George Copway.

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

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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 9 of 15)
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In about a month, I was sent to Credit River, (Mrs.
C. remained behind in her father's family.) Here I


taught school till Christmas, when I began traveling
with Rev. Wm. Ryerson, on a missionary tour towards
Montreal. We were absent about three months, and
preached or spoke every day. We collected about
a thousand dollars per month. The eloquence and
piety of Brother R. seemed to be duly appreciated where-
ever we went. He is the best platform speaker, that T
ever heard in the Methodist connexion. I had sup-
posed, however, that he would be dull and monotonous ;
but this was far, very far from the fact.

Having returned from this tour, to Toronto, I was
next appointed by the Missionary Society to labor at the
Saugeeng Mission, in the place of the Rev. Thomas
Williams. On this journey my wife accompanied me.
The distance was one hundred and sixty miles ; 'and
we reached there on the 12th of April, *43. On our
way, we stopped at Goderich ; and from thence we took
a canoe about sixty-five miles.

I entered upon my duties as a missionary among the
Christian Indians. I met with difficulties, for I could
obtain nothing without money ; and even when a re-
quest was made, it was not met by the Society. I
could not be convinced that it was my duty to starve,
and therefore concluded I must leave. My Indian bre-
thren stepped forward at this time, and petitioned Go-
vernor Metcalf. to afford me a living from the Govern-
ment. Their request was granted, and I was paid by
Government $400 per year, for three years. I should
have continued here, but the next year my services
were demanded among my relatives at Rice Lake.

In the summer, I took Mrs. Cop way to Toronto, and


left her at her father's, while I was absent at Montreal
with the Rev. Mr. Jones. Here we waited on the Go-
vernor General, and presented our views, and those of
our people, respecting the formation of a Manual Labor
School for the benefit of the Indians. The Governor
expressed himself as favorably disposed, but was too
sick to take an active part in it. But before this, the
Canada Conference had appointed Rev. P. Jones and
myself, to visit the Missions, and ascertain how much
each Mission was willing to contribute for this object.*
During this fall, Mr. Jones and family left for England.
I returned to Toronto and took my family back to
Saugeeng Mission. While on our passage, in a schooner,
our litde son, who was about three years old, fell
overboard ; we heard him fall into the water. I ran
immediately to the side of the vessel and jumped into
the lake. The schooner was sailing quite rapidly, ana
had passed him about twenty yards. I swam as fast aj
possible, and saw him sink. When I reached the spot
where he sank, I dove down about seven feet, seized
hold of him, and brought him to the surface. As the
waves were runnmg high, it was with the greatest diffi-
culty that I could keep him above the water so that he
could breathe ; and I was compelled at times to let him
sink an instant, that I might breathe myself. I heard
him cry, which was encouraging, for I was fearful that
he was dying. At one time I almost despaired of
saving either of our lives. I was about giving up all
hope, when I saw the yawl boat near me, and I was

*The amount reported from the Indians alone, was $2,800


told that I was just about sinking, when the captain res-
cued us from a water}^ grave. The captain, and all on
board, were so frightened, that ihey lost some time in
concluding what to do. Had they luffed at once, and
despatched the yawl, two or three minutes might have
been saved. But, I ought not to complain ; our lives
were spared, and thanks be to a kind Providence for
his timely deliverance. I then gave him up to God,
and prayed that he might be preserved, and be devoted
to the cause of Christ.

We now resumed our labors at the Mission. While
at this station there where many hopeful conversions.
A remarkable circumstance is, that during the whole
three years of my sojourn in this field of labor, I never
knew but one single case in which fire-water was used.
I must not omit noticing here, a very faithful teacher in
my charge. Jacob Jackson ; his influence was of the
best kind; he was also a very pleasant and interesting
singer. It has been but a few years since these In-
dians were converted. They now have good farms,
dweUings, school houses, meeting houses, and a saw
mill. How wonderful are the effects of the gospel!
They also take delight in praying, and in singing the
praises of God. Had the American Government
adopted the same course towards the La Pointe Indians,
that the British Government adopted toward these, the
same lasting blessings would have ensued.



