A year in the life of a missionary

Daily Reading for December 15 • John Horden, Bishop and Missionary in Canada, 1893, and Robert McDonald, Priest, 1913

The time has again come round for sending you an Annual Letter, and it is with feelings of thankfulness that I would recognize the measure of blessing which has continued to attend the work of evangelization.

Owing to hard times which prevailed during the greater part of the past year among several of the tribes, it was impossible to visit them as usual; and much had to be left undone that might otherwise have been attempted. But I hope that the Christian leaders were enabled to supply this want in some degree. Among the others, a considerable advance was made by some in an increasing knowledge of Divine truth, and I trust there has been a corresponding growth in piety. The baptismal register shows a total of 1393. The Lord’s Supper was several times administered: the communicants number 112. Confirmation has been administered by the Bishop to 133. Nine deaths occurred, all children but one, of whom I am thankful to say that he was, I trust, prepared for the event. He was unconscious for three days before his death; but he had frequently expressed his faith in Christ, and his hope that when called hence he would depart to be for ever with the Lord.

In February my brother visited the Peel River and La Pierre’s House Indians, who were encamped together about seventy miles distance, in a southwesterly direction from Fort McPherson. He found John Tchietla and William Sekut, two Christian leaders, very diligent in conducting daily morning and evening prayers and teaching. John Tchietla was keeping school daily with about forty pupils. He did not possess much capacity for teaching to read, still he rendered good service.

On the 31st March I set out on a missionary journey to the Toucon, leaving my brother at Fort McPherson to continue there till the end of April, after which to proceed to La Pierre’s House to pass the next month at that post. On the third day I arrived at La Pierre’s House, where I spent about a week. Resuming my journey, I arrived at Rampart House after six days’ travelling. There I learnt that provisions in store were scarce, that the Indians connected with that post were still suffering from want of food, and that the American traders at Fort Youcon were in similar circumstances.

In this emergency I determined to return to La Pierre’s House. A week after I arrived there, my brother joined me from Fort McPherson, and we passed the spring together. All the Indians of that post assembled there at the beginning of May; and that month was passed pleasantly, teaching them daily, morning and evening and at other times, and conducting school with an average attendance of about twenty-five pupils. All made fair progress, and at the end of that time the greater number were reading the New Testament in Tukudh.

On the 2nd June I started for Fort McPherson to meet the Bishop. I reached there on the 6th June, and was sorry to find only about a third of the Peel River Indians assembled, the rest not having yet come in from their hunting-grounds. The day following the Bishop arrived. Four days were subsequently spent there; and on Sunday, the 11th, the Bishop administered confirmation to twenty-three individuals, of whom thirteen, who were previously communicants, afterwards received the Lord’s Supper. Three of the communicants belong to La Pierre’s House. A few Esquimaux having arrived, the Bishop had them assembled, and endeavoured to teach them a little through the Hudson Bay Company’s interpreter. The next day the Bishop and myself, with two young men carrying for us, set out to cross the mountains, it being necessary to reach La Pierre’s House by the 6th June, in order to secure a passage thence in the Hudson Bay Company’s boat to Rampart House. La Pierre’s House was reached on the third day. Two days were kindly allowed for the Bishop to see the Indians and administer confirmation. That rite was administered to fifty-five individuals, of whom twenty-nine afterwards received the Lord’s Supper.

The day following we embarked in the boat for Rampart House, and in the evening of the 20th June reached that post. Only about 120 Indians were assembled of the five following tribes: the Tranjik-Kutchin, Netsi-Kutchin, Vuntet-Kutchin, Hun-Kutchin, and Truthtsyik-Kutchin. A few had left the day before through want of food. Others had been prevented from coming through a continuance of hard times. There was a great scarcity of provisions in the fort, and the Indians around were famishing. They therefore could not remain long and all despatch had to be used to allow them to depart as soon as possible to procure food for themselves. Two days after, confirmation was administered by the Bishop to twenty-nine individuals, all of whom afterwards received the Lord’s Supper. The most of the Indians took their departure the same day. I would have accompanied the Hun-Kutchin and Truthtsyik-Kutchin, but want of provisions prevented my doing so. Three days more were spent at Rampart House, when we embarked in the boat on its return to La Pierre’s House. On the 5th of July that post was reached, and three days after we arrived at Fort McPherson. As we were to pass about a month there, we were pleased to find a few Indians encamped at the place.

Two days after, a few Indians came on a visit from the fisheries up and down the river, and a good many children came to attend school. The Bishop shortly after visited a camp of Indians up Peel River, and was away for nearly a fortnight. He administered confirmation to ten individuals, and baptism to six, of whom two were adults. After his return he confirmed seventeen more, and the Lord’s Supper was administered to twenty individuals. Daily morning and evening prayers in Indian were conducted by me at the fort, and school was kept with an average attendance of twenty pupils.

On the 7th August the Peel River boats started for Fort Simpson, and at the Bishop’s invitation I accompanied him thither. We arrived there on the 1st September, and, three days after, the first synod of this diocese was held.

The return trip to Fort McPherson was accomplished in nine days. I remained there till December 5th, and then set out on a missionary journey to the western side of the Rocky Mountains. Nearly a fortnight was passed at La Pierre’s House, with the most of the Indians of that post. I proceeded as far as Rampart House with a view to spending a few days with a tribe of Indians connected with that post, but scarcity of provisions among them prevented my visiting them. It was only yesterday evening I returned to this place, where there is also scarcity at present; but it is hoped that the Indians will ere long succeed in procuring provisions.

From the annual report of Archdeacon Robert McDonald, Fort McPherson, January 27, 1877, in Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, A Monthly Journal of Missionary Information, volume 3 (1878).

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