IN due time, after our meal
was over, the chief asked father when he would be ready to address his
people; and father said as soon as the camp could be gathered he was ready.
Then the chief summoned two men, and said to them, "Ride forth on either
side and shout to my people, and say, Our friends, the praying men, have
arrived. One of them is from afar. He is now about to speak to us words of
truth and wisdom. All who can be spared from care of camp and guard of
horses, come and listen." And the criers went forth and shouted as they
rode, and presently from the whole circumference of the big camp, throngs of
men and women and children gathered to where we were with the chief. The
Christians were intensely interested, but the pagans were intensely curious.
What a gathering of strange
people, strange costumes, tattooed and painted faces, painted robes,
grotesque and also picturesque headdresses!
What diverse thought! Old
pagans, and conjurers, and medicine-men, strongly conservative, and inclined
to look upon these praying men and this meeting as altogether "unnecessary"
and "unrequired." The religion of their fathers was good enough for their
people. Let the white man keep his faith, and let them alone in theirs.
These wondered that men of
the type of Maskepetoon should bother themselves in any way with these
new-fangled notions, and while they counselled kindness and courtesy, at the
same time they said, "Listen only with your ears, and let your minds be
unaffected by what these strangers may say." But notwithstanding this, the
larger number were eager for something better and stronger and more certain
than they had in the faith of their fathers, and these were ready to give
close attention to the message of the missionary. All were reverent and
respectful, for all were religious in their way.
Our little company, with the
native Christian following, sang some hymns while the crowd gathered.
Then the Rev. Mr. Steinhauer
prayed, after which father began his address. He told of the coming of
Jesus, how He found the world in darkness, and men worshipping idols, etc.;
of the commission given to man to preach the Gospel to every creature; what
this Gospel had done for the nations who had accepted it. He showed that
true civilization originated in and was caused by Christianity. He said that
it was because of the command of Jesus, eastern Christians were constrained
to send missionaries to the Saskatchewan; that the purpose was for the best
good of the people, both present and eternal.
He congratulated them on
He foretold the extinction of
the buffalo, and the suppression of tribal war, and the necessity of this
people's preparing for a great change in their mode and manner of life; that
it was the business of himself and brethren to teach and prepare them for
the change which was bound to come.
He prophesied the ultimate
settling of this country.
He assured them that the
Government would do the fair and just thing by them; that this had been the
history of the British Government in her dealings with the Indians, always
to do justly and rightly by them.
He congratulated them on
having a chief like Maskepetoon, who, while brave and strong, was a lover of
peace, and earnestly desirous of helping his people in every way.
He urged them to listen to
him and obey him.
He told them that, if God
spared his life, his purpose was to come and dwell with them, and become one
with them in this great country God had given them.
He assured them of the
profound interest all Christian people had in them, and urged them to have
faith in the Great Spirit and in His Son Jesus.
Peter waxed warm and eloquent
in his interpreting.
What signified it to him that
Mr. Steinhauer and William and even myself were closely watching his
rendering of this address to the people.
He caught the thought and
entered into the spirit and purpose of the speaker, and proved himself to be
an earnest friend of this people and a prince of interpreters.
And that congregation,
assembled on the highlands of the continent, under the canopy of heaven,
amid such strange, and, to me, new and crude surroundings, how they
listened! With what reverence and decorum they gave attention! No getting up
and going away, no restless movements. On the other hand, the instinctive
courtesy of the natural man was clearly apparent.
Civilization does a great
deal for man, but it does not always make a gentleman of him.
When the service was over,
the chief arose, and with quiet dignity spoke to the crowd as follows: "My
people, I told you that my friend from the east would speak to you words of
wisdom and truth. You have listened to him, and I want you to think of what
you have heard. Let this sink into your hearts, for all my friend has said
will come to pass. The Great Spirit has sent these praying men to teach us
His will. To-morrow we will show our friends our manner of obtaining a
livelihood. My runners have brought word that the buffalo are in large
numbers near by, and we will go on a grand hunt to-morrow. Only the
necessary guards will remain with the camp. Now let the guards be set for
to-night, and let there be no recurrence of what took place last night.
Someone slept at his post, and the enemy came within the circle of tents,
and if he had not been detected, would have stolen, and perhaps killed.
Shame on the young man who would allow that to happen! Go now to your tents,
put the camp in order, and remember our friends are tired; they have ridden
far. Let there be no unnecessary noise, no drumming or gambling to-night.
Let the camp be quiet; let our friends rest in peace."
When I heard of the grand
hunt planned for to-morrow, and of the great numbers of buffalo near by, my
whole being was excited with the prospect of witnessing this, and perhaps
participating in it. Ah, thought I, if I only had a fresh horse! And while I
was wondering how to secure one, a young Indian, as if he divined my
thought, said to me, "Will you go tomorrow? will you hunt with us?" I said I
would like to, and he at once kindly offered me his horse. "Come and see
him," said my new friend; and I went with him to his tent, where he showed
me a beautiful little black, who was standing near the tent door, eating at
a bundle of hay his owner had cut and carried in for him.
The lariat around the horse's
neck was passed into the door of the tent, and fastened near where my friend
slept. He evidently was taking extra precaution for the safety of his
beloved horse. I thanked him for his kindness in thus providing me a mount,
and as I sauntered back to our tent I took in the scene.
Horses were being driven in
from all sides. Picket pins were being re-driven and made secure. Favorite
steeds were being led up to tent doors. Women were busy putting away meat
and hides. Others were cooking the evening meal over the flickering
camp-fires. Old men were walking through the camp, urging to great caution
about horses, and some of them enforcing the advice of the afternoon.
Soon came darkness and quiet,
but though tired I could not sleepily thought was busy with all these new
experiences, and then the hunt promised for to-morrow kept me awake. When I
did sleep I dreamt of painted savages and buffalo.
Soon it was morning, and with
daylight the camp was astir again. Horses were turned loose under guard,
breakfast was cooked and eaten and another service held, and then at the
command of the chief, all who could go got ready for the hunt.