Kiowa: A Woman Missionary in Indian Territory

Kiowa: A Woman Missionary in Indian Territory

Kiowa: A Woman Missionary in Indian Territory

Kiowa: A Woman Missionary in Indian Territory


Near the close of the nineteenth century, Isabel Crawford went to the Kiowa-Comanche Reservation in Oklahoma and founded the Saddle Mountain Baptist Mission. This book, written in journal form, begins with her arrival at the reservation in 1896 and describes her decade-long crusade to convert the Indians to Christianity. She and her assistant were the only white women at the isolated station in the Wichita Mountains. Crawford's experience there tested her resourcefulness, her endurance, and sometimes her faith. Humor marks her journal as she recounts her struggles to establish a formal mission. She lived with the Indians, at first putting up in a tipi and adjusting, not without difficulty, to their ways. She was "the Jesus woman" who taught the Ten Commandments. In her wake came camp meetings, baptisms, and "big eats". Through the years Isabel Crawford and her Indian brothers and sisters were bound more closely as they raised money to build a church. Though written with Christian purpose, Kiowa: A Woman Missionary in Indian Territory shows Crawford's sensitivity to Kiowa history and culture during a period of transition. The mission still exists and Isabel Crawford is still remembered kindly.


"She Gave Us The Jesus Way":
Isabel Crawford, the Kiowa People, and
the Saddle Mountain Indian Baptist Church

Clyde Ellis

At the east end of the Saddle Mountain Indian Baptist Church cemetery near Mountain View, Oklahoma, there is a modest granite grave marker bearing the inscription "I Dwell Among Mine Own People." The tombstone and its message are not out of place in this isolated cemetery, where rows of stones bear witness to the power of the Christian gospel carried by missionaries to the Kiowa- Comanche-Apache Reservation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Numerous crosses, small American flags, piles of artificial flowers, and small bundles of tobacco laid on the graves confirm that this is sacred and powerful space, for it is here that part of the collective memory of the Kiowa people has been laid to rest during the last century.

But the marker bearing the inscription "I Dwell Among Mine Own People" does not memorialize a Kiowa; it celebrates the remarkable life of Isabel Crawford, a Canadian who arrived at the reservation in 1893 as a twenty-eight-year-old missionary. By the time of her departure in 1906, Crawford had not only overseen the creation of a flourishing church, she had endured a lifechanging experience. Although she lived another fiftyfive years, her work at Saddle Mountain remained the indelible moment in her life and in the lives of the Kiowa people with whom she shared thirteen extraordinary years. She never forgot them and in 1906 declared that . . .

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