Of late, the General Councils of the Christianized
Ojebwas have been convened, and conaucted, in the
same manner as public and other business meetings are
conducted among the "whites. The last General Coun-
cil, which consisted of Ojebwas and Ottawas, was held
at Saugeeng. The chiefs came from Lakes St. Clair,
Huron, Ontario, and Simcoe, and from Rice and Mud
Lakes. The object of this convention was to devise
plans by which the tract of land now owned by the
Saugeeng Indians, could be held for the sole benefit of
the Ojebwa Nation; to petition the Government for aid
in establishing a Manual Labor School; to ascertain
the views and feelings of the chiefs in relation to forming
one large settlement among themselves at Owen's
Sound, there to live in future ; and to attend to other
things of minor importance. There were forty-eight
chiefs present, from Canada West alone. Chief Sawyer
took the chair, and the writer had the honor of being

Vice President. Chief John Jones, of Owen Sound,
was selected to deliver the opening address, in which
he was to give an outline of the subjects to be discussed.
The meeting was now called to order ; and after sing-
ing, and an appropriate prayer by Chief John Sunday,
Chief Jones arose; all was silent, and every eye was
turned towards him. After rolling his small but piercing
black eye over the vast assembly, he spoke as follows :
" Brothers ! You have been called from all parts of


Canada, and even from the north of Georgian Bay.
You are from your homes, your wives, and your chil-
dren. We might regret this, were it not for the circum-
stances that require you here.

" Fellow Chiefs and Brothers, I have pondered with
deep solicitude, our present condition ; and the future
welfare of our children, as well as of ourselves. I have
studied deeply and anxiously, in order to arrive at a
true knowledge of the proper course to be pursued to
secure to us and to our descendants, and even to others
around us, the greatest amount of peace, health, happi-
ness, and usefulness. The interests of the Ojebwas and
the Ottawas are near and dear to my heart ; for them,
I have passed many sleepless nights, and have often
suffered from an agitated mind. These nations, I am
proud to say, are my brothers ; many of them, are bone
of my bone, and for them, if needs be, I could willingly,
nay, cheerfully, sacrifice any thing. Brothers, you see
my heart. [Here the speaker held out a piece of white
paper, emblematical of a pure heart.]

*' Fellow Chiefs and Warriors ! I have looked over
your wigwams throughout Canada, and have arrived at
the conclusion, that you are in a warm place ; your
neighbors, the whites, are kindling fires all around you
[that is, clearing the lands.] One purpose for which
you have been called together, is to devise some plan
by which we can live together, and become a happy
people, so that our dying fires may not go out [our
nation may not become extinct,] but may be kindled in
one place, which will prove a blessing to our children.

" Brothers ! Some of you are living on small parcels


of land, and others on Islands. We low offer you any
portion of the land which we owi? m this region ; that
we may, the rest of our days, smoke the pipe of friend-
ship ; live and die together ; and see our children play,
and be reared on one spot. We ask no money of you.
We love you ; and because we love you, and feel for
your children, we propose this.

*' Brothers! There are many other subjects which
w^e think ought to come under your consideration
besides those already stated. But the most important
are :

" 1. Whether it would not be better for the whole
Ojebwa Nation to reside on this, our territory.

'* 2. Would it not be well to devise ways and means
to establish Manual Labor Schools for the benefit of the

"3. Ought not a petition to be drawn up and presented
to our Great Father [the Governor General,] for the
purpose of fixing upon a definite time for the distribu-
tion of the annual *' presents," and the small annuities
of each tribe.

" 4. Is it not desirable to petition the Governor
General, to appoint a resident Indian interpreter, to
assist the agent in Toronto.

"5. As we [the Christian part of our nation] have
abandoned our former customs and ceremonies, ought
we not to make our own laws, in order to give character
and stability to our chiefs, as well as to empower them
to treat with the Government under which we live, that
they may, from time to time, present all our grievances
and other matters to the General Government.


" My Chiefs, Brothers, Warriors ! This morning, [the
speaker now pointed his finger towards heaven] look
up, and see the blue sky ; there are no clouds ; the sun
is bright and clear. Our fathers taught us, that at such
assemblies when the sky was without clouds, the Great
Spirit was smiUng upon them. May he now preside
over us, that we may make a long, smooth, and straight
path for our children. It is true, I seldom see you all ;
but this morning, I shake hands with you all in my

" Brothers ! This is all I have to say."

