George Copway.

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

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respect. Each day we took a different direction in
visiting the unconverted. We would sing, read the
scriptures, and then pray with them. Sometimes they
would be impudent, and even abusive, but this did not
discourage us, or deter us -from our duty. By perse-
vering, we soon discovered that the Lord was about to
bless our efforts. While my uncle was visiting some
four or five wigwams, I was visiting as many others;
their wigwams being near us. Our influence, with
God's blessing, was now felt among them. Singing
and praying were their constant employment ; and
some of them seemed to know nothing else but the
enjoyment of the truth of the gospel, and that God can
and does " forgive sin." They became the happiest of
beings ; their very souls were like an escaped bird,
whose glad wings had saved it from danger and death.
Brother Chandler preached twice every Sabbath, and


taught school every otht'v week. One Sabbath, in
January, 1835, Brother Chandler preached from these
words, " And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost."^"^
He spoke with unus-ual liberty ; I caught some of the
same fire with which the sermon was delivered ; and
interpreted it wuth much ardor. O what a melting
season it was ! The anxious and expressive looks ot
the Indians ; the tears streaming down their cheeks, all
tended to add to the occasion. My readers, here was
comfort ; here was one bright spot, at least, in my
checkered life, that I never can forget. IVIy poor
brethren appeared to swallow every w^ord of the sermon
as I interpreted it. One John Southwind, who had
been notoriously cruel and revengeful, was among the
humblest and the happiest. He had been a great Con

On Sabbath evenings, every converted Indian w^ould
try to induce his relatives to embrace religion, and pray
m the \vigwams of their unconverted relatives. These
happy scenes often made me forget home.

Many of the unconverted, w^ere very revengeful ; but
w^e let them expend their vengeance on the air. One
of them, Kah-be-wah-be-ko-kay, i. e. Spear Maker,
threatened to tomahawk us, if we should come to his
wigwam "with the white man's religion;" "for,"
said he, " already some of my family are very sick and
crazy." Notwithstanding this threat, we commenced
our vists, and with no other weapon than a little calico
bag containing our Testament and Hymn Book. When-
ever he saw us near his wigwam (we were obliged to
pas<j near his in visiting other wigwams,) he would


run out, and grumble and growl like a bear escaping
from its den for life. In this way we continued our
visits, and had opportunities to converse with the family,
which re-sulted in the conversion of all his children. In
the month of February, he himself came to us, and
plead earnestly for our forgiveness. He had gone
out to hunt the martin, with his youngest daughter,
w^ho was about ten years old. While her father was
preparing a martin trap, or dead-fall, as it is sometioaes
called, the daughter slipped behind a tree, knelt in the
snow^, and prayed for her father. The Lord heard her
prayer. The old man "felt sick in his heart," and
every thing he looked at appeared to frown upon him,
and to bid him " go to the missionaries, and they will
tell you how" you can be cured." He returned home
three days earlier than he had intended. Just after
day-dawn, we heard a number of Indians praying.
John Southwind came in and said to us, " Ke-ge-ke-
wa-ye-wah, Kak-he-wah-he-koo-hay ke-che-ah-koo-seyy"^
i. e. your friend Spear Maker is very sick ; he wishes
you to call at his wig\vam and pray with him. This
w^as good new^s indeed ! We v/ent at once, and prayed
with him. He could not speak ; but sat sobbing and
sighing over the fire. We conversed with him, and
then left him ; but before breakfast he entered our
house with his large medicine sack containing little gods
of almost every description. He stood before us, and
said, " Ah hay^ ah was ah yah mook,^' — here, take this.
He cast the bag, or sack, down upon the floor, and
wept and sobbed bitterly, saying, " I have done all I
could against you. but you have been my friends. J


want you to pray for me, and to burn. these gods, or
throw them where I can never see them." Shortly after
this interview, he obtained religion, and became truly
happy in the Lord.

There were many equally interesting conversions
about this time. I must here mention what was often
very amusing to the missionaries, and would often
create a smile, if nothing more. When some of the
Indians were under conviction^ they would take some
of their own medicines (herbs) to cure their " sickness,"
— for so they termed conviction. An old medicine man
once sent a message to us, stating that his daughter
was dying ; and that it was caused by our singing and
praying before her so much ; he also added, that in the
event of her death, he would have his revenge by
killing us, and insisted upon it that we must come im-
mediately, and endeavor to relieve her. We went, and
after having prayed with her for some time, she revived,
and expressed her confidence that the Holy Spirit had
operated upon her heart. The old man soon became con-
vinced that his daughter was not dying, except unto
sin ; he, therefore, at once, became reconciled and de-
lighted too.

