WITH THE HARMONY TO LABRADOR
A VISIT TO THE MORAVIAN MISSION STATIONS ON THE NORTH EAST COAST OF LABRADOR
London: MORAVIAN CHURCH AND MISSION AGENCY. 32, FETTER LANE, E.C.
* * * * *
WITH THE HARMONY TO LABRADOR.
NOTES OF A VISIT BY THE REV. B. LA TROBE TO THE MORAVIAN MISSION STATIONS ON THE NORTH-EAST COAST OF LABRADOR.
LONDON: MORAVIAN CHURCH AND MISSION AGENCY, 32, FETTER LANE, E.C.
LONDON: G. NORMAN AND SON, PRINTERS, HART STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C.
PAGE INTRODUCTORY REMARKS 1 ARRIVAL AT HOPEDALE, THE SOUTHERN STATION 2 THE 119TH VOYAGE OF THE SOCIETY'S VESSEL 3 HOPEDALE 5 A STROLL "TO THE HEATHEN" 5 JOYS AND SORROWS—A MARRIAGE AND A FUNERAL 7 THREE NATIVE HELPERS 9 A COMMUNION AND FESTIVAL SUNDAY AT HOPEDALE 11 A PLEASANT SAIL FROM HOPEDALE TO ZOAR 13 ZOAR 14 A CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE SHIP HILL AT ZOAR 15 FROM ZOAR TO NAIN BETWEEN ISLANDS 16 THE FIRST EVENING AT NAIN 17 INTERCHANGE OF VISITS WITH THE ESKIMOES 18 TWO ESKIMO GROUPS TAKEN AT NAIN 21 "GOD'S ACRE" 23 A BUSY WEEK AT NAIN 25 FROM NAIN TO OKAK 27 THE MOST PRIMITIVE STATION IN LABRADOR 30 WALKS IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF OKAK 33 FROM OKAK TO RAMAH 34 "RAMARSUK" (NEAT LITTLE RAMAH) 35 AN ESKIMO VILLAGE 38 ON THE BEACH AT RAMAH 41 A FAITHFUL NATIVE HELPER 42 LEAVING RAMAH 43 SUNSET, MOONRISE AND AURORA BOREALIS 44 ARRIVAL AT HEBRON 45 THE VISITING MISSIONARIES' LEVEE 46 A SLEDGE DRIVE 47 MY LAST SUNDAY IN LABRADOR 51 MUSIC ON THE WATER 53 HOMEWARD BOUND 53
"THE HARMONY" 1 HOPEDALE 4 TITUS, NATIVE HELPER AT HOPEDALE 10 ESKIMO HOUSES 19 A GROUP OF WIDOWS AT NAIN 21 THE CHOIR AT NAIN 22 ICE AGROUND 29 RAMAH 36 TENTS AT RAMAH 37 AN ESKIMO IN HIS KAYAK 42 TRAVELLING IN LABRADOR 49
Is an extensive triangular peninsula on the north-east coast of British North America, Lat. 50 deg. to 62 deg. N., Lon. 56 deg. to 78 deg. W.; bounded N. by Hudson's Straits, E. by the Atlantic, S.E. by the Strait of Belle Isle, separating it from Newfoundland, S. by the Gulf and River St. Lawrence and Canada, and W. by James' Bay and Hudson's Bay. Its area is estimated at 420,000 sq. miles. The vast interior, inhabited by a few wandering Nascopie Indians, is little known; the coast, mainly but sparsely peopled by Eskimoes, is rugged, bleak and desolate. Seals abound, and the sea is well stocked with cod and other fish. The wild animals include deer (caribou), bears, wolves, foxes, martens, and otters. The Eskimo dogs are trained to draw sledges, to which they are attached in teams of from eight to fourteen.
The temperature in winter ranges lower than that of Greenland, the thermometer often showing a minimum of 70 deg. below freezing-point of Fahrenheit. The climate is too severe to ripen any cereals, and the flora is very limited.
The Moravian Mission to the Eskimoes on the north-east coast of Labrador was established in 1771 by a colony of brethren and sisters from England and Germany, who on July 1st reached Unity's Harbour, and at once began the erection of a station, calling it NAIN. An earlier attempt in 1752 under the direction of John Christian Erhardt had failed, the leader of the little band of missionaries and the captain of the ship, together with several men of the crew, having been killed by the natives. Five more stations were subsequently added—viz., ZOAR and HOPEDALE to the south, and OKAK, HEBRON, and RAMAH to the north of Nain. The distance from Ramah to Hopedale is about three hundred miles.
Since the year 1770, when the "Jersey Packet" was sent out on an exploratory trip, the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel has maintained regular communication with Labrador by despatching each year a ship, specially devoted to this missionary object. Eleven different ships have been employed in this service, ranging from a little sloop of seventy tons to a barque of two hundred and forty tons. Of these only four were specially constructed for Arctic service, including the vessel now in use, which was built in the year 1861. She is the fourth of the Society's Labrador ships bearing the well-known name "THE HARMONY."
WITH THE HARMONY TO LABRADOR.
NOTES OF A VISIT BY THE REV. B. LA TROBE.
What can a summer visitor tell of Labrador, that great drear land whose main feature is winter, the long severe winter which begins in October and lasts until June? I have been sailing over summer seas, where in winter no water is visible, but a wide waste of ice stretching thirty, forty, fifty or more miles from the snowy shores. In the same good ship "Harmony," I have been gliding between the innumerable islands of the Labrador archipelago and up the fine fjords stretching far inland among the mountains, but in winter those bays and straits and winding passages are all white frozen plains, the highways for the dog-sledge post from station to station. I have visited each of our six mission-stations, dotted at intervals of from forty to ninety miles along some 250 miles of the grand, rocky coast, but I have seen them in their brightest and sunniest aspect, and can only imagine how they look when stern winter has come to stay for months, and the thermometer frequently descends to forty, fifty, sixty, sometimes even seventy degrees below freezing point, Fahrenheit. I have spent happy, busy days in those Christian villages, nestling close by the shore under the shelter of one or another hill that cuts off the icy northern blasts of winter. But I can fancy that their ordinary aspect is very different to the bustle and interest of the "shiptime." I have enjoyed the kindly hospitality of successive mission-houses, one as neat and clean as the other. But I have seen none of them half buried, as they often are, in snowdrifts of fifteen or twenty feet deep. The summer sun sent down powerful rays into the windows of the pleasant guest-chamber usually facing southward, but in mid-winter the Okak mission-house lies in the shadow of a great hill for weeks, and at other stations the sun describes a low curve over the opposite mountains, and does little more than shed a feeble ray of cheer upon the mid-day meal.
One unpleasant experience of the warmer season I have shared with our missionaries, which they are spared in winter. That is the inconvenience of the swarms of mosquitoes and sand flies, which make them almost glad when the brief summer yields to a cooler autumn.
On the other hand many phases of Labrador life do not change with the season of the year, least of all the spiritual verities which there, as elsewhere, concern the welfare of the bodies and the souls of men, and the eternal principles which should rule the life that now is, as well as that which is to come. The Christian life of the dwellers in those mission-houses, and, thank God, of the goodly congregations gathered around them, has its source in a perennial fountain, flowing summer and winter from the upper sanctuary. This is the matter of main interest to my readers, therefore I will transcribe, or rather adapt, some diary pages, hoping they may convey correct impressions of the daily surroundings and local conditions under which our dear, self-denying missionaries are constantly toiling to win souls, and build up truly Christian congregations.
ARRIVAL AT HOPEDALE, THE SOUTHERN STATION.
Hopedale, Zoar, Nain, Okak, Hebron, Raman; these are our Labrador mission-stations in order from south to north, and as we visited them in the "Harmony," with one exception. From Okak we went straight to Ramah, and returned southward to Hebron, whence we sailed for Europe. Each station consists of the mission premises and a group of Eskimo dwellings, situated on the shore of a bay, affording safe and convenient anchorage for the ship which brings supplies. From Hopedale to Ramah is about 250 miles, "as the crow flies," but the ship traverses a hundred miles more in its passages from place to place. The distances between the stations are about as follows:—
Hopedale to Zoar 90 miles Okak to Hebron 70 miles. Zoar to Nain 40 " Hebron to Ramah 60 " Nain to Okak 80 "
The accompanying log of our voyage gives a resume of its history. I will take up my more detailed sketches on the day when we arrived at Hopedale, the southern station.
THE 119th VOYAGE OF THE SOCIETY'S VESSEL.
(28th of present barque "Harmony.")
June 20. Wed.—Farewell Service in London Docks. " 23. Sat.—Left LONDON. July 3. Tues.—Arr. at STROMNESS (Orkney Isles). " 6. Fri.—Left STROMNESS.
(London to Labrador, 41 days.)
Aug. 3. Fri.—Arr. at HOPEDALE. " 13. Mon.—Left " " 14. Tues.—Arr. at ZOAR. " 19. Sun.—Left " " 19. Sun.—Arr. at NAIN. " 27. Mon.—Left " " 29. Wed.—Arr. at OKAK. Sept. 5. Wed.—Left " " 9. Sun.—Arr. at RAMAH. " 14. Fri.—Left " " 17. Mon.—Arr. at HEBRON. " 25. Tues.—Left "
(Stay in Labrador, 53 days.)
