George Copway.

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

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nor appeared discohtented. This often encouraged
me, and afforded us much relief. I record with grati-
tude, that God enabled her and her sister to bear up
under the severest trials and hardships. We could have
no earthly gain in view; the grace of God alone, there-
fore, supported us by day and by night, in sickness, in
perils, in storms, in fatigues, in despondency, and in
solitary places. At Rabbit River we labored with con-
siderable success ; but on account of the war raging be-
tween the Sioux and the Ojebwas, these two missions,
with that at Ottawa Lake, had to be abandoned.

Note A.

" 1st. The soil at the Credit is generally very poor, and, con-
sequently, the crops are hght, and this, in a great measure, dis-
courages our people from becoming good farmers. The situa-
tion of the Credit Reserve is better calculated for commercial
than agricultural purposes.

" 2n(l. We have learned, by experience, that living together
in a village, whilst endeavoring to follow farming, is attended
with many disadvantages, and loss of time ; it is therefore de-
sirable, that all the Indians who wish to become planters should
be settled on their own lots.

" 3rd. The evil example of many of the white people around
our village, exposes our people to the temptation of drinking
fire-water, and of committing other vices.

" 4th. We are of opinion, that, if we go and settle on a good
tract of land, many of our young men, who are now spending
their time in idleness, would be induced to become industrious,
and attend to their farming."

Note B.

"Government House, ^

" Kingston, 22nd July, 184]

" My Lord, — 1 have the honor to acknowledge the receipt
of your despatch of the 1st instant, No. 393, on the subject of


the Indian Department in Canada. I beg to assure your Lord-
ship that I have given the subject my attentive consideration,
and I hope to be able to submit for your approval a scheme for
the consolidation of the Department. At the same time the
matter is attended whh great difficulty, arising from the pecu-
liarity of the duties which the officers of the Department have
to perform, the extent of country comprised within their juris-
diction, and, above all, from the system pursued with regard
to the Indians, which, in my opinion, is of the most mistaken
character. All my observation has completely satisfied me,
that the direct interference of the Government is only advan-
tageous to the Indians who can still follow their accustomed
pursuits, and that if they became settlers, they should be com-
pelled to fall into the ranks of the rest of Her Majesty's subjects,
exercising the same independent control over their own property
and their own actions, and subject to the same general laws as
other citizens.

" The attempt to combine a system of pupilage with the settle-
ment of these people in civilized parts of the country, leads
only to embarrassment to the Government, expense to the
Crown, a waste of the resources of the Province, and an injury
to the Indians themselves. Thus circumstanced, the Indian
loses all the good qualities of his wild state, and acquires no-
thing but the vices of civilization. He does not become a good
settler, he does not become an agriculturist or a mechanic. He
does become a drunkard and a debauchee, and his females and
family follow the same course. He occupies valuable land,un-
profitably to himself and injuriously to the country. He gives
infinite trouble to the Government, and adds nothing either tc
the wealth, the industry, or the defence of the Province.
" I have, &:c.

{Signed.) "SYDENHAM."

" The Right Honorable

" Lord J. Russell."



In the spring we were out of provisions, and had to
fish for a Uving for about three weeks. Brother Spates
taught school, and cousin Johnson and myself visited
the wigwams daily, for the purpose of singing and pray-
ing, and reading the word of God. They always re-
ceiv^ed us kindly ; and soon their minds and hearts be-
gan to feel serious, and they inclined strongly towards
Christianity It was not long after that many of them
professed to have made their peace with God, and ex-
pressed their determination to obey the precepts of Jesus.
Here we must acknowledge that God " made us glad
according to the days wherein he has afflicted us." We
had " not labored in vain, nor spent our strength for
nought," although we had to confess that we were un-
profitable servants. While conversing with a chief upon
the importance of true religion, he became much troubled,
and admitted that his own religion was not as good as
the religion of the Bible ; but, said he, *' I will embrace
your religion when I shall hi'\-e returned from one more
battle with the Sioux ; and I will then advise my people
to embrace it too." What a struggle this poor fellow
had within ! His name was Bah-goc jfa-ge-shig (Hole-
in-the-sky.) He had always been kind to me and mine;
in the sprino: he presented me about eighty pounds of
sugar; observing at the same time, " I have brought
this from the Sugar Bush to-day ; you will require some
for your family ; and I cheerfully give it."