We now commenced traveling on snow shoes within
fifteen or twenty miles around, where the Indians were
hunting; praying, and preaching to them. The Lord
owned and blessed our labors wherever we went. We
held prayer meetings in the woods. All this time the
Mah-je Mon-e-doo (Bad Spirit) was not asleep. In the
spring the heathen party started in a body to visit their
old friend Spear Maker, for the purpose of uniting with


him in dancing, and in their medicine worship ; but
the old man had too much reUgion in him to gratify
them. As soon as they discovered that they could not
prevail upon the old man, they sent word to all, that
they could excel us in worshiping the Great Spirit ; and
that they intended to hold their regular spring Grand
Medicine Worship. Every night we held meetings.
They commenced with their paw-wahs (singing,) and
beating of the drums on the other side of the bay, and
continued it for a whole week.. We kept up our usual
meetings ; and at the end of the week, their drumming,
singing, and dancing ceased. We continued our meet-
ings for two months. The Chief of this place, was yet

During this spring, Brother Clark, our Superintendent,
arrived from Sault St. Marie, with Brother William Her-
kimer and family, and my cousin Johnson. These were
to take our places in the mission. We had now an
excellent quarterly meeting. Brother Clark preached a
sensible and warm sermon ; my cousin interpreted it.
It was a blessed time; over twenty were baptized before
the services began. There was a circumstance which
rendered the occasion peculiarly interesting; an old In-
dian woman of about eighty years, came crawling to
the meeting, for she was unable to walk ; her name was
Anna. The year before, she had travelled three hun-
dred and fifty miles in a canoe, to be baptized by Bro-
ther Clark. She now lived about two miles from our
mission, and on the Sabbath, was brought to meetmg
in a canoe. But on this Sabbath, the wind was so high
that no canoe could be launched. In the mormng,


after the others had left, she started for meeting, %nci
crawled over logs, through creeks, and other difficjxt
places near the edges of rocks. Old Anna made her
appearance in the house, to the astonishment as well as
to the delight of all. She seated herself in front of the
preacher, and listened attentively to the words of eter-
nal life. She united with others in praising God for his
mercy and goodness, especially to herself. She then
partook of the body and blood of her Saviour. She
spoke of the day in w^hich she was in darkness ; but
now she knew, by experience, that the Lord had for-
given her sins. She cared not for the ivater, mud or
precipices, if she could only crawl or creep to meeting,
for she felt well rewarded, because the Lord blessed
her. She did not, like some, fear to soil her clothes ;
neither was she a Jcdr day visitor of meeting. Before
her conversion, she was a celebrated conjurer, and a
dread to the nation ; every one was afraid to incur her
displeasure. The last time I saw her, was in 1842, and
she was still confiding in the Lord.

We were now to accompany Brother Clark to St,
Marie. We started on Tuesday afternoon at about three
o'clock, in our large bark canoe, which was about thirty-
six feet long, five feet wide in the centre, and three feet
high. We paddled about nine miles. On the next
morning, we hoisted our sail before a fresh breeze and
sailed at the rate of nine knots an hour. We reached
the point on the Sand Banks in the evening, havingpre-
viously tarried three hours with the Indians at Grand
Island. The next day we sailed about six miles from the
shore ; it was quite boisterous ; and when in the trough


of the wave it was impossible for us to seethe land.
We now came within a few miles of White-fish Point.
On the following day we hoisted our sail again, and had
a favorable wind ; we went down the Falls of St. Marie
in handsome style, about twelve o'clock, JVaub-ke-
7iewh* (White Eagle) walked about Sault St. Marie, at-
tending to the interests of the missions. He was the
theme of conversation in every circle, for none had ever
travelled the distance in so short a time. The traders
were much surprised. The Indians could hardly think
it possible for any person to travel the distance in so
short a time.

