Among the Red Indians: Chapter 11

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 11
OUR last chapter must, I think, begin with some words I will copy from the letter written to Titus by the Apostle Paul: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." (Titus 2:11, 1211For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (Titus 2:11‑12).) For perhaps the power of the gospel, of what it can do in winning hearts and uplifting lives, has nowhere been more clearly proved than among the copper-colored people who live on the shores of the great lakes of North America.
Great numbers of those who were once heathen have become Christians. As heathen they were selfish and cruel, the sick and aged often received very hard usage at their hands; as Christians they have become kind, gentle and unselfish, and take a real pleasure in caring for poor, lonely and afflicted ones.
New Year's Day at Mr. Young's mission station was, year after year, if a very busy, a very happy time, as all the Indians for a distance of several miles round were invited to be on that day the guests of the missionary and his wife. But laying in food supplies for such a large company must begin in good time, so weeks before a meeting was called, and quite a number of the Christian Indians said, "We wish to help, so please, missionary, take your pen and paper and write down what each of us is likely to give." Two or three, who were good deer hunters, would promise to shoot deer and bring venison for the feast. Another would say, "I can trap beavers, and I will bring as many as I can trap." A tall, dark son of the forest would rise to his feet, saying, "I know where the bears have made their dens; I will go with two or three of my friends, who are brave hunters. If we can shoot a bear its meat will be our gift to the feast." Others, who were good fur hunters, said, "When we go to the trading port we will exchange some of our furs for tea and sugar.”
As provisions were brought in they were stored at the mission station, when, owing to the severe cold, they were within a few hours frozen so hard that there was no difficulty in keeping even fresh meat. When the day drew near Mrs. Young would select several of the most intelligent of the Indian women as her helpers, and under her direction a quantity of food was soon cooked and piled up, enough to satisfy every one, though the Indians are well known to have good appetites. While Mrs. Young and her helpers were so engaged a party of men were just as busy. All the seats were taken out of the schoolroom and they put up long tables.
When the long-looked-for day arrived everything was in readiness, and a large company quickly but quietly assembled. Every table was piled with food, a blessing was asked, but before a mouthful was eaten by any one (and the guests often numbered from eight hundred to a thousand), the chief would ask for a pencil and paper, and say, "Now we will see how many of our people are sick, or afflicted, or too aged to be with us to-day. They must not feel that they are forgotten." Name after name was given and rapidly written down. Then he would read over the list, adding, "Let us be sure that we do not forget any one." Some one would say, "There is an old woman who lives ten miles up the river who is too feeble to walk so far," and another would add, "I did not hear the name of the boy who was badly wounded in the leg two months ago, and has not been able to walk since.”
These names were added to the list, then Mr. and Mrs. Young were asked for all the old newspapers and packing-papers they could find, and as for months past they had been saving them for that purpose, a supply was soon forthcoming. Liberal portions of food were then cut off, willing hands quickly made up good-sized parcels, one for each person whose name was on the list. The chief would then call in as many of the young men as there were parcels, and giving one to each (the long-distance loads to those whom he knew to be swift runners), would say, as he named each absent one, "Give them not only the food but our love and new year's greeting, and say that we are sorry that they could not be with us to-day.”
As the missionaries watched the young men tighten their belts, and start off with their loads, they could only look on with praise-filled hearts and whisper to each other, "What hath God wrought?”
The gathering had begun with prayer, and then the Indians, many of whom possessed really fine voices, joined with their white friends in singing: "Be present at our table, Lord.”
Mrs. Young had a long table, at which she had taken special care to seat as many as possible of the most aged and infirm of her many guests. A number of pagan Indians were present, many of whom had come distances of from twenty to forty miles to be present at the great feast, of which they had heard in their scattered forest homes. All were made welcome, as it gave an opportunity of telling them "the old, old story" of a Savior's love, and in this way, year by year, by twos and threes, some were won for Christ.
Then the feast began, and all were satisfied, and provisions left were divided among the more needy ones. Tables were quickly taken down and the room swept for the great event of the day, the new year's meeting.
After one or two hymns and prayers several Indians gave short addresses, some telling how, through the preaching of the gospel, they had been led to Christ, and told, in simple but touching words, of the joy and peace of their hearts. Once the bond slaves of Satan, they rejoiced in the knowledge that they were children of God by faith in His beloved Son. Others spoke on matters more connected with Indian life and work, but all spoke from full hearts of the goodness of God, and united in expressions of affection for the missionaries and kind feeling and goodwill to each other. Men from tribes who, not many years before, had been at deadly war with each other, might be seen chatting in a friendly manner.
More singing and prayer followed, then good nights were said, the busy but happy day was ended, and the guests departed by forest paths to their various homes.