Brother Brace and his family now arrived from Prairie


Du Chien. What tales of sufferings did they commu-
nicate ! They had traveled six hundred miles in the
midst of winter ; and were exposed to all winds and
weathers ! But, thank God, now they were with us.
Their clothes were almost in strings, and their children
were in rags ! Expecting lo find enough to live on as
soon as they arrived, they brought nothing with them.
Thank heaven, we were just enabled to keep them and
ourselves from starving.

The Indians desired us to visit several other places,
and establish ourselves there. The whole country seemed
ripe for the Gospel. It was thought best that Brother
Spates and myself should go down to St. Peters, by
water, and obtain provision. We were four days going,
and, on our arrival, a war party was just on the eve of
departing for our mission, where they intended to mur-
der all the Ojebwas they could find. I requested
Brother Spates to accompany me back by land, to in-
form the Indians of the intention of the Sioux. He said,
" there would be too much risk in going before the
War Party." But my wife and sister were there ; they,
as well as my poor people, might be barbarously mur-
dered. After repeated efforts to get some one to accom-
pany me, but without success, I was determined to go
alone. I trusted in the God of battles, and with his
aid I was confident that I could prevent these merciless
and blood-thirsty warriors from imbruing their hands
in the blood of my nation. I was ready for a start ; and
went to chief Little Crow's village, lo tell him that I
was going to the Rabbit River Mission. Not thinking,
that I was in earnest, or had courage enough, he said


" Tell Hole-in-the-sky, I am coming to get his scalp.*'
This took place three hours before they were ready to
march. In the midst of jeers and vjar-vjIioopSj I left
their mission house. They did not believe that I intend-
ed to go farther than Fort Snelling. As soon as I was
out of sight, I began to run as fast as I was able. I
called at the Post Office, which was nine miles from
the Crow Mission, got my papers and letters, and ran
about seven miles over the prairie, without stopping. I
bought a pony on the road, of a Frenchman, and having
no saddle, I rode but three miles of the whole distance.
I tied ray pack on his back, and made him run all the
afternoon. In the night I slept without a fire. I was
so anxious to get home, that I had no appetite for eat-
ing, the first tw^o days. I went at the rate of about
seventy-five miles per day, and arrived home at noon,
on the fourth day ; having walked two hundred and
forty miles, forded eight large streams, and crossed the
oroad Mississippi twice. My coat and pantaloons were
m strips. I crossed the Mississippi just in front of our
mission house, and, as soon as possible, I told the chief
that the war party w^ere now on their way to our mission,
to kill them. I advised him to lead away the women
and children, which they did, and the next day they all
left us. We, that is, my family, myself, and the other
missionaries, were now left to the mercy of the Sioux.
But they did not come, although they sent spies.
Brother Brace, Cousin Johnson, and I, now ventured
to take our families down to St. Peters. We left in a
large bark canoe, and had only one loaf of bread, two
quarts of beans, and two quarts of molasses. Brother


Brace was so sick, that we had to lift him in and out of
the canoe.

We «aw tracts of the war party, on our way to St.
Peters. They watched us on the river, as w^e heard
afterwards. We encamped about one mile and a half
this side of their watering place, during the night, and
did not know that they knew this fact, as will be seen
in the sequel. They came and held a council just
across the river from our encampment ; they could see
the light of our fire. The war chiefs agreed that four
of the warriors should swim over to us and take us ail
prisoners. One was to take the canoe to the other side
of the river, to bring over the rest of the party. They
were to kill me and my Cousin Johnson. But the chief
said to them, " If you kill these men, the Great Spirit
will be angry, nd he will send his white children to kill
us, and our children."

One of the v^arriors told the chief that he was a
coward, and that he ought to have remained at home.
To this the chief replied, "I am no coward ; and we
will see who are cowards when we come in front of our
enemies. '' Thus they disputed, and even quarelled,
among themselves, till day-light. The same morning,
we left without breakfast, and on the morning following,
we were beyond their reach.

