George Copway.

Life, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. online

. (page 4 of 15)
Online LibraryGeorge CopwayLife, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. → online text (page 4 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the keg with your blanket, and don't let the black coats
see it." The whiskey was concealed, and then came
the messengers of glad tiding of great joy. They were
converted Indians, saved by grace, and had been sent
to preach to us, and to invite us to attend a camp meet-
ing near Cobourg. After shaking hands all around, one
of them delivered a speech to the half drunken Indians.
He referred to the day when they were without the good
news of salvation. He spoke w^ith great earnestness,
and the tears fell from his eyes. He said, ^^ Jesus Christy
Ke-sha-mon-e-doo 0-gwe-son, (i. e., the Benevolent


Spirit's son,j came down to the world, arid died to save
the people ; all the Indians at the Credit River, and
Grape Island, are now on their road to the place where
the Saviour has gone. Jesus has left a book contain-
ing his commands and sayings to all the world ; you
will see it^ and hear it read^ when you go to Cobourg,
for the black coats have it. They wish you to come
and hear it. To-morrow is the Sabbath, and on that
day we do not hunt, or work, for it is the day which
the Great Spirit made for himself." He described
the way that the Son of God was crucified. I ob-
served some of them crying ; my mother heaved deep
sighs ; the half drunken Indians were struck dumb, and
hung their heads. Not a word was uttered. The mis-
sionaries said, " We will sing, and then we will kneel
down and pray to the Great Spirit " He gave out the
following hymn :

" Jesus ish pe ming kah e zhod.'*
«' Jesus, my all, to heaven is gone."

They stood up and sang. O what sweet melody was
in their voices ! The echo was so great that there ap-
peared to be a great many more singers than we could
see. After the hymn, they prayed w^ith the same fer-
vency as they sufig.

Peter Wason prayed, and in his prayer said, ^'
Great Spirit! here are some of my own relatives; open
their eyes and save them!" After the prayer, they said
they were going to Cobourg that evening; and if any do-
sired to go with them, they would have them do so.

My father arose and took the keg of whiskey, stepped
mto one of the small canoes, and paddled some thirty
feet froir the shore ; here he poured out the whiskey


into the lake, and threw the keg away. He then re-
turned and addressed us in the following manner . —
" You have all heard what our brothers said to us ; 1 am
going with them this evening ; if any of you wdll go, do
so this evening; the children can attend the great meet-
ing some other time." Every one ran at once to the
paddles and canoes, and in a few minutes we were on
the water. The missionaries had a skiff, in which they
went from the Island to the opposite side. They sang
again, and their very oars seemed to keep time on the
still water. how charming! The scenery of the
water ; the canoes moving in files, crossing the lake to
visit their first camp meeting. When we arrived on
the other side, it was about dusk, and we bought five
candles for a dollar (! ), and obtained an old lantern.
We marched on a new road the whole of Saturday
night, in order to reach the camp ground. During the
journey, we had to wade through deep creeks. Just
before the dav>m, we were about half a mile from the
€amp ground ; here we tarried until day light, and then
approached the camp.

When the Indians beheld the fence and the gate, and
a great number of w^hites, they began to feel rather timid
and suspicious, for the trader had told my father at Rice
Lake, that it was for the purpose of killing all the In-
dians that the black coats had invited them to the meet-
ing. My father told me to keep away from the ground,
and hunt birds and squirrels with my bow and arrow ;
his object was to save my life, in the event of the In-
dians being killed. After remaining on the campground
awhile, I departed ; but while there, I saw a large nam-


ber of converted Indians who belonged to Credit River,
and Grape Island. Some of them were singing, some
praying, and others lying about the ground as if dead.
There were a great many preachers present.

On the third day many of our company were convert-
ed ; among this number was my dear father \

