Myron Eells speaks, Part 2 of 3

From 1882, another report from frontier Protestant missionary Myron Eells showing the importance of Chinuk Wawa in northern Puget Sound areas…

There were religious services intended for Native people, and ones meant for Whites, but folks freely attended both, because the mix of languages meant they could understand a lot of what went on at either.

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THE INDIANS.

VARIETY IN MISSIONARY LIFE.

REV. M. EELLS, SKOKOMISH, W[ashington]. T[erritory].

Our services on one Sabbath were a decided medley of persons and Babel of. languages. The opening exercises were in English, after which was the sermon, delivered in English but translated into the Nisqually language, and a prayer was offered in the same manner. At the close of the service, two infants were baptized in English, when followed the Communion services in English. At this there were twelve white members of the Congregational church here, and one Indian; also two white members of the Protestant Methodist church, one Cumberland Presbyterian, and one other Congregationalist; there were also about seventy five Indians as spectators. The Sabbath School was held soon after, seventy-five being present. First, there were four songs in the Chinook language, accompanied by the organ and violin; then three in English. The prayer was in Nisqually. and the lesson read in English, after which the lessons were recited. Three classes of Indian boys, two of Indian girls, and two of white children were instructed in English; one class of Indian children was talked to partly in English and partly in Chinook. There is one Bible class of Indian men who can understand English, a part of whom can read and a part cannot, and another of about forty Indians, whose teacher talks English, but an interpreter translates it into Nisqually, and then he does not reach some Indians of the Clallam tribe who are present. Next followed a meeting of the Temperance Society, as six persons wished to join — a white man who can write his name and five Indians who touch the pen while the Secretary makes the mark. Three of these are sworn in English and two in Chinook. The whole services are interspersed with smging in English and Chinook.

On the trip to an Indian logging camp one evening, to hold a meeting, my companion and myself found the tide up so 

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high that we had to “coon ” the logs, as they were rolling in the water, in the dark, wade a part of the time, and improvise a lantern out of cedar sticks split up rather fine.

A Sabbath day’s work appears as follows: Began services with the Indians at Jamestown about ten o’clock, which continued until half-past twelve; then returned three-quarters of a mile to my boarding-place, went into the cupboard and took a very little lunch in my hands; walked four miles or more to Dunginess, where I preached to the whites at two o’clock, without even a chair or anything to sit down on; walked back two miles to the house of a friend, where I sang and played on the organ about all of the time, except while eating supper, until half-past six or seven, when I walked back to Jamestown and held services from eight to ten o’clock — thus walking thirteen miles, besides holding services over five hours, and singing an hour or two.

The variety of one trip of about two hundred miles is recorded thus: As to food, have done my own cooking, eaten dry crackers only for meals, been boarded several days for nothing and bought meals. As to sleeping, have stayed in as good a bed as could be given me, free of cost, and slept in my own blankets in an Indian canoe, because the houses of the whites were too far away and the “phleeze” [fleas] were too thick in the Indian houses. They were bad enough in the canoe, but the Indians would not allow me to go further away for fear that the panthers would catch me. As to work, have preached, held prayer meetings, done pastoral work, helped clean up the streets of an Indian village, been carpenter and painter, dedicated a church, performing all the parts, been organist, studied science, acted as agent, taken hold of law, in a case where whiskey had been sold to an Indian, and in a will. As to traveling, have been carried ninety miles in a canoe by Indians, free, paid an Indian four dollars for carrying me twenty miles, was carried twenty miles on a steamer at half fare and twenty more on another for nothing; rode horseback, walked fifty miles, and “paddled my own canoe” for forty-five miles.

A note is made of some people very hungry for preaching. One lady just recovering from sickness was hardly able to walk three-quarters of a mile to church, and as they had no horse her husband took her on a wheelbarrow more than half the way. An old lady, seventy-six years of age, walked over three miles to church where the services were mainly for the Indians, then a mile further, where the preaching was for the whites, and then returned home.

— from The Amerian Missionary XXXVI:9 (September 1882), pages 272-274

What have you learned?