Oct. 26. Fri.—Re-entered LONDON DOCKS.
(Homeward Voyage, 31 days.)
The whole voyage occupied 125 days, or close upon 18 weeks.
August 3rd, 1888. It is six weeks all but a day since we left London. We might have reached Hopedale three days ago, for we were within eighty miles. But a dense fog made it impossible to venture among the islands, where drift ice might be added to the dangers of rocks. So we have been driving to and fro for the last three days and nights over a high sea, studded with icebergs hidden from us by a thick white mist, which made everything wet and cold. It has been the least pleasant and most anxious part of our voyage hitherto. This morning the fog cleared away, and we could see how good the Lord had been to us, for the icebergs were still surrounding us, but had never been permitted to come nigh our vessel. (Not till later did we know how well He had not only protected but piloted us. Drift ice beset the whole coast, but during those three days it cleared away southward. Nor could we have reached Hopedale by the usual southerly route, past the Gull Island, even on August 3rd. The course by which we were taken, nolens volens, was the only one open).
As morning wore on our swift progress brought us to the outer islands, bare bleak rocks, at whose base the sea was breaking terrifically. The first was Ukalek (the hare), about equal distance from Nain, Zoar, and Hopedale. We turned southward, our good ship speeding along before a favourable breeze and rolling heavily. Many icebergs of all shapes and sizes were visible around our now widened horizon. Tremendous waves were beating against their gleaming white sides, and sending the spray high towards their towering pinnacles, in one case clean over a huge berg perhaps 150 feet high.
Presently the Eskimoes at their northern fishing-places caught sight of us. Yonder are two boats sailing from that barren island, and we can now see three or four Eskimoes in each. As we overtake them they fire their guns and shout. See, on that island to the right is a regular little encampment, two or three tents, and men, women, and children running about excitedly, waving their arms and hallooing. Soon they launch their boats and row after us. The Ship Hill has been visible for some time. Now we see the red roof of the mission-house, and the little cupola of the church. Thank God! the flag is flying at the mast-head, i.e., at the top of the station flagstaff; no death has occurred in the mission circle. Yonder Eskimoes on the rocks, congregated about their little cannon, fire their salutes and shout their welcome. Now we are sailing into the harbour. With mingled feelings I scan the mission-house. Yes, there are some of the missionaries at the door. They run down to the pier, launch their boat and are coming off to us, rowed by two men and two women. I recognize old Boaz from his photograph; and that is Verona, good faithful soul. But there are only Mrs. Dam, and the Brethren Kaestner, Asboe, and Hansen. Where are the rest? Mr. Bourquin has not arrived from Nain; no news from the North; Mr. Dam is ailing, and must return to Europe with us. Mrs. Asboe and Mrs. Kaestner await us, so we are soon off in the boat to get another warm welcome at the door of the mission-house, about half-past five.
I am conducted to the guest-chamber, and ere long we meet at the tea table, around which the whole mission family is assembled with their visitors. First our gratitude is expressed for the many mercies to each and all, included in the safe arrival of the "Harmony," and then ensues a lively interchange of news and mutual interests.
I will content myself with a few explanations of the accompanying view of the station from the bay. In winter the aspect of the whole landscape would be very much whiter, and the foreground not water, but ice. The bare, rocky ship hill which forms the background still had considerable patches of snow when we arrived early in August, but it melted from day to day during our stay, for the summer sun asserts its power during its brief sway. The mission-house in the centre of the picture is connected with the church by a covered passage, and the building with the three gable-ends, on the other side of it, is the store. The gardens, really wonderful in results when the climate is considered, are situated at some distance to the rear of the mission premises. The Eskimo village lies mostly to the right, where only one or two log huts are visible in the picture. Some of the native houses are behind the mission premises, including that of Jonas and his capable wife Lydia, perhaps the neatest and best furnished home of an Eskimo to be found in Labrador. The three windows to the right of the front door of the mission-house belong to the rooms occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Asboe. If there be as much snow this winter as last, they may be in the dark, part of the time. The three centre windows of the upper story show Mr. Hansen's rooms, and on each side of these are the dwellings of Mr. and Mrs. Kaestner and Mr. and Mrs. Lundberg.
A STROLL "TO THE HEATHEN."
The only "road" in all Labrador is the broad path at Hebron traversed by the only wheeled vehicle in the country, a queer little wagon drawn by dogs, and used to fetch water for the house. But great service to succeeding generations of missionaries has been rendered by those who have employed some of their leisure in making pleasant paths leading to points of view or places of interest. For such a remote settlement, Hopedale is rich in well-made walks, though they are by no means so extensive as the winding paths in the fir woods behind Nain, the oldest station. And as I can bear witness, the present generation of missionaries have at each station fairly done their duty in adding to the roads along which their successors in the service shall take their social strolls or their lonely prayerful walks in communion with the best of friends.
What an illustration of the spiritual service in such a land! The pioneer finds all in the roughest phase of nature. With infinite trouble and pains he prepares the way of the Lord, making the rough places plain; here he takes away the rocks and stones which bar the way, there he builds up, so making His paths straight. And where the good-work has been begun, other missionaries follow on the same lines; and so by grace it shall go forward, until the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
One of the Hopedale paths leads "to the heathen," and what more interesting spot could we visit than those three mounds, which are all that remain of the former winter dwellings of the original heathen population. One by one, and sometimes several at once, when the Spirit of the Lord was powerfully bringing home to their hearts the Gospel preached by the early missionaries, the inmates of these abodes moved from their pagan surroundings and began to make themselves Christian homes around the mission-houses.
On our way to the long uninhabited ruins of this older group of abodes, we will pass through the Christian village, which has thus sprung up at Hopedale as at all the other stations. It consists of irregular groups of little log houses, planted with little attempt at symmetry. Their Eskimo owners have no idea of a street. Perhaps some day the conception may occur to them as they read in their Bibles of "the street which was called straight." Nor do they need any words in their language for "rent," "rates," or, "taxes." Here in the south and at the station most influenced by civilization, the majority of the little houses are built of logs and even roofed with wood. Some are covered with turf. The dwellings of our people in the north are much more primitive. Each house has its low porch, a very necessary addition in this land of "winter's frost and snowing."
Between the houses and in their porches lie many dogs. One of these wolf-like creatures follows us over the rocks to the burial-ground, and then runs off to fish on his own account. The dogs scour the shore for miles in search of food, for, with the exception of those belonging to our stores, they mostly have to forage for themselves. They like seal and reindeer meat, but there are times when they can get neither flesh nor fish. Then they turn vegetarians, spring over the fences of the mission gardens and help themselves.
We enter the irregular enclosure, where lie the bodies of many, who have fallen asleep during the hundred years that Hopedale has stood. Here are some Eskimo graves with little headstones, bearing brief inscriptions, but more mounds without identification. In one corner lies a group of graves of touching interest—the missionaries and their children—who have taken sepulchre possession here.
Thence our way lies along the shore. What is that noise? It is a whale blowing in the smooth water. Look, yonder rises the column of spray, and now a great fin appears for a moment over the surface. Wait awhile, and the monster will blow again. Yes, there he is, spouting and diving; on the whole, we can hear more than we can see of him.
Over rock and moss, variegated with lovely little flowers, we reach the path which skirts the old heathen sites. Little more than the outline of the former turf houses is visible. The turf roof has fallen in, or been carried away, but the low mounds which formed the walls remain, as also the roofless curving porch, which in each opened out to the sea. More than one hundred persons of both sexes and all ages are said to have inhabited these three houses, and their heathen life here, with its cruelties, sorceries, and other unhallowed phases, can better be imagined than described. It must have been a great advance for them in every respect when they moved to the mission-station, established nearly half a mile away, and began to learn the faith and hope which have given it its name. In those days there must have been a good many such heathen villages along this coast with a nomad population far more numerous than now.
Thence we easily ascend the ship hill, over rock and moss, and occasional patches of snow. The view is really grand, though bleak and bare. Hundreds of rocky islands lie between us and the seaward horizon, while to north and south one can scarcely distinguish them from the bold headlands which stretch out into the ocean. Northward, the white sails of from thirty to forty fishing schooners are gleaming white in the sun. Hundreds of these craft pass up the coast from Newfoundland every summer, and the spiritual interests of their crews are faithfully sought at Hopedale. Sometimes the Sunday afternoon English service is attended by more than two hundred such visitors. As we descend the hill and return to the station past the well-kept gardens, we make our first acquaintance with mosquitoes, but they do not trouble us much to-day.
JOYS AND SORROWS—A MARRIAGE AND A FUNERAL
Each mission-station is a little world in itself; it has its own joys and sorrows, and complete cycle of events in the human lives lived here for a time by the will of God, who has His purposes of love in each and all. I have touched many of these joys and sorrows during my brief stay here.
