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Chapter XLIII I Become a Missionary

ALWAYS homesick for the scenes of my childhood, the call of the prairie became so insistently strong that I gave up my pastorate of the South Church, and returned, a missionary, to Oklahoma.

On the old Chisholm trail, in the city of Pond Creek, I built a church. I began without a dollar, and the missionary board gave me no aid towards its erection.

But the townspeople were with me, and a generous contribution came in from the outside. My friend, Rev. W. J. McKittrick, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, Missouri, gave me five hundred dollars.

The church was paid for before its dedication, and was pronounced the prettiest, if not the most artistic, church in Oklahoma.

Those of all creeds and no creed had lent a helping hand, and when it came to the building of the manse, it was the Roman Catholic priest who gave me the ablest assistance in planning it.

It was here I was elected Moderator of the Presbytery of the Cimarron. As this Presbytery was named for the river on which I was captured by the soldiers after my desertion from the company of scouts, I considered the circumstance no small honour.

I now had the opportunity of making inquiry among the tribes for my son Tapahyeete. More than twenty-five years had passed since I had left him in the arms of the good Cheyenne woman, the night his mother lost her life in the treacherous quick-sands.

My search was long and diligent, but I found no trace of him.

One day I reached home to find sitting on the ground before my door a tall, long-haired, buckskin-clad Indian. I was told he had been there without moving for hours. I spoke to him.

Came the revelation that he was my son Tapahyeete. He had heard of my long hunt and wanted to see me. I could not induce him to enter the house. He had come with a band of Utes from Colorado, and in a few days he went away with them and never returned.

I was now located in the neighbourhood of tribes I had known in the days of my boyhood. I had answered the call of the long-ago time only to follow with heavy heart the changes that had come to my prairies and to my people.

Where the shaggy buffalo and the quick-footed antelope had fed, were waving fields of grain. Instead of the tepee camp, were towns and cities. Iron pathways ribboned the plains where now were left only dim and broken pieces of the trails made by unshod hoofs in the days long gone. And the Indians themselves—the once proud possessors of the boundless prairies!-

Their standard of morality broken down; their religion a mixture of fragments—the white man’s and their own; their old occupations gone, and their hands feebly grasping the tools of civilisation without knowing how to use them; hindered on all sides by the grafter, they were trying, with breaking hearts, to set their feet on the white man’s road, and were prisoners on a spot of land called an Indian Reservation.

Years ago I learned that an island is a body of land surrounded entirely by water. Since then I have discovered that an Indian Reservation is a body of land surrounded by thieves—thieves who steal not only material property but manhood and womanhood as well; that within the reservation reigns a monarch called an Indian agent, with greater power than the king of any nation of the world. He can lease the land to whom he pleases. He can withhold the annuities of the Indians. He can refuse to issue food to the hungry men, women and children. These things and many more of their kind can this mighty person do to the enrichment of himself.

There have been and are good Indian agents, but the evils of the system are only too apparent.

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