Enmegahbowh vs. David Oakerhater

Another manic Lent Madness Monday kicks off with a match-up focused on the western United States. Enmegahbowh squares off against David Pendleton Oakerhater in this Battle of Native Pride. Is it unfortunate that these two ended up in the same bracket? Perhaps. But we also know that neither one of them ever backed down in the pursuit of Gospel Truth.

While we never know how these thing will turn out -- that's up to all of you -- the Oakerhater camp did get an early jolt of mojo in an article about Lent Madness that appeared in yesterday's Oklahoma City Oklahoman. And after a first-round teaser,"Celebrity Blogger" Heidi Shott finally gives us the goods on Enmegahbowh's wife.

Make sure to check out the updated bracket and if you need a refresher on Enmegahbowh or David Oakerhater from the previous round, you can go to the bracket page and scroll down to find links to every previous Lent Madness battle (thanks to Bracket Czar Adam Thomas for thinking of this and making it happen).

One hundred and ten years may have passed since the death of Enmegahbowh, but the voice of “the one who stands before his people” sounds remarkably contemporary.

At age 25, fed up with missionary work as a Methodist and vowing to return home to Canada, he and his wife Biwabiko-geshig-equay (or Iron Sky Woman or Charlotte, as she was christened on their wedding day), boarded the ship John Jacob Astor bound for Sault Ste. Marie across Lake Superior. The worst storm in many years sent the ship back to shore but not before Enmegahbowh received a visitation from the prophet Jonah. Many years later he recounted the experience to Bishop Whipple of Minnesota,

“Here Mr. Jonah came before me and said, ‘Ah, my friend Enmegahbowh, I know you. You are a fugitive. You have sinned and disobeyed God. Instead of going to the city of Nineveh, where God sent you to spread His word to the people, you started to go, and then turned aside. You are now on your way to the city of Tarshish, congenial to your cowardly soul...My friend your position is precisely like mine... Farewell! Farewell! May the Great Spirit pardon you and bring you to dry land.’ So saying he departed out of my sight. Dear Bishop, I know you will not understand me to say that I saw Jonah with my natural eyesight. Oh, no, I saw him with my imagination.”

Back on the Minnesota side of the lake, he decamped to live with his wife’s people and consider his options. There he met an Episcopal priest, Ezekiel Gear, who gifted him with a Book of Common Prayer. Before long the course of his journey was set toward ministry and service to his people.

But given the wide expanse of his heart, he honored and protected not only his people, but all people. Fast forward 17 years to the mission of St. Columba’s where he served as deacon. In 1862, Indian uprisings surged across the state. Church historian Theodore Holcombe wrote of that period, “Enmegahbowh was a tower of strength to the Indian mission in all its years of trial and danger, and it was through his courage and bravery in warning the white settlers that a terrible massacre [of whites and native people] was averted.”

While this is widely known, it’s less known that Chief Hole-in-the-Day II - Enmegahbowh’s brother by adoption and Iron Sky Woman’s cousin - initiated the collusion between several tribal leaders that would have wiped out the white settlement. Hole-in-the-Day II’s displeasure with Enmegahbowh for thwarting his plans was made manifest when he sent two tribal members to his house to kill him.

According to Holcombe’s 1903 account, the assassins arrived about 9:00 am. Although he had been warned and was expecting them, Enmegahbowh’s conscience did not permit him to handle firearms. However in this instance, “he stretched a point, and loaded his double-barrel gun, and gave it to his wife who was known to be a good shot, and who had asked him to let her take the matter into her own hands.”

Iron Sky Woman threw open the door as they approached and shouted: "I know what you have come for, but the first one who shows a weapon, I will shoot down like a dog."

Holcombe continued,

“They knew her reputation as a woman of spirit, and skill with the gun, and at once abandoned their design, and made her a present. These same Indians confessed they had been sent by Hole-in-the-Day, and acknowledged that Enmegahbowh had not only saved the whites, but also the Indians also from being all destroyed by the government, so there was cause for mutual congratulations."

Bishop Whipple called Enmegahbowh “a man of rare natural intellect and profound common sense,” and described him as “the most faithful of men in the face of faithless times and events.”