In the godly family of this Hopedale mission-house, it is a time when the clouds return after the rain. Little Hildegard Kaestner has been lying for some days between life and death, but at last we can rejoice with her parents in a degree of hope. The child has even shown a faint interest in her toys. (I am grieved to hear on my return that the little one passed away while her father was absent with me on duty.) Our English missionary sister has also been passing through woman's time of trial and honour, and we are now able to rejoice with her and her husband in the gift of a little girl, their firstborn. God bless and keep mother and child!
My visits with Mr. Dam, the pastor, and his wife, to some of the Eskimoes' houses have been singularly sad. Titus' wife, Katharina, formerly a good and able woman, has fallen into a pitiable state of insanity, which is not only a sore sorrow to the good man, but also a great hindrance to his earning a livelihood. Then we were suddenly summoned to the next house, where we found Hermine dying. In the morning she went out fishing with her husband, Wilhadus. Both were taken very ill with one of those colds which are so fatal to the Eskimoes, and he feared he should not be able to bring her home alive. She was nearly gone, and he very ill, when they did arrive. We found her on the floor, surrounded by sympathizing and helpful neighbours. But there was little to be done; life was fast ebbing. Mr. Dam knelt and prayed beside her, then blessed her, and she feebly responded to his words. The women laid her down comfortably, and as they sang hymns, amid tears and sobs, she passed away to be with the Lord, on whom she believed. God be praised that there is such hope and comfort in this event.
Hermine died on Thursday, and the funeral was on Saturday afternoon, when a little child was also buried. The first part of the service was in the church. Then the congregation reassembled just outside, the men by themselves and the women apart. The larger coffin was borne on the shoulders of six men, the little one was carried by two. The whole congregation appeared to be the mourners, nor was poor Wilhadus well enough to follow his wife's remains to their last resting-place. After singing a verse in front of the church, the procession moved slowly onward to the burial ground, where Mr. Kaestner read the litany, and the responses and singing were beautifully reverent. At his signal the coffins were lowered into the graves, and he spoke the concluding blessing at each.
I was present at a marriage service last Sunday. The young bridegroom and bride sat together on two stools in the middle of the church. They were simply and plainly dressed in clean white "sillapaks," i.e., light calico tunics edged with broad braid, mostly red. The woman's was rather more ornamental than the man's, and had a longer tail hanging over her skirts. She had a ring on one finger, but that played no part in the ceremony. In his opening address the minister named the pair. William Tuktusna comes from the South, and possesses both Christian name and surname, which is unusual for an Eskimo. The woman is called Amalie. Both replied with a clear "Ahaila" (yes) to the usual questions of the marriage service. They then gave the hand to one another, and, kneeling down, a prayer and the Old Testament blessing confirmed the solemn contract, into which they had entered before God. As usual the congregation sang the response, "Jesum akkane, Amen." (In the name of Jesus, Amen).
Amalie cried a little during the ceremony, and more as she followed her husband out of the church, but the heathen custom of feigning sorrow on such an occasion is dying out. At first she refused William's offer, made through their missionary, but afterwards she thought better of it. May the Lord give them a happy and holy union of heart and life!
THREE NATIVE HELPERS.
I had a visit this afternoon from the three "native-helpers" here at Hopedale. They came to interview the angajokak from London (anga-yo-kak = chief or elder) and their pastor kindly interpreted. I am pleased to know these worthy men. They are true Eskimoes in modes of thought and expression, and they are true servants of God, faithfully serving this congregation of their countrymen in many ways. Among the duties of their office are, visiting the sick, admonishing the negligent, settling disputes, and affectionately exhorting those who are under Church discipline. They are also chapel-servants, and evidently glad to be door-keepers in the house of their God. At the fishing or hunting places they often hold services, and sometimes they preside at the meetings at Hopedale. At the celebration of the recent centenary each of the three delivered a powerful address.
Let me introduce them to my readers.
The first and oldest is JOSHUA, a decided Christian of many years' standing. His wife Bertha is also a chapel-servant, a real mother in the congregation, and a true helpmeet to her husband. They are a thrifty, diligent, much respected couple, whose influence and example is blessed to those around them. Next February 4th they will, D.V., celebrate their golden wedding, an event unknown as yet in Labrador. Though Joshua cannot read, he frequently addresses the congregation with power, suitability, spirituality, and some originality. In his public prayers he almost invariably adds a petition "for our Queen Victoria; because she is only a woman." On one occasion he said to his countrymen: "Those of you who can read know that it says, they shall come from the East and the West, and the North and the South, and shall sit down in the kingdom, but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out. Our fathers were heathen, but we are children of the kingdom. If we fail of the grace of God, we shall not only be cast into hell, but into outer, outer, OUTER darkness." It made a great impression on them. At another time he drew a comparison between the Israelites, who entered Canaan with Joshua, and the spiritual Israelites, who with Jesus shall enter on the millennium.
The second is DANIEL, a gifted man with a humble spirit and considerable missionary zeal. Year by year, as Epiphany, "the Heathen Festival," comes round, he has sleepless nights of deep sorrow in his heart for those who know not Jesus, the Salvation of God. Twenty years ago, stirred by the example of John King, the bush-negro evangelist in Surinam, Daniel went in his own boat to his heathen countrymen in the far north of Labrador. He found a companion of like sentiment in Gottlob of Hebron, who afterwards rendered such excellent service at Ramah. More recently Daniel induced Titus of Hopedale to accompany him on a winter journey to some of the European settlers and half-breeds in the neighbourhood of that station. When they arrived at the log-house of one or another of these dwellers in the remote bays, Daniel at once told their errand with as much humility as earnestness. Their simple testimony of the Saviour from sin was well received. When they returned to Hopedale Daniel had a great deal to tell the missionaries of the utterances of his companion, but very little to remark about his own sayings and doings. He frequently accompanies his missionaries on their evangelistic or pastoral journeys not only as driver of the dog-sledge, but as helper of their spiritual work.
The third of my visitors is the above mentioned TITUS, also a man of ripe years and Christian experience. The way in which his zeal and spirit of service supplement the gifts of his friend Daniel is a striking illustration of the Spirit's dividing to every man severally as He wills. Daniel is a man of quick perceptions, Titus of prompt action. The two may be walking together and talking of the spiritual welfare of the congregation so much upon their hearts and prayers. Daniel mentions some matter which he fears is displeasing in God's sight. "Yes, yes, that is so," says Titus; "I had not perceived it, but you are right. We must testify against that." And testify he does, on the first opportunity, with such vigour that the abuse is rebuked and stopped, yet with such tact that none can be offended at his faithful outspokenness.
For some years Titus has served as assistant schoolmaster, and like his friend Daniel he takes part in the music of the sanctuary, having a good bass voice. Daniel sings tenor in the choir, or plays the violoncello.
A COMMUNION AND FESTIVAL SUNDAY AT HOPEDALE.
Sunday, August 12th.—To-day the festival of the thirteenth of August, the spiritual birthday of the renewed Brethren's Unity, has been celebrated in this far northern congregation, incorporated in the one bond with those in Germany, England, America, and our various mission-fields scattered thousands of miles apart over the surface of the globe.
In the early morning the congregation band played suitable chorales in good time and tune, and the solemn strains were well adapted to prepare hearts and feelings for the spiritual privileges of the day.
At nine o'clock Daniel kept the morning blessing. Picture the neat clean, church, simple and suitable for the worship of an Eskimo congregation. Behind the table sits the worthy native-helper. To his right hand the missionaries face the men and boys; to his left are the missionaries' wives, and opposite them a more numerous company of women and girls. The benches are without backs. The little organ is played by Ludolf, an Eskimo, well and devotionally, and the singing is further accompanied by other musicians with one clarionet, five violins, and a violoncello. The choice of tunes is such as would puzzle most congregations in England. The people are very devout in their demeanour and sing well. Their faces are mostly brown, with high cheek bones, but on the whole they are much lighter in complexion than photographs had led me to conclude.
Daniel did his part reverently and simply, for, as he had told me before by word and gesture, God has made the heart and the mouth. His long and earnest prayer, spoken extempore in his own language, was evidently well prepared, and thoroughly suitable to the occasion. He asked the Lord to be among us with His blessings, His faithfulness, and His mercies. He continued: "O Saviour, Thou hast all fulness; Thou wast able and willing to bless the brethren at Herrnhut a hundred and fifty years ago, bless us now. True, we are worse and much lower than they were, but Thou canst do it. Bless us to-day. We are very bad, but Thou wilt bless those among us who believe. As to those who do not believe, bless them too, and, if possible, let them be partakers of Thy salvation.
"We think of our teachers, those who have come to us and those who are about to leave us by the 'Harmony.' O bless them for their works' sake. We do not always obey them as we ought. Help us to be more obedient. Lord, do these things for us, and though we are not able to praise Thee sufficiently here on earth, we will praise Thee in heaven for ever."
The next service was commenced with a choir piece, when the organ and other instruments accompanied seven singers, four women and three men. The women especially had voices of power and compass. Alto, tenor, and bass were fairly sustained, as well as soprano, and the whole effect was good. The piece, which was not easy, but suitable in liturgical character, was well rendered both in forte and piano passages. This time Ambrose, another native, presided at the organ, and Ludolf played the first violin.