As I entered the ground in the afternoon, I heard
many voices, and among them my father's voice. I
thought my father was dying; I ran to him, and found
him lying partly on one of the seats. My father, said I,
what is the matter with you ? Are you sick ? " Come
here, my son, I am not sick, but I am happy in my
heart ;" he placed his hand upon his breast while
he spoke. *' I told you you must keep away from the
ground, that your life might be spared ; but I find that
these are good, and not bad, people ; kneel down and
I will pray for you." I knelt, while he prayed. 0,
this was 7ny father'* s first prayer! Methinks, that
at this time the angels rejoiced in heaven. I became
agitated ; my bow and arrows had fallen from my hand.
The Indians lay about me like dead men. All thi<^
was the effect of the power of gospel grace, that had
spread amongst them. The shouts, praises, and prayers,
of fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters^ were heard
from every quarter. Those who had just appeared as
dead, arose, and shouted the praises of God ! They
clapped their hands, and exclaimed, ^^ Jesus ningc shah
wa 776 migy^'' Jesus has blessed me. The feeling was
so general and powerful, that the influence was felt
throughout the camp, both by the Indians and the
whites. This was one of the happiest seasons I ever


witnessed, except the season of my own conversion.
Many of my relatives were converted on this occasion.
Many of them have since gone to the world of spirits^
and are now singing the praises of redeeming love.
This heavenly fire began to spread from the camp, to
Mud, Schoogaug and Balsam Lakes, the homes of the
Ojebwas; also to the shores of Lake Simeco, and Lake
Huron, and to the vicinity of Lake Superior.

*'Waft, waft, ye winds his story,

And you ye waters roll,
Till like a sea of glory

It spreads from pole to pole.'^

On the camp ground, the Ojebwas sat in squads,
giving and receiving instruction in singing, learning
and teaching the Lord's prayer, and other things.
Some were singing,

<' Jesus, kuh ba ke zhig
Ning ee e nuh uh moz,
• Uh pa gish kuh ke nuh wahb' dum 'wod

Ning ee 'nuh da moosh
A zhe o ne zhe shing,
O ge che o duh nuh me ah win."

*' Jesus all the day long

Was my joy and my song ;
O that all, his salvation might see I

He hath lov'd me, I cried ;

He hath sufFer'd and died
To redeem such a rebel as me."



The conversion of my mother took place during the
summer, on Poutash Island, where the Indians had
erected a bark chapel. For two years she lived in the
enjoyment of religion. Before this chapel was ready she
would call us together in the wigwam, and pray with
and for us, several times a day, whether our father was
at home or not. I remember well, at this moment, the
language of her prayers.

She was taken sick in the winter of 1829, and was
confined to her bed, most of the time, for three
months ; her disease was consumption. During these
three months, she enjoyed much religion ; there was
not a day, in which she did not speak of Jesus and his
promises with the greatest confidence and delight.

When she grew worse, she called for the class lead-
ers to pray with her. She said to her mother, whom
she supposed would die first, because her hair was wldte,
" you will still live, but I am going to die, and will
see Jesus first ; soon, however, you will follow me."

The spirit of my dear mother took its flight on the
27th day of February, 1830. Just before her death,
she prayed with her children ; and advised us to be
good Christains, to love Jesus, and meet her in heaven
She then sang her favorite hymn,

" Jesus ish pe ming kah e zhod."
" Jesus, my all, to heaven is gone."


This was the first hymn she had ever heard or learned;
aud it is on this account that I introduce and sing this
•jweet hymn whenever I lecture " On the origin, history,
•raditions, migration, and customs, of the Ojebwa na-
tion." We all knelt again by her bed side, and while
clapping her hands, and endeavoring to shout for joy
she swooned away in death. The last words, which
she feebly uttered, were, ^^ Jesus, Jesus.^^ Her spirit
then fled; her lips were cold, and those warm hands
that had so often and so faiihfullv administered comfort
and relief, were now stiff. I looked around the wig-
wam ; ray father, sister, and brother sat near me, wring-
ing their hands ; they were filled with bitter grief, and
appeared inconsolable. I then began to understand
and appreciate fully her kindness and love. Who, who
can, or will, take the place of a mother 7 Who will
pray for us when we are sick or in distress .'' Her body
was consigned to the grave without any parade. No
church bell was tolled ; but the whistling wind sounded
through the woods. 1 have often knelt down, at the
head of her grave, and wished that the time would soon
arrive when it might please God to relieve me from my
troubles and cares, and conduct me to the abode of my
beloved parent. My sister Sarah, too, who has since
died, is doubtless with my mother. O how glorious
the thought, that both are now in heave?i ! There
is one spot where none will sigh for home. The
flowers that blossom there, will never fade ; the crystal
waters that wind along those verdant vales, will never
cease to send up their heavenly music ; the clusters
hanging from the trees overshadowing its banks, will be


immortal clusters ; and the friends that meet, will meet
for ever.