On taking his seat eighty-four chiefs responded
** Hah .'" an exclamation of great applause.

Several chiefs spoke, and highly approved of what
had been proposed ; and expressed their gratitude for
the kind offer of the lands. It was proposed to petition
his Excellency the Governor, to grant and secure to the
Indians, the whole of this territory.

The following was drawn up by John Jones, Jacob
Tackson, and David Wa-wa-nosh.

The Petition of the Ojebwa Chiefs, in General Council, respecting
the unceded lands north of Saugccng and Owen's Sound, June
5tL 1845.

To our Great Father Lord Metcalf, Governor General of British
North America^ and Captain General of the same, &c., &c.

The Ojebwa Chiefs in General Council assembled, humbly sheweth:

Father — Your Petitioners having ceded a great portion of
their once extensive territory about Saugeeng and Owen's Sound,
and a portion of it having been restored to them since the treaty
of 1836, by your Excellency's gracious commands;

Father — Your Petitioners are very anxious that the reserve
/'now still known as the Indian Territory) be a perpetnal reserve:


as a fulnre refuge for a general colonization of the Ojebwa
Nation, comprising the scattered Tribes in Canada West;

Father — And that these lands may now and for ever be open-
eil to all the Tribes ; that whenever any tribe is disposed to move,
that they may have nothing to fear, but have access to any of
the good lands to settle upon ;

Father — You have settled your white children on those
lands that once were our fathers ; we ask now to let us have the
only remaining land we have, to ourselves, unmolested ;

Father — This is the prayer of your red children ; and feeling
confident that you will give it every important consideration
which it requires, your red children will listen to hear the
answer of their Great Father. And they, as in duty bound, will
ever pray.

Forty-seven names, besides that of the President,
were attached to this petition.

Never was I more delighted than with the appearance
of this body. As I sat and looked at them, I contrasted
their former (degraded) with their present (elevated)
condition. The Gospel, I thought, had done all this.
Tf any one had told me twenty years ago, that such would
be their condition,! should have ridiculed the idea, and
set the narrator down for a fool or a maniac. This
assembly was not convened for the purpose of devising
schemes of murder ; plans by which they could kill their
enemies ; but to adopt measures by which peace, har-
mony, and love, might be secured, and a " smooth
and straight path" made for their children. I see
nothing at present, to hinder them from increasing in
knowledge, happiness, and usefulness, except the con-
duct of the Government Agents, many of whom are
inimical to our nation, and often prove a curse to her.

Several other papers were drawn up, and signed by


the President, by order of the General Council. One
of these I must be allowed to give, although it concerns

To ALL TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. In the General Council
of the Ojebwa nation of Indians. We, the Chiefs, of the various
Tribes of the Ojebwa Indians, do hereby appoint and authorize
our beloved brother, the Rev. George Cop way, as our agent for
the Manual Labor School, to procure subscriptions for the same^
believing tiiat this will be one of the greatest means, if estab-
lished, of raising our young men, to become like our white
brothers; to learn industry, economy, and to gain knowledge,
that we may become a happy and a prosperous people.

Signed by order of the General Council.

President of the General Council of the Ojebwa Nation.

Saugeeng, July 4, 1845.

I will also give an extract of my letter to the Rev.
Mr. Wilkinson, who was then President of the Canada
Conference, immediately after the close of the General

^Extract from Letter Book, Page 151.^

Saugeeng Mission, ")
July 14, 1845. $
To the President of the Conference, Rev. Mr. Wilkinson.

The late General Council, have appointed me their agent for
the Manual Labor School. I shall be happy to receive any in-
structions you may think proper to give, on my way down Qo

Montreal] for I am anxious to see this going on.

* * *

I remain yours, &c.,


Missionary at Saugeeng.