Mr. Kaestner's sermon on 1 John iii. 1 was followed by a baptism, in Labrador suitably the closing part of the public service. The congregation as ever take up the long responses well and devotionally, and in this service the children repeat portions of Scripture (1 Pet. iii. 21, Tit. iii. 5, and Matt. xix. 14). These were spoken distinctly and simultaneously by the boys and girls. The infant having been brought up to the table by the parents, the minister baptized it with the formula Susannah, Jesusib tokkun-ganut baptipagit Atatab, Ernerublo, Anernerublo ajunginerub attinganut. (Susannah, into the death of Jesus I baptize thee, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.)
I took the English service at three o'clock. Soon after we again assembled in the church, for the Eskimo choir had sent a deputation to request that they might sing some more of their pieces for us. The programme of their really excellent performance included such pieces as Hosanna, Christians Awake, Stille Nacht, Morgernstern (Morning Star), and an anthem (Ps. 96) containing effective duets for tenor and alto. When they had finished I spoke a few words of thanks and farewell, and then Mr. Dam bade good-bye to the people he had loved and served for ten years. They were much moved at the thought of parting with their faithful pastor and his wife.
Shall I ever forget that communion at seven? I felt it a great privilege to partake of the Lord's Supper with my brethren and sisters in Labrador. How much He has done for these dear missionaries, simple earnest Christians, experienced in the things of God, men and women of mighty faith, who do "move mountains." How much hath God wrought for these dear Eskimo Christians, who sit down at His table with beautiful reverence and real appreciation of this act of faith.
The benches not needed for the communicant congregation had been removed from the centre of the church. On the men's side two empty benches stood together, on the women's three or four. After the trombonists had played a solemn chorale outside, the first chapel servant Joshua and his wife Bertha opened their respective doors, and about twenty men and more than thirty women entered from right and left and took their seats. Both men and women were all attired in their light braided sillapaks, and they are very particular to have clean ones for this service. The women who are communicants have a lock of their hair plaited in front of each ear. The vessels used on this occasion were presented to this congregation by two American ladies, who recently visited Hopedale. They were present on a similar occasion and were much struck by the solemnity and reality of the service. In grateful remembrance of the kindness of our missionaries they have sent this valuable and beautiful gift of communion plate.
Though unacquainted with the language, I was able to follow the simple, familiar communion service. The words of institution sounded solemn, as pronounced in Eskimo, and truly when one knelt with the congregation, and partook of the bread and wine, one could discern the Lord's body, and feel that, though these dear people have their temptations and their failings, yet there are many souls here who feed on the Bread of Life and live by Him. When He cometh it will be manifest, and even now He is glorified here in them that believe.
After the communion we went down to the boat to embark. The rock that stretches out into the harbour was crowded with Eskimoes, who had hurried to bid their departing missionaries a loving farewell.
A PLEASANT SAIL FROM HOPEDALE TO ZOAR.
Tuesday, August 14th.—We are nearing the second station. Leaving Hopedale about dawn yesterday we made good progress northward, sailing quietly between innumerable islets, all bleak, bare, uninhabited rocks. We saw many small icebergs. In the evening one singularly shapely and beautiful berg floated past us, tipped with violet, which contrasted with the curious yellow tint of one side, the pure white of the mass and the living green of the waves rippling at its base. The sunset and the northern lights were very fine.
When I went on deck this morning the island of Ukalek, or "The Hare," was astern, various rocky islets, imperfectly marked, or altogether omitted on the chart, were on both sides of us, and Zoar far ahead among the distant hills. Our vessel was almost imperceptibly gliding in that direction. May the Lord, who alone knows the rifts and rocks of this marvellous coast, bring us safely thither, and guide me aright amid the difficulties of the present situation there! These people have learned no wisdom or thrift, in spite of all the love and patience shown them, and they have made the past winter a most trying time for their devoted missionaries.
The mirage yesterday and to-day is a wonderful freak of nature. At times, nothing can be seen as it really is. Icebergs and islands are flattened to one dead level, or doubled, so as to appear now like long bridges, now like high towers. The rapid changes in the appearance of solid masses are marvellous. All day we have been slowly sailing westward, new prospects of distant hills ever opening up as we passed headland after headland. Presently the barren rocks began to be clothed with firs here and there, but the lifelessness of the scene was striking. Once we caught sight of two or three Eskimo tents on a little island, but no human beings were visible. Only a solitary grampus made the circuit of our ship.
At length we round the last cape, and enter Zoar Bay. Presently we come in sight of the station buildings between the fir-clad slope and the shore. There is the store, now the mission-house and church appear from behind yonder rock. The Eskimoes are firing their shots of welcome, answered by rockets from the ship. Thank God, the station flag is flying at the mast-head! That tells us that neither illness nor accident have been permitted to carry off any of the missionaries.
Look behind you. The hills are glowing with a glorious "Alpengluehen"—an evening effect as splendid as it is surprising.
Now we are nearer. They are launching the "Emily," the station boat. Rowed by natives, she comes alongside almost as soon as our anchor is down, and all the resident missionaries climb on board, followed by a number of Eskimoes.
Soon our hosts carry us off to the hospitable little mission-house, which somehow or another manages to find comfortable quarters for all the visitors. I am writing up my diary in Mr. and Mrs. Rinderknecht's pleasant rooms, which I am to share with Mr. Kaestner, who is on his way to Nain to take part in our conference there. Mr. and Mrs. Martin are occupying the spare room below us, and the Lundbergs have also turned out to make room for Mr. and Mrs. Dam. Where our hosts have taken up their abode meanwhile remains a riddle for the present. (The riddle was solved in a subsequent tour of inspection of the house, when I found that the one resident couple had retired to the garret and the other to a workshop on the ground floor.)
In its summer aspect this is a singularly lovely place. Yet, I see each station at its best, and can only guess at the changes which snow and ice will work in the landscape. Were this spot in Europe, it would soon be a favourite summer resort. Being in Labrador, however, the summer visitors would speedily fly from the swarms of mosquitoes and sand-flies. These appear as soon as the weather is at all warm and are a veritable plague in the summer evenings, which would else be so enjoyable. And when these myriad tormentors with wings and stings are gone, rude winter cuts short the autumn.
As usual in Labrador, the little mission-station lies on the north side of the bay, so that the wooded hill behind shields it from the northern blasts. This fir-clad slope makes Zoar much more friendly in appearance than any other station. Hopedale is bare and treeless in its general aspect and so in less degree are Nain and Okak, though all three have fir-trees in their neighbourhood. Ramah and Hebron are beyond the limit of even these hardy evergreens, and the latter looks very bleak and rocky. Pleasing as is the first impression of Zoar, the conviction soon grows upon one that the site has its serious disadvantages. First and foremost among these is the fact that it is not favourable to success in sealing and fishing, so that it is not easy for the inhabitants to make a livelihood.
The pretty mission-house affords convenient accommodation for two missionary families. It is, as usual, connected with the church by a covered passage. To the right of these buildings the little Eskimo village stretches along the shore, to their left are situated the well-stocked mission-gardens, from which pleasant paths have been made through the woods beyond. Between the church and the rocky beach stands the store, and not far off the salt-house and the boat-house. The powder-house is always situated on some rock at a safe distance from the station, for the Eskimoes burn a considerable quantity of this dangerous material in their ceaseless war with seals, walrusses, reindeer, and other animals, including an occasional black or white bear.
A CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE SHIP HILL AT ZOAR.
The ascent to the spot whence the approach of the ships can best be descried is by no means so easily accomplished at Zoar as at Hopedale. But the hour's stiff climb is richly rewarded by a magnificent prospect. Our path lies first through the fir woods, then over a bare plain on which tufts of beautiful and very variegated mosses alternate with rocks and withered roots. This is evidently the site of a forest, which at no very distant date has been killed by the terrible climate. Up again through low thick brushwood and over great rocks, till at last we reach the summit. Seaward we can see the course by which the "Harmony" came in. Northward the eye ranges along the rugged coast with its innumerable islands and deep fjords. Yonder sheet of water is not an arm of the sea, but a great freshwater lake, long an object of superstitious dread to the Eskimoes. Neither in summer or winter dared they cross it, until their missionaries did so, for they believed a monster dwelt in it, who could eat up the man and his kayak, or sledge, dogs and driver. Inland one sees mountain after mountain, whose wild slopes are traversed by no human foot unless the Nascopie Indian, or "mountaineer," may pass that way in pursuit of the reindeer. None of these natives of the great unknown interior have visited our stations this year. In the Zoar bay beneath us the "Harmony" is riding at anchor near the mission premises, and now we can see the whole curve of the other great bay, which approaches Zoar from the north. The "itiblek," as the Eskimoes call a low narrow neck of land between two such arms of the sea, is but a few hundred yards across. To the east of yonder waterfall is a level place on the shore of the larger fjord, which was once thought of as a site for this station. But it would have been too much exposed to the east wind.
