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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 XV

AUGUST 29, 1861,1 consecrated St. John's Church, White Bear Lake, where I met the Rev. Mr. McDonald, who was on his way to Manitoba as a missionary to the Indians. Six years later I heard of his work from Bishop Machray (the successor of Bishop Anderson), who paid me a visit. Mr. McDonald's mission was at the head waters of the Yukon River, where for nine months of the year he travelled on snowshoes, and for three months in a birch-bark canoe. He received a mail but once a year. By leaving Fort Garry, now Winnipeg, early in the spring, his first station was reached in October.

A few years after this Mr. McDonald visited me on his way to England, where he was to print the gospel for seven hundred Indians whom he had baptized.

I mention these facts because they brought light to me in the days when I was walking on my heart. At a time when greatly perplexed I visited the mission to the Mohawks, under the charge of that venerable missionary and man of God, the Rev. Mr. Nelles, of Brantford, Canada.

The society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts began a mission among the Mohawks in colonial days. Sir William Johnson had been made a sachem of the tribe and had married a sister of their chief, Joseph Brant. His dealings with the Indians, for whom he had a deep love, were marked by strict jtistice, and he was at all times their friend and counsellor. It attached the Mohawks, with whom he lived, to the English, and in the war of the Revolution they took the side of the Crown. After peace was declared they were removed to Canada and were lost sight of by the Missionary Society. Their chief, when at home, officiated for them as lay reader for twenty years. Queen Anne gave the Mohawks a very beautiful communion service, which I believe is now in possession of St. Peter's Church, Albany.

In my labors for the Indians I have had the sympathy of the officers of the army, and none know better than they the shameless violations of treaties and the dishonesty which have led to wars. A friend said to General Crook, "It is a hard thing to have to fight Indians,--wars which bring no honors and are beset with hardships."

"Yes," the general replied, "but the hardest thing about it is to be obliged to fight men when you know that they have right on their side."

When peace was made with the Nez Perces, General Miles promised Chief Joseph that he should be taken to his old home. The Government sent him prisoner to Fort Leavenworth; but until his promise was fulfilled General Miles did not cease his efforts on his behalf. To General Sanborn and Judge Flandreau I owe a debt of gratitude for their interest in the welfare of the Indians.

In the report of the Indian Commission sent to investigate the atrocities committed by Colonel Chivington upon the Cheyennes, General Sherman said:--

"The scenes which took place that day would have disgraced any tribe in the interior of Africa. This Indian problem, and a good many other problems, can be solved by one sentence in an old Book, 'Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you.' "

There was little light on our Indian affairs until President Grant appointed a Christian Commission and sought the advice of Christian men in the appointment of Indian agents.

At the time that the Santee Sioux were encountering such hardships at Crow Creek, I went to Washington to try to secure their removal to the more fertile region of Niobrara. The Indian officials resented my interference, and insisted that the country occupied was in every way suited for an Indian reservation. I found that General Warren of the army had made a reconnoissance of that country, and going to his headquarters on the Potomac, I said, "General, I want to ask you a question, and if your answer is what I think it will be, you will gain the hostility of some politicians in Washington." Manly soldier that he was, he replied, "Bishop, I shall answer any question which a Christian gentleman may ask me, whatever trouble it may bring to myself."

I told him that I wanted to know the character of the country at Crow Creek, with a view to the removal of the Santee Sioux. He answered, "If you will put your question in writing, Bishop, I will answer it fully in writing."

This was done, and I believe that it was the means of procuring a better home for these Indians, but it brought much hostility upon himself.

Captain Wetherspoon of the United States Army, who had charge of the Apache prisoners at Camp Mount Vernon, Alabama, said:--

"For twenty-two years I have known the Indians, sometimes with their faces painted, sometimes in fights, and sometimes as prisoners. When I have not been chasing them, they have been chasing me. But after years of service among them, I do not hesitate to say that I have never known an Indian, not debauched by rum, to tell an untruth even when it would redound to his benefit. In cases where Indians under my charge have been accused of drunkenness or crime, and have told me that they were not guilty, I have found it unnecessary to look for evidence. And if they have acknowledged guilt, they have always taken their punishment quietly. In twenty-two years, outside of the 'debauched cases, I have not known a thief among them. They are usually kind to their families; they do not overwork their women, and they are good to their children."

