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Sha-sko-ge-shick Indian Camp Meeting 1905

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Sha-sko-ge-shick Indian Camp Meeting 1905

Posted: 1321058482000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1321116877000
Surnames: Sha-sko-ge-shick, Greensky, Show-an-da-sa, Shawanadase, Redbird, Williams, Waun-a-gee-shic, Wonegeshik, Wanageshik,Wanageshick, Jacobs, Solomon, Coon
Very few people seem to know the original name of this camp meeting, and there has been little written about it, although it has been held annually in Leelanau County for well over a century. Many families have been involved in the meetings.
From "The Christian Work and the Evangelist" Vol. 79, No. 2012, New York.
Sept. 9, 1905, p. 345
An Indian Camp Meeting.

By J. M. Bulkley.
It is not often given to many persons to witness such an interesting and altogether unique assemblage as this which, during the week beginning on the 11th of August, has been brought together in this romantic region at Northport, Mich., on the shores of one of the most beautiful sheets of water in the world. It is a camp meeting, attended and largely conducted by the Christianized Ottawa and Chippewa tribes of Indians, who compose the largest communities of Indians in Michigan. It is called "the Sha-Sko-ge-Shick." Northport is a small village of a few hundred people in the county and township of Leelanan [sic], which occupies the extreme northern point of the peninsula which separates Lake Michigan from that charming expanse of water, Grand Traverse Bay, whose bay-indented shores stretch for thirty or forty miles northward from Traverse City, the metropolis of that favored section of the commonwealth and then unite with the great lake.

In this county and at Cross Village, in Emmet county, farther up the Lake Michigan shore, are the most populous communities of what remains of the once powerful and numerous Ottawa and Chippewa tribes of Indians in Michigan. They have become not only civilized, but Christianized, and educated in the way that has made of them in the main an industrious and worthy people. They have not all of them forgotten and grown out of the inbred and clinging customs and manners of their ancestors, but there are many of them who have taken in the cultivation and ambitions of their white brethren, and it is not too much to say that the comparison in point of moral life and tendencies is not altogether to the credit of the latter. This camp meeting is under the direction of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Northport, and, as has been stated, is composed almost entirely of the people of the Ottawa and the Chippewa tribes of Indians, who were the original possessors of this magnificent domain.

Here on the shores of this beautiful sheet of water, a short two miles from the village, amid "God's first temples," are pitched the tents, and are erected the temporary buildings in which, for the week, this earnest band of simple folk live and worship, The exercises are conducted by the pastors of the different Methodist churches, but participated in by all who choose to take part. To one who has visited the Negro camp meeting in the South, the devotions of these meetings will strike most forcibly by their quiet earnestness, and the absence of that emotional demonstration which is a part of the Negro meeting. The early aborigines were not an emotional race; neither are their descendants of to-day, yet it is not unusual to witness individual exclamation or movements showing the intense earnestness and mental activity of those in the large audience.

Perhaps the most strikingly unique feature of these exercises is the singing which enters very largely into them. It is undoubtedly true that there is no race so completely wrapped up in the simple harmonies of sound as the American Indians. During the services at almost any moment, whether opportune or otherwise, a voice suddenly starts up in an overwhelming rush of sound singing in a peculiar blending of words like the chants of ancient orgies, some familiar hymn, which is at once caught up by a hundred other voices, and the swelling melody sweeps through the woods. It is a well known fact that the Indian race are almost child-like in their willingness to be led, either by right or wrong, and as it is the characteristic way of their natures, it is easy to see that a large majority of the attendants will be on their knees in confession before the close of the meeting. Whether the influences and the impressions will be fopgotten upon the return to the usual avocations of life in which they live is a matter of conjecture. The music of the camp meeting is especially to be noted. There is a choir composed wholly of the Ottawa and Chippewa men and women, the leaders of which are all or nearly all members of the local mission church, under the leadership of Show-an-da-sa, who has a tenor voice of extraordinary clearness and purity—indeed of a quality seldom heard in the paleface brother, although it is not exceptional among the Ottawas, to find rare tenor rather than deep bass ones. The names of the members of this remarkable choir are as follows: Louis Show-anda-sa, John Redbird, Lois Williams, Nancy Waun-a-gee-shic, James Waun-a-gee-shic, Peter Show-an-da-sa, John Jacobs, W. E. Elias, Genereau Solomon, Joe Redbird and John Coon. The latter is nearly eighty years of age,, yet has a powerful voice, which he uses to good advantage. The language used in the hymns is the Ojibway, which is recognized jointly by the Ottawas, Pattawattanies and Chippewas, though originally belonging to the Chippewas, the two tribes in the early days being practically one.

Back in 1847 translators began the task of preparing for the Indians a set of familiar hymns, which later were revised and combined into a hymn book in the Ojibway tongue by a half-bred missionary, named Peter Jones, assisted by the missionary, Peter Dougherty, of Old Mission, Mich. Following this, Rev. James Evans and George Henry added others which, together, are now published in book form, Ojibway on one page and English on the opposite one. If an exact translation were followed, it would require two include the hymns very condensed, for in the majority of hymns, so lengthy are the simplest words translated into the strange language, that but one or two thoughts of the original can be used for the entire hymn, as sung in the Ojibway. Sometimes even one thought is the limit. Take the familiar hymn:

"Oh for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King
The triumphs of this grace."

The literal translation embodied in the hymn used in the regular service has but a faint resemblance to the original,
its text being altogether inadequate for the true thought expressed, thus:

"O-uh p-gish ke-che in go dweck
Neej uh she nah taig
Che nuh guh mo tuh wah wild
Ning e shah Mun-e-doom."

The retranslation again into the English has little or no suggestion of the beautiful thought originally embodied, for certain words are altogether eliminated, owing to their length or euphonic peculiarities. If re-translated literally it would appear in the following phraseology:

"I wish I had a thousand
With other countrymen,
For us to sing
About our great God."

Of the one hundred and thirty hymns translated, the predominating thoughts are in connection with the Sabbath, the rising sun, which they have always worshipped, the blessings and goodness of their God, and the joy they take in their religion.

Altogether, the Sha-sko-ge-shic camp meeting is certainly an interesting event in this twentieth century.

Detroit, Mich.
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