What a different landscape this will be in winter, when all those waterways among the islands are frozen! It must be very difficult even for an Eskimo sledge driver to know his way through the snow-covered labyrinth on so large a scale, indeed almost impossible when the driving snow hides his landmarks. But He, to whom we are wont to commend our travellers by land and sea, cares also for those who traverse the ice-plains of Labrador, that they may serve Him or join His people in worship. Not only our missionaries but the settlers have often experienced His goodness in answer to prayer in moments of perplexity or danger. It is indeed praiseworthy that, to gain a blessing for their souls, the latter are willing to run the risks and bear the expenses of a two or three days' sledge journey to the stations, often in terrible cold. Sometimes their children are sorely disappointed when the parents cannot venture to take them to the Christmas or Easter Festival. Last Christmas Eve, two boys, aged sixteen and fourteen, started from their home in Kamarsuk bay and walked through deep snow to Zoar, which they reached after ten laborious hours. English services are held for the settlers at this station as well as at Hopedale, though they are more frequent at the southern place owing to the visits of the crews from the Newfoundland fishing schooners.
FROM ZOAR TO NAIN BETWEEN ISLANDS.
Our voyage from Zoar to Nain occupied just twelve hours. We left about 5.30 A.M., and our anchor went down again before 5.30 P.M. The day was fine and warm, and the scenery changed continually. Often the way seemed barred before us, but, as we sailed on, a narrow strait opened to right or left, and as we neared Nain our voyage between the islands became more and more interesting. Presently some Nain Eskimoes caught sight of the "Harmony," and posted off to the station in their sailing boat, which kept ahead the whole way. Two men came to meet us in their kayaks, and paddled alongside for some time, their light skin boats skimming over the water as easily as the flock of ducks which had just crossed our bows. Passing the island Taktuk, a salute fired by the one Eskimo visible was followed by such a concert of howls from his dogs seated in a row on a rock as made us all laugh. Next the Kauk came in view, a great rock looking like a skull, or, as its name implies, "a forehead," a very recognizable landmark often anxiously looked for on sledge journeys. Paul's Island, with its deep inlets, was to our right, and now a good wind sent us forward past headland after headland till Nain came out from behind the Suederhucke. First we could see the Eskimo village, whose inhabitants were, as usual, firing their guns and shouting; then the church came in sight, and the mission-house with flag at the mast head; then the store and the little pier, which, as we approached, was crowded with Eskimoes singing, "Now let us praise the Lord."
THE FIRST EVENING AT NAIN.
Nain was the third station visited on our voyage northward along the bleak but grand coast of Labrador. Hopedale and Zoar had already been left behind in the south; Okak, Hebron, and Ramah, all to the north of Nain, had yet to be touched at in their turn. Each successive station has its own distinctive features and so presents fresh interest to the visitor. Nain, the oldest of all, is rich in associations with the past as well as very interesting in the life, spiritual and temporal, of the mission-house and the Eskimo dwellings, which constitute this little Christian village of three hundred inhabitants.
August 19th.—I take up the story on the Sunday evening, when, about a quarter past five o'clock, the "Harmony" came to her anchorage some three to four hundred yards from the mission premises on the north shore of the Nain bay. It is a mercy when no accident occurs on the arrival of a ship at a station, for the Eskimoes are rather wild in their expression of their joy, and rather careless in handling powder. Just a year ago they burst a little cannon in welcoming the "Gleaner." The pieces flew in all directions about the heads of those standing round. Yet by God's great goodness not one was hurt. One man's cap was knocked off by a flying fragment of iron.
Our first welcome to Nain was from some members of the mission-band, who at once came aboard the "Harmony" in their boat. Rowing ashore with them, we visitors received a second kind welcome at the mission-house. It was rather curious that my fellow-travellers, the Martins, should arrive at their destination five-and-twenty years to the day after Mr. Bourquin, whom Mr. Martin is eventually to succeed in the presidency of this mission. I was conducted to the pleasant guest chamber. On my table lay two dear letters from home, the first and last received after leaving Stromness. During our stay at Zoar the mail steamer came from Newfoundland to Hopedale where she is due every fortnight, while the coast is free from ice. This time she came on to Nain, which she is bound to visit twice in the season at the captain's discretion. She never touches at Zoar between these two stations.
When we met as a family for the evening meal, Mr. Bourquin expressed our thanks to the Lord for all his goodness and mercy involved in another safe arrival of the mission-ship. The congregation did the same at the thanksgiving liturgy, which commenced at 7 P.M. The Church here is older and larger than any other in the land. The singing was good, rather quicker than at Hopedale. About forty men and sixty women occupied the same relative positions to the minister behind the table and to the missionary brethren and sisters to right and left of him, as at Hopedale and Zoar. The short benches at each end of the long church were respectively occupied by three male and three female chapel servants. The latter were dressed, not in European fashion, but in the national costume of skin trousers with the fur outside.
9 P.M. I am seated in my room after a pleasant social hour with interchange of mutual tidings. Every provision has been made for my comfort in this neat, clean guest-chamber. What interesting scenes of human life as well as fine views of Labrador scenery are visible from its windows south and west! Grand rocks from five hundred to eight hundred feet in height rise nearly perpendicularly from the opposite shore of the bay. Here comes a man paddling his kayak past the "Harmony" as she lies at anchor. What is up among the dogs? They are all howling and running along the beach, and now they have set on one unfortunate, which is hustled and bitten until he escapes and hobbles away yelping.
Here is a woman coming to fetch water from the trough. I wish I could draw her, for she is an odd figure in trousers and high boots. The tail of her sillapak almost trails on the ground, and in its capacious hood, a baby is seated looking out on the world with great content.
10 P.M. It has grown dark whilst I have been writing up my diary. What a concert the dogs are giving us now. They are howling, barking, and sometimes fairly screaming, each and all contributing their full share of the unearthly noises. 10.10. All is still: may it last! It is time I retired to rest, for one must be up betimes; 6 A.M. is the hour in all these mission-houses, for morning prayers are at 6.30 sharp. One more look out of my window. The moon is rising above the opposite hills and casting a broad band of light across the rippling waters.
INTERCHANGE OF VISITS WITH THE ESKIMOES.
"Good luck to you, sir!" That was meant for "Good-bye," and is the sort of English the Eskimoes to the south of Hopedale have learnt. Both at that station and here at Nain I have had curious visits from such as prided themselves on their knowledge of my mother-tongue. Some spoke it very fairly, but my conversation with the natives was, of course, mostly through an interpreter. These visits are quite a feature of mission-house life. One afternoon at Hopedale Jonas and his wife Lydia came to see me. The good man said: "As there are so many souls here, I would ask our angayokaks (elders or superiors) in London and Berthelsdorf for God's sake to let us have teachers, as long as there are people here. We cannot do without them. We have undying souls, and must be cared for." With tears he added, "When I cannot sleep, I ask God for this. We thank the angayokaks very much. I hope God will grant those who are leaving us a good passage. We may never meet again on earth, but I hope we shall in heaven."
I had specially interesting visits from some of the native-helpers at different stations. They expressed their humble sense of unworthiness, and their gratitude for the benefits which come to them and their countrymen through the mission. They also promised faithfully to stand by their missionaries. My conviction is that the spiritual life of each congregation very much depends on the Christian character, stability, and influence of its native leaders.
Visits of the Eskimoes to my room, however, took up much precious time of the missionary requested to interpret, so I preferred to get one of the pastors to accompany me on a round of calls in the village. Let my visits to the native-helpers at Nain give a view of the interiors of some of the better dwellings.
Wednesday, August 22nd.—Mr. Bourquin kindly conducted me to the homes of Jonathan, Abraham, and Matthew. Through the little porch or vestibule, where the dogs lie, one enters the house. Sometimes there are two rooms, one for sleeping and the other the dwelling room; but mostly the beds are in corners, more or less partitioned or curtained off. A little stove serves for warmth and cooking. A small table stands by the wall, and there are one or two short benches, but the articles of furniture most frequent are the boxes, which accompany the Eskimo in his nomad life, and hold his possessions, whether he be in his house at home, in his boat fishing, or in his tent at some distant hunting place. The walls of the houses are ornamented here and there with pictures cut out of old Illustrated London News or Graphics. Some remains of Christmas ornamentation showed considerable taste. The present is not a favourable season to gain a good impression of the houses, as their owners are most of their time away from home hunting and fishing. Before Christmas they have a thorough turn out and clean up, and then await the usual visit from their missionaries, who wisely speak a word of commendation where it is deserved. Undoubtedly the invariable neatness of the mission-houses, and the special care bestowed upon the churches, have a great influence on the cleanliness of the Eskimo dwellings.
Husbands and wives were at home in all three houses visited to-day. Jonathan spells his own name "Jonatan." He is a godly and worthy man of mild disposition yet decided Christian character. His Leah is also a native-helper among her sex, and a chapel servant. They gave us a friendly welcome. True, it did not occur to them to ask us to sit down; but our Eskimoes are pleased if one takes a seat in their houses without the asking. Jonatan's grandchild was sleeping on one of the beds, and its young mother sat in a corner sewing. The little harmonium by the wall belonged to her husband, who lives with his parents. The older people thanked me for the visit, and desired their greetings to the great teachers over the water.