Note. — On our way to St. Marie, we saw that one
of the Points of Grand Island had sunk. It was formed
of quicksand. It was told to the trader, Charles Holi-
day, by the Indians, that the Great Spirit had removed
from under that point to some other point, because the
Methodist missionaries had encamped there the previous
fall, and had, by their ^m^/er^, driven the Spirit from
under the point. They did not wish the missionaries
to encamp any where on their Island again, fearing that
the Island would sink.

*This was the name given by my poor brethren to Brother
Clark, and a more appropriate one could not have been given.
The King of Birds. They knew that he had come to be instru-
mental in saving their never dying souls.



We spent a few weeks at the Sault with the brethren,
with whom we had some precious seasons. We were
soon informed by our beloved Superintendent that
three of us would have to go to Ottawa Lake ; — Taun-
chey, Marksman, and myself. We had, as was suppos-
ed, provisions enough to last till we reached La Pointe,
where we were to obtain a fresh supply for seven
months. Brothers Tay-yashy and Ma-mah-skah-wash
i. e. Fast-sailer^ accompanied us. We had a new ca-
noe, good oars, and a new sail. After leaving, the first
place which we arrived at was about six miles above
the Sault St. Marie. We here saw a porcupine on the
beach ; and having beat it to death, we cooked and ate
it for supper. After this we were wind-bound for seve-
ral days, which delayed our arrival at the Ke-wa-we-
non Mission, on our way to La Pointe. On entering
Aunce Bay, we were in much danger. The wind rose,
with a dense fog accompanying it, and we were with-
out a compass. We steered our course by the wind.
We were very near being dashed to pieces against
a large rock a few feet from us, which we espied just in
time to avoid. I had been on Lake Superior, but
never saw the waves run so high as on the present oc-
casion. It was truly wonderful that our bark canoe
stood the sea so well. Nor could we see any prospect
of landing. Still the spray of the gigantic waves con-
tinued to roll after us in terrific fury. The canoe still
struggled between the mountam waves, and then would


rise on the top. The sail spread itself like a duck
just ready to fly. It appeared at times that we must
all perish. But God was with us. O how kind and
merciful is that Being who has the winds and waves
in his hands ! " Lord / will praise thee," etc. It
is religion alone that can support in the time of danger.
Faith lays hold on God. Yes, let distress, sickness^
trials, 'perils, and even death come, yet if in thy hands,
Lord, we are secure.

Through a kind providence, we arrived at last at
Brother Herkimer's, about ten o'clock, A. M. How
we surprised them when they were told that we sailed
all the morning through the fog. They at once saw the
danger ; but we could take no other course. We re-
mained here but a few days. On Tuesday we left for
La Pointe, one hundred and sixty miles. Here was
another tedious journey, for we were again wind-bound
for three days ; in consequence of this misfortune our
provisions were exhausted. We went to Ah-too-nah-
kun River on Friday evening, and traveled all night to
reach Porcupine Mountains, where we arrived at day-
light. We stepped out of the canoe, took our blankets,
wrapped them around us, and lay on the solid rocks,
where we slept about an hour and a half. Saturday
morning arrived, and found us with nothing but half a
pound of tea ; we were now eighty-eight miles from La
Pt)inte. We rowed all the morning, when a favorable
breeze sprung up, which enabled us to gain fifty miles du-
ring that day. After night- fall we toiled to reach La
Pomte by twelve o'clock on Saturday night; butvvT, were
so fatigued, sleepy, and hungry, that it was impossible to


continue romng. Now and then a little land-breeze
would help us along slowly, without rowing. At last
we were obliged to give up rowing, as the oars were
dras:Q:ing in the water. I steered the boat as well as I
could. We labored hard to keep awake. T thought of
the tea ; I chewed a mouthful of it and swallowed
the juice ; but in a few minutes I suffered so much
from a griping pain that I was alarmed. Oh I was
miserable, sick, and hungry. I could not wake any of the
company ; and when my pain ceased, I could scarcely
keep myself awake. I now steered for the shore ;
it was about twelve o'clock. I threw my blanket
around me, and left all hands sleeping in the boat.
I threw up a Uttle bank of sand for a pillow, and the
soft wet sand was my bed. I was soon in the land of