Little then did I think that I should have to pass
through so many afflictions, and so many hardships.
my mother, I am still in a cold^ uncharitable 7nise7'a-
hle world ! But the thought that thou art happy and
blessed, is truly sweet and encouraging ! It is this fact,
and ray own hopes of future bliss, that buoys me up,
and sustains me in the hours of conflict and despon-
dency. Although many years have elapsed, since her
death, still, I often weep with mingled joy and grief
when I think of my dear mother. " Blessed are the
dead who die in the Lord." " I am not ashamed of
the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto sal-
vation to every one that believeth." The gospel is the
only remedy for the miseries and sins of the world.

My mother and sister's cases are not the only ones
that I could relate concerning the happy lives and
deaths of those once degraded and benighted Indians
Many have already reached heaven ; and many more are
now rejoicing on their road thither. Who will now^ sa}
that the poor Indians cannot be converted ? The least
that Christians could have done, was to send the gospel
among them, after having dispossessed them of their
lands ; thus preparing them for usefulness ^ere, and
happiness hereafter. Let no one say that I am ungrate-
ful in speaking thus. It was the duty of Christians to
send us missionaries ; and it is noio their duty to send
more of them. There are still 25,000 of my poor bre-
thren in darkness, and without the gospel. Let the
prayers of all the churches ascend to the Most High, in


their behalf, that He who has power to deliver, may
save the poor Indian from misery, ignorance and perdi-


In the summer following my mother's death (1830,)
I was converted. The following are the circumstances
connected with my conversion. My father and I at-
tended a camp meeting near the town of Colbourne.
On our way from Rice Lake, to the meeting, my father
held me by the hand, as I accompanied him tlirough
the woods. Several times he prayed with me, and en-
couraged me to seek religion at this camp meeting.
We had to walk thirty miles under a hot sun, in order
to reach the place of destination. Multitudes of Indians,
and a large concourse of whites from various places,
were on the ground when we arrived. In the evening,
one of the white preachers (Wright, I believe was his
name,) spoke ; his text was, " For the great day of His
wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand." He
spoke in English, and as he closed each sentence, an
Indian preacher gave its interpretation. He spoke of
the plain and good road to heaven ; of the characters
that were walking in it ; he then spoke of the bad place,
the judgment, and the coming of a Saviour. I now
began to feel as if I should die ; 7 felt very sick in my
heart. Never had I felt so before ; I was deeply dis-
tressed, and knew not the cause. I resolved to go and


prostrate myself at the mourner's bench, as soon as an
opportunity offered. We were now invited to approach.
I went to the bench and knelt down by the roots of a
large tree. But how could I pray ? I did not under-
stand how to pray ; and besides, 1 thought that the
Great Spirit was too great to listen to the words of a
a poor Indian boy. What added to my misery was,
that it had rained in torrents about three quarters of an
hour, and I was soaking wet. The thunder was appal-
ling, and the lightning terrific. I then tried again to
pray, but I was not able. I did not know what words
to use. My father then prayed with and for me.
Many were praising God, all around me. The storm
now ceased, and nearly all the lights had been extin-
guished by the rain. I still groaned and agonized over
ray sins. I was so agitated and alarmed that I knew
not which way to turn in order to get relief, I w^as like
di wounded bird, fluttering for its life. Presently and
suddenly, I saw in my mind, something approaching ;
it was like a small but brilliant torch ; it appeared to
pass through the leaves of the trees. My poor body
became so enfeebled that I fell; my heart trembled.
The small brilHant light came near to me, and fell upon
my head, and then ran all over and through me, just as
u water had been copiously poured out upon me.
I knew not how long I had lain after my fall ; but when
I recovered, my head was in a puddle of water, in a
small ditch. I arose ; and ! how happy I was! I
felt us light as a feather. I clapped my hands, and ex-
claimed in English, " Glory to Jesiis.'^ I looked
around f()r my father, and saw him. I told him that I


nad found " Jesus." He embraced me and kissed me;
I threw myself into his arms. I felt as strong as a lion,
yet as humble as a poor Indian boy saved by grace,
by grace alone. During that night I did not sleep.
The next morning, my cousin, George Shawney, and
myself, went out into the woods to sing and pray. As
I looked at the trees, the hills, and the vallies, how
beautiful they all appeared! I looked upon them, as it
were, with new eyes and new thoughts. Amidst the
smiles of creation, the birds sang sweetly, as they flew
from tree to tree. We sang