Our second call was on Abraham, or more correctly "Abraha," for the genius of the Eskimo language always requires a name to end with a vowel. He is also an excellent and intelligent native assistant. He and his Pauline were very pleased to see us, and expressed themselves in the same strain as the former couple. As his harmonium and violin show, he is very musical; indeed, he is a leading member of the Nain choir.
Lastly we called on Matthew and his young wife. His quiet, rather shy demeanour and humble estimate of himself, as a recently appointed office-bearer in the congregation pleased me well. Perhaps his house was the neatest and best furnished of the three.
I wish I could have heard Abraham or Jonathan speak at some service. I am told their addresses correspond with their dispositions. The former is warm, and vigorous, the latter more calm and affectionate in tone. Matthew has yet to overcome his diffidence.
By the way, when I went over to the ship to-day. I found Abraham and his family on board. His little two-masted smack was lying alongside the "Harmony," ready for a start to his fishing place. It contained an interesting variety of possessions. Tent-poles and oars lay along both sides, and his kayak was lashed to the right gunwale. Tackle, tent, skins, utensils, and boxes were secured in the bottom of the boat, and in a small pen at the bows lay his seven dogs.
TWO ESKIMO GROUPS TAKEN AT NAIN.
Mr. Jannasch is the photographer among our Labrador missionaries, and we have to thank him for some excellent pictures of persons and places in that cold land. Copies of these may be obtained at our Agency (No. 32, Fetter Lane, London, E.C.), and we should be glad to encourage him by a larger sale for his interesting cabinet, stereoscopic and carte de visite photographs. As he is resident at Nain, most of his scenes or groups are taken at or near that station, but last-winter he took his camera with him on a sledge journey to Hopedale.
The two groups which we have had reproduced for our pages are characteristic, but those whose portraits are given might remark that justice has scarcely been done to their faces. The first is a group of
WIDOWS AT NAIN. It was a good day for lonely Eskimo women of this class when the Gospel came to their shores. I made a point of inquiring at each station as to the status of the widows and the fatherless, and found that everywhere they are well cared for. Indeed, the widows invariably stand in the first rank of those for whom regular employment is found by the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel. They gratefully acknowledged this. Several of them also gave me a special commission, which I hereby discharge to the best of my ability. It was this, "Give my greeting to all the widows in Europe." Perhaps they thought it would be as easy for the visitor from England to do this on his return, as to inquire after all the widows in Labrador.
The five aged women in our picture are Adolfina (standing behind), Marta (seated to her right), and Hulda and Beata (to her left). Amalia (in the centre of the foreground) is attired in skirts after European fashion, though she has on a pair of the Eskimo boots indispensable in such a land. The rest are dressed in full Eskimo costume. It will be seen that their sillapaks and trousers are ornamented with broad coloured braid, and the hood, which falls back over their shoulders, is edged with dog's skin and adorned with a strip of embroidery. Hulda is a worthy door-keeper in the church, and a valued servant in the mission-house of many years' standing. The other group represents
THE CHOIR AT NAIN. We have already referred to the musical taste and ability of many of the Eskimoes, and those at Nain are not behind the Hopedalers in this respect. The man with the violoncello seated in the centre is Abraham, the native helper mentioned in a previous paragraph. To his right is Nathanael, with a violin. He is the schoolmaster at Nain, and his wife Frederika is seated at his right hand. One day in 1887, Nathanael was seen shaking his fists at the mission house. What had ruffled his temper? He had been told by some fishermen that Queen Victoria, to mark her Jubilee, had sent a present of a suit of clothes to every schoolmaster in her dominions. As his had not reached him, he suspected the missionaries of withholding it. This is a characteristic instance of the credulity with which the Eskimoes accept the statements of strangers and the mistrust they are too apt to show towards those who have long proved themselves their most disinterested friends.
The burial ground at Nain is the best kept in Labrador. Others are neat and tidily arranged, but this decidedly bears off the palm. It is finely situated, commanding a view seaward, and an Easter morning service in this peaceful resting-place of the departed must be impressive indeed, as the rising sun sheds his first rays across frozen sea and snowy islands on a company of Christian Eskimoes, rejoicing in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, and not sorrowing hopelessly for their dead. I know no better name for such a sacred enclosure, where the bodies of those who have died in the Lord are sown in hope, than the beautiful German term, "God's Acre."
805 741 Harriott Eleonora 1865-1882 1819-1879
Scarcely any grass grows within the oblong space surrounded by wooden palings, but here and there patches of moss or low berry bushes threaten to hide the neat little slabs of wood placed by the missionaries on the graves of the native Christians. If left to the Eskimoes, this duty to their departed relatives and friends would either be done carelessly or forgotten. These simple "headstones," of which I give two specimens as copied into my notebook, are perhaps about twelve inches by eight. The place for the next grave in each row (men, women, boys, girls) is indicated by long poles likely to appear above the highest snow in winter. Here at Nain, and indeed at all the stations except Okak, where the soil is clay, it is possible, though in winter very troublesome, to dig a grave all the year round. At Okak the coffin must be laid in the snow until returning spring thaws the frozen ground. As already stated, the Eskimoes have no surnames, and their graves show a great repetition of certain Christian names, as Abel, Abia, Zecharias, Thomas, Susannah, Katarina, &c. There is a greater variety on the female side. At Zoar I noted some curious ones—Persida, Botille, Teresia Dina, and Justine. "Helena-Helenalo" evidently means mother and child, both bearing the name Helena. "Fillipusib-kitornganga" and "Davidib-kitornganga" mean the child of Philip and the child of David. Mostly, the little wooden "headstones" lie flat on the grave; those at Okak are placed upright, as in the accompanying sketch, and record the names of several persons buried beneath.
/ / 644 Andrew 1862 959 Marcus 642 Heinrich 1873.
Where the paths cross one another at right angles, in the older Labrador churchyards, there is always a specially interesting group of graves. There lie, in sure and certain hope of a joyous resurrection, the bodies of good men and women, who have taken sepulchre possession of this land for their Lord. Here, too, many sorrowing missionary parents have had to lay little ones, early taken home in this bleak climate. Ah, what stories are written on those simple gravestones, when one can read between the lines!
The "God's Acre" at Nain is as rich in historical associations as any. Christian Larsen Drachard, one of the pioneers of this mission was buried here in 1778; and beside the stone, on which is inscribed his honoured name in full, is a rough slab from the shore, placed on his grave by his own desire. Side by side to right and left of the path separating the last resting-places of the married men from those of the single missionaries lie Christopher Brasen and Gottfried Lehmann, drowned in 1774 on their return voyage from finding a site for Okak, the second station in this land. Not many days after I stood beside their graves I sailed close by the island on which their sloop was wrecked, and on whose rocks the angry sea cast their bodies.
/ / / / D. / / 1778. / Sep. 18. / / / / / / /
I will close this chapter with a contrast. Leaving the peaceful Christian burial ground, we climb the hill behind the station. In a lofty, lonely valley we find many heaps of great stones. We will examine one. Remove one or two of the boulders, and look in. On the ground, rather than in it, lies a human skeleton, perfect with the exception of the skull. We go on to the next heap; it is empty. In a third we find a skull and one or two bones. Others contain scarcely any human remains, but some Eskimo utensils were evidently the property in life of the natives whose bodies were laid there by their countrymen. It was customary to bury the possessions of the dead with them, and very interesting curiosities used to be found in all these graves.
Yes, these are heathen graves, and the bodies in them are those of Eskimoes who have died, ere they heard the words of life from the lips of missionaries sent by the Church of Christ to proclaim His salvation at this end of the earth. No inscriptions mark the tombs of these nameless pagans, yet those rude stoneheaps have a voice for those who have ears to hear. Methinks they appeal loudly on behalf of myriads still living without God and dying without hope. "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?"
A BUSY WEEK AT NAIN.
The week spent at Nain may serve as a specimen of my stay at each station in turn. We arrived here on Sunday, August 19th, in the evening. Monday and part of Tuesday were taken up by conferences on the spiritual prosperity and temporal regulations of the. Labrador Mission. Tuesday afternoon proved the most convenient time for my special meeting with the congregation, when, as at every station, I gave the assembled men and women the greeting and message sent them by the mission authorities at home. Opportunity being afforded them to reply, some of the native helpers and others expressed their pleasure that a visitor had come from Europe, and their gratitude that Christians on the other side of the ocean had sent missionaries to their forefathers, and still maintained teachers among them. They also asked questions and gave their opinions on very various topics. I promised to convey their salutations to "their angayokaks in London and Herrnhut." This meeting lasted about two hours, and was, as elsewhere, an arduous time for the missionary who acted as my interpreter. It seemed easier to him to render into Eskimo my own address given in English, than to interpret all the speeches made by the natives in reply.
Inspection of the premises, stores, archives, &c., continued conferences, and other businesses filled up the remaining days of the week during which the "Harmony" lay at anchor near the station. Meanwhile the disembarking and embarking of her outward and homeward cargoes went on, and when she was ready to sail we were ready to go northward with her. In the intervals of daily duty I enjoyed pleasant walks and talks with one or another member of the mission band in the extensive plantation behind the station, the growth of more than a hundred years of careful cultivations, Not till Saturday did we find time for more distant expeditions, when grand views rewarded our ascent of two hills to the north and south of the Nain Bay. They are about 700 or 800 feet in height.