Sabbath morning came. I had dreamed that we
were just about sitting down to a warm breakfast, when
Peter Marksman woke me, and said, " George, come,
get up, hlackfasV (breakfast, he meant, he could speak
but little English.) If it had not been the Sabbath, I
might have been induced to retaliate. It was, indeed,
a blackfasty dark enough ; nothing to eat, and only tea
to drink for breakfast, dinner and supper! and yet,
only about fifteen miles from La Pointe ; indeed, we
could see the place ; and had it not been that it was the
Sabbath, feeble as we were, we would have proceeded.
Here, then, we spent the Sabbath. I walked into the
woods, and all that I could think of while reading my
Bible, was ho7ne. I looked towards kome, and wept at
the thought of it. I said to myself, my father, if you


knew my situation to-day, you would feel for me, and
fly, if possible, to assist me ! I feel that your prayers
ascend for me ; and then descend like gentle rains, into
my soul. Home! home! however humble, it is still
hciiu. This day, however, is a glorious day for my
soul ; but how insupportable for the body ! We had a
prayer meeting in the evening, which is still as fresh in
my grateful memory as if it had but just taken place.

Monday morning, befDre the sun arose, we were on
our way to La Pointe, where we arrived about ten
o'clock. Mr. Warren, the trader at this place, supplied
us with some necessaries. We breakfasted with him,
and never did fish and potatoes taste half so sweet as

We called on the Rev. Mr. Hall, and others of the
Presbyterian Mission. How kindly they received and
entertained us : they compelled us to live in their fami-
Ues, while we remained in that place. We had now to
prepare to depart for Ottawa Lake, where we had been
appointed by Brother Clark to spend the winter, in
teaching the Indians. what a field of labor in all
these regions ! Indians, from every direction, congre-
gate here every summer; those, too, who have never
hey.rd of a Saviour !

When will all my poor people " sit together in hea-
venly places in Christ Jesus ?" When will they cease
to offer up to the Bad Spirit all they possess } Shall
these also perish as did the Indians on the eastern
coast ? The red men of the forest were then uncon-
seious that the white man would at some future day
spread his white sails on these waters, and claim their


native woods ; that a steamboat would make its appear-
ance, like a monster from the deep, snorting fire and
smoke, near their shores. God of mercy, save, save
my poor people.

We started for the Ottawa Lake about the eighth of
October, 1835. We had to carry our canoes, with the
rest of our articles, over eight portages, or carrying
places, one of which was nine, and another five miles
Jong. No language can convey an idea of the hard-
ships and toil to which we were exposed, before we
reached there ; for we had to carry all our things over
the carrying places ; and as it was too late in the fall,
and on account of the disagreeableness of the weather,
we were obliged to return to La Pointe. The winter
set in, and we travelled one hundred and seventy miles
by land. It was on one of these carrying places that I
carried the heavy load mentioned on page 19.

When we arrived at Ottawa Lake, the Indians were
glad to see us. The Chief, Moose Ogeed, Moose taily
was particularly kind. Here we laboured with success,
though at the time many of them were absent hunting.
I commenced a day-school with few^ scholars. During
the winter our provision gave out ; for seven weeks we
had nothing, except wdiat we caught by spearing and
shooting ; but in the lacter part of the winter we could
neither shoot rabbits, nor spear fish. What now was
to be done, except to go to La Pointe, one hundred and
seventy miles, and obtain some flour. We ran nearly
all day through the woods, and the next day my feet
were blistered, occasioned by the strap of my snow
shoes. The young man who accompanied me, suffered


still more, for the blood was oozing out through his
moccasons At the expiration of two days, at about
iren o'clock in the morning, we were at Rev. Mr. Hall's,
at La Pointe. Brother Hall could hardly credit the fact
that we had walked one hundred and seventy miles in
less than two days.

On returning to the mission, we were one week on
our journey. I had over seventy pounds of provisions
to carry when I left, and my friend and companion,
whom I hired, had eighty-five pounds. The Indians
too were almost starving, but the spring opened just in
time to save them. In their journey, down the river,
we accompanied them, and had an opportunity to con-
verse with them about reUgion. On our way, the In-
dians pointed to the battle grounds of the Ojebwas and
the Sioux. How dreadful and awful was their descrip-
tion. The Chief, pointing to a certain spot, observed,
'' There I killed two Sioux, about thirteen winters ago ;
I cut open one of them ; and when I reflected that
the Sioux had cut up my own cousin, but a year before,
I took out his heart, cut a piece from it, and swallowed
it w^hole. I scooped some of his blood, while warm,
with my hand, and drank as many draughts as the num-
ber of friends who had perished by their hands." As
he spoke, the fierceness of the Indian gleamed from his
countenance. Every half mile, trees were blazed
(barked,) and notches made according to the number
that had been killed.

