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The Life of Jeremiah Johnston: Part IV

Old Chief Great Hawk was not pleased when Jeremiah was giving a sermon concerning Gods word and his decree was that Jeremiah could talk about schooling but not about his god, he told other members of his Tribe to leave and said “goodbye.” It did have an impact on some of the members including The Chief’s son Red Hawk and his grandson and they wanted to know more.

Fellow missionary James Taylor Rogers examined the Chief’s grandson in writing, reading and drawing, they asked him if he had any news and he told them about The Spanish-American war, and they were particularly interested in America’s treatment of prisoners. Mr. Rogers could see that Jeremiah was getting the natives accustomed to listening to him as a teacher, their respect for him was growing partly because he was descended from the Swampy Crees whom they feared as the God favored ones. Mr. Rogers remarked that he hoped that their children were making progress in school, the old Chief said they were not and that they should learn faster but they failed to see that unless they sent them regularly they wouldn’t see much improvement, the parents grumbled that “we can’t get them to go if they do not want to go.”

Mr. Rogers and Jeremiah left the Manitou with Charlie, their Indian Canoeman, by carrying the canoe to a point where they could avoid the wild rapids. About a mile below the rapids they came to a Mr. Wood’s house who had a settlers grant, Mr. Wood who was about forty-five years old had been expecting to be married in Winnipeg, but the young lady to whom he was engaged failed to appear in the church on the appointed day. Mr. Wood, not to be out done quickly, found another bride, a pretty young woman of twenty-two, she was also engaged to another gent but then heard he was already married.

They had canoed about twenty-eight miles and still had seven to go, including traversing the Sault Rapids. When they go to the Sault they all sat down lower in the canoe and Mr. Rogers put his paddle down then came the first chute, a log ahead made Jeremiah change his course a little and a mass of spray broke over the canoe, on they went running the three chutes, it was his first experience with the rapids and he described it as “very thrilling.” Charlie received $1.75 for his two days of work and his father 30 cents for two days of canoe use. Mr. Rogers was glad to get to a resting spot but could not sleep much on account of a twofold enemy, bugs and mosquitos.

Up bright and early, Mr. Rogers went down to the river for a swim, had breakfast, and then looked around the mission property. In two years, Jeremiah had cleared about five acres and had a garden that looked prosperous. There was also a log stable and an ice house but it didn’t have any ice in it due to heavy rains, the house was wooden clap boarded with an extension kitchen standing on a pretty site back from the River a hundred yards then a little dip and beyond that on a second and higher hill was the Church, a flag staff being placed between the two. The Church was on the site of the old Chief’s house, he thought it showed ingenuity on the part of Jeremiah as he had gone to the present Chief (son of the old chief) and told him that he didn’t know how they did things there but among white people in the far lands it was customary to erect a building as a monument to some great man, now we are going to build a Church and if it was built on the site of his father’s old house which was dilapidated it would be a monument to him. He added that for many years to come people passing up and down the river would say “that church marks the site where the old Chief of this Reserve used to live. The Chief was very much taken with this idea and gave his consent to the Church being built there. The old Chiefs grave was near the bank of the River.

Next up a more detailed description of the Church and a small compendium of some of Jeremiah’s adventures.

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