Not that Enmegahbowh always deferred to his bishop: Prior to his ordination to the priesthood in 1867, he refused to study Greek or Hebrew stating, “I was sent to work among the living, not among the dead!” Bishop Whipple gave him a pass.

-- Heidi Shott

David Pendleton Oakerhater, a Cheyenne warrior, converted to Christianity while a prisoner of the United States government, largely due to the kindness shown to him by one of the officers at Fort Marion in Florida. As a result, he was baptized, confirmed, and became a deacon in the Episcopal Church. He returned to minister among the Cheyenne in Oklahoma for 50 years.

While a prisoner, he drew pen and ink art in ledger books, signing his name Making Medicine (an Anglicized version of his name, more accurately translated Sun Dancer), often with a glyph of a dancer in a Sun Dance lodge. This glyph is now depicted as a stained glass window at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma city. The Smithsonian has a collection of Ledger Art from Fort Marion.

When Oakerhater returned to Oklahoma in the company of the Rev. John Bartlett Wicks, he smoothed the way for their ministry there by saying,

“Men, you all know me. You remember me when I led you out to war 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, and where we never have only victory.”

The first Episcopal service was held the following Sunday, with Oakerhater interpreting. Oakerhater also helped translate portions of the Book of Common Prayer into Cheyenne.

In a letter to a patron in 1885, Oakerhater wrote,

“I keep that work God has given to me to do and for that reason though I am an Indian and you of a different people yet your faith is my faith and in all the earth there are many different races of yet to all alike God has given his one Spirit and one life and one faith and one Savior. You have grown up knowing all this and for this reason though I am far from you if God my father shall bless me and help me and keep me, show me to do what is right.”

-- Laura Toepfer


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64 comments on “Enmegahbowh vs. David Oakerhater”

  1. I like his truthfulness and spunk first about his vision and then about learning Greek and Hebrew. I really like his wife. She was not afraid of confrontation. A lot of lives were saved by these two. Gotta go with Enmegahbowh even if I cannot pronounce his name well.

  2. I think the "facts and quotes" for Enmegahbowh will be what wins the day. It got my vote. I've been insired by Oakerhater over the years, but the stories about Enmegahbowh (and especially Biwabiko-geshig-equay) are juat fantastic in today's entry - great job Heidi!

    But I wonder if his Lake Superior vision indicates that the Episcopal Church are the Ninevites? In which case...should we donning the old sackcloth?

  3. Trusting his wife to protect them knowing she had superior"blowing you away" skill got it for me. Although I usually am leery of these "seeng visions" folk, this was different as "E"....I'm not thinking about spelling out that name I can't even pronounce...admitted he didn't actually "see" it with his eyes, but inwardly, was also a factor. Then convincing one of the would-be assassins that their own people were spared as well as the whites was a big consideration in sparing the lives of "E" and his madam. To Tim, we probably need to be in sackcloth every day, but that's another story for another day.

    1. Exactly; it's like Sophie's Choice. I think I may be inclined to abstain from now on, they're all so compelling. But I gotta go with Iron Sky (Don't Mess With Me) Woman's man.

  4. Having been in Minneapolis in 2003 when Enmegabowh's feast day was commemorated, I'm going with him and his redoubtable spouse...

  5. For those of you who follow history Oakerhater must be your choice. St. Augustine it is your day to shine in Lent Madness arise and claim your Saint.

  6. Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie certainly lost out but Minnesota and his true mission won out when Enmegahbowh faced that storm.

  7. Its a touch choice. I went for Oakerhater because he was a sun dancer. I have a friend who is a sun dancer in the Lakota tradition.

  8. Enmegahbowh has my vote today, the stories of both are compelling; but
    Enmegahbowh's reached me more, thank you Heidi.

  9. I can certainly relate to having difficult in-laws. Enmeghahbowh for me. Both are great but I'll side for the one who worked in Minnesota and earned such praise from Bishop Whipple.

  10. A person who was in captivity and saw his people killed and yet was able to overcome the suffering and not keep any grudge against his hangmen, that is a sample to follow.

  11. Oakerhater gets my vote because Enmegabbowh did not understand the Hebrew and Greek are not dead languages but vibrant ones which bring the text to life as no English translation ever has.