We saw where they had raised a number of logs, so
that they might lie in ambush. I ought to mention,
that we were perfectly ignorant of all their plans and
actions, until w^e arrived at St. Peters. The chief, him-
self, communicated to us what has been stated above,
in the presence of his w^arriors.


This country, is, indeed, a dangerous place for the
Ojebwa Missionaries ; but not so for the whites, for
they never pretend to interfere with them, in auy way.

Before Conference, and while I was obliged to be at
their mission, for there was no other road for us to go,
the Sioux tried to intimidate me by pointing their guns
to my breast, and by flourishing their w^ar clubs about
my head ; they would say, " I wish you had longer
hair, so that I could take a good hold of it and scalp
you." I cannot describe my feelings^ on this occasion,
better, than by quoting, with a little alteration, from the
immortal bard of Avon: — "They were so terrible, that
they shook my soul, and made my seated heart knock
at my ribs against the use of nature ; cold drops of
sweat hung on my trembling flesh, my blood grew chilly,
and I seemed to freeze with horror." I would often
go and see them in their Tepees (\vigwams ;) this was
good policy. They frequently showed me some of the
scalps of the Ojebwas, and danced the scalping dance.
What awful noises they made, as they danced in their
fantastic dresses, w^ith their faces painted black. They
reminded me much of his Satanic and fiendish majesty,
rejoicing over a damned spirit entering hell.

During this summer, I accompanied brother Kava-
naugh to Sandy Lake Mission, at the head of the Mis-
sissippi, I returned by the Falls of St. Anthony, while
Brother Kavanaugh went by the way of Lake Superior,
he having business with the American Fur Company.
When I arrived, I leai'ned that the elder son of Brother
Kavanaugh had been drowned ; he fell from a ledge of
rocks. Sister Kavanaugh felt deeply, this mercifully


severe dispensation. Brother Kavanaugh now arrived;
poor man! he could not speak to me for some time. I
met him some distance from his house ; he had heard
of the circumstance, but had not, as yet, been home.
" How unsearchable are God's judgments ; and his
ways past finding out." Yet, withal, in such dark
hours, many a Christain sees parental Love. Ah ! we
may often exclaim, in the language of good old Jacob,
" All these things are against me,^' but we may also
say, God orders every thing for the good of his own.

That summer we w^ent to Conference, which was held
in Platteville. I was then appointed to establish a Mis-
sion at Fon du Lac, at the head of Lake Superior. Bro-
ther James Simpson was appointed school teacher.

We traveled from the Sioux Mission up the St.
Croix River, crossed over to Burnt-wood River, and
thence to Lake Superior. Having provided food, I de-
parted with Mrs. Copway and her sister, John Jacob,
Massey, and Brother Simpson, about the fifteenth of
September. We were two weeks on the St. Croix
River ; and part of this time I was so sick as to become
delirious. I was just able to walk over the two mile
portage to Burnt wood River. The other men, there-
fore, had to carry the large canoe two miles ; this
was hard, but it was impossible for me to help them.
We were now out of provisions. I have been told, by
good authority, the following singular fact. There is
but one spring which forms the two rivers; — the St.
Croix which runs down to the Mississippi, and the
Burnt- wood River which runs down to Lake Superior.

In going down the Burnt-wood river, our progress


was slow. We were out of provisions from Thursday,
till Sabbath morning, when we arrived at Fon du Lac.
On Saturday, Mrs. Cop way and her sister had a small
piece of bread between them ; the rest lived upon hope.
In the afternoon, we rowed about twenty-eight miles,
and on Sabbath morning just at day-break we had to
start for our station, Fon du Lac ; about twelve o'clock
we arrived there, and saw^ John Laundree, the trader,
who was celebrated for his hospitality. I shook hands
with him ; he asked me if I was sick ; and said, "You
look pale." I told him, we were all hungry, and had
had nothing to eat but a small piece of bread since Yvi-
day evening. "Ah, indeed!" said he, " I will soon
have breakfast for you." Mrs. Laundree, after a few
minutes, had every thing necessary for our cheer and
comfort. While eating, I thought, that whatever might
be said of Catholics, this was a truly Christian act ; and
heaven will not let it pass unnoticed.