Most of the week the majority of the natives were away fishing, but several of the men and boys were earning daily wages by assistance with the cargo. For those at the station evening services were held in the church. These varied in character, one was a singing meeting, another a liturgy, a third a Bible reading, when the two last chapters of II. Corinthians were the portion of Holy Scripture taken in course. When there was no Eskimo service, the mission family and their guests met in their dining-room for mutual edification with the German Bible and hymn-book. As to the latter, by the way, the book itself was seldom needed, for most of the company knew the hymns by heart. So the week sped away, bringing the Sabbath again.
Sunday, August 26th.—The Church Litany, and not the so-called "Catechism Litany," was used at the 9 o'clock service. At 10 A.M. Mr. Dam preached with fervour on the text for the day, John X. 16, of course in Eskimo. The sermon was followed by the baptism of little Esther, the infant daughter of Joash and Wilhelmina. After the service the parents passed me on their way home. But where is the baby? Nowhere visible, but the hood on the mother's back is bulky and moves.
At three o'clock I conducted the usual English service on the deck of the "Harmony." A good many natives were present, rather out of curiosity than as able to understand, though it is astonishing to find how many have managed to pick up a little English, especially at the southern stations.
At five we again gathered in the church for a short Eskimo liturgy of praise to the Triune God, when our vessel and her passengers were commended to the renewed care of the faithful Creator. Our evening meal, the last in this hospitable mission-house, was followed by farewell words and some commendatory hymns in German. Then we "parting guests" went on board the "Harmony," accompanied by most of our hosts, who lingered long with us. As we got into the boat, the Eskimoes bade us an affectionate good-bye, "Aksunai, aksuse." (Aksunai, Be thou strong, or its plural, Aksuse, Be ye strong, are used both for "How do you do?" and "Good-bye.")
FROM NAIN TO OKAK.
Monday, August 27th, 1888.—When I rose, our ship was being slowly towed by her boats out of the bay in search of a fair breeze. About eleven we had to put down the anchor, as wind and current forbade our attempting to pass between "the Turnpikes," two rocks in the narrow channel before us. Here we lay all the day among islands. Barth, to our left, is so called in honour of Dr. Barth of Calw, the compiler of a Bible history translated by our missionaries into Eskimo, as well as into the languages of several other people evangelized by our church. Rhodes, to our right, is named after James Rhodes, a native of Gomersal, Yorkshire, who was a missionary here for twenty-six years, 1771-1797. Lister, the snowy hill beyond, perpetuates the memory of Christian Lister, another Yorkshireman, who crowned seventeen years of service in Labrador by thirteen in Jamaica. It is well to be thus reminded that the British Province of four missionary Unitas Fratrum had several representatives in this mission field a hundred years ago. William Turner (twenty-two years' service, 1771-93) was a native of Halifax; and James Bramagin (1775-94) of Lurgan in the north of Ireland; Samuel Towle (1782-91) came from the neighbourhood of Ockbrook, Derbyshire, and Henry Shaw (1806-13) was again a Yorkshireman. Further, Mary Butterworth (1771-84), of Birstal in Yorkshire, gave herself to this mission as the wife of Jens Haven, its founder; and later Mary Waters (1812-31), of Dukinfield in Lancashire, married George Kmoch for similar service.
Yonder fjord running far inland is the Nunaingoak Bay, which, conveniently for the natives, embodies the foreign name given to their station. Nain itself is behind that neck of land, on which our friends have lit a fire as a signal that they perceive our vessel has not as yet been able to leave them very far behind.
What a study of colour this evening effect would make! The sun has just set and the sky to the north and west is orange, shading off into yellow along the horizon. Between these curiously bright hues and their fainter reflection on the rippling water, the nearer islands are black as ink and the further mountains indigo.
Tuesday, August 28th.—Besides the missionary pair, who are accompanying me all the way from Hopedale to Europe, my fellow passengers are now the superintendent, who has acceded to my request to go with us to Okak, and a young missionary, transferred from Nain to Ramah.
When I went on deck this morning we had passed the Turnpikes and were gliding very slowly seawards between islands. The one which faced us all the morning is called Tappe, after a worthy missionary, still living, who served some years in Labrador, before going to Jerusalem in 1867, to be the first "house-father" of the Leper Home. About noon a fresh breeze sent us northward swiftly and safely through several narrow and awkward passages. We passed two or three Newfoundland fishing schooners, whose crews were doubtless interested to see the "Dutch Bark," or the "foreigner" as they called the "Harmony." Our other vessel, the "Gleaner," calls at St. John's, so she is not a foreigner in the estimation of Newfoundland mariners. About two o'clock we were off the island memorable for the shipwreck in which Brasen and Lehmann lost their lives. Later we passed the rocks on to which Liebisch and Turner escaped as by a miracle, when a sudden storm broke up the ice over which they had been travelling. The scene must have been terrific. One moment the frightened dogs drawing their sledges were being urged at utmost speed over the leagues of heaving, cracking ice. The nest, the shore was reached, and the missionaries were overwhelmed with astonishment as they turned and looked upon a raging, foaming sea, whose wild waves had already shattered the frozen surface as far as the eye could reach. Even the heathen Eskimoes with them joined in praising God for the wonderful deliverance.
This part of the coast is rugged and grand. There is a good deal of snow on the heights of Aulatsivik and the northern extremity of that great island is a bold precipitous cliff. Port Mauvers, at the mouth of the narrow strait, which separates Aulatsivik from the mainland, figures so prominently as a name upon most maps of Labrador, that one might suppose it to be at least the capital. But there are no inhabitants there, nor indeed all along the coast between Nain and Okak. Kiglapeit, to the north, is so splendid a mountain range that I am quite sorry we shall pass it in the dark. We are getting more into the open sea as evening advances, and there are icebergs to be seen here and there.
Come into the captain's cabin and look at this little budget of letters. They are notes from Eskimoes at our southern stations to their relatives and friends in the north. Some are funny little pencilled scraps folded and oddly directed, e.g. "Kitturamut-Lucasib, Okak." That means "To Keturah (the wife) of Lucas or Luke, at Okak." Our Eskimoes seem to have a talent for phonetic spelling; "ilianuramut" is evidently "To Eleanor," and "Amaliamut-kuniliusip, Okak," is meant for "Amalia (the wife) of Cornelius at Okak." Some are very respectable epistles, and I doubt not the Christian tone of most would please us could we read the Eskimo language, with its strange long words. Here is a good-sized letter folded and directed in a bold clear hand, "Sosanemut-Andoneb, Hibron" (To Susannah, the wife of Antony at Hebron). It is not sealed, so, as we shall scarcely understand a word of its contents, we will venture to open it and glance at them. It is a well-written letter, covering three pages of blue foolscap paper, so it must be conveying a good deal of news to Antony and Susannah. The writer names himself at the commencement, "Boas-Kedoralo." "Lo" is Eskimo for "and," and "Kedora" is another phonetic version of Keturah. He closes his long epistle with "Amen."
The Eskimoes also write the names of their missionaries with considerable variations as to spelling. "Pinsilamut" might be the address of a letter to Mr. Bindschedler, and I have seen "Karizima"' stand for Mr. Kretschmer. The natives have no idea of such titles as Mr. or Mrs., and they still call the majority of their missionaries by their Christian names.
Wednesday, August 29th.—5 A.M. The sun just rising. We are between Lundberg Island and the Saddle, so named from its shape. Its "stirrups," two little rocks, are supplemented by a great, white berg. To the south-west Kiglapeit is still visible, and to the west are the hills on Okak Island, including "Smith Hill," so called after Tiger Schmitt[A] of South African fame. I did not know before that the good man had also been a missionary in Labrador. How ready our forefathers were to go anywhere, everywhere, if only they could "win one soul for the Saviour!" The grandest mountain in the landscape is Cape Mugford. Yes, it does look like Salisbury Crags on a large scale, as a missionary remarked to me last year on the Calton Hill in Edinburgh.
In the course of the morning Okak came in sight, visible at a much greater distance than any other station. Another hour and we had entered the bay and were approaching our anchorage. A very numerous company gathered on the pier and sang; how or what I could not hear for the rattling of our iron cable. Then the "Kitty" came off to us, bringing the missionaries Schneider, Stecker, and Schaaf, and seventeen natives.
Soon after we got ashore to be welcomed also by the three sisters, the mist, which we had seen gathering round the Saddle, came in from the sea, first drawing a broad, white stripe straight across the entrance of the bay, then gradually enveloping everything. Experience of driving to and fro off this coast in such a fog makes one doubly thankful to be safe ashore, with our good ship riding at anchor in the bay.
[Footnote A: See "Conquests of the Cross" (an admirable Missionary Serial, published by Cassell & Co.), Part I., p. 20.]
THE MOST PRIMITIVE STATION IN LABRADOR.