  12. In 1877 Senator Pendleton, of Ohio, provided financial support for O-kuh-ha-tuh, or Sun Dancer and his wife Nomee to locate at St. Paul's Churh, Paris Hill, NY (then in the Diocese of Western NY) The Rector saw to O-ka-ha-tu's education, as well as his Baptism, Confirmation, and preparation for Ordination. Since David was once a clerical member of my Diocese, I have to cast my vote for him.

  13. Shout out to fellow CB Laura Toepfer who, while doing research on James Lloyd Breck, graciously shared the link to the Holcombe's history. Thanks, Laura!

  14. Despite majoring in Greek as an undergrad... ok, it was Attic Greek... I grew up in MN and went to Seabury-Western. I have an affinity for Jonah. I took gun safety from my father at age 13. The story of Enmegahbowh and his spectacular spouse is inspiring in several ways. Go Enmegahbowh!

  15. Being a deacon myself I felt acertain obligation to vote for Oakerhater. That being said, I really enjoyed the story of Enmegahbowh; visions, a courageous undaunted wife and able to handle his Bishop. Probably made a mistake, but I went with Oakerhater.

    1. I too, as a fellow deacon, must go with Oakerhater. He has long been symbolic for me as how deacons can serve the Lord. Emmegahbowh's story is compelling and I am grateful for learning more of Native American saints, there are obviously more out there than recognized. The stained glass window is beautiful, but I have another icon reminiscent of Oakerhater. I vote for David.

  16. Blessings on Enmegahbowh for his courageous foiling of the massacre, but I am
    troubled by his subsequent actions. It is stated that his conscience did not allow him to handle firearms, but in this instance he "stretched a point", loaded his gun, and
    handed it to his willing wife. In doing so, he might as well have held the gun himself.
    He and his wife knew the assassins were coming. If they wished to avoid martyrdom,
    they could have fled. Many saints have done so.

    1. Yes, Harlie, Mr. &Mrs. E. could have fled. Then, the confrontation and subsequent conversation would not have taken place. The conversation allowed the hired gunmen the grace : 1. not to commit murder; & 2. the grace to recognize that Mr. E had saved his people from certain death had they carried out the slaughter of the anglos. So, to stand & declare was a better choice made by Mr. & Mrs. E.
      I do find it odd that Mr. E loaded the shotgun and gave it to the Mrs.
      I think it more likely that Mrs. E, known to be a crack shot, and thus quite familiar with the weapon, handled the situation.
      It seems counter intuitive (because of the presence of guns), that peace was restored. The peace that passes all understanding: the Peace of Christ.

  17. Just a remark from a linguistic obsessive-compulsive, as some have called me: Can we not replace the trendish "gifted him" with the plain old "gave him"?

    1. Amen, Patricia! Likewise, please, with the pompous "tasked us with" that makes my skin crawl -- "ordered us to" is good solid English.

    2. If "the peace that passeth understanding...." can trip off our tongues, can't we avoid annoyances? (A cradle Episcopalian/Canadian Anglican)
      Don't ask me about the New Hymnal!
      Peace, just asking. 😉

  18. A really tough choice but the information on Enmegahbowh really won me over. I was especially taken by his "profound common sense" and the description of his vision and how it was in his imagination. I am glad for the recognition that our imaginations are gifts from God. And anyone vying for a Golden Halo needs some "profound common sense". Seems to me that common sense is not so common these days ...

  19. Sadly, never been to either Minn. or Okla.
    Since I'm in a quandary, I'll vote for John Eliot in my imagination.

    1. I've been to both, and both are quite lovely. However, for personal reasons (my wonderful
      neice and nephew are from there) I have to go with Minnesota...

  20. Another tough one. The bio of E... and Charlotte is compelling, and I LOVE the icon. But, my soft spot for political prisoners (ok, he was a Cheyenne warrior, but still . . . ), e.g., the Cherokee people of Western North Carolina, the Nissei (and Issei) captives of WW II, and others tips my scale to the Sun Dancer.

  21. In memory of my Episcopal great-grandparents in the Oklahoma Territory, I'll cast my vote for Oakerhater. Perhaps they knew each other.

  22. I'm out of the running as I had Joan going onto the Saintly Four then on to to duke it out with Brigid (I'm still pulling for Brigid to take The Golden Halo). This Okie would like you to vote for David Oakerhater if you don't have a preference one way or another. I'm still excited that there is a saint from my home state.