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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 XIV

BISHOP ANDERSON, the first Bishop of Rupertsland, was present at my first diocesan council. His jurisdiction extended from Hudson Bay to the Rocky Mountains, and he had over one thousand Christian Indians in his diocese. He told me the following story of one of his Indians who was dying, and to whom he had sent one of his clergy to administer the Holy Communion.

The man asked to be raised to his knees, saying, "I have a great thing to ask of Jesus." He then prayed: "O Lord Jesus, who died for me, I give you my only boy. Take him and make him a minister to tell his Indian brothers of thy love." Smiling peacefully, he breathed the words, "He has heard my prayer," and died.

"That boy," said the bishop, "was then twelve years of age, and now there is no man in my jurisdiction who can so move my heart when he tells the story of Christ's love as that Henry Budd."

The memory of Bishop Anderson's visit gave me hope in my darkest hours.

When the Rev. John Horden, who had been a teacher in the public schools of England and who afterward became Bishop of Moosonee, went out to Hudson Bay to assist Bishop Anderson, about 1854, he found the northern tribes very degraded, the murdering of aged parents being one of the atrocities commonly practised. Shortly after he landed, a son and daughter said to an aged mother, "The time has come for you to die; you cannot fish and you cannot make nets." The request that she might first smoke her pipe was granted, and then a bow-string was put round her neck and she was strangled.

A few years before the bishop's death he wrote me, "I have not had the trials and sorrows which you have had, but you remember the sad stories which I told you of matricide. All these fruits of heathenism have passed away; all the tribes of this vast jurisdiction, save one, are Christians, and most of them can read in their own tongue the word of God."

The missionaries to these northern Indians use syllabic characters; a sign standing for a syllable is so simple that an intelligent Indian can be taught to read in a week.

In the Great Slave Lake country, almost within the Arctic Circle, the climate forbids cultivation of the soil, and the Indians live altogether by the chase.

In 1887, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Thorold, Bishop of Winchester, and myself were invited to unite with the Canadian bishops in the consecration of the Rev. Dr. W. C. Pinkham, Bishop of Saskatchewan, at Winnipeg. He was the successor of the great Missionary Bishop, the Rt. Rev. John McLean, whom the border men called "Saskatchewan Jack." Here I met the Rev. Mr. Spendlove, missionary from the Great Slave Lake country. He told me that the only way in which the missionary can reach these Indians is by hunting and fishing with them, sharing their privations and hardships and, as opportunity offers, telling them Christian truths. Usually there are some in the company who become deeply interested and they are made special objects of care. They are trained so that when the missionary leaves to join another band of hunters they become catechists.

When Mr. Spendlove was on his last missionary journey with them, they struck a country where there was no game and, their provisions being exhausted, they were reduced almost to the point of starvation. Their only moose skin was divided and a strip given to each man to relieve the gnawings of hunger. Mr. Spendlove told them that God alone could save them and asked them to spend the day in prayer. This they did and then lay down to sleep. In the morning they found within one hundred yards of their camp two moose which the wolves had driven in and killed, but after having sucked the blood from the necks had left the carcasses untouched. When the Indians saw them they exclaimed in awe, "That is God! No one ever heard of a wolf leaving an animal he had killed until he had gnawed the bones."

On a visit to England, in 1888, I was asked to deliver a missionary address to the Young Men's Christian Association in London. In the address I spoke of the work of Mr. Spendlove in his difficult field, and at the close I was surrounded by many of the young men, who expressed their delight at hearing the first tidings which had come to them of the labors of Mr. Spendlove, who had been a member of their association and had consecrated himself to God in that very room.

After Bishop Pinkham's consecration, with Bishop Thorold I visited Alaska, where I learned much of the condition of the Indians of that country. Thank God that the Church has now missionaries on the Yukon River, whose missions, although hundreds of miles away, are in touch with the missionaries of Bishop Bompas, one of the heroes of the century,--a bishop who did not attend the Lambeth conference because he could not go and return the same year. He was consecrated Bishop of Athabasca in 1874, and has lived more than twenty years amid the solitudes of the Arctic Circle. He has the promise of the prophet," They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."

In 1887, at a meeting of the Board of Missions, I plead for a missionary jurisdiction and a bishop for Alaska. I spoke of the work which had been done by Mr. Duncan, and expressed my feeling that these Indians who had been led to embrace civilization ought to be under the care of the Church. For my tribute to Mr. Duncan I was severely condemned, a circumstance which called forth the following letter:

FARIBAULT, MINNESOTA, November 26th, 1887.

My dear Brother: I thank you for your letter. I have not been in the habit of answering attacks on myself, and I am not responsible for the reports of newspapers. The one thought of my heart in asking for a missionary jurisdiction for Alaska was this: Several hundred Christian Indians who were baptized in the Church have removed to Alaska by the consent of the President of the United States. They are souls committed to our care. We had no missionary jurisdiction in Alaska. Among other reasons for establishing such a jurisdiction I spoke of Mr. Duncan's work among most degraded savages whom he had won to civilization, his establishment of a cooperative store, a canning factory, a saw-mill, etc., and the fact that the people had become one of the most moral and religious communities on the Pacific coast.