Our dear missionaries who dwell in Labrador for the King's work have certainly not much space in their small sitting-rooms and smaller bedrooms, for each family is content with two apartments, easily warmed in winter. They meet in the common dining room for meals, the household worship or conference, and the sisters take it in turns, a week at a time, to preside over the kitchen department, where they have the aid of an Eskimo servant. Besides the ministry and the pastoral care of their congregations, the brethren share between them a vast variety of constantly recurring temporal duties, for in Labrador there is no baker, greengrocer, and butcher round the corner, and no mason, carpenter, plumber, painter or glazier to be called in when repairs are needed. The missionaries must discharge all these offices, as well as be their own gardener and smith, and on occasion doctor, dentist, chemist, or anything else that may be necessary. These general remarks hold good of mission life at every station, but in many respects Okak is the most primitive of the six, and not least in the appointments of the mission-house, like all the rest, built of wood.
Glance round the two rooms kindly set apart for the English guest. They are the same size as the simple domain of any one of the three mission families resident here. The sitting-room is about fourteen feet by twelve; its panelled walls are coloured a blue-green. The floor is boarded, and over the middle a carpet is laid. In front of the sofa, the seat of honour, stands a little table, and the high back of my antique chair is within a foot of it as I write at the bureau against the opposite wall. By the way, what convenient pieces of furniture these bureaus are, especially to a visitor who has so much writing to do! The other chair is of like pattern, with seat stuffed and covered with sealskin. It stands between the door into the bedroom and the high, white stove. Of course open fire-places are unknown in Labrador, nor would they effectually warm the rooms. In the corner by the door the Eskimo bench is the regular institution. Sometimes my door opens, a native enters, sits down and smiles at me. When we have exchanged the usual greetings, "Aksunai" (be strong) and "Ahaila" (yes), my Eskimo vocabulary is nearly at an end, and I have to fetch an interpreter. A cupboard and a stool complete the inventory of my furniture. Do my readers wish to look into the bedroom about fourteen feet by six? Two little bedsteads and another bureau scarcely leave room to pass to the window. The prophet's table, chair, and candlestick are there, also a washstand, a strip of carpet by the bed, a little looking-glass, and some useful rows of hooks: I think that is all; but in my endeavour to give a correct idea of the godly simplicity of such a mission-house, I would not for anything misrepresent the hospitable care, of which at every station I have the most pleasant and grateful remembrance.
Now look out of my window. High hills close in the bay where the "Harmony" lies at anchor some distance from the shore. Yesterday a strong wind made her roll even in the harbour. The mission premises stand within a few yards of the beach and the little pier runs out into the water just in front of the gate. The tide is out now, and the lighter which is bringing the stores from the ship has got aground. The mate and some Eskimoes are trying to push it off, and among the rest two women are standing in the water and pushing manfully. Their position and occupation illustrate the utility of their national female costume of trousers and boots. Skirts would be impracticable when they go out boating and fishing with their husbands or trudge through the deep snow, which lies on the ground more than half a year. Nevertheless they look odd to an unaccustomed eye. The children are comical miniatures of their fathers and mothers, and sometimes it is difficult to tell whether they are boys or girls.
Do you see the station boat lying a little way from the end of the pier? She is named the "Kitty," and has an interesting history. Many years ago she brought to Okak the five survivors of the ship "Kitty" lost in the ice of Hudson's Bay. The captain and ten men escaped in the larger boat, but fell into the hands of heathen Eskimoes, who treacherously murdered them all. Those in the smaller boat rounded Cape Chudley and were driven by the wind among the islands near Okak. Here they were seen by Eskimoes belonging to the station. Emaciated and famished, they feared a cruel death, but to their astonishment the natives helped them ashore, took them into their little hut of sods, wrapped them in skins, and supplied them with food. Very beautiful to those ship-wrecked mariners sounded the singing and very solemn the prayers at the morning and evening devotions of their Eskimo deliverers. As soon as the wind permitted, the natives brought them to the station, where they were carried ashore to this mission-house and received every attention. They were in a deplorable condition and the missionaries had to perform some surgical operations on severely frost-bitten limbs. When recovered, three of them went to the south, and the other two worked their passage home in the "Harmony."
Here come a number of women and children running to the pier. Several of the women have babies in their hoods. There must be something of special interest. Yes, the fishermen from the schooner are coming ashore in their boat, and I perceive their flag is flying half-mast high, indicating a death aboard their vessel. They came into the bay yesterday, piloted by some of our Eskimoes, and bringing a dying comrade. Their request for medicine was at once granted, but the poor man lay unconscious. His "mates" said he had not lacked spiritual exhortation and comfort, adding simply and humbly, "several of us know the way, sir." So they did, as was evident from further observation of, and conversation with them. They were very grateful for Christian literature.[B] Now they have come for boards to make a coffin for their dead comrade, and the Eskimo women and children watch the strangers with curiosity, but not rudely. On the whole, I think our Eskimoes very well behaved. Their Christianity has certainly improved their manners in everyday life, as well as made them remarkably devout in church.
There is the church bell. Being the first Monday in the month, it is the missionary prayer-meeting. Let us go. The interior of the church is similar to that at Hopedale already described, and the congregation is more numerous. Edification predominates, but one or two amusing items may be noted. The babies are rather noisy. Should one or another get too obstreperous, however, the mother slips it into her hood behind, and marches to the door on the women's side. The worthy widow, who acts as chapel servant, opens the door and then closes it upon the little disturber of the peace. It is also amusing to a stranger to watch the organ-blower, for this humble but important service to the sanctuary has a prominent place here. The office is fulfilled by a woman, clad in Eskimo fashion, and when the hymn is given out she places one booted leg on the lever of the bellows and then, hymn book in hand, treads wind into the instrument as vigorously as she sings. During the concluding hymn a number of little heads and muffled up little bodies appear above the four or five rows of women; they belong to the babies who have already been heard and now are seen as their mothers lift them up to slip them into the hoods of their sillapaks. The babies being thus stowed away on their backs, the mothers are ready to stand up and file out at the end of the service.
But, as I said before, edification predominates, and truly it is edifying to hear the hearty singing and see the reverent demeanour of all classes of this Eskimo congregation. I may here add that after being present at between thirty or forty services at our six stations, I do not remember seeing a single boy or girl talking or laughing with a neighbour in church. Had one done so, no doubt he or she would have received a timely rebuke from some native-helper. The Eskimoes at Hopedale have been known to take the Newfoundland fishermen to task for irreverence.
[Footnote B: This gives me an opportunity of recording thanks to the Drummond Tract Institute for a free supply of bright Christian publications in English, which have been distributed, and will, I trust, bear some fruit. From the Religious Tract Society and other benefactors we have also received valuable help for evangelistic efforts among English-speaking sailors or settlers on the Coast of Labrador.]
WALKS IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF OKAK.
The word Okak signifies "the Tongue." The station is situated on a hilly island, which for nearly half the year is practically part of the mainland, for the broad straits are bridged by thick ice. The heights around our little settlement command fine views of the surrounding mountains and fjords. The island of Cape Mugford is one of the grandest objects in the barren landscape, and the Kaumajets, a noble range, stretch away to the north of it.
Thursday, August 30th.—Had an interesting walk over moorland in search of the site of Kivalek, one of the old heathen villages, from which the population of Okak was drawn. On a grassy plain we found the roofless remains of many turf huts. They are similar to the mounds near Hopedale, already described, but larger and more numerous. One cannot but view, with a sad interest, these remnants of the former abodes of pagans without hope and without God in the world. "Let them alone, they are very happy in their own religion." So some would tell us; but was it so here? Is it so where the true light has not yet shined into pagan darkness? No, here, as everywhere in heathenism, the works of the flesh were manifest. And these, as the Bible plainly tells us, and as missionary experience abundantly confirms, are "fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strifes, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." But through the power of the Gospel old things have passed away. Heathen Kivalek is uninhabited, and though the flesh yet lusteth against the Spirit in the lives of the dwellers at Christian Okak, yet, thank God, the Spirit also lusteth against the flesh, and the fruits of the Spirit are manifest there, as at the other stations.
Tuesday, September 4th.—Before we had done breakfast the flag was flying at the mizen-gaff of the "Harmony," summoning her passengers to start for Ramah. We speedily packed our baggage, but the wind died away ere the anchor could be lifted, and we did not sail out of the bay till the next morning. So some of us utilized the interval for the ascent of the Sonnenkoppe, so called because it hides the sun from Okak for several weeks of the year. High on the hill was a pond, which superstitious natives believe to be inhabited by a sea-monster left there by the flood. A larger lake is named after our Irish missionary Bramagin. Arrived at the summit, a very wide prospect over innumerable mountains and blue sea, dotted with white icebergs, rewarded our climb. Far below us we could see the mission-house, centre of blessed influence, for the Eskimo village, divided into Lower Okak by the beach, and Upper Okak on the slope beyond. Strange to think that, with the exception of one settler family in Saeglek Bay, the nearest group of fixed human habitations is at Hebron, seventy miles to the north. Easier than the ascent was the descent, over rocks and stones, beautifully variegated mosses, and low vegetation changing its hue to a brilliant red as the autumn advances.