book of Revelation it speaks of "my servant, Antipas, where Satan dwelleth."

Madwaganonint became from the first a regular attendant upon public worship. After due instruction he was baptized and confirmed, and from that time to the day of his death, he faithfully kept the "Praying day," and sought to lead his people to the Saviour.

At my second visit to Red Lake to hold confirmation, I found that there were eleven persons to be confirmed. When I called the candidates forward Madwaganonint came first and stood at one end of the chancel rail. I was surprised for the moment, thinking that the dear man had not understood that confirmation was not to be repeated. But as the candidates came forward, the chief counted them on his fingers, and when all had come he bowed to me and reverently took his seat. As their chief, he considered it his duty to see that the young men fulfilled their promises. He more truly represented the patriarchal chieftain and counsellor than any Indian I have known. Upon one of my visits he said to me: "My father, since you were here my wife has lain down in the grave. I have heard that Christian white men ask the Great Spirit to bless the place where His children lie, and have them in His keeping till He calls them. Will you bless the place where my wife is sleeping, and where I shall rest?"

We formed a procession, first the children of the village led by one of the clergy, then the women, the men, the clergy, and last the chief and myself. We marched around the field which was to be God's acre, singing in the musical Ojibway language, "Jesus, Lover of my Soul."

"Jesus, on-si-marda kin, Ed a-na-ci-tan-kta ce."

Then followed a short service with a lesson from Holy Scripture, the Apostles' Creed, and an address. After the service Madwaganonint took my hand and said with emotion: "I thank you for telling me and my people that we have a Saviour. I thank you for blessing the place where we shall sleep. I have your face on my heart. Good-by. I have done."

Many of the clergy and laity of the diocese will remember the speech which Madwaganonint made at the council at Duluth in 1886. I was presiding, and seeing the old chief standing at the door, and knowing that he had made the journey of two hundred miles to see me, I beckoned to him to come forward. Turning to the council, I said: "I want to introduce to you the head chief of the Red Lake Indians, our brother in the Church of Christ, whose village is the only one I know in Minnesota where every man, woman, and child is a Christian." Judge Wilder and Judge Atwater instantly rose, and the rest of the council followed.

With perfect composure Madwaganonint turned to me and asked, "Do they expect me to speak to them?"

"I think they will be very glad to hear you," I answered.

Dropping his blanket from one shoulder, he stood with all the grace and dignity of a Roman senator, and said: "My friends, I am glad that when you chose a man to be your father, you chose one whose heart was large enough to have room for my people. I thank you that with all the work you had for him to do, you permitted him to come and tell me and my people that we have a Saviour. I am an old man and almost home. Will you pray for me? Good-by. I have done."

Only a few months ago, in the winter of 1898, I received a letter from the Rev. Francis Willis, at Red Lake, telling me that Madwaganonint had entered into rest. For a moment my heart was overwhelmed with sorrow, for I loved this noble red man, one of the truest souls I have ever known. He had seen great sorrows, and felt keenly the wrongs which his people had suffered, but I do not recall a word of murmuring from the brave heart. Over his grave near the little log church which, stands in the Red Lake forest, I placed a marble cross representing the rough trunk of the oak tree, at the base of which was inscribed: "In memory of Madwaganonint, Head Chief of the Red Lake Indians, always faithful and true. He has gone to his reward."

Many of the obstacles to Christian work can be removed by Christian courtesy. The Congregational-ists had had a mission at Red Lake which they had given up at the time that Dr. Breck had been driven away; but although they resumed it in 1868, it had not been a success. I wrote to the Rev. Dr. Strieby, the Secretary of the American Missionary Association, and said: "I have been reqiiested by the Red Lake chiefs to send them a missionary. I have an excellent Indian clergyman whom I can send, but I write to you for your approval; for although it is in my own diocese, I am unwilling to be a party to present a divided Christianity to heathen folk. I know that your missionary has not been successful in this field."

After looking into the matter Dr. Strieby wrote, thanking me for my courtesy: "You are right; our mission has not been a success. We will withdraw it and leave the field to you."

Nothing lingers longer in memory than the nights spent round the Indian camp-fire. There, in the heart of primeval nature, under the subtle influences of the ever-shining stars and the murmur of fragrant pines, we have been able to draw forth the legends and traditions of the Indians as we could have done in no other way.

At night, after the Indians have come into camp, and supper has been followed by prayers, we have rolled ourselves in our blankets around the fire and I have suggested that each one should tell a story, saying, "I will begin, my white brother will follow, and then our red brothers shall tell a legend of their fathers."