My authority for this is the testimony of Bishop Hill in the reports of his visits, the Earl of Dufferin, the publications of the Church Missionary Society, Archdeacon Kirkby, and the testimony of Canadian and English bishops and missionaries. I supposed it was an unquestioned fact. I said not a word about any conflict between the Bishop and Mr. Duncan or the authorities of the Church Missionary Society. I did say that "there are two kingdoms in the world,--the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of our King; that whether at White Earth, Dakota, China, or on the Pacific, the masterpiece of Satan is to foment strife among Christians. At whatever door the sin lies, the fact is the same."

I said that I hoped, if we were wise, we might not only save this mission, but be able to use these Christian Indians as a leaven to leaven the heathenism of other Indians of that coast. I did not think it necessary to speak of any peculiar views which Mr. Duncan might hold. The only question before my mind was this. Here are hundreds of baptized souls who are Christians and members of the Church. When Mr. Duncan goes to his rest, are these Indians to find a home in an historical Church, or are they to be left a prey to every form of error?

I do not know Mr. Duncan personally. His life shows a passionate devotion to these red men. I have hoped that the love of Christ which solves all differences might be able to disentangle the difficulties which surround this mission.

Perhaps you are not aware that the ruling of the Dominion Government in British Columbia, as to the Indians' possessory right to the soil, has not been as generous to the Indians as that of the British Government in Canada. The law of nations recognizes that the Indians have this possessory right, not a right in fee simple, but a right of occupancy which can only be extinguished by treaty or agreement. In the case of the Methakatla Indians, the failure to recognize this right would imperil their material interests, and allow them to be corrupted by the settlement of bad white men.

Mistakes may have been made, but my heart goes out in tender sympathy to any man who in this age of worldliness gives up all worldly hopes to tell of God's love to the poor souls going down to death, who have never heard of a Saviour.

All that I want the Church to do is, in the spirit and love of Christ, to try to save our red Christian brothers. Your friend and brother,

H. B. WHIPPLE, Bishop of Minnesota.

In Canada there has not been the same pressure of immigration to contend against, and therefore it has been a simpler matter to protect the Indians; but there is a wide difference in the mode of dealing with them.

Colonel Robert N. Scott, Chief of General Halleck's staff, the first military instructor of my boys' school, was sent to receive Alaska from the Russian authorities. At Victoria he called upon Governor Douglas just after an Indian had been killed by another. Governor Douglas sent at once to the tribe and demanded the murderer, who was arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged.

The day before our troops were to take possession of Alaska, Colonel Scott went into the Greek Church, where he saw upon the altar an illuminated copy of the gospels in a beautiful binding studded with jewels. He said to the bishop, "The country is to be turned over to us to-morrow, and I think you will be wise to take that rare copy of the gospels to your house." "I hope that your people do not steal from God," was the answer. "That Book was given to the mission by the mother of the Emperor, and has rested upon that altar for seventy years. I shall not remove it." It was stolen the next day. Our Indian territory knew no law.

I have often had proofs of fraud to the Indians, which I needed, furnished me by men who have not had the slightest interest in Indians but have been influenced by their admiration of pluck. I once made a charge that a certain pay-roll contained the names of dead Indians. A Roman Catholic paid one hundred dollars to secure a copy of this pay-roll which he gave to me, saying, "Bishop, it is a good thing to have the proof in your pocket." I never made an accusation against an Indian agent till after frankly telling him that it was my intention to bring charges against him.

I was one day asked by a prominent statesman, "How much success do you expect in this Indian fight?"

"As much," I answered, "as the man who preached forty years and never gained a convert; but he saved himself and family in the ark."

Another said, "Bishop, don't you know that everybody is against you? "

"Yes," I replied, "but God is on my side, and that makes a majority."

An account of one of my Indian confirmations was headed in large type: "AWFUL SACRILEGE--HOLIEST RITES OF THE CHURCH GIVEN TO RED-HANDED MURDERERS."

Many bitter and untrue things were said of me in this article. A few days later I met its author, whose attention at the moment was absorbed in watching the opposite sidewalk. I stopped him and said: "My dear fellow, I am a public man, and I know that I am a legitimate subject for criticism. No one will read comments on my course with more interest than I shall. But there is one thing that a public man cannot stand!"

"And what is that?" came the question.


My frankness evidently won his heart, for he never again alluded to me unless in commendation. In the year 1860 I was taking a wagonful of Indian children--twenty or more--to Faribault, where we had opened Andrews Hall, our Indian school, and I overheard a border man say to another: "I wonder if the bishop thinks he is going to make Christians of them! It can't be done any more than you can tame a weasel!"

