Among the Red Indians: Chapter 10

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
AS all, or nearly all, the hard and heavy work among the Red Indians, such as digging, planting, fetching wood, and many other kinds of labor, had to be done by the women and girls, and as, before the light of the gospel brought new hope and courage into their lives, they received unkind, and sometimes even cruel treatment, often making their hard lot still harder, it is hardly to be wondered at that they took very little trouble to make their huts and wigwams comfortable, or to keep themselves and their children clean and tidy.
They had everything to learn, and except Mr. and Mrs. Young no one to teach and help them. Their faithful missionary friends soon saw that what needed to be done was not only to visit them in their homes, but as far as possible to enter into and, while giving them a desire for better things and brighter homes, show them how much might be done by taking a little trouble.
One very hopeful thing was that when any of these poor, downtrodden women became Christians they showed a real desire to learn, and one way of helping them that answered well was going to dine with first one family and then another. At first the women seemed more than half frightened by the thought of having to receive guests, and would say, "Ah, we are very poor, we have nothing to offer you but fish," but the answer given them was, "Never mind; if you are short of food we will bring some with us," and the woman would go away delighted, making up her mind to have her home and her children as clean and tidy as her hands could make them.
Soon after breakfast Mr. Young would leave the Mission house to visit sick Indians, or attend to other needful work, so arranging his morning's work as to be able to reach the house where they were to dine just before noon. About ten o'clock Mrs. Young would have her own team of dogs harnessed up, and placing in her sledge food (the best her small means could provide), with a tablecloth, plates, knives, forks and spoons, with perhaps a few pictures, or a small present for the children, would start, attended by a faithful Indian boy as dog driver, to be warmly welcomed by the family, who were eagerly looking out for her arrival. Everything inside the house had been put in order—rubbed, scrubbed and polished up. Some pains had been taken by the mother to make herself and the children neat and tidy. Very few of the Indian houses at that time had tables, so the tablecloth was laid upon the newly-swept floor, plates, dishes, knives, forks and spoons put in order, and the dinner prepared.
By the time Mr. Young joined the party all was in readiness. A blessing was asked, and a happy group partook of the simple meal. Bibles and hymn-books were brought out, and a very happy hour or more would be spent by the whole family in Bible study. Questions would be asked and answered, and difficulties met. Hymn singing and prayer followed, and when Mr. Young left to attend to some mission work, Mrs. Young generally stayed for some time longer, and helped the women to cut out and make their own and their children's clothes.
Once, when speaking from the verse, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:2020Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)), Mr. Young said, "When you heard that we were coming to have dinner with you, many of you were afraid, and said, 'We cannot entertain the missionaries, for we have nothing to set before them.' But we told you not to make a trouble of that; we would bring food, all we asked for was a welcome.
“Now the Lord Jesus knows not only how sinful, but how poor we are. He knows that we have nothing to offer that is worthy of Him, but He asks for a welcome to our hearts. Do we really want Him as our Savior, our Lord, our Friend? The door of the heart may have been long closed to Him, but if you open it, He will enter, and bring all the love, hope, joy and peace that you need to make you His loving, faithful followers.”
Such simple talks were a great help to the Indians, and were used by God in leading many of them into the light and liberty of the gospel.
After visiting some scattered bands of Indians, Mr. Young was on his return journey, and was anxious to get home as quickly as possible, for it was late in the season, and there was every reason to think that a violent storm was coming on. A heavy fog had settled upon both banks of the river, when to the surprise of himself and his companions they heard the report of fire-arms. They knew it was a signal to them to stop; it hardly seemed wise to do so, as night was coming on, and with it the storm might sweep down upon them. But perhaps God had some work to be done for Him there. So the head of the canoe was turned to the shore, and soon five Indians came in sight.
When asked why they stopped the canoe, their answer was that they were very hungry and wanted help. The bag of powder which they had carried had been spoiled by rain, and they knew that a great storm was very near. They were pagan Indians, whom Mr. Young had met before. When he had tried to tell them of the true God, their answer had been, "As our fathers lived we will live, as our fathers died we too will die.”
He then told his Indian companions to go to the canoe and see what food there was; he knew there could not be much. They soon returned, saying there was about enough for one good meal all round. He divided it so that they all shared alike. The storm came on, and for three days they were unable to launch their canoe. The whole party suffered much from hunger. On the morning of the third day one of the Indians found the dried shoulder bone of a bear on the shore. With his knife he contrived to cut a fish-hook, tying his leather shoe strings together for a line, and finding a scrap of red flannel for a bait, with a small stone as a sinker; with this rude tackle he caught a pike weighing about six pounds. It was soon scaled, cleaned and cooked. The Indian put about two pounds of it upon his tin plate, but as he looked at the hungry men he felt he could not eat more than his share, so taking out his knife he cut the fish into eight equal parts, one for each of the party.
As the storm had abated, Mr. Young and his companions were soon on their homeward way. He was told by the Christian Indians who were with him in his canoe that they heard the Indians talking to each other something in the following way: "We must listen with both our ears to the words of the missionary, for they are good words. When he reads the words of the great book, we will listen and obey, for he told us it was the words of his book that made him kind to poor Indians. He shared his last meal with us; if he had not stopped when we asked him, he might have reached his home before the storm came on. When the fish was caught, he was hungry, but he would not eat more of it than we did. Yes, we will listen to his words.”
The long winter passed, and the welcome summer came at last. As usual a great number of Indians came to the fort to sell their furs. Many called to see the missionary; among them were five tall men, who said, after a few words of greeting, "Missionary, do you remember the fish?”
“What fish? We often have fish twenty-one times a week. How should I remember one fish?”
“We mean the fish we caught," they said. "All through the moons of winter we have thought of your words, and now we want you to teach us how we may be Christians.”
The five men decided for Christ, and were soon afterward baptized. Before the next winter they and their families were living in the Christian village, showing by their changed lives that they really desired to please and follow Christ.