Magazine article Anglican Journal

The Hand of David Salmon

Magazine article Anglican Journal

The Hand of David Salmon

Article excerpt

"The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers." (Ephesians 4:11)

FR. DAVID SALMON, the first Gwich'in Athabaskan to be ordained to the priesthood, was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. His ministry touched thousands, though he lived in a small village on the border of Alaska and Canada. His knowledge and wisdom were respected by academics, clergy, and politicians, though he had finished only the second grade in school. When, in October 2007, he died at the age of 95, he was the traditional chief of all of the Athabaskan First Nations of Alaska. Flags flew at half-staff across the state.

Fr. David often used an ancient Athabaskan teaching technique, still alive among many of the Athabaskan, or Done, peoples, including the Navajo in the U.S. Southwest. He would use his hand to teach Eph. 4:11, suggesting that Paul may have used five fingers as a way to show that the Holy is imprinted in Creation.

Five is significant, he would say, because our hands have five fingers and our true humanity is written on our hands--an obvious connection to the Ten Commandments. As my teacher and friend Steve Darden would say, "The tongue can lie, but the hand never lies. …

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