Friday, June 12, 2009
"It is written, my house will be a house of prayer." Luke 19:46
Today is the feast day of Emmegahbowh, the first Native person to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. During trying times, he was faithful, praying constantly for the people in his care. He was imprisoned and faced the harshest of times, but never lost his zeal or joy. Today I want to share his story with all of you, that you might find courage and faith from his quiet but constant leadership. May God grant us all the strength to face the dark times and the challenges we have, knowing through prayer all things are possible.
Enmegahbowh (ca. 1807 – June 12, 1902; from Enami'egaabaw, meaning "He that prays [for his people while] standing"; also known as John Johnson) was the first Native American to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
Enmegahbowh was an Odawa from Canada who converted to Christianity from Midewiwin. In 1851, James Lloyd Breck began a mission among the Ojibwa of Minnesota. Enmegahbowh was a catechumen there and was baptized by Breck.
Enmegahbowh became a deacon and went to Crow Wing, Minnesota to assist in a new mission there in 1858.
The Mille Lacs Chief Fine-Day was an early member of Enmegahbowh's church in 1859.
He took over the mission in 1861. With the Dakota War of 1862, the near-by Gull Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa rose to attack a near-by Fort Ripley. Enmegahbowh prevented some other bands from joining the Gull Lake Band; he, though, was made a prisoner, but succeeded in escaping. He made his way to Fort Ripley with timely information of the impending attack, and helped prevent The Gull Lake Band, along with other Ojibwa were subsequently removed to the environs of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and then eventually to the White Earth Indian Reservation. Enmegahbowh followed his people there.
In March 1880, Enmegahbowh and Chief Fine-Day traveled across the eastern United States for three months in order to raise money for a new St. Columba Episcopal Church at White Earth. While in Ohio, the governor was so impressed with their speech that he had them address the Ohio state legislature. They raised $6000 for the project. After Chief Fine-Day died in 1883, Enmegahbowh referred to Fine-Day as "our noblest chief" and recomended that a stained glass window in the church be dedicated to him.
Enmegahbowh died at the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota on June 12, 1902 at the age of 95. He is commemorated on June 12 on the Episcopal calendar of saints.