Chief Running Horse
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17. Chief Running Horse

Standing Rock Sioux

Sioux WarriorAs Captain Ray Lewis' work with the Church Army reservation cadets was drawing to an end, the tribal leaders honored him. In Fort Yates, North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux gave him the honorary name of "Ta Inyanke," meaning "Chief Running Horse," because he was always traveling from place to place in his ministry. "Ta Inyanke" or Chief Running Horse was once the name of a deeply loved Christian whose honor Captain Ray would perpetuate by receiving this title.

Star Quilt

Star QuiltAs a mark of this new relationship as Chief Running Horse, a beautiful multi-colored star quilt was made and draped over Chief Running Horse's shoulders. Another Church Army Officer, a friend from the Republic of Namibia in Southern Africa, was also honored for his work with the title "The World Traveler."

Tribal Hall Feast

Dancing WarriorAfter two years of moving around in ministry, Chief Running Horse returned to the Standing Rock Sioux in Fort Yates in North Dakota for a sumptuous feast at the Tribal Halls. They had not forgotten "Chief Running Horse" and greeted him, "Oh, Chief Running Horse." He was now truly a relative and was reminded of that fact later in the feast. They had eaten their fill and given gifts of American beadwork and more food to take home. When the dancing started, Chief Running Horse thought he would join in too. Without a glimmer of emotion, the Tribal Chief caught his arm and gently cautioned him, "A cousin doesn't act that way!"

Sister Daisy Martin

Sioux PersonChurch Army Sister Daisy Martin worked on the reservation with her Sioux brothers and sisters. One day, as Sister Daisy Martin rounded a corner, the streets rang with the loud cries of a brawl. There before her was a human pile of flailing limbs and at the center one very rotund Sioux woman. Taking a deep breath, Daisy lunged forward, making a bee-line for this round, tottering Rapid City's tribesperson. Just in time, Daisy stopped her falling heavily in a drunken sprawl, and their eyes met. Looking into those deep brown eyes reddened by alcohol in a pitch-black frame of unkempt hair, Daisy consoled her, "I love you, and God loves you."

Sioux Brothers

Sioux DancerDaisy could do her work among the Sioux Native brothers because of a strange turn of events on another reservation. Many years before, Sister Annie Horner had completed a lifelong ministry in England and had retired to Philadelphia, when God awakened in her new vision. She wanted so much to settle quietly, but God called her to pioneer missionary work among the Native people, who needed the Savior's love. She gladly devoted her remaining years to this task. On her deathbed, she expressed the hope, "If only we could train some young Sioux Native brothers and women as evangelists to their people!" After her death, the Bishop heard about Annie's last request and contacted Church Army Headquarters, who sent Sister Daisy Kitchens. Her aggressive brand of evangelism was well known.

Sioux Native Recruits

End of the TrailSioux native recruits worked with Sisters Annie Horner and Daisy Kitchens in the Rapid City reservation. Sister Daisy Kitchens established Rapid City's work, and the Church Army sent Chief Running Horse to do the recruiting. "Recruit only chief material" was the Bishop's stern command. I traveled the dusty roads for seven months from one reservation to another, enlisting eight Sioux native recruits. They were all married men with large families, who were interested in joining up and their response thrilled me. When our New York Headquarters heard all about the families and children, they hurriedly sent a telegram saying, "Please, no more Sioux native recruits for now!" The enormous medical costs for wives with sometimes seven or eight children worried them! There were other considerations on the Sioux side too. I wanted to send application forms in right away. Our recruits, however, were not about to sign another white man's treaty until they were sure we were not forked-tongue promoters trying to trick them.

Brussels World Fair

Brussels World FairYears before, a white promoter had enticed a group of Sioux Christian brothers to travel halfway around the world to show off their native craft, customs, and dances to the curious French and Dutch visitors at the Belgium World Fair. He had rashly promised, "I'll provide for every one of your needs!" Somehow the arrangements broke down, and it was many weeks, and much heartache before the disheartened Sioux brothers arrived home. Despite their initial hesitation, our candidates eventually agreed to begin training on the reservation.

Burning Bush

Sioux WarriorFrom the very beginning of training, there was a blockage in our fellowship. The Sioux couldn't seem to accept their white colleagues. Ill at ease, we persisted like this for the first few days. Then, quite by chance, I happened to mention a little "skit" from "Green Pastures" someone had once shown me about the life of Moses. In a very southern drawl, Chief Running Horse began, "Look at dem Egyptians, hittin' dat pur Hebrew mamma!" My Sioux listener was so amused that he hurried upstairs to tell his friends. Soon peals of raucous laughter rang out. Then, so that we could all enjoy the joke, the Sioux came down to perform it in their funny accents to everyone's amusement. "I'd like ta take your shovel and pat it over his head!" one exclaimed. Then, with his eyes wide open and full of astonishment, he exclaimed, "Da bush was burnin' a burning', an' never burned up!" Having found a real brotherhood at "Da' burnin' bush," we soon began to work together as a team.

Stone Chief's Face

Rapid CityLater that summer, many friendly Sioux colleagues took part in a Church Army mission on the Pine Ridge reservation. In the wooded back hills, the Sioux natives of ages past had set up many sacred shrines and sanctuaries to their Great Spirit god. Nearby, more recent white settlers had carved four American presidents' stone faces, guiding spirits in the new nation's life. Astonishingly, nature had chiseled out a fifth old Red Indian Chief's face long before the rest! Rapid City inhabitants, mostly reservation Sioux, were surrounded by reminders of their past. Their rough tin and plywood shacks contrasted sharply with their former open pastures and green woodland homes.

