Chief Running Horse
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17. Chief Running Horse

Standing Rock Sioux

Sioux WarriorAs Captain Ray Lewis's work with the Church Army cadets on the Reservation was drawing to an end, the indigenous peoples honored him in an extraordinary way. The Standing Rock Sioux, in Fort Yates, North Dakota, gave him the honorary name of "Ta Inyanke," meaning "Chief Running Horse" because he was constantly traveling from place to place in his work. "Ta Inyanke" had once been the name of a deeply loved Christian in their tribe whose honor Captain Ray was to perpetuate by receiving his name.

Star Quilt

Star QuiltAs a mark of this new relationship, 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, Captain Ray returned to the Standing Rock Sioux in Fort Yates in North Dakota for a great 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, Captain Ray 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, the streets rang with the loud cries of a brawl. As Sister Daisy Martin rounded the corner, 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 beer 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. Sister Annie Horner, many years before, having completed a lifelong ministry in England, had supposedly retired to Philadelphia, when God awakened in her a new vision. She wanted so much to settle into the backwaters, but God called her to pioneer missionary work among the Native people, who needed the Savior's love. Her remaining years, she gladly devoted to this task. On her deathbed, she expressed this hope, "If only we could train some young Sioux Native brothers and women as evangelists to their people!" After her death, the Bishop was moved to hear about Annie's last request. The Bishop 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 Sister Annie Horner and Sister Daisy Kitchens on the Reservation in Rapid City. Sister Daisy Kitchens established the work in Rapid City, and the Church Army sent me to do the recruiting. "Recruit only chief material" was the Bishop's stern command. I traveled the dusty roads from one reservation to another for seven months, enlisting eight Sioux native recruits who were all married men with large families, who were interested in joining up. 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 of a different kind 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 Christians trying to trick them.

Brussels World Fair

Brussels World FairThe Sioux Christian brothers were accepted and amused by a skit about the burning bush. Years before the World Fair in Belgium, 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. 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 caution, our candidates eventually agreed to begin our training course on the Reservation.

Burning Bush

Sioux WarriorFrom the very beginning of training, there was some sort of blockage in our fellowship. Somehow the Sioux couldn't seem to accept their white colleagues. Ill at ease, we suffered each other 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, I 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 bellowed 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 blurted, "Da bush was burnin' an 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 Rapid City. In the wooded back hills surrounding the city, 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 in stone the faces of four presidents, who were also guiding spirits in the life of their new nation. Astonishingly, nature had chiseled out a fifth of an old Red Indian Chief long before the rest! Inhabitants of Rapid City, mostly Sioux from the Reservations, were surrounded by reminders of their past. Their rough tin shacks and plywood shelters contrasted sharply with their former open pastures and green woodland homes.

Pine Ridge Reservation

Pine Ridge ReservationOne tall, handsome and friendly Sioux colleague called Gilford Noisy Hawk knocked on a door and introduced himself with a broad smile as being from the Pine Ridge Reservation. His smile invariably brought a spontaneous and equally warm reaction. Our colleagues were renowned for their friendliness. Dakotans means "the friendly people." The quiet, shy side of their nature captured the French word "Sioux," meaning "snake." They could slide silently through the grass without disturbing a single blade! Many shy Sioux families we visited were once members of the Episcopal Church in their homelands. Land speculators and greedy prospectors forced them out when gold was discovered in the streams crossing their land. Our Sioux colleagues spoke in the flowing and descriptive language of their fathers. Soon they broke the ice and showed that Christians care. They realized that a fellow native had come hundreds of miles to Rapid City to share his faith in Jesus.

Modern Conveniences

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

Mixed Marriages

Church InteriorOne of our native evangelists, Clyde Estes, had a bright idea to help heal a tragic consequence of disunity in the Sioux native church. It all came about because the members of different denominations frowned upon intermarriage and strictly forbade Holy Communion to these couples. Clyde invited all to come and kneel at the altar rail, not for the sacrament, but a blessing. In our tiny brick church with its red carpet down the central aisle, many took part in worship 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. There were, however, two certain well-intentioned ladies in the city. They started a radio program to the Sioux Reservation every morning because they felt so concerned about the natives. The natives themselves didn't even 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!" It was meaningful relationships, not simply words, which the natives wanted most. Many in the Sioux native Church had already experienced the most significant kind of relationship with God himself.

Queen Victoria's Child

Young Queen VictoriaAt one time, Queen Victoria herself met a First Nations child in London, England. The girl was a very strong-willed native girl from the United States who refused to curtsey! I was told this personal story by a wrinkled one hundred and two-year-old lady on the Reservation wrapped in a tasseled shawl. She told me in a fragile voice of a trip she had made as a child to Europe. In England, she had performed in a Wild West Show before Queen Victoria. She related with a twinkle in her eye that the whole cast lined up to be introduced to Her Majesty. 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 of America!" 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. There were many others during our week's crusade in Rapid City who came to love and genuinely serve God. These new Christians, as a witness, with the rest of the church, held open-air services on the City Center streets.

Dakotan Main Street

Sioux DancerMany Sioux natives witnessed and spoke with the people in Dakotan as we walked down the main street. Meeting together beforehand at the Railway station, our praise and prayer meeting grew louder and louder like the cheerleading before a big High School football match. Singing well-known hymns, we marched down the Dakotan main street behind the cross. We stopped in front of a bar where we knew a group of men spent most of their time drinking. After a few whites in the meeting had spoken in English, our Sioux native brothers then added their special contribution in their tongue. When they started singing and shouting out Bible verses in Dakotan, things began to happen. Customers from a bar, many recalling childhood memories of revival meetings like these on the reservations, tumbled out into the street! At the exact moment, our visiting Executive Director, who was a tall, very proper Easterner, began to speak, two drunks started to brawl at his side. One man fell at the Director's feet from the doorway, but he firmly continued his testimony. On another evening in front of the bar, Captain Laverne Lapoint, who was leading the meeting, asked me to share a few thoughts with the crowd. As I came to speak, he noticed a picture of the Crucifixion in my hand. He asked me to show it to the people, including those in the bar. I pressed the picture 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, this came true as crowds rushed out on to the sidewalk to hear what we were saying about Him.

Sioux People Blessed

End of the TrailSioux people were blessed during the Porcupine outdoor witness and welcomed back on the Reservation. After speaking out boldly, our Porcupine outdoor witness always ended with the opportunity for listeners in the crowd to ask prayer either for themselves or for others. Some confessed their sins right there on the street, assured that God loved and forgave them. Others asked for a breakthrough over some burdensome temptation in their lives. For many, their beginning in life was made so much more meaningful by our Porcupine outdoor witness. Those who responded to the message received a warm welcome from the large group of Sioux natives who already attended St. Matthew's Church in the City. 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 commissioned after three years of training as Captains.

"Chief Running Horse"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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