In the evening I addressed a company of traders and
Indians. I found the Indians in a miserable state ; the
cause of which I attribute wholly to their intercourse
w^ith the traders, the principal part of whom are noto-
riously wicked and profane. I felt very thankful, how-
ever, that WT were here ; yet I w^as filled with anxieties ;
for how should I begin my labors? Brother Simpson
and I commenced by fitting up the old mission house,
formerly occupied by the Rev. Mr. Ely, who had taught
many to read and write. The school house, also, was
fitted up, and in it Brother Simpson taught, till the spring
Our prospects seemed to brighten up, and we had good
reason to think that the Indians were glad to have uc


with them ; for they sent their children regularly to
school, and our religious meetings were well attended.
During the winter several became seriously and religious-
ly affected ; and in the spring, a few believed that they
had experienced a change of heart. This encouraged
us much. I can never forget the happy seasons I en-
joyed, in my visits from house to house, and in the
woods. I endeavored to seek out all; and the good
Master was gracious tome. I have often traveled about
among them on snow shoes, weeping for joy Often,
too, did I sleep alone in the woods, having had to dig
away the snow to prepare a place to lie on. Though
frequently hungry, faint, and lonely, I enjoyed the pre-
sence of the Lord. On one occasion I was sorely tried:
I accompanied one of the traders about one hundred and
eighty miles, to purchase cattle for our place. I bought
a cow for my own immediate family ; and in the spring
it was killed and eaten by the Indians. Had they been
in want, there might have been some excuse for such
an act. We expected her to " come in" in about three
weeks, and her milk was to be our chief dependence.
It was a cruel piece of work. After having traveled,
too, three hundred and sixty miles for the purpose of
obtaining her, and then to be thus deprived, was a hard
case truly. Had she lived, many of the children of the
Indians would have shared in the milk. When will the
poor Indians be instructed in right principles ?

From along experience and close observations among
the Sioux and the Ojebwas, in regard to the hostile feel-
ings existing between them, I have been brought to the
following conclusions :


1. That Christianity and education alone, will check
their malevolent and hostile feelings, and thus put an
end to their bloody wars. For this end missionaries
must be sent to both nations.

2. That it is useless to send missionaries without suit-
able interpreters to assist them.

3. That missions should be established in the vici-
nities of the borders of the neutral grounds of these two
powerful and savage nations ; because in these places
there is but little, if anything, to excite them to revenge.

4. That wherever a mission is once established, it
ust never be abandoned.

5. That where any Protestant mission is established
in any village, no other denomination should establish
another in the same place, or interfere in any other way.

6. That missionaries ought to assist each other when-
ever they happen to fall in each other's way, or are re-
quested to do so.

7. That missionaries ought not to preach their own
peculiar doctrines, to the disadvantage of other denomi-
nations; for this not only lessens their own influence, but
likewise that of others.

The scenery near the head of Lake Superior, is almost
as splendid as that of the beautiful Hudson. There is
a magnificent fall about eight miles above the mission.
The Indians often kill moose, bears, and deer, in this
region. In the spring, summer, and fall, they live on
fish. As we had no salt, we were obliged to preserve
our fish by hanging them on poles, with their heads down-
wards, and in this manner they would freeze. When
the spring arrived, they began to thaw, and becoming


soft, would fall from the poles. Late in the fall, white
fish ascend the rapids, and can be scooped up with nets.
In the spring, fish of every kind, and in great abun-
dance, ascend these rapids.

On the 9th of April, 1842, it pleased the Lord to
bless us with a son. This was our first child — a fine
healthy boy. We thanked God for his goodness and
mercy in preserving all our lives in the desert, and
while surrounded by savages. I committed and com-
mended him to God. May he live to take his station
in the missionary field.

Brother Kavanaugh was kind enough to visit us ; he
returned by the way of Sandy Lake Mission. I accom-
panied him over the first Portage ; here we knelt down
on the green, and worshipped the God of Missions.
We now parted ; but I still hope to see this affectionate
brother again, even in this world. But if we shall
never meet on earth, I trust we shall in heaven,
" where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary
are at rest."

" Where we shall forget our sorrows and pain,
And with our Redeemer in glory shall reign,
Shall sing the anthems resounding on high,
And bathe in the ocean that never shall dry."