I give these, for the benefit and instruction of thoeCj


who have been so kind as to insinuate, or assert, that I
was not an authorized agmt to forward the interests of
my poor people. Those who have been the loudest
and most active in this slander, have done the least, in
rendering the Indians any essential service. Let them
go on, with their gossippings, while I go on my way re-
joicing in doing all I can for my poor people, indepen-
dently of the Canada Conference. Neither have I any
disposition to court the favor of this Conference. In-
deed, my heart has often sickened at the divisions and
subdivisions of the Canada Methodists.

The speeches of Jones, Sunday, Taunchey, McCue,
D. Sawyer, J. Youngs, W. Herkermer, were excellent.
That of John Sunday, particularly, was uncommonly
eloquent. His keen black eyes, flashing fire ; and his
large brawny arms extended, gave great effect to his
speech. As a matter of course, there were often diflfer-
ences of opinion, as well as warm discussions, upon
various subjects ; some would even feel that their views
were not fairly treated ; still, there were no unkind re-
marks, no calling of hard names, no abuse, no ridi-
cule, no insults, no threats, no intrigues, no blows,
and no challenges to meet on the field o/* honor (?). The
individual who had the floor, was never interrupted ;
profound attention was giv^en, and a death-like silence
was observed. Occasionally, it is true, there was per-
petrated a pleasant, and innocent Jew d^ esprit; an ex-
ample of which, I will give.

During a protracted debate, in which Chief John
Jones took a very active part, some facts were elicited,
and some views were presented, which induced him to
change some of his former opinions, and vote on the


other side. One of the speakers at the close of his re-
marks, referred to this fact, and observed, very good
humoredly " If he wishes to be like ^Jlsh worm without
a head — capable of moving forwards or backwards, let
him alone."

I have often been asked the question, " What is the
reason that the Indians are diminishing in numbers in
the midst of their white neighbors ?" To state all that
might be said in replying to this question, would re-
quire almost a separate volume. But the following are
a few of the principal reasons :

1. The introduction of King Alcohol among them.

2. The introduction of new diseases, produced by
their intercourse with the whites ; and by adopting their
intemperate habits.

3. Their inability to pursue that course of living, after
abandoning their wigwams, which tends to health and
old age.

4. Their spirits are broken down in consequence of
seeing that their race are becoming homeless, friendless,
moneyless, and trodden down by the whites.

5. Their future prospects are gloomy and cheerless —
enough to break down the noblest spirits.

There are many other reasons which could be
assigned for their diminution. But are not these suffi-
cient of themselves to crush and exterminate even any
white race, if not protected and defended by friends and
whoiesome laws ? Our people have been driven from
their homes, and have been cajoled out of the few
sacred spots where the bones of their ancestors and
children lie ; and where they themselves expected to


lie, when released from the (rials and troubles of hu.
Were it possible to reverse the order of things, by
placing the \vhites in the same condition, how long
would it be endured ? There is not a white man, who
deserves the name of man, that would not rather die
than be deprived of his home, and driven from the
graves of his relatives. " Oh shame, where is thy

With all the wholesome and enlightened laws ; with
all the advantages and privileges of the glorious Gospel,
that shines so richly and brightly all around the white
man ; the poor ignorant Indians are compelled, at the
point of the bayonet, to forsake the sepulchres of those
most dear to them, and to retire to a strange land,
where there is no inhabitant to welcome them ! ! ! May
the day soon dawn, when Justice will take her seat
upon the throne.

If I did not think that there were some who are alive
to the interests of my people, and often shed a tear for
them ; if I did not think that I could discover a gleam
of light and hope in the future, " I should of all men
be most miserable." " Surely the bitterness of death "
would be " past." I look then to the Gospel and to
education as my only hope.

I will now state, in a very brief manner, what I think
ought to be done, by those whose benevolent feelings
lead them to commiserate the condition of the Abori-
gines of Ainerica.

1. They should establish missions and high schools
wherever the whites have frequent intercourse with


2. They should use their influence, as soon as the
Indians are well educated, and understand the laws of
the land, to have them placed on the same footing as
the whites.

3. They should try to procure for them a territorial
or district government, so that they may represent their
o\yn nation.

4. They should obtain for them, deeds of their own
lands ; and, if qualified, according to law, urge their
right to vote.

The Indians will be sure to waste and squander what-
ever they may receive from the American or British
Government, unless some, at least, of the above sugges-
tions, shall have been put into practice.

The Council was now dissolved. The President,
Chief Sawyer, proceeded to His Excellency, the Gover-
nor General, and presented the petitions, in the name
of the General Council. These petitions, as we learned
afterwards, were received with a simple nod ! of the
head. mercy ! is this for ever to be our destiny ?
Common humanity, at least, might have induced his
Lordship to speak a few consolatory words, if nothing
else. Our reception was both discouraging and chill-
ing. When we have a press of our own, we shall,
perhaps, be able to plead our own cause. Give us
but the Bible, and the influence of a Press, and we ask
no more.

The General Council appointed me to go to Walpolc,
to present their address to the Walpole Island Indians,
entreating them to embrace Christianity. I visited them
in July.




As the Ojebwa Nation are within the bounds of the
two Governments — the American and the British — I will
give a separate account of each. The number of our
nation, according to Drake, in 1842, was thirty thou-
sand ; and this is not far from the truth. The best
work upon the Indians, however, is that deservedly
popular book, by Col. McKinney, of New York ; the
undoubted friend of the red man.

I will now speak of that part of the nation who oc-
cupy places within the bounds of the United States.
They inhabit all the northern part of Michigan, or the
south shore of Lake Huron ; the whole northern part of
Wisconsin Territory ; all the south shore of Lake Supe-
rior, for eight hundred miles; the upper part of the Mis-
sissippi, and Sandy, Leach, and Red Lakes.

That part of our nation who live in the British posses-
sions, occupy from Gononaque, below Kingston, through-
out all western Canada ; the north of Lake Huron ; the
north of Lake Superior ; the north of Lake VVine'pig ;
the north of Red River Lake, about one hundred
miles. The whole extent, therefore, occupied is over
one thousand nine hundred miles east and west, and
from two to three hundred miles north and south.

There are over five thousand hving under the British
Government, and less than twenty-five thousand under


the American Government. There are about five thou-
sand of these who receive religious instructions ; mis^
sionaries of different denominations being sent from
Canada and the United States. The Methodists were
the first who preached to the Ojebwas. or Massissaugas
(as they are frequently called.) They commenced at
Credit River, in Canada West, in 1824, and at Grape
Island, in 1827, The conversion of some of the Ojeb-
was commenced during those years. Native teachers
were then sent to their brethren in the West, where the
influence of Christianity is still felt. There are twenty-
three Methodist Missionary Stations: six of which are
in the States, and the remainder in Canada. There
are four Presbyterian Missions, all of which are in the
States ; viz. La Pointe, Bad River, Leach Lake, and
Red Lake. There are seven Episcopalian Mission Sta-
tions; all of which are in Canada, except one, which
is at Green Ba}'. There are two Baptist Mission Sta-
tions, one at Sault St. Marie, and the other at Green
Bay. The Roman Catholics have their missionaries in
nearly all the principal places in the west.

Those who are not under religious instruction, al-
though accessible, are wandering without the gospel.
There is a field in the Territory of Wisconsin where
missionaries should be sent. There are Indians all
around the shores of Lake Superior who have, from
time to time, called for missionaries, and have not yet
been supplied. The Hudson's Pay Company have, of
late, adopted a plan which in my opinion does them
much credit ; they employ Misrionaries to give instruc-
tion to the Indians and their chddren in the principles


of Christianity. There are persons who once belonged
to other nations, who now live in the territory of the

The present state of the christianized Ojebwas is such,
that they are fully ripe for greater advancement in reli-
gion, literature, and the arts and sciences. Multitudes
have left their wigwams, their woods, and the chase,
and are now endeavoring to tread in the footsteps of
worthy white men. The reasons for all this, are the fol-
lowmg :

1. Their chiefs have seen the necessity of making a
"smooth, strait path for their children," by appropria-
ting as much of their means as they could spare.

2. The rising generation are beginning to thirst for
learning, and are cultivating a taste for improvement
more than ever.

3. Native teachers are now being trained to go to
their brethren, and preach to them in their ow^n language,
Christ, and him crucified. By this means the nation

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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 9 of 15)