Some of these stories have been incorporated in Longfellow's "Hiawatha," the Indian words of which are in the Algonquin tongue. Enmegahbowh thinks this the greatest poem of the white man.

I have been asked often what Indian legends are like. The following give a very good idea.


Two girls were walking in the moonlight talking, as girls sometimes do, about their lovers. One asked the other if she would like to marry the son of their chief. "No," was the answer, "I will never marry unless I can marry that sbar."

"And I would marry the next one," cried her companion.

No sooner were the words spoken than the two girls were transported to the sky, where they were united to their chosen husbands. And so there were four stars. One day they were in the Elysian fields digging tepsin, which is dug with a long wooden spade; suddenly one of them struck so hard that she broke through the sky, and her little son who was playing near her fell through the hole to the earth. He found himself in a village where an old woman was crying with cold, and when he asked her why she did not go to the forest and cut wood, she replied, "There is an evil spirit in the forest and he will make any one who cuts wood there a prisoner." The boy answered, "I am the son of the stars, and the evil spirit cannot hurt me."

He took a hatchet and went into the forest, but as soon as he had cut an armful of wood the evil spirit whisked him away and he found himself in the ear of an owl where there were many captives. He felt for the throbbing of the brain, and striking a blow with his hatchet the ear relaxed, and the captives were made free.

Then the son of the stars spent years in visiting different bands of Indians. At one place he found the people almost starving, and when he asked why they did not catch fish and gather wild rice, he was told that an evil spirit lived in the river and would upset the boat if any one fished or gathered rice there. "I am the son of the stars," he responded; "I am not afraid of the evil spirit." He got a canoe, but no sooner had he speared a fish than his canoe was upset, and he found himself in the belly of a catfish. Peeling for the heart, he struck a blow, and the fish's jaw relaxed, leaving him again free.

The chief of this tribe had a beautiful daughter whom he had promised to a great chief. But she loved the son of the stars, and they ran away and were not found for years, and then they were brought back to the village with their child. A council was held to decide what punishment should be given them. The wise men said it would never do to harm a son of the stars, so they decided to build a large canoe, store it with provisions, and place the son of the stars, his bride and child in it, with no paddles, and let the wind waft them to the opposite shores of the great lake. They were borne across to where the earth and sky met, so that when they landed they walked on the sky; and soon they found the other four stars who were watching for them, and since then the seven stars have lived together.


The world had become very wicked, and the evil spirit opened the flood-gates and deluged the earth with water and only one man escaped. He fled from one place to another until he reached the top of a high mountain, where he climbed a tall pine and cried to the Great Spirit for help. The Great Spirit told him that if he would get some earth and dry it in his hand that he would blow upon it, and wherever a grain of it fell, dry land would appear. The man asked the loon to bring him some earth, but the loon dived and could not get any. Then he called upon the beaver, but he failed. He then sent the muskrat, who came back bringing earth in his paw. He did as the Great Spirit told him, and then the Great Spirit blew upon it, and wherever a grain of the earth fell, dry land appeared. Everywhere else it was water. In that way came all the great waters and lakes.

All these legends like that of the sacred pipe-stone, which Longfellow has clothed with poetry, are realities in the heart of the Indian.

On one of my visits to the Indian country, I saw the "Maiden's Feast," which is one of the oldest customs of the Dakotas.

An old crier went up and down among the tipis, calling, "The time has come for the Maiden's Feast. All pure girls, and all young braves who have killed an enemy before they have made love, may eat at this feast."

Several hundred Indians formed a large circle, in the centre of which was a sacred stone ornamented with feathers. One by one the mothers led their daughters, who were neatly dressed, with flowers in their hair, to the stone: touching it, the maidens looked up to heaven, and by this sign declared their purity. The mothers, after depositing gifts for the feast--venison, ducks, bread, cake, or fruit--near the foot of the stone, withdrew. When all had assembled, the crier called for the young braves. A young man arose, entered the circle, and with flashing eyes and impassioned words, told how he had followed the enemy of his people till he had slain him in ambush and taken his scalp as a trophy.

The crier then turned to the people and said, "If any one present has aught to say against the right of the maidens to stand in the circle, proclaim it now." This was twice repeated in a loud cry. A young man stepped forward, and walking into the circle touched one of the maidens and declared her unworthy of the feast. He gave his testimony; and when a second brave came forward and swore to the truth of the accuser's words, all the Indians with a loud shout condemned the girl, throwing their clubs high in air, and the maiden was thrust from the circle. Then followed the feast.

It was a thrilling scene, being the Indians' testimony to virtue and bravery.

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