INTRODUCTION

For these many years past, a considerable number of Esquimaux have been in the annual practice of visiting the three missionary establishments of the United Brethren on the coast of Labrador, Okkak, Nain, and Hopedale, chiefly with a view to barter, or to see those of their friends and acquaintance, who had become obedient to the gospel, and lived together in Christian fellowship, enjoying the instruction of the Missionaries.

These people came mostly from the north, and some of them from a great distance. They reported, that the body of the Esquimaux nation lived near and beyond Cape Chudleigh, which they call Killinek, and having conceived much friendship for the Missionaries, never failed to request, that some of them would come to their country, and even urged the formation of a new settlement, considerably to the north of Okkak.

To these repeated and earnest applications the Missionaries were the more disposed to listen, as it had been discovered, not many years after the establishment of the Mission in 1771, that that part of the coast on which, by the encouragement of the British government, the first settlement was made, was very thinly inhabited, and that the aim of the Mission, to convert the Esquimaux to Christianity, would be /4/ better obtained, if access could be had to the main body of the Indians, from which the roving inhabitants appeared to be mere stragglers. Circumstances, however, prevented more extensive plans from being put in execution; and the Missionaries, having gained the confidence and esteem of the Esquimaux in their neighbourhood, remained stationary on that coast, and, by degrees, formed three settlements, Okkak, to the north, and Hopedale, to the south of Nain, their first place of residence.

In consequence of the abovementioned invitation, it became a subject of serious consideration, by what means a more correct idea of the extent and dwelling-places of the Esquimaux nation might be obtained, and a general wish was expressed, that one or more of the Missionaries would undertake the perilous task of visiting such places as were reported by the Esquimaux themselves to contain more inhabitants than the southern coast, but remained unknown to European navigators.

The Synodal Committee, appointed for the management of the Missions of the United Brethren, having given their consent to the measure, and agreed with Brother Kohlmeister, by occasion of a visit paid by him to his relations and friends in Germany, as to the mode of putting it into execution, he returned to Labrador in 1810, and prepared to undertake the voyage early in the spring of 1811.

For several years, a correspondence had taken place between the Missionaries in Labrador and the Brethren's Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, established in London, relating to the manner in which the voyage should be performed. Opinions were various on the subject; but it was at length determined, that a steady intelligent Christian Esquimaux, possessing a shallop, with two masts, and of sufficient dimensions, should be appointed to accompany one or two Missionaries, for a liberal recompence; and that the travellers should spend the winter at Okkak, to be ready to /5/ proceed on the voyage, without loss of time, as soon as the state of the ice would permit of it. Brother Kohlmeister proposed, in this view, the Esquimaux Jonathan, of Hopedale, and the brig employed to convey the annual supply of necessaries to the three settlements, was ordered to proceed first to Hopedale, partly with a view to this negotiation. She arrived safe with Brother Kohlmeister at this place, on the 22nd July, 1810. On the same day, he proposed to Jonathan the intended expedition, laid before him the whole plan, with all its difficulties and advantages, and found him immediately willing to undertake the voyage, and to forward its object by every means in his power.

This was no small sacrifice on the part of Jonathan. An Esquimaux is naturally attached to the place of his birth; and, though he spends the summer, and indeed great part of the year, necessarily, and from inclination, in roving from one place to another in quest of food; yet in winter he settles, if possible, upon his native spot, where he is esteemed and beloved. This was eminently the case with Jonathan. He was a man of superior understanding and skill, possessed of uncommon presence of mind in difficulties and dangers, and at Hopedale considered as the principal person, or chief of his nation. But he was now ready to forsake all, and to go and reside at Okkak, among strangers, having no authority or pre-eminence, and to undertake a voyage of unknown length and peril, from whence he could not be sure of a safe or speedy return, before the ice might set in, and confine him upon an unknown shore, during the whole of a second winter. There was, however, one consideration which outweighed every other in his mind, and made him, according to his own declaration, forget all difficulties and dangers. He hoped that the proposed voyage to visit his countrymen in the north would, in time, be a means of their becoming acquainted with the gospel of Christ, and partakers of the same blessings which he now enjoyed. This made him /6/ willing to accept of the call without any hesitation. Nor did he ever, during the whole voyage, forsake that generous principle, by which he was at first influenced, but his cheerful, firm, and faithful conduct proved, under all circumstances, most honourable to the character of a true convert to Christianity.

Brother Kohlmeister being, after seventeen years residence in Labrador, complete master of the Esquimaux language, and deservedly beloved and respected both by Christians and heathens, and possessing an invincible zeal to promote their temporal and spiritual welfare, was a man eminently qualified to undertake the commission, and to conciliate the affections of unknown heathen. He had also previously made himself acquainted with the use of the quadrant, and with other branches of science, useful on such an occasion.

Brother Kmoch, his companion, joined to other essential qualifications, great cheerfulness and intrepidity.

All the parties having met at Okkak, in the autumn of 1810, the winter was partly spent in preparations for the intended expedition, and Jonathan's boat put into the best possible state of repair.


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