David Oakerhater vs. Martin of Porres

February 25, 2012
Tim Schenck

Today's match-up features two men who broke down barriers of race and bigotry in their own days -- good luck choosing sides. It is also the only battle that will take place on a Saturday -- we'll be sticking strictly to Mondays through Fridays from here on out. After five days of nail-biting drama, it's only fair to offer a sabbath to all those afflicted with Lent Madness fever.

In yesterday's action, Jerome easily bounced John Patteson out of Lent Madness 2012. Following today's "Lentsanity," Lent Madness will resume bright and early on Monday morning with Ephrem of Edessa vs. Thomas Cranmer. Thanks to all who have participated thus far -- we've had record numbers of voters in the early going. Keep spreading the word! It's never too late to jump into the game (though God has a special place in the Kingdom for those who attain perfect voting attendance -- and we offer members of this exclusive club a special tattoo).

David Pendleton Oakerhater (1847-1931), was a Cheyenne from Oklahoma whose last name is translated as Sun Dancer or Making Medicine and spelled Okuh hatuh. He fought in the Red River War of 1874-75. After hostilities ceased, he and some 70 other warriors were sent to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida. Conditions were initially very poor, but one officer, Henry Pratt, worked to change that and to improve the lives of the prisoners generally, giving them better living conditions, education, art materials, and responsibility for guarding the fort. Okuh hatuh soon became sergeant of the guard, as well as selling his art and teaching visitors archery.

Deaconess Mary Douglass Burnham made arrangements to sponsor Okuh hatuh, among others, for continuing education in upstate New York. With financial support from Alice Key Pendleton, the wife of an Ohio Senator, Okuh hatuh came to St. Paul’s Church in Paris Hill, New York, where he was baptized, taking the Biblical name David and the name of his sponsor as well as Anglicizing his own to Oakerhater.

In 1881, Oakerhater was ordained a deacon and returned to Oklahoma where he ministered among the Cheyenne for the next 50 years, often the only ordained person in the entire Indian Territory as priests came and went. He ministered at the Whirlwind Mission, leading services and visiting the sick, until the mission was closed in 1918. Although he officially retired in 1918, Oakerhater’s home in Watonga, Oklahoma, continued to be a center for Indian ministry until his death in 1931. He was buried with his Bible, inscribed with the name Making Medicine.

Collect for David Pendleton Oakerhater: O God of unsearchable wisdom and infinite mercy, who chose a captive warrior, David Oakerhater, to be your servant, and 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.

-- Laura Toepfer

Martin de Porres (December 9, 1579 – November 3, 1639) was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, John de Porres, and Anna, a free woman of color from Panama.

His mother apprenticed him at the age of twelve to a barber-surgeon, but three years later he received the habit of the third order of the Dominicans. He was admitted to the friary in Lima, and was then invited to be professed as a Dominican lay brother on account of his extraordinary devotion to the poor. The stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our Order,” was dropped.

He was placed in charge of the infirmary where many miracles were attributed to him including stories of him passing through locked doors. He showed strong, practical compassion towards the sick, the poor, the suffering, and the wounded. In addition to being known for his deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Martin was a good friend of Rosa de Lima.

Collect for Martin of Porres: Ever-loving God, you have made of one kindred all races of humanity; we thank you for your servant Martin of Porres, whom you emboldened by your Spirit to strive passionately and patiently for justice and harmony; may we, in our land and throughout the world, have a like commitment to people of every race and color, that all may be one in Christ Jesus our Lord, who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Bosco Peters


David Oakerhater vs. Martin Porres

  • David Oakerhater (50%, 1,070 Votes)
  • Martin of Porres (50%, 1,055 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,123

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62 comments on “David Oakerhater vs. Martin of Porres”

  1. I saw this in the paper. What a wonderful idea and fun way to learn about Saints. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I knew a Creek elder who worked diligently to get David Oakerhater recognized by the Episcopal church. So, it is in Ms. Lois Clark's honor that I voted to honor all the hard workers of faith here in Oklahoma. Aho!

  2. The strength of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Apache, and Navajo Christians I have known in my life (from Wind River, Ft. Defiance, and the Four Corners of New Mexico), has allowed me to admire these folks as witnesses, and ministers of God's Love. Go, DO!