^' Jesus the name that charms our fears.'*

O how sweet the recollections of that day ! '' Jesus
all the day long was my joy and my song." Several
hundred were converted during this meeting. Many
of the Indians were reluctant to leave the camp ground
when the meeting was broken up. When we reached
our homes at Rice l^ake, every thing seemed to me as
if it wore a different aspect ; every thing was clothed
with beauty. Before this, I had only begun to spell and
read. I now resumed my studies with a new and dif-
ferent relish. Often, w4ien alone, 1 prayed that God
would help me to qualify myself to teach others how to
read the word of God ; this circumstance T had not told
to any one. On Sabbath mornings I read a chapter in
the New Testament, which had been translated for my
father, before we went to meeting.

During this summer, one of our chiefs, John Sunday,
with several others, departed from Rice Lake, for the
west, with a design to preach to the Ojebwas. When
they returned, they told us that the Indians were very


eager to hear the word of God, and that many had been
converted. John Sunday informed us of a certain In-
dian, who was so much opposed to the meetings, that
he confined his wife and children to one of the islands,
to prevent her attending them. But this poor woman
was so anxious to obey God in attendance on worship,
that she was in the habit of fording the river every night,
and carrying her children on her back. Her husband
w^as afterwards converted. He mentioned also an in-
stance of an Indian who brought his medicine sack with
him to the meeting, but on being converted, he scattered
its contents to the four winds of heaven. These sacks
were held very sacred among the Indians. He spoke
likewise of the conversion of many chiefs, and of the
flocks of children anxious to hear the word of God. He
left such an impression on my mind, that often, while
alone, I prayed that God might send me to instruct the
children in the truths of religion.

I joined my father's class meeting ; and as often as
possible I attended school during the period of two
years. In June, 1834, our white missionary, Daniel
McINIullen, received a letter from the Rev. ¥/m. Case,
in which it was stated that a letter had been sent to him
by the Rev. John Clark, wdio was then the Superinten-
dent of the missions on Lake Superior. The Supeiin-
tendent requested that two native preachers and two
native teachers should be sent to him. John Johnson
and I were told that w^e were to accompany Brothers
John Taunchey and Caubage to Lake Superior, to aid
Brother Clark.

Brother Caubage, and my cousin Johnson, took their


departure. John Taunchey hesitated about going, be-
cause I was undecided, and my father felt unwilling at
first to let me go.

One day I determined to leave the village so as to
avoid going to Lake Superior ; I hunted along the River
Trent, hoping that John Taunchey would be gone
before my return ; I felt very unwilling to go. I was
absent over two weeks ; they were the longest two wrecks
I had ever experienced. Yet the whole time I felt dis-
satisfied ; something seemed to whisper to me, " George,
go home, and go to Lake Superior with your uncle John
Taunchey." I returned to the village. The first per-
son I saw, informed me that my uncle was w^aiting for
me, and that my father had left it to me to decide
whether to go or to stay. Here I was; the missionaries
came, and said, " George, your father has left it with
you to go or stay. It is your duty to go ; John is wait-
ing, and to-day you must conclude." Our school mis-
tress. Miss Pinney, came and reasoned v>'ith me. I
recollected, too, that I had prayed that God might pre-
pare me to be useful to my brethren ; and now, that I
had some good reason to think that my prayers had been
heard, and still to refuse to go, would perhaps be acting
in opposition to the indications of God. I wept and
prayed ; but ! that night of struggle ! I could not sleep.
In the morning, I said to my father, ^' I have concluded
to go; prepare me for my journey." That morning we
were prepared; and on the 16th of July, 1834, about
noon, we were on the shore. The canoe was ready;
many of the Indians prayed with us on the beach. After .

shaking hands with my father and the rest, w^e bid



farewell to all we loved so tenderly. We went on
board the steamboat Great Britain at Cobourg, and
arrived at Toronto the next day. On the 19th of July,
we saw at Toronto, on the top of one of the houses, Mr.
William Lyon McKenzie, who created so much trouble
in Canada in the years 1837 and 1838. He was then
in the height of his popularity. He was placed upon
the top of a house by his friends, in company with
another lawyer, with a large gold medal around his neck.
There was a large concourse of his friends who had
come from Hamilton for the express purpose of seeing
and cheering him. On the 20th July, we left in the
stage for Holland Landing ; here we remained two days,
for the want of a conveyance to the Snake Island Mis-
sion. At this island we tarried the whole of the Sabbath
with the Indians ; and had some glorious meetings. They
conveyed us to the Narrows Mission. In crossing from
Narrows to Cold Water Mission, we were obliged to
carry our trunks on our backs. About 11 o'clock we
met two runaway horses on the road to Narrows. We
caught them, tied our trunks on their backs, and lead
them back to Cold Water. Thus we were reUeved of
our heavy loads.

