The Life of Jeremiah Johnston: Part VI

Those who were Christian Indians were like most denominations, varied personalities who came from different backgrounds. According to Reverend Rodgers, Joseph McLoed came to church by Steamer from Hungry Hall a distance of forty miles to attend services, a Christian Indian it had cost him $2.00, upon hearing this he gave him a $1.00. They sang hymns including “Nearer My God to Thee” and “Only Trust Him” prior to the sermon, it was Mr. Rodgers’ first experience preaching the Gospel to the heathen. Those that came from a distance stayed for both dinner and tea and the Indians also stayed the night and took a boat home on Monday. While in Church, two Steamers passed which according to Mr. Rodgers was an example of how the white man did not keep “Sunday’s.” With The Reverend Jeremiah Johnston they visited the pilot’s wife Mrs. Crow, she was consumptive lying on her bed, the house was log and well-built consisting of one large room in which were two double beds, a bureau, a table described as “very fine” with four chairs, trunks etc., and with Sunday School pictures on the wall. While visiting Annie Crow a pretty young woman came in with something in her eye which she had hit with a rope. A young Indian from Fort Frances who had been in trouble with a widow there was after Annie, Jeremiah didn’t know whether it was to really marry her or not and he spoke very plainly about it. Jeremiah thought about ordering the young man away but that evening he came to Church services, according to Mr. Rodgers Mrs. Crow’s face looked anxious and troubled.

The next place they visited was “grandfather’s.” Women were sitting outside the house under a shade of a bower of green branches, an older woman was preparing birch bark and getting it to a proper thinness and other women were doing bead work. Nearby was a sweating tent, it was made of three willow branches bent in the shape of a small frame of a small tent, when being used the frame is covered with a blanket and four stones heated red hot were placed in it. The person who is going to take the degree sits inside while boiling water is thrown on the stones, to become a medicine man they had to take part in eight of these degrees.

There were few parishioners at an evening service and Mr. Rodgers heard after that there was a great dance going on that eight horses had been gambled away. He heard the tom-tom at midnight and again at two and alas three, combined with the heat and mosquitoes he could not sleep. Among those at the Service was Thomas Bunyan a baptized Christian, he had let his house for “the big tent” (for dancing and gambling), Mr. Rodgers thought that Thomas was “trying to face both ways” he was a brother of the old Chief. As there were so few Indians present that could understand English, he read the last part of his sermon slowly, he preached on the Son of God who loved me so with Mr. Jeremiah translating. His recitation of “Onward Christian Soldier” seemed very stirring and by the time the service was drawing to a close they could scarcely see to read so they sang the doxology in Indian and offered up the closing prayers and pronounced the benediction thus bringing to close in what the Reverend Rodgers attested to as “one of the most memorable days in his life”.

It was on a Monday, July 18th when the Reverend Rodgers took a picture of the Johnston family and in the afternoon took what he described as a most interesting walk through the Reserve along the riverbank. He visited “grandfather” and grandmother at their house, they showed him a long Indian pipe and some very fine bead work including a Cloak, Cloth, Trousers and two sashes. Once to show his hatred of the Sioux tribe Grandfather bit a piece of the flesh from (the Reverend was not sure). The old woman was greatly opposed to Christianity.

Next up The Reverend Rodgers hopes to take photographs and talks about folks he visited and his take on some of the Indian sites.

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