Captain E. H. Pratt, of the United States Army, who has charge of the Industrial School at Carlisle, and who has as intimate a knowledge of Indian character as any man in our country, and has done so much educationally for the Indians, bears the same testimony. In every speech that he makes upon the subject he emphasizes the truth, that an Indian is like a white man, and that industry, reward of labor, protection of law, and Christian homes will do for the one what it has done for the other. Generals Worth, Harney, Terry, and many others bear the same testimony.

Indians are keen judges of character. A lawyer, who was reputed to be not over-scrupulous in his dealings, was employed by an Indian to draw up some papers. On paying his fee the Indian asked for a receipt and was told that a receipt would not be necessary. The Indian insisted upon having one, and when questioned as to his anxiety about the matter, replied, "Since becoming a Christian I have been very careful in all my dealings that I may be ready for the judgment; and when that day comes, I don't want to take time to go to the bad place to get my receipt from you."

Indians have a reverence for law, and do not avenge punishments which have been administered by due process of law. But where white men resort to lynch law, they will avenge the act. I know of a chief who killed a man, and, knowing that by Indian law he ought to die, he went into the presence of the dead man's friends, and folding his arms sat down by the grave to meet his doom.

At one of our frontier villages two Indians, demoralized by drink, were arrested for having murdered a white girl. As the girl was missing, and the Indians were known to have been in the neighborhood, the presumptive evidence was of guilt. One evening the Rev. Mr. Gilfillan, who at that time was rector of St. Paul's Church, Brainard, was sitting by his window when he heard the hoarse cry of angry voices and the hurried tramp of feet. He rushed out and met a mob dragging the two Indian prisoners by ropes around their necks to execution. Mr. Gil-fillan mounted a box which was standing near and cried to the mob to stop, saying: "I cannot prevent you from hanging these men; I would if I could. But you shall not hang them until I have told them of that Saviour who pardoned the thief on the cross."

He was interrupted by a cry, "That is fair! "The Indians understood a little English, and all listened while brave Gilfillan in his touching way pointed the poor souls to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.

He then said to the mob, "I am going to ask the greatest thing that can be asked of God,--that for the sake of the Blessed Saviour these poor souls may be washed white in His blood, and that they may find mercy."

The mob remained silent while he prayed. And then they hanged the men.

The next Sunday Mr. Gilfillan's church was crowded. Fearlessly he told them of the crime which had been committed in executing these men. At that time Brainard had a large, rough population, and the feeling against Indians was most bitter. But the roughest men respect courage, and my dear brother was never more admired than after this occasion.

Mr. Gilfillan was standing one day on the bank of the river, when a man approached him and said: "Parson, I hear that you are a good swimmer. How far can you swim?" With characteristic modesty Mr. Gilfillan replied, "I do not know how far; I have never tried; but I have an appointment tonight at Crow Wing, and if you will carry my clothes in a canoe and be at the service, I will swim to Crow Wing."

This was a distance of twelve miles, but he accomplished it with apparently no fatigue, much to the admiration of the men and boys of Brainard, and I have no doubt that his reputation as a preacher increased from that time.

I made the acquaintance of Mr. Gilfillan shortly after going to Faribault to reside. He was at that time the confidential agent of his uncle, Dr. McCutch-eon, who was a man of wealth and of extended business relations throughout the Northwest.

Mr. Gilfillan possessed a thoughtful, scholarly mind, and a large grasp of affairs. He became deeply interested in religion and decided to study for Holy Orders. In order to entirely disconnect himself from business, he decided to enter the General Theological Seminary in New York. After he was graduated he visited the Holy Land, and upon his return he was ordained by me deacon and priest.

Much of the success of our Chippewa Mission is due to his love and devotion to the Indians. When I think of the record of his pure, unselfish life, I say with St. Paul, "I have no one like minded."

