Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Dakota Cross-Bearer: The Life and World of a Native American Bishop

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Dakota Cross-Bearer: The Life and World of a Native American Bishop

Article excerpt

MARY E. COCHRAN. Dakota Cross-Bearer: The Life and World of a Native American Bishop. Lincoln, Nebraska, and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. Pp. xxi + 252, plates, map, bibliography, index. $29.95.

Materials about recent generations of Native American individuals are not very plentiful. Many Indians seem to be ill at ease in writing English prose, and they are often justifiably reluctant to trust an outsider to describe them as persons or representatives of a distinctive lifestyle. The volume under review is the only work about an Episcopalian Sioux minister, other than a biography of Philip Deloria that was published in 1918. This state of affairs whets our anticipation that the present work might be a contribution of some significance. As was the case in the earlier publication, this is not an autobiography proper but an "as told to" rendering, and the author apprises us in her very first sentence that the following narrative is based on tape-recordings and conversations, amplified by her own imagination. This proves to be the heart of the problem with this book. Given the dearth of information in this area, readers might greet a biography of the first Native American prelate with heightened expectations. But most will find the present effort to be greatly disappointing. Harold Jones, suffragan bishop of South Dakota, deserves better treatment than he has received in this flawed publication.

The greatest challenge each reader will face is to separate fact from fancy in this book, to distinguish real events from imagined ones, authenticity from embroidery. We can fairly easily determine that Jones was raised by his Dakota grandparents amid poverty and discrimination on the Santee Reservation in Nebraska, that he struggled for education and finally graduated from college at the age of twenty-six and studied for two years at Seabury Western Seminary. He began service among Lakota Indians in 1938, received ordination in 1941 and shortly thereafter assumed responsibility for all churches on the western side of Pine Ridge Reservation. In 1947 he became superintending presbyter of the Cheyenne River Mission, moved back to Pine Ridge in 1952, and then assumed the pastorate of a white congregation in Wahpeton, North Dakota. In 1968 he became vicar of the Good Shepherd Mission, centered at Fort Defiance, Arizona, and in 1972 he returned to the state where he had ministered most of his life to be consecrated bishop. …

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