  3. Tough choice today. Went for Oakerhater because of historical accuracy. Harder to evaluate Martin through the dim mists of time. Through locked doors???

  4. I have to agree with Paul. I am so intrigued by the 16th Century Christians and their evolution . I was struck by how "quickly" the law for persons of "color" was struck out when a person (with a soul of every color) did God's will for that reason and that reason alone.

    In cooperation with this, DPO, coming from a tribal setting, named as a healer, too followed the inward drive that he heard from within. What wonderful stories of strength and faith.

  5. I went for Oakerhater for a similar reason as Paul stated. I think in the past, people "saw" miracles and interpreted them as visible signs of the devotion and piety and saintliness of someone. Then, somehow, miracles seemed to be the "proof" of a person's saintliness, quite apart from the day-to-day works of mercy and compassion. I'm sure both of these gentlemen manifested God's presence. I went with Oakerhater because it is good to remind myself that, even in our own day, saintliness is found purely in those daily acts and qualities...not in those signs that point to them.

  6. A tough one today; I know well of MdP from my years as a student at St Rose of Lima parochial school here in Brooklyn, but nothing of DPO. Both are wonderful, in that doing God's work, they faced and overcame terrible cultural & racial bias. I voted for DPO based on the totally subjective feelings that, hey, he deserves to be better known!

  7. Two very interesting men. At first thought I was going with David, the local one. But as I read on I became unsure. I am going to have to think a little on this one. But leaning toward USA.

  8. Sun Dancer! Making Medicine! Deacon! David's my man in today's vote. Not only does his life exemplify his devotion but he's a well-rounded guy - archery, art and ministry.

  9. Finally a tough one! I have to go with Oakerhater, however, because of his devotion to his people, his tenacity and his ability to forgive his enemies.

  10. OK, I'm 0-3 on my picks so far; this is why I do't do March Madness, as well. Still, NOTHING compares to Lent Madness!

    1. It is still early in the competition. "Let us run with patience the bracket that is set before us" -- to quote someone who will soon enter the competitive zone of the saintly smackdown. Your fortunes could change!

  11. Henry Pratt should be a saint..... Captain Richard Henry Pratt was the Commander of Fort Marion when Oakerhater was a prisoner there, the founder the Carlisle Indian School that Oakerhater attended. and a leader in the Assimilation movement. A progressive and deeply moral man, he had great respect and compassion for the Indians under his charge, and saw them as fellow human beings, not as the savages most people at the time believed them to be. He wanted desperately to save them from genocide, and the only way he saw to do this was by educating them and assimilating them into white society. A devout Christian, Pratt also felt it was his sacred duty to "save their souls" by converting them to his faith.

    1. Thanks for giving us this additional info on Henry Pratt. From our contemporary perspective that values native cultures, it's helpful to be reminded that at the time, the choice often appeared to be between saving the culture and saving the lives of the people.

    2. As Scholar in Residence at St. Paul's I did a write-up on Oakerhater and Pratt last September -- how nice to see that someone there read and remembered it! If anyone is undecided read the fuller story on these two at http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Oakerhater/bio.html
      Much as I admire Martin (whom I knew before he got into our calendar from my past work in a Historic Black Parish) I still have go with David.

  12. Being in a small way a recipient of David Oakerhater's work--I became an Episcopalian in Oklahoma, he gets my vote today, but it's a hard choice.

    1. Your loyalty to the Oklahoman is well-placed. Another Oklahoman who deserves sainthood: Angie Debo (1890-1988, whose richly informative, courageous, and beautifully written books on Native Americans have become classics. Though born in Oklahoma myself in 1936, I only learned of her life and work a little over twenty years ago, this despite growing up on my grandparents' farm , twelve miles from Debo's little town of Marshall.

  13. I'm voting with the majority today: what impresses me with Oakerhater is his gentle and positive response to his captivity. Rather than spending his energy being angry, he looked for and learned from the situation--that's truly Making (good) Medicine!

  14. As a fellow deacon, I have long admired David O. In this time of Lent, I believe he upholds a true transformation of heart as he went back to serve his people. I would need to learn more about Martin but it wonderful to know there are those who crossed the race barrier and we can look to them as symbols of it, especially since God loves us all equally. Will learn more about Martin but today my vote goes to David. Thank you as now I know how to correctly pronounce his name!

