We were travelling down the
north bank of the Red Deer, straight for the Hand Hills. The next day we
came in sight of these big hills, and later saw the big camp of the Northern
and Mountain Crees. Here our arrival was a big event. Crowds gathered to
listen to the great "praying man," or, as the literal translation of A-yuh-me-awe-ye-new
is, "The man who talks with the Deity," and also, to the chairman of the
Saskatchewan district, and by request, John was also called on to speak to
these wanderers on the face of God's fair earth.
We found that they had
recently several skirmishes with the Blackfeet, and they told us to keep our
eyes open and to be forever on the watch and ready. They thought our trip a
most dangerous one, but they said: "It may be the Great Spirit will give you
favor with the wild tribes and wilder white .men you are sure to meet on
your trip." We spent the evening and night and all the next day with this
camp, but as yet had not heard anything about Mr. Steinhauer, and as the
season was advanced we gave him up and decided to strike across the Red Deer
and go up country to the mountains in the Bow Valley.
At the close of the first
morning service a strange- looking creature, literally in sackcloth and
ashes, so far as his environment made this possible, touched my shoulder
and, drawing me aside, -said: "My brother, I am from away down country. I am
utterly bereft; my wife and children all dead. I am wandering to forget my
trouble. They tell me you are going into a far country. Will you let me
accompany you? I have two horses. Will you let inc go with you?" I looked at
the fellow and, sizing him up beneath his mourning rags, saw that he might
be most useful to us and we might do him some good, and I said: "If you will
promise me not to touch firewater while with us on this trip, and also to
take your place on guard, night or day, with us, you can come." His face lit
up with great joy as he took my hand and put it over his heart and said, "I
pledge you to do even as you say." Thus we had one more in our party.
Feeling that our visit to
this large camp had done something towards Christianity and the implanting
of a confidence in the government of our country, we were grateful. We also
felt that the General Secretary could not but understand in some measure the
nature of this work in the larger sense, after such an experience.
Now we were face to face with
the question, should we make a long detour to effect a crossing of the Red
Deer, or make a bold attempt right here, without a trail, to in some way get
down into this tremendous canyon, and, striking a ford there, hunt our way
out to the uplands on the other side. Finally I found an Indian who said he
thought he could take us down and across.
Behold us then, having said
farewell to our Indian friends, winding in and out on a buffalo trail and
gradually descending the canyon of the Red Deer. I will venture to say that
seldom in the experience of wagon movements did one pass down what seemed
the impossible as did ours at that time. However, after some thrilling
experiences, we reached the bottom and, finding a ford, and by devious and
intricate ways came out on the opposite heights. My friend, the doctor,
began to think that I was an expert driver.
Having succeeded in this
saving of many miles we now struck westward and set our faces towards the
"What is the name of your new
protégé?" said the doctor to me one day, and I asked my friend his name.
"Bak-o-shu-sk," came the
"His name is 'The Dry Rat,'"
was my translation to the Doctor.
"Oh, what a name!" was his
Nevertheless, Mr. Dry Rat
kept his place in our little company and was always ready and cheerful in
the discharge of duty.
On we rode through this most
wonderful country. We saw plenty of bulls, but did not stop for them.
Saturday afternoon we came to some cows, and I ran them and killed a fine
animal, and as we were striking up country we took the most of the meat into
our wagon. When we nooned all the members of our party rejoiced in the rich
quality of the meat. However, as we ate and watched our camp and stock we
little dreamed that this meal came near being the last for us.
During the afternoon as we
drove on our course without trail, suddenly we were surrounded by a
wild-looking troop of Blackfeet. The doctor was with me in the wagon, and we
were in the lead, and without warning, for the country was undulating,
suddenly these Northern Ishmaelites were upon us, and it was plain that they
meant mischief. We numbered six; they may have been anywhere from
seventy-five to one hundred. However, as the Crees had said, "The Great
Spirit might give us favor with these people." A young Blackfoot warrior
recognized me and shouted "John," and I nodded to him, and he began
explaining to the crowd who I was. He had been with the Sarcees during the
summer of 1872, when we had the experiences which I relate in "The Red River
Rebellion." The young fellow's name was "Ki-yo. kiih-nas." I well remembered
his face, and he did mine also, and now he was pleading and explaining to
his companions that we were the red man's friends. It was a case of "Cast
your bread upon the waters." Here was the return for a small expenditure of
courtesy and attention, and this, my friend, now becomes, under God, our
deliverer. The chief of the largest faction in the camp of these men was
here, and I will never forget his Blackfoot name, "O-nes-ta-e-o." He
listened to the young man, and finally gave his assent, but said, "We will
take these men into our camp"; and now, surrounded by wild cavalry, we were
escorted into the Blackfoot town.