Pine Ridge Reservation

Pine Ridge ReservationDuring the mission, a tall, friendly Sioux colleague from the Pine Ridge Reservation called Gilford Noisy Hawk knocked on a door and introduced himself with a broad smile. His grin invariably brought a spontaneous, equally warm reaction. Dakotans means "the friendly people." Our Sioux colleagues spoke in their fathers' flowing descriptive language. Soon they broke the ice and showed that Christians cared. They realized that a fellow native had come hundreds of miles to Rapid City to share their faith in Jesus. The quiet, shy side of their nature also captured the French word "Sioux," meaning "snake." They could slide along silently like a snake without disturbing a single grass blade! Many Sioux families were once Episcopal Church members in their homelands. Greedy land speculators and prospectors had ejected them when they discovered gold in their streams.

Modern Conveniences

Modern ConveniencesSister Daisy Kitchens worked with the Sioux Native Church. Taking part in this crusade was costly for both native cadets and their wives. The men received no payment for three weeks' work, and their wives had their problems too! We had initially planned to camp out together in one great tent during the mission, but the native women showed us they were not keen. Like other American housewives, they insisted on all the "modern conveniences." As a result, the Sioux native church ended up in St. Matthew's Mission Church's big basement, where Sister Daisy Kitchens was on the staff. Before we ate together, Daisy shouted, "Dinner's ready!" adding, "remember we're in America - women first!" Despite this, the women inevitably hung back, and the men ate before them!

Mixed Marriages

Church InteriorOne native evangelist, Clyde Estes, had a bright idea to help heal Sioux native church's tragic disunity. It all came about because different denominations frowned upon intermarriage and forbade Holy Communion to these couples. Clyde invited all to come and kneel at the altar rail, not for communion but a blessing. In our tiny brick church with its central carpeted aisle, many worshipped with their marriage partner for the first time.

Meaningful Relationships

Indian ReservationThe Sioux quickly endeared themselves to us as we came to know them, and we soon struck up many warm friendships. Two certain well-intentioned ladies in the city started a Sioux reservation radio program every morning because they felt concerned for the natives. The Sioux themselves didn't bother listening. One told me, "they begin 'O, how we love the First Nations peoples,' but they have never even been to see us! I wish they didn't love us so much!" Meaningful relationships, not merely words, was what the natives wanted most. Many Sioux native Christians had already experienced the most significant relationship with God himself in Jesus.

Queen Victoria's Child

Young Queen VictoriaA one-hundred-and-two-year-old lady wrapped in a tasseled shawl told me this personal story. She said to me in a frail voice of a trip she had made as a child to Europe. In England, she had performed in a Wild West Show for Queen Victoria. She related that the whole cast lined up for introductions to Her Majesty, with a twinkle in her eye. Everyone else bowed or curtsied, but this five-year-old child adamantly refused. Queen Victoria was curious and spoke to her father, "Why doesn't your little girl curtsey like the others?" The Native man replied, "She's a very independent child, mam, why don't you speak to her yourself?"

Know Where You Belong

Queen VictoriaThis little girl was called forward and gently asked why she would not curtsey. "No," she blurted out, "you are not my God! My God's in the United States!" Warmed by her directness, Queen Victoria leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "God bless you, my dear! You know where you belong!" This little child knew where she belonged. During our week's crusade in Rapid City, many others came to love and genuinely serve the same God. These new Christians held open-air services on the City Center streets with the rest of the church.

Dakotan Main Street

Sioux DancerMany Sioux natives witnessed in Dakotan as we walked along. Our prayer meeting at the railway station grew louder and louder like the cheerleading before a big High School football match. Singing well-known hymns, we marched down the main street behind the cross and stopped in front of a bar where we knew a group of men spent their time drinking. After a few whites in the meeting had spoken in English, our Sioux native brothers added their unique contribution in heir unique language. When they started singing and shouting out Bible verses in Dakotan, things began to happen. Many bar customers recalling childhood memories of reservation revival meetings, tumbled into the street! At that exact moment, our visiting executive director, who was a tall, very proper Easterner, began to speak with two drunks brawling at his side. One man fell from the doorway to the director's feet, but the director firmly continued his testimony. On another evening in the bar front, Captain Laverne Lapoint, who led the meeting, asked me as Chief Running Horse to share a few thoughts with the crowd. As I came to speak, he noticed a picture in my hand of the Crucifixion. He asked me to show it to the people and those inside. I pressed the image against the bar window with astonishing results. Jesus said, "If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to me." On the main street of Rapid City that day, crowds rushed out onto the sidewalk to hear what we were saying about him.

Sioux People Blessed

End of the TrailThe Porcupine outdoor witness blessed many Sioux people. Our Porcupine outdoor witness always ended with the opportunity for listeners to ask prayers for themselves or others. Some confessed their sins right there on the street, assured that God loved and forgave them. Others asked for a breakthrough over some temptation in their lives. For many, their new life beginning was made so much more meaningful by our Porcupine outdoor witness. Those who responded to the message received a warm welcome from the many Sioux natives who already attended St. Matthew's Church. Some time afterward, Bishop Gessner duly commissioned several new cadets on the reservation. After one year's training, some became lieutenants for a single Diocese only, and others after three years became Captains.

"Chief Running Horse"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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