Glimpses of the Northland: Sketches of Life among the Cree and Salteaux Indians.

p. 28: At God’s Lake the work of teaching a school was of a different character. No missionary or teacher had been stationed there, and parents and children were alike totally ignorant of the nature of a school. I arrived at God’s Lake in early September and at once commenced work. The church was a slimsy structure, very cold, and the roof leaked so badly as to render it untenable in rainy weather. There were no desks, chairs or black boards. A few books and slates I brought from Oxford House. A number of children were orphans. I plainly announced in the preceding Sabbath services that only children of school age, that is, from six to fourteen years, would be received, and that I did not conduct a nursery, nor did I want a wife, and therefore grown-up girls could not attend the school, for their sole object in coming was to impress the school-teacher with their charms and thus win a husband if possible.

At this new place I seized the first opportunity to impress the people with the fact that attending school was a business, serious and solemn, and that the future of the child was determined largely by his school life. As a consequence I had a regular school attendance of twenty pupils, a very unusual thing in an Indian school, and all anxious to learn and the parents equally as anxious for their children to attend. On the day before opening school, one of the Indians came to me and said that his little girl was not quite five years old, but asked me if I would take her on trial for a day or two. I knew the little daughter to be very bright and of more than ordinary intelligence, and so readily granted the desired permission. He then asked me if I boarded the children in the church, and if they attended night and day. A curious question, but illustrative of the ignorance of the people in regard to school and church work. A few days after this two little girls came to school, neither of whom was past the age of three years. On the following Sabbath I announced that I could not receive infants as school children, that they should stay at home to be cared for by their mothers. Consequently one was kept at home, and the other was promptly sent home and there was no further annoyance. The mothers wished to be rid of the entire family for a time, leaving her free to perform her household duties unmolested, and the school room was considered to be the proper repository for all such families. I allowed several children under school age to remain in school as they evinced considerable intelligence, and progressed even more rapidly than the older ones. The God’s Lake children did remarkably well for youngsters fresh from the wilds, with generations, nay centuries, of ignorance and superstition permeating their entire being.

p. 31-32: As in all schools, a few [native students] forged ahead rapidly. At God’s Lake one girl of twelve years or more learned so rapidly that I had every hope that she would be able to read, write and speak the English language in a year’s time; but alas, how soon our hopes decay! At the end of three months I was ordered to Oxford House for the winter, the school was abandoned indefinitely; the little children of the wilderness were left once more in their ignorance.’

At Oxford House I found things entirely different. This post boasted of a resident missionary for over eighty years, and of a regular day-school for many years, and most strenuously petitioned for a continuance of the same. And yet there was no school-house, and the church, furnished with two rickety tables and one weak chair, was in sad need of repairs. I searched diligently for school supplies and found but two or three ragged books, two slates, and one small blackboard. The attendance was very irregular, some days a number being present. and other days but two or three, and it was impossible to arouse interest or enthusiasm. Drawing some times excited a passing interest, but it soon vanished, and the continual routine of school work became monotonous. I think that any trader or white person of experience in the country will bear me out when I say that the majority of Indian parents expect their children to learn in a few days or weeks all there is to be learned. Many of the Cree men and women learned to read and write their own language in a few days by the aid of the wonderful system of syllabics invented by the Apostle of the North, James Evans, and they expect their children to learn as rapidly in English.

p. 41, a wedding at God’s Lake Mission: On Monday at ten o’clock the important ceremony took place. Frederick, leading his blushing bride, was followed by bridesmaid and groomsman. and the church was rapidly filled with Indians, all attired in holiday costumes of extensive variety in style, shape, color and antiquity. I read the service in English and asked the questions in Cree. Upon being pronounced husband and wife the groom gallantly kissed his bride, and his example was followed by many in the congregation. We then adjourned to the open air where several salutes were fired from a dozen old muzzle-loading guns.