The Sioux and the Ojebwas have been at war from
time immemorial. The neutral ground of these two
nations, is full of game, such as deer, bears, elks, etc.
We went down to the Me-no-me-nee Mills, on the


Chippewa River, where the whites were cutting down
pine trees. We then returned to Ottawa Lake, and
afterwards, to La Pointe.

During this winter 1 was with the Rev. Mr. Hall, at
La Pointe, and assisted him in translating the Gospel of
St. Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles, into the Ojebwa
tongue. Although I have sat hour after hour in assist-
ing him in his good work in the west, yet I can never
never repay him for the kindness and affection . shown
to me. May God reward him for his labors of love,
and for his Christian benevolence. He is like a pure
and limpid stream which is ever running, and which
never dries up. He is like a high rock on the sea shore,
when the storms and waves have passed by, unchang-
ing and unchanged. He is in all respects the most suit-
able man for this work, being devoted, humble, kind,
affectionate, and benevolent, and is master of our lan-
oruage. T hope to see him once, if not many times more,
that I may thank him again and again for his Christian
goodness. May his holy and arduous life, and health,
be precious in God's sight.

Here I must make a remark. In that country, we
ought not to know each other as Presbyterians, Method
ists, or Baptists, but only as missionaries of the cross.
We should labor with and for each other ; and do all
the good w^e can. Our language should always be,
" come, brethren, let us labor side by side, hold up each
others hands in the work, share each others trials and
privations; and spread the gospel of the blessed God."
May many brother Halls be raised up for these stations;
so that the poor outcast red man may soon take his sta-


tion among Christians of every civilized clime. Should
these observations fall under the eye of dear brother
Hall, he will, I am sure, forgive me for the warm and
candid confessions of a sincere heart.


We spent part of the summer at La Pointe, waiting
for our superintendent, Rev. John Clark, who intended
to go by the way of Ottawa Lake down the Mississippi.
He arrived the latter part of June, with his companions.
We went in two canoes up Bad River, and thence over
the Portages, already named. We divided our provi-
sions, bedding, etc., etc., so that each should carry an
equal weight. In ascending Bad River we were nearly
half of the time in the water, dragging the canoe up the
stream. One day brother Clark stepped on a rock above
the water, in the centre of the river, for the purpose of
holding the canoe, while those that were exceedingly
tired, might rest. As soon as he had put his foot on the
rock, the canoe wheeled around with the current, which
drew him into it, and carried him down the river. We
were alarmed for some time, and it was with the greatest
efforts that we could save him. At times, we could
only see his white hat above the water. At first, we
could not render him the least assistance. The stream
conveyed him near the shore, where he seized the Hmb
of a tree, which enabled him to reach land. We hur*


ried to the spot where he landed, jumped out of the
canoe, and ran after him, but before we could see him,
we heard him cry out " wJioop^'"' and in a few moments
saw him coming through the leaves, soaking wet. We
were all thankful indeed to see him alive, and so cheer-
ful too. On that day we w^ould not permit him to carry
but tw^o loads or packs, the others carried three. Our
wish was that he should not at any time carry any thing;
but he insisted upon helping us, and to this we had to
submit. This was one of those kind traits which en-
deared him so much to all his fellow laborers. He has
also shared the last morsel of bread with us. Often has
he carried the canoe on his back ; and w^hen we were
discouraged and faint, he w^ould encourage us by his
cheerful countenance, and w^ords of consolation. Our
sinking hearts have often been made to beat with emo-
tions of joy ; for during these journeys we had ample
reasons and time for desponding. But according to our
trials, did we enjoy the smiles of heaven.

We were three days going over the Nine Mile Por-
tage, where we spent the Sabbath. We had three
loads each ; and the two canoes were also to be carried,
each one taking his turn every half mile. We were
now completely jaded out; our bones ached. This
was the hardest journey that I ever made, with the ex-
ception of the one which will hereafter be related.

After severe toil and privations, we arrived at Otta-
wa Lake, wdiere Brother Clark met the chief and some

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Online LibraryGeorge CopwayLife, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. → online text (page 5 of 15)