The Life History and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, 1847
Rice Lake, that beautiful lake, extends about twenty-five miles, and is from two to three miles in breadth, running from northeast to southwest. It contains about twenty islands. Large quantities of wild rice abound in almost every part of the lake; it resembles fields of wheat. As ducks of all kinds resort here in great abundance, to feed upon the rice, consequently, there is much good game in the fall of the year. They fiy in large flocks, and often appear like clouds. Some of the islands just referred to, are beautiful; for example, Sugar Island, with its beautiful edge of evergreens near the water; Spoke Island, a place of fashionable summer resort. One of the largest of these islands, contains about three hundred acres.
In 1818, our people surrendered to the British government a large part of their territory, for the sum of £750; réserving, as they had good reason to believe, all the islands. As they could neither read nor write, they were ignorant of the fact that these islands were included in the sale. They were repeatedly told by those who purchased for the government, that the islands were not included in the articles of agreement. But since that time, some of us have learned to read, and to our utter astonishment, and to the everlasting disgrace of that pseudo Christian nation, we find that we have been most grossly abused, deceived, and cheated. Appeals have been frequently made, but all in vain.
Rice Lake contains quantities of the finest fish. In the summer, great numbers of boats may be seen trowling for mascalounge, a species of pike, some of which weigh about thirty pounds. Bass, eels, etc. are also found in this lake. Since locks have been made on the canal down to Crooke’s rapids, much fur can be procured all around the lake, especially muskrats-Shahwon-dase, O dah me koo mun.
This is the spot on which I roamed during my early days. Often have I gone with my birch bark canoe from island to island, in quest of ducks and fish. The plain on the south shore, is called Whortleberry Plain. A steamboat runs from Gore’s Landing to Peterboro once a day.
The village of the Ojebwas is on the north; the land gradually slopes towards the water. Its farms, church, school house, and council house can be seen at a considerable distance. It was here where the Rev. James Evans, whose obituary was noticed in the following manner in the “Albany Evening Journal,” December 22, 1846, first taught an Indian school.
“Suddenly, on the 23d of November, at Keelby, England, Rev. James Evans, for many years a Wesleyan missionary in Canada, and the territory of the Hudson Bay Company. On Sunday, the 22d, he preached twice, and on Monday evening 23d, spoke at a missionary meeting, with great fervency. He had complained of a slight indisposition, previous to the meeting; but after he had finished his address, he said that his indisposition had been completely removed. Soon after his head fell back, and life was gone.”
He was a missionary in every sense of the word. From Rice Lake, he went to Lake Superior, and afterwards to the Hudson Bay Territory, where he labored with much success. His precious life was spent in rescuing the Ojebwa nation from misery and degradation. Fatigue and hunger were often his companions; but the power of living faith was that on which his soul feasted. O thou man of God, enviable are thy labors, thy rest, and thy glory! I, myself, still hold in sweet remembrance the sacred truths which thou didst teach me, even the commands of the Most High! Memory, like an angel, will still hover over the sacred spot, where first you taught me the letters of the alphabet.
There are numerous lakes near Rice Lake; about some of which the Ojebwas reside; particularly Mud, Schoogaug and Balsam Lakes. The country, in this vicinity, is rapidly increasing in population; the whites are continually settling among us. The deer was plenty a few years ago, but now only a few can be found. The Ojebwas are, at present, employed in farming instead of hunting; many of them have good and well cultivated farms. They not only raise grain enough for their own use, but often sell much to the whites.
The Canadian Commissioners on Indian affairs, in their report to Parliament in 1845, remarked in relation to the Rice Lake Indians, as follows:— “These Indians are Methodists, and have either a resident missionary, or have been regularly visited by the missionary belonging to the Alnwick settlement. They have a school, and a school-master is supported by the Methodist Missionary Society.”