Owing to the Sioux war and the fact that Faribault was in what had been the Sioux country, the Chippewas asked to have their children returned. Some years after a lumberman said to me: "Bishop, I don't take any stock in missions, but I will say that I know one red man who is a Christian if any one is! He is a Chippewa in my lumber camp, and his only fault is that he won't work Sundays."

I visited the camp and found the son of Shadayence, the Grand Medicine-man. After talking with the boy several times I decided to educate him and prepare him for Holy Orders. He became one of the four clergymen, who, as children, were taken in the wagon to Faribault, and of whose future the border men were sceptical. When old Shadayence saw his boy in a surplice preaching the word of the Great Spirit, it so touched his heart that he became a Christian, and his life was devoted to Christ. I have known him to walk seventy miles through the winter forest to tell the heathen among his people of the joy that had come to him.

The following letter shows the faithfulness of our young Christian Indians:--

WHITE EARTH, September 21st, 1880.

My dear Bishop and Friend: In my love and desire to talk to you I write you these lines You have always said that you loved us and were proud of our progress, and would at all times be glad to hear from me. I think very strongly that the young men's praying band have listened to your good advice to them. They feel proud of your words, and take great delight in them.

In the evening visitations I do not go about with them. In the daytime I go and see the sick. They are glad to hear me talk of the Great Spirit. I think He is with the young men in their work, and in His love and pity directs them. I will tell you what they want to do, and I am not going to say nay to them. They want to pay a visit to our neighbors, the Villagers at Leech Lake, to tell those who have not taken the faith of the Great Spirit. I think our friend, Charles Wright, will be glad to see them over there. I think that this work is a great help to the missionaries here at White Earth, and so I am glad that they want to go over and help the missionary who is the same blood as themselves. I stay and take care of the work here and will do their work also while they are away.

That is all I have to say as to what we have done and are going to do. I write also that you may let your friends, the learned ones whom you are going to meet, know what we are doing, and you may be so good as to mention us to them.

You may be sure that the young men and myself will bear in mind the work we have laid out for ourselves. I can do much if the Great Spirit will help me, and I know He will.

This is all I have to tell you, dear friend and Bishop whom I love so much.

I that am called SHADAYENCE.

There is an interesting story connected with the Rev. Sherman Coolidge of the Shoshone Agency.

In one of the periodical battles which we had with the Indians a boy was picked up on the battlefield, whose father had been killed, while the mother had fled with other Indians.

Captain Coolidge, who was a warm-hearted Christian, took the boy to the fort and cared for him, and Mrs. Coolidge had him baptized Sherman Coolidge. A few years later Mrs. Coolidge wrote to me for advice as to his future. I decided to educate the boy, and through the kindness of railroad and steamboat officials, secured him a free passage to St. Paul. I placed him in my boys' school, and he proved a diligent student and made an excellent record for himself. One day he came to me and said, "Bishop, I suppose I am the only Arapahoe who has become a Christian, and I should like to become a missionary to my people." He entered our Divinity School, and by his devotion and piety won the esteem of the professors. In the vacation of his last year at Sea-bury I received a letter from one of our white missions, asking me to send a divinity student as a lay reader. The only student left in Faribault was Sherman Coolidge, whom I sent for one Sunday; but the people at the mission were so impressed by him that they begged that he might remain with them through the vacation, which he did, and at the close he presented me a class for confirmation.

After his ordination to the diaconate, the mission again requested me to send him as their pastor, but I was obliged to refuse as he was going to his own people.

Upon his arrival at the Agency an Indian woman, led by a mother's instinct, ran toward him crying, "You are my son!" And so it proved. He afterward had the privilege of leading the heathen mother to the Saviour.

After two years' service as a missionary he took a special course at Hobart College, through the kindness of President Eliphalet Potter, and after his ordination as priest returned to be the shepherd of his people in Wyoming, where he is laboring with success.

An aged relation of Sherman Coolidge, Washakee, the head chief of his tribe, many years ago performed an act of great kindness to our soldiers by furnishing them ponies, for which he received no compensation. The colonel of the post wrote to General Grant asking him if he would send a letter of thanks to the old chief. With his usual kindness, General Grant purchased a bridle and saddle with embroidered cloth and trappings and sent them to the chief. When the colonel received them he sent for Washakee, called out the soldiers, with the band playing "Hail to the Chief!" and presented the gift with the words, "Your great Father has heard of your kindness to his soldiers and has sent you this saddle and bridle as a present."

The chief remained silent. "Have you no thanks for the great Father, Washakee?" asked the colonel. "When white men receive gifts, they return thanks."

Straightening himself up to his full height the chief answered: "When the white man receives a gift, he receives it in his head. The head has a tongue and can speak. When Washakee receives a gift, he receives it in his heart; and the heart has no tongue."

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