On the Indian Trail is an insightful and lively account by Christian missionary Egerton Ryerson Young of converting two Native American populations to Christianity.
The author grew up amid the frontier culture popularly known as the 'Wild West'. The large population of Native American peoples were often in conflict with the incipient European settlers, while others - such as the Cree and Salteaux tribes - were more receptive to the wisdom and guidance of the white peoples.
Although the language of this account is grounded in its time, the care and devotion which E. R. Young and his wife carried for the Indian tribes and peoples is beyond doubt. Much progress was made in teaching the Native Americans how to prepare nourishing food, and how to treat wounds and disease. Literacy rates rose dramatically, as the Bible and other texts were employed to tutor the peoples.
Despite bringing all of this to the Cree and Salteaux tribes, Young cautions the reader against feeling an unqualified superiority. Having lived among the Indian peoples for years, their natural abilities in hunting, their deep capacity for spiritualism, and their and respect of the land all moved Egerton Young to deep respect for the Native American culture.
Overall, we have in Young's account a sterling example of what a dedicated missionary with staying power could achieve in North America during the 19th century. The harsh realities of life are not shied from, and the customs of the tribal populations are detailed superbly.