On Wednesday, the 26th July, we went from Cold
Water Mission to Pane-ta-wa-go-shene, where we saw a
great number of Ojebwas from Lake Superior, Ottowas,
Menomenese, &c. Here we fell in w^ith John Sunday,
Frazer, and others, who were engaged in instructing the
Indians in this vicinity.

An opportunity occurred now to go to Sault St. Marie,
where the Rev. John Clark resided. We were out of


provisions several times. By fishing and shooting gnJls
on our way, we were enabled to reach the Sault, where
we met Brother Clark, John Caubage, and cousin John-
son ; this took place, I believe, on the 24th of August.
We stayed here about two weeks, preparing to go to
the Aunce, the Ke-wa-we-non Mission. During our
delay in this place, the Rev. Messrs. Chandler and
Bourne (the latter a member of the Illinois Conference)
arrived. Brother Chandler has since died. My cousin,
H. P. Chase, was Brother Clark's interpreter. The In-
dians were comfortable in their new houses. We held
meeting with them several nights.

Pah-we-ting with its fisheries. Thomas Shaw, a
warm and open hearted half-bred Frenchman, was in
the habit of scooping out of the rapids, twenty or thirty
fine white fish, and boiling them for his friends.


I NOW began to feel the responsibilities resting upon
rae. The thought of assuming the station oT a teacher
of the Indians, with so few capabilities, was enough to
discourage more gifted men than myself. Frequently
did I enter the woods and pour out my soul to God, in
agony and tears. I trembled at what was before me ;
and said, " who is able for these things ?" But a stil
small voice would answer, " My i^race is sufficient for
you." Soothing words indeed, especially to an un-
learned and feeble Red man — a mere worm of the dust.


Having provided every ibino; necessary for our jour-
ney, and a residence of eight months-at the Ka-\va-\ve-
non Mission, we started in company with Rev. Mri
Chandler, uncle John Taunchey, and the traders who
intended to winter on the shores of L'ake Superior and
do business with the Ojebwas. We were more than
three weeks on our journey — three hundred and fifty
miles. At one place w^e were weather-bound for one
week. Our French companions were the most wicked
of men. They would gnash their teeth at each other,
curse, swear, and fight among themselves. The boat,
oars, the winds, water, the teachers, etc., did not escape
their execrations. I thought now that I understood
what hell was in a very clear manner. My very hairs
seemed to " stand erect like quills upon a fretful porcu-
pine," when they gave vent to their malevolence and
passions. They would fight like beasts over their
cooking utensils, and even while their food was in their
mouths. I will just say here that I have often seen
them eat boiled corn with tallow for butter.

On our road, we saw the celebrated Pictured Rocks,
Sand Banks, and Grand Island. On a point of the
latter place we encamped. Every Sabbath I devoted
about an hour in sighing and crying after home. What
good can 1 do, w^hen I reach the place of labor ? was a
question that often occurred to my mind. Still w^e
were sruino: farther and farther t>om home. We were
obliped, too, to do our own cooking, washing, and

At last, in September, we arrived at the Aunce Bay.
Here, our house was no better than a wigwam ; and


yet we had to occupy it as a dwelling, a school house,
a meeting house, and a council room.

We commenced laboring among our poor people, and
those that had been christianized were exceedingly
glad to see us. Brothers Sunday and Frazer had
already been among them more than a year. We began
to build quite late in the fall, and although we removed
a house from the other side of the bay, yet we experi-
enced much inconvenience. We visited the Indians
daily, for the purpose of conversing and praying with
them. There were about thirty, who had, for more
than a year, professed to experience a change of heart.
As my uncle was experienced in conversing with the
unconverted, I endeavored to pursue his course in this

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryGeorge CopwayLife, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. → online text (page 4 of 15)