Archive for the ‘John L. Wicks’ Tag

Feast of David Pendleton Oakerhater (September 1)   1 comment

Above:  David Pendleton Oakerhater

Image in the Public Domain

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DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER (CIRCA 1847-AUGUST 31, 1931)

Cheyenne Warrior, Chief, and Holy Man, and Episcopal Deacon and Missionary in Oklahoma

Born O-kuh-ha-tah (“Making Medicine”)

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You all know me.  You remember when I led you out to war and I went first, and what I told you was true.  Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader.  He goes first, and all he tells me is true.  I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace.

–O-kuh-ha-tah (David Pendleton Oakerhater), 1881

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The institutional church has much to recommend it, but it does also have a checkered and frequently disturbing past.  Consider, for example, O reader, the treatment of indigenous peoples in many lands.  If one is honest, one must admit that the Church has often fall short of the high standard of Christ in that and other regards.

O-kuh-ha-tah (literally “Making Medicine”), born circa 1847 on the Cheyenne reservation in the western part of the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), became a lonely missionary in a neglected mission.  He was a warrior, fighting other tribes and the United States Government over land rights from the late 1860s to the middle 1870s.  O-kuh-ha-tah’s involvement in the Red River War (1874-1875) led to his capture by the U.S. Army in 1875.  He and other prisoners of war interred at Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida, were subject to a rigorous policy of cultural assimilation.  (While I do not pretend that cultural assimilation of indigenous peoples has had no positive consequences for them, neither do I pretend that the policy was not overall negative for them.  In every policy one can identify the good and the bad.  The real question is whether the good or the bad is dominant.)

On the positive side, the prisoners of war received frequent visits from Episcopalians, many of them vacationers in St. Augustine.  These Episcopalians shared their faith.  One of these visitors was Alice Pendleton (1824-1886), daughter of Francis Scott Key (1779-1866) and wife of George Hunt Pendleton (1825-1889), U.S. Representative (1857-1865) and Senator (1879-1885) from Ohio.  (He was most famous for the Civil Service Act of 1883, which began to end the spoils system and ended his career in the Senate.)  Another visitor was Mary Douglass Burnham (1832-1904), a deaconess from the Diocese of New York.  Via Burnham O-kuh-ha-tah and three other prisoners traveled to Paris Hill, New York, to study under John L. Wicks (1838-1918), Rector of St. Paul’s Church, in April in 1878.  Later that year, at Grace Church, Syracuse, the four Natives became baptized Christians.  O-kuh-ha-tah’s baptismal name was David Pendleton Oakerhater; “Pendleton” was in honor of Alice Pendleton.  In 1879 O-kuh-ha-tah’s first wife and three-year-old son joined him in New York.  They died the following year; she shuffled off her mortal coil in childbirth.

O-kuh-ha-tah remarried more than once.  He buried most of his children, who died young.  When he died in 1931, however, he had descendants.

In 1881 O-kuh-ha-tah and Paul Caryl Zotom (a Kiowa; circa 1853-1913) became Episcopal deacons.  They were the only two of the four to complete the three-year program.  One had died in 1880.  The other had chosen to pursue blacksmithing instead.  Wicks and the deacons went to the Indian Territory.  Wicks returned to New York after a while.  Zotom abandoned the Christian faith by 1889.  O-kuh-ha-tah remained at his post in the western part of the territory (later the State of Oklahoma) for the rest of his life.

O-kuh-ha-tah was a deacon and never a priest.  There were indigenous priests in Anglicanism in North America at the time, though.  The first member of one of the First Nations ordained in the Anglican tradition was Sakachuwescum/Henry Budd (circa 1812-1875), a member of the Cree Nation in Canada, ordained to the priesthood in 1850.  Enmegahbowh (1807/1813-1902), from the Ojibwa Nation, became the first indigenous priest in The Episcopal Church in 1867.  The second indigenous Episcopal priest was Paul Mazakute, ordained in 1869.  (I have made a note to myself to consider adding Mazakute to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, in time.)

From 1887 to 1917 O-kuh-ha-tah labored faithfully at the Whirlwind Mission in western Oklahoma.  He served in the parish church, operated a school, and helped a population beset by a plethora of problems, including diseases and poverty.  The Church, bowing to federal pressure, closed the Whirlwind Mission in 1917 and put our saint on a pension, but he continued the mission informally until he died at Watonga, Oklahoma, on August 31, 1931.

There was no Episcopal presence in the region for a generation.  In the 1960s, however, there were still Cheyenne and Arapaho who had learned the faith from him or some those to whom he had ministered.  The current Whirlwind Mission of the Holy Family, Watonga, began in 1992.

O-kuh-ha-tah became the first Native American added to The Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints, in 1985.  Since then the Church has added others, among them Enmegahbowh, Sakachuwescum/Henry Budd, and Onangwatgo/Cornelius Hill (1834-1907), all priests.

Red and yellow, black and white,

they are precious in his sight,

a children’s song about the love of Jesus tells us.  But are people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds precious in our sight?  Or are we too caught up in our racism and ethnocentrism to cease injuring the image of God in them?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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O God of unsearchable wisdom and infinite mercy, you chose a captive warrior, David Oakerhater,

to be your servant, an sent him to be a missionary to his own people,

and to exercise the office of a deacon among them:

Liberate us, who commemorate him today, from bondage to self,

and empower us for service to you and to the neighbors you have given us;

through Jesus Christ, the captain of our salvation;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96:1-7

Romans 8:1-6

Luke 10:1-9

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 555

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