One day, in the early 1800s, three law officers from the Red River settlement in Manitoba arrived at Red Lake, Minnesota, on a mission. They had been sent by the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, bearing a letter from him stating that one of the Red lake men had stolen $1500 from the company a few weeks earlier. The letter acknowledged that the officers had no authority to arrest the guilty party, but that they were respectfully requesting that the leaders at Red Lake would accept their plea to recover the money.
The old headman named Way-win-che-gnon met with the officers and listened as the letter was read to him. He thought for a while afterwards and then gave his reply through the missionary, who acted as interpreter. He said, “Yes, that is true. A distant relative of mine has the money and he shall deliver it up to you.” The accused man was across the lake at Ponemah. Way-win-che-gnon sent two other headmen after him, asking that he to report at once at the Mission at Red Lake with the money. He then called the other headmen of village together at his house.
When the suspected thief arrived, Way-win-che-gnon said to him, “Lay the money on the table cousin.” The man did what he was asked. Way-win-che-gnon then asked him, “Now stand up; hold up your hand and swear by the Great Spirit that you will tell us the sober truth as to how you got this money.” To this, the man arose, held up his hand and said, “Ningah-dag-gay-de-kit-o-yan; nin-gah-ta-be-way-dush.” (or “The Lord of all shall hear what I shall say ; and I will tell the whole truth”). The man then proceeded to relate how he had stolen the money.
According to his statement, while at the Red River Settlement, he was visiting with two French half-breeds. They had been admitted into the Hudson Bay Company's store, where they noticed a large package of new bank notes lying in the office. When they came out they began to consult how they might get possession of the money. They noticed that the window was open, so they grabbed a ladder and waited until nightfall. With the ladder they were able to enter the store and snatch the money bag. However, as they were descending the ladder they were noticed. The Red Lake man was the last to come down, and he was holding the money. The two Metis men quickly ran away, leaving him holding the proverbial bag. Finding himself deserted by his companions, the Red Laker prudently ran in the opposite direction and quickly left the Settlement. He reached Ponemah a few days later with the money. His accomplices were arrested, and told the authorities that they could find the man at Red Lake, which is what led the governor to dispatch his officers to recover the money if they could.
Hearing this, Way-win-che-gnon suggested that the money be carefully counted to see if it was all there. The missionary, serving as an honest party counted the bag. The exact sum fifteen hundred dollars was recovered and the men left to go back to Red River Settlement.
Rev. James Peery Schell. (1911) In The Ojibway Country. A Story of Early Missions on the Minnesota Frontier. Chas. H. Lee Publishing. Walhalla, ND
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities