BLTC Press Titles

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Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

In the Ojibway country

by James Peery Schell



Previous to the advent of the great railway lines, with their accompanying invasions of peoples of diverse nationalities, the immense natural resources of the forests, mines, and prospective harvests of northern Minnesota and the Dakotas were practically unknown and unsuspected by the people of "the States," and of the world at large.

But this whole region, embracing the principal watershed of the continent, and stretching away toward the rockies and the arctic sea, is a truly vast and varied one. Notwithstanding the rigor of the climate during the long winter months, it has from the earliest times formed a chosen habitat for the many fur-bearing animals of the north, as well as for a great variety of waterfowl and fish, affording thereby to the early explorers, traders and native tribes a wide and attractive field for their roving occupations and hardy enterprizes.

For these, also, it had provided from a very remote past, by means of its continuous chain of lakes and connecting waterways, a natural and convenient route for their frequent movements back and forth between the head of the great lakes and the plains and river valleys of the farther northwest.

Fringed on its eastern border by the pines and maples of the Minnesota forests, the fertile valley of the Red River of the north, some fifty miles in width by three hundred in length, lies smooth and level as the surface of its own prehistoric sea when unruffled by storms. Beyond it, stretching far to the westward, the higher plains, treeless and breezy, advance by almost imperceptible stages toward the dome of the distant "Rockies,"

All these vast areas were threaded at intervals by the well-worn trails of the buffalo, and of the native tribes and hunters in quest of their chosen game. The possession of this wild domain had long been contested by the various Indian tribes: The Ojibways, or Chippewas, claiming the eastern lake and forest regions of northern Minnesota, the proud and war-like Sioux ranging with the buffalo the exposed and unsheltered Dakota plains, while the more mild and peaceable Crees fished and hunted undisturbed in the less favored regions of the farther north.

After the early explorers, Hennepin, Marquette, and LaSalle—the latter of whom in 1680 reached the head of lake Superior, and passing westward over the divide, descended the channel of the upper Mississippi as far as the falls of St. Anthony—the first to explore the territory and give the result of his observations to the world was Captain Jonathan Carver. At the head of a company of English provincials he traversed the. country lying between the St. Anthony falls and lake Superior in 1767, and published an account of the same in London the following year.;

In 1820, only a few months after the location of Ft. Snelling, the historian Schoolcraft accompanied Gen. Lewis Cass on a government expedition through the same region; and in 1823 conducted a similar expedition himself, which resulted in the discovery of the true source of the Mississippi river, and in the publication of much valuable and interesting material relative thereto.

Following the reports of these discoveries, interest began to be awakened among individuals and the various Missionary societies in regard to the spiritual condition and needs of the various native tribes found to be occupying these then far away regions. And among the very first to offer their services for the good of the Indian were the Rev. Frederick Ayer and his courageous wife; who, accompanied by Mr. W. A. Aitken, located, in the spring of 1831, their first mission station at Sandy lake, not far from the Mississippi river. There, also, Mrs. Ayer opened her first school for the instruction of the native children,—the first ever opened in the northern portion of what is now the state of Minnesota. The following year they returned to La Pointe, and from there they went to Yellow lake; Mr. E. F. Ely having succeeded them at Sandy Lake as teacher and catechist. About 1832-3 a mission station was opened at Leech lake by the Rev. W. T. Boutwell; and another at Fon du Lac, near the head of lake Superior, in 1834.

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