We were often delightfully associated with the Pres-
byterian Missionaries at La Pointe, the Rev. Messrs.

Hall and Wheeler, and their amiable families. Their



benevolence and Christian courtesy are above any
praise that we can render ; but we would acknowledge
that our hearts overflow with great gratitude whenever
we recall thera to mind. It was here that I became
acquainted with the Rev. Mr. Boutwell. I preached
for these beloved brethren several times, and we enjoyed
sweet communion, and some thrilling seasons together.
The Council of the Ojebwa nation assembled in this
place about the first of October. The government
agent, R. Stewart, of Detroit, treated with thera for
their mineral regions, for which the government gave
them a large amount in money. From this time, I shall
date the dissipation, misery, and ruin, of this part of
our nation.

1. Because it induced speculators to visit them
yearly to sell their goods at enormous prices ; and
their whiskey, which inevitably ruins both body and

2. Because it opens the door for all sorts of unprinci-
pled men and vagabonds. The miners, too, many of
whom are no better than pickpockets.

3. Because, in possessing so much money, withoul
any correct views of economy, utility, or prudence, it
becomes to them " the root of all evil " — a curse in-
stead of a blessing.

In these appropriations, the American Government
have grossly erred. What benefit can the many thou-
sands of dollars, which are paid annually, be to the
Indians, if they are not capable of exercising any judg-
ment in relation to a proper use of money ? The fact
is, that, at the end of every year, they are sunk into


deeper degradation. I Would now ask, what are mil-
lions of money without education ? I do not mean that
an equivalent should not be given for lands ceded to
the government. No ; but I do mean that this equiva-
lent should be appropriated in such a way as to pro-
duce the greatest benefits and the happiest results. If
a certain amount had been given in cash, another
amount in cattle and farmer's utensils, another in cloth-
ing, another in houses and school houses, and the like ;
and with these, if a few mechanics, farmers and teachers,
had been sent among them, the Indians might have be-
come industrious, intelUgent, and useful citizens. One-
third of each annual payment would be sufficient to
educate, and to supply all the wants of their children.
It may be supposed by some, that the white people
settled near them give them good advice, and urge
upon them the propriety and necessity of appropriating
their monies in the manner just suggested. Yet this is
not only not the case, but these very whites, at least a
large majority of them, are continually laying plans by
which they can extort from these unlettered and igno-
rant Indians, whatever they possess. I write not at
random, on these matters. I am too well acquainted
with them from painful observation and bitter experi-
ence. I have been present at ten payments; viz. at
Sault St. Marie, Mackinaw, Green Bay, Prairie Du
Chien, and St. Peters. During these payments, quan-
tities of whiskey w^ere brought to the Indians, or else
they were seduced to go elsewhere to purchase it.
Poor untutored red men ! you were deluded, and maae
drunk by white men, and then in jour hellish and


drunken passions, you turned around and imbrued
your hands in the blood of your own relatives and
brethren. And were I to narrate some of the scenes
which occurred among the white faces (with black
hearts) on these occasions, it would sicken the heart ;
nay, it w^ould make mad the guilty, and appal the inno-
cent. The very devil himself might shudder.

It was now two years since I left Canada ; I received
letters from there, from the Rev. Messrs. Stinson,
Green, and Jones, requesting me to return home and
labor with them. At first, I did not deem it advisable
to go, because I felt under many obligations to those
who had sent me to school for two years ; and had
rendered me other kind services. But it was not until
after repeated solicitations had been made, and money
to defray my traveling expenses had been remitted, that
I consented. I obtained permission from my Superin-
tendent, Rev. J. R. Goodrich, to depart. I left La
Pointe, Oct. 10th, in the schooner Algonquin for Sault
St. Marie. From there w^e took a row boat for Mack-
maw, and at M. took a steamboat for Buffalo ; we now
proceeded onwards and arrived at Toronto on the 28th
r>f October. My wife's parents and relatives, and very
many dear friends were delighted to see us again, after
?»n absence of tw^o years. We found them all well, and
felt grateful to God for another expression of his abun-
dant goodness and mercy. I spent much of my time
in narrating the scenes we had witnessed, and a full
account of my mission.

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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 8 of 15)