Diaries of Cheyenne warrior turned missionary donated to Oklahoma History Center

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"Men, you 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..."

(From Okuhhatuh's first sermon to the Cheyenne people, June 19, 1881. As posted by Wade Burleson, A Captivating Story of God's Saving Grace: From Cheyenne Warrior to Christian Missionary.)

The diaries of the Rev. David Pendleton Oakerhater, a warrior of the Cheyenne Nation who became an Episcopalian missionary to his own people, have been donated by his family to the Oklahoma History Center. Oakerhater is the first American Indian added to the Episcopal Church's calendar of saints; September 1 is the Feast of St. Oakerhater.

In his journals, which date to 1895, Oakerhater wrote of his everyday life and ministry as an Oklahoma Episcopal missionary, with several notable exceptions, including his mention of meeting the ill-fated George Armstrong Custer at one time and his participation as a warrior who fought against the U.S. cavalry at the Battle of Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle.

Oakerhater, known as O-kuh-ha-tu or Making Medicine before he adopted Christianity, was a Cheyenne warrior who fought European encroachment on his homeland until he was imprisoned by the U.S. Army at Fort Marion in Florida in 1875, along with many other American Indian warriors.

He eventually converted to Christianity in 1878 in New York and returned to the Cheyenne and Arapaho people in Oklahoma working to influence many American Indians to receive Christ, make peace and learn the value of education.

Oakerhater, known as "God's warrior" among the Cheyenne people, was ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1881 at age 34....

[Michelin Butler] Lopez, 39, said she prayed for months before deciding to donate the diaries belonging to "Old Grandpa," as her family members fondly call their ancestor.

In the end, it was not so much his journal entries about who he met or what he did, but rather the person who changed his life forever -- Jesus -- that finally convinced her that the journals deserved to be preserved at the history center.

They would, she said, help promote his powerful spiritual legacy.

"Through my grandfather's faith, he didn't turn his back on his people," Lopez said. "He fell in love with Jesus, and he stayed true to his faith so that we would all come to know Christ."

Be sure to read Wade Burleson's article on the life and faith of David Pendleton Oakerhater.

MORE: Oakerhater made it to the "Saintly 16" round of "Lent Madness" this year, losing to King Kamehameha of Hawaii.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 21, 2015 12:08 AM.

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