Both father and myself very
well knew that it became us at this time to be exceedingly passive. The
lives of our whole party depended on this.
Thus we rode into the large
camp, and were stared at by the crowds as we drove behind the chief, through
the lanes of lodges, on up to his own big lodge. Here we were asked to
alight and dismount. An order was given for half of his lodge to be cleared
out, and we were told to occupy it.
Accordingly, our bedding and
baggage were placed in this, and we proceeded to occupy it, greatly to the
disgust of Doctor Taylor, who already began to manifest his aversion to any
contact with the natives. How in the wide world he ever got through
Palestine and the East has always been a mystery to me after that trip with
him in 1873. He was an embarrassing proposition, and right here were some of
the very best mind-readers in the world. He at first refused to come into
the lodge; then, when we finally persuaded him to enter, he positively
refused to eat in the lodge with us, and declared lie would not sleep there;
but as it was still early I thought many things might happen before either
supper or bedtime came.
Fortunately for us, there
were two or three of these Indians who had quite a knowledge of the Cree,
and, through these, I could communicate with the chief and others. I told
them that we did not intend to travel the next day, as it was God's day;
and, as we had met them, we now could stay the two nights in their camp, and
that our work made us the friends of all men; that the Great Spirit had
commissioned us to preach peace to all men, and that we were now on our way
to look up a site for a mission -station in this southern country, and that
we were going on into the "Long Knife" country to see what could be done in
the interests of all men and for purposes of peace.
Quite a number of the leading
men had gathered into the chief's lodge, and listened to what we had to say
with profound interest.
I also said, "As we are here
to stay with you all day to-morrow, we will hope to tell you many things
about where we came from, and why we are here, and what we purpose doing, if
the Great Spirit helps us."
Of course, all this time I
was merely presuming. The fact was apparent that we were their captives, and
as to what this might mean to our party as yet we were altogether in the
We left horses and harness
and wagon entirely in the charge of the chief who led us in. We affected, if
we did not altogether feel it, a sublime indifference as to selves and our
property, for those of us who understood the situation knew that, so far as
man was concerned, we were now altogether in the hands of these Blackfeet.
Many a party like ours had disappeared. However, we were getting on
famously, if the Doctor would only fall in line; and now the Blackfeet
retired. We asked ourselves, "What comes next?" When behold, the kettles
were brought in and supper was served, and the meat was delicious, even if
it was cooked by Indians. To our satisfaction the doctor seemed to have
forgotten his hastily made vow, and joined us in the meal. So far, so good.
As we ate, we discussed
anything but present affairs. We ignored the fact that we were prisoners,
and as yet under reserve judgment; also, that in this camp were two hostile
factions. We were in the hands of one of these. What would they do in our
case? However, we felt our cause was a just one, and this thought was
wonderfully bracing. The chief beside us, whose face and actions I had been
minutely studying ever since he said, in his quiet way, "We will take these
men into our camp," had grown in my estimation. The deference paid him by
those who had come in during the evening, and everything else, pointed to a
strong, good friend, should he come out on our side.
We must await developments;
and thus we sang our evening hymn in the Blackfoot lodge, and knelt in
prayer in English and Cree, and committed ourselves into the hands of Him
who, we believed, had sent us forth on this quest. Then, when we began to
make arrangements for the night, the doctor was up again, and refused to
sleep in the lodge. We told him it was cleaner and safer and more politic to
do so; but, no, he was obstinate; and finally we compromised by Mr. Snider
and the doctor making their bed under the wagon, and merely pulling the tent
over this. Neither of them thought of the two or three hundred pounds of
fresh meat killed that day, and now in that wagon; and I had enough of the
Old Man in me to not mention that possibly this meat would drip, drip on
them the long night through. However, what did a little blood matter anyway?
We might, every one of us, be weltering in our own blood before morning.