Most of the degradation which has debased the Indians has come, as I have said, from fire-water, the horrible effects of which have been increased by poisonous adulteration which makes it worthy of the Indian name, "devil's spittle" or "hell broth." I was present when some officers of the army found a barrel of whiskey containing not only poisonous drugs, but huge pieces of tobacco and leather. There would be no difficulty in preventing the sale of whiskey to the Indians if the law were rigidly enforced and the offender imprisoned. But the fine has usually been but a moiety of his ill-gotten gains. The officers of the law receive mileage, the court is in a distant city, each witness adds to the emoluments of service, and it is very easy to see how these trials may be made a harvest to officials, and a drunken Indian a key to the National Treasury.

I have known many pure, upright district attorneys, and marshals above the possibility of reproach. No purer judge ever graced the United States Bench than Judge R. B. Nelson. The secret of the evil lies in the fact that the shameless administration of Indian affairs in the past, the lack of a proper moral sentiment, and the hatred of these red Naboths, made it almost impossible to secure justice.

I have spoken of the Indians' reverence for law. After the Sioux had been driven out of Minnesota, it was a grave question as to how this extended frontier could be protected. General Sibley placed a camp of friendly Indians every twenty miles on the frontier, with orders to kill any hostile Indian who came into the state to commit murder. Only one such party escaped the watchful vigilance of these scouts, and they were the murderers of the Jewett family near Mankato. They were pursued; two were killed and two were hanged. One of those who escaped ran into a camp of scouts, where he found his uncle in command. "My uncle," he said, "will save my life!" Pointing to his uniform the uncle answered: "I am not your uncle now; I am a soldier. My orders are to kill any Indian who has white man's blood on his hands. Your hands are red with blood. You must die!" He lifted his gun and shot him. It was a fidelity to duty worthy of a Roman.

Indians are not traitors. They feel a loyalty to their race which causes them to cling to any one who holds out a pitying, helping hand. They are far from wanting to keep up the sad record of war and bloodshed, and I know that many an Indian heart responds to the beautiful words of the true poetess, Edna Dean Proctor:--

"The same earth spreads for us and you
And death for both is one;
Why should we not be brothers true
Before our day is done?

"You are many and great and strong;
We only a remnant weak.
Our heralds call at sunset still,
Yet ah! how few on plain or hill
The evening councils seek!

"And words are dead and lips are dumb
Our hopeless words to speak,
For the fires grow cold and the dances fail,
And the songs in their echoes die,
And what have we left but the graves beneath
And above the waiting sky?"

The question of a money-earning industry for our poor Indian women had at one time become a serious one. They are most skilful with their needles, and even in their wild state use much taste in the blending of colors. Their native handiwork,--baskets, bead-work, mats, etc.,--had found a very small sale, and it was when we were at our wits' ends to know, after several futile attempts, what to try next, that I invited our beloved deaconess, Miss Sibyl Carter, to visit the White Earth reservation.

She was deeply interested in the Indians, and shared our feeling that something must be found to secure the women a means of livelihood. They were crying for work.

After this Miss Carter went to Japan, and while visiting some lace-schools there the thought came to her: "This solves the question of work for my Indian sisters. They shall be lace-makers."

Familiar herself with the art, she returned to America and again made a journey to White Earth, where she gathered a dozen or more of the women about her and gave them their first lessons in lace-making. She was delighted by what was accomplished in a few weeks. To use her own words, "I was amply repaid by taking back to the East twelve bits of pretty lace, thus proving two things, first, they could learn; second, they wanted to work for their living."

With characteristic energy and sympathy, Miss Carter agitated the question among other faithful Churchwomen, funds were secured to support a certain number of teachers, and Miss Carter went to White Earth and began work in earnest.

That the venture has been a success may be known from the fact that the beautiful laces are finding their way all over the country. The industry has grown until now there are eight lace-schools, which are at White Earth, Leech Lake, Red Lake, Birch Coulee, Oklahoma, Oneida, Wisconsin, Onondaga and one will soon be started in Greenwood, South Dakota. The school at the Birch Coulee Mission, of which Good Thunder is patriarch, is under the charge of my cousin, Miss Mary Whipple, and my niece, Miss Salisbury. The teachers of these schools are true missionaries, caring for the souls and bodies of the needy.

This work has been beset with many difficulties which Miss Carter has overcome by bravery, love, patience, and hopefulness.

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