  15. The late Fr. John Moloney of our parish received the first award give to one whose life most exemplified the work of Martin de Porres, for whom a shrine and institute exists in Memphis, Tennessee at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church.

    Having known Fr. John and his life and work, it is a no-brainer to vote for Martin.

    1. This was a hard one for me because of my fondness for Fr. John Moloney and for Fr. John Pitzer who first introduced me to Martin de Porres. Nevertheless, I was moved by the story of the life and work of David Oakerhater.

      These wretched brackets. I fear it won't get any easier as we head toward the Golden Halo.

  16. One of the things the Episcopal Church did pretty well in the 19th century -- not perfectly -- was work with the Native Amerian peoples. I'm more familiar with what was done in the upper mid-west, particularly under the leadership of the first bishop of Minnesota, Bishop Whipple, who established missions in the Native American communities and fought very hard over much opposition to protect their lands from white encroachment. That work continues today in those communities, particuarly in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

    David Oakerhater gets my vote, not only for his personal ministry but in recognition that the Episcopal Church was struggling for including everyone as God's people 150 years ago.

    1. I'm waiting for Vine Deloria and Noah Brokenleg to be added to the calendar. (I had met the late Canon Brokenleg at the Sioux Falls home of his son, Martin, back in the 1980s.)

  17. Home court advantage goes to the American (er, I mean the North American) in this match-up. It is noteworthy how many saints, like Oakhater, spent some portion of their lives in prison.

  18. You had me at "special tatoo". I'm in. A proud Minnesotan (Bishop Whipple mentioned above) votes for Sun Dancer.

  19. This is a tough one for me as I came into this matchup with only a mild preference for Martin, because he is one of my brother's name saints. But he was a friend of Rose of Lima, a saint who I was raised on.

    I'd not heard of David before but what particularly strikes me about his story is that he ministered essentially alone, without the support of a religious community as Martin had.

  20. Voting for David. Basically, bending to my Episcopal preference. There will be more of this to come. #warning. Thanks to those who have pointed out the ECUSA's role with American Indians and especially that of the first Bishop of Minnesota, Henry Whipple. Incidentally, our diocese has two cathedrals, thanks to the dear Bishop whose horse allegedly preferred Faribault. Miracle?

  21. Difficult choices - they have differing gifts for differing times. I finally picked Martin - even with the strange claims. Heck the same claims have been made for Francis of Assisi (plus throw in a stigmata) and he is a well beloved saint. However in admiration of David I would recommend this informative site - http://​digital.library.okstate.edu​/Oakerhater/index.html. I also pay respects to the choices of my rector and a good friend, Gary and Paul.

  22. David Oakerhater was ordained deacon in Grace Chruch, Syracuse, NY where my roommate was rector for 13 years. Many parishs in CNY contributed to Oakerhater's education. Now there is a fine stain glassed window to his memory at Grace and in celebration of Grace's participation in Indian ministry throughout the years.

    1. Having attended Hobart College - named after +Hobart - in Geneva, NY - I've paid attention to the Episcopal Church's interaction with the First Peoples - both good & bad.
      DPO's story is one of the good ones.

  23. I recently read, The Secret World of Saints, which was about how the Roman Catholic Churches names saints, with a particular focus on a Native American, Kateri Tekakwitha, and validating a miracle. That led me to a new found fascination with saints... so Lent Madness was been a joy for me. With her story in mind, I'm voting for Oakerhater.

  24. The candidates (?) we are given are very well chosen! Two men, not white in a time of white supremacy in the word, both deacons, really well chosen. I too am a deacon, albeit of a lesser mean, so associate closely with them. But, living as I do in Wyoming, where we have a substantial Native American population, I know the difficulties that they go through and so David's story really is remarkable.
    I also agree that a lot of credit should go to Cpt. Richard Henry Pratt and the Dominicans who supported the ministry of Martin. It takes courage to stand up against the feelings of the day ("the only good Indian is a dead Indian") and they did.
    Anyway, my vote goes to David.

  25. Yes, a difficult choice today. Early in my life I was encouraged by a Dominican priest whose devotion to the arts was a true gift, and whose life was centered around and grounded in the Eucharist. For the Order of Preachers (aka, Dominicans), for his devotion to the blessed sacrament, and for bearing witness to the inclusion of people of color centuries before most of the rest of us were thinking about it, Marin has my vote.