Prince of Dakota Sioux

Tipi Sapa adopted the name of Philip Deloria
and became the greatest Sioux evangelist of all time

Shortly after the American Civil War ended in 1865, the U.S. government and its military arm reached west of the Mississippi River to face the challenge of opening the, western plains to homesteaders bringing the blessings of white civilization.

The record of our government's dealings with the American Indian in this western expansion has never created a litany of success. The actual history of our communications with the Indian is an aberration of profaned treaties, broken promises, abuse, exploitation and humiliation. It provoked savage reprisal from the desperate Indian population of the plains, and the country was obliged to wait for the missionaries of our Christian denominations to bring a semblance of peace with the plains tribes.

One of the largest and most war like Indian nations extant during that time frame was the Sioux. Proud, handsome and fierce, the nomadic Sioux presented an enormous deterrent to western expansion throughout the Dakota and Wyoming territories.

However, the Sioux welcomed the early missionaries into their camps; the Roman Catholic Jesuits, the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Episcopal Church. The Sioux were dubious, of their message of Christianity, though. "We are not sinners," the' Sioux said. "It is the white man who brings firewater and corrupts our young women." Nevertheless, they listened courteously.

As early as 1804, the Sioux made contact with the Lewis and Clark expedition. They were living at the mouth of the James River in the Dakota Territory. Those were the Yankton Sioux, and they were eventually moved to a location on the Missouri River in South Dakota, near the city which bears their tribal name.

During the years immediately after the Civil War, and extending through 1890, thousands of Sioux embraced Christianity. The greatest Sioux evangelist of all time was Philip Joseph Deloria, designated as one of the 98 "Saints of the Ages" in later years, and a distinguished priest of the Episcopal Church in South Dakota.

His story is so interwoven with the history of his people that it is impossible to relate his narrative without the inclusion of some historical facts about the Dakota Sioux.

The act of bringing the Sioux nation to the altar of Christianity was far more complex than providing catechetical instruction in religion. It meant the complete metamorphosis of a people obliged to abandon the nomadic existence of the game hunter to embrace sedentary life on a reservation. It required giving up the tradition of following the buffalo to obtain a means of sustenance and exchanging it for an agricultural life and the plow. The Sioux warrior regarded plowing the land and planting crops as a sign of weakness. To become a Christian implied the abandonment of the Indian's most revered traditions.

The first Episcopalian services were conducted at the Yankton Agency on July 17, 1859. That was a primitive early agency, and the Episcopal missionaries found hostile resistance from the Roman Catholic Church, already established. A Jesuit Priest, Father DeSmet, had been there well before the Protestants. What converts lived there at the future site of Fort Randall were already baptized Catholics. The remaining souls preferred their traditional life and had no interest in the story of Christianity.

The first substantial encouragement given the Christian missionary movement among the Dakotas be came reality with the election of Gen. U. S. Grant as President of the United States in 1868. His peace policy (with the Indian nations) was signed on April 10, 1869, soon after Grant's inauguration.

Jurisdiction to administer the president's peace policy was delegated to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior, James D. Cox. Although the bureau was rife with corruption and inefficiency, the first steps were taken to integrate the Sioux into white society. The broad policy was to gather the Indians onto reservations, provide for their protection and welfare, and teach them the advantages of agricultural life. It was deemed the ultimate solution of "the Indian problems.''

A Board of Indian Commissioners was convened to administer to the needs of the Indians, including their spiritual well being. Several of the board members were selected from religious denominations, along with a number of philanthropies. The Episcopal Church was assigned seven agencies in the Dakota Territory to begin their missionary work.

The call for a missionary to take charge of the Yankton Agency was answered by the Rev. Joseph W. Cook. He arrived in August 1870, and immediately hired an Indian crier, Navkain, to circle several miles below the agency announcing that the Episcopal Church was completed and all were invited to attend.

Among those who had requested an Episcopal missionary was a Yankton chief of mixed blood, whose tribal name was Saswe. He was the father of Tipi Sapa, destined to become the famous Philip Deloria.

Saswe was a chief and a famous medicine man of the Yankton Sioux. He took as his first wife, the Black Foot woman, Siha Sapewin, daughter of Chief Bear Foot. Siha Sapewin was purchased with many homes in the time-honored tradition of the Sioux.

The bride was a woman of great dignity and reputation, and was held in high esteem by members of her tribe.
Saswe and his wife became the parents of three daughters in the first years of their marriage; but no son. The failure to produce a man-child was a source of great unhappiness, until a son finally arrived.

The first-born son of Saswe was delivered in a tepee some three miles from the present-day city of Mobridge, South Dakota, in 1854. He was named Tipi Sapa, or Black Lodge, to commemorate a vision which came to Saswe one night.
The Yankton medicine man related the story of being transported spiritually to a forbidding black house. Upon entering the door, he observed all manner of sick and dying people. When Saswe touched them, they were immediately rejuvenated, and stood up. From that vision, Saswe learned that he had been given the great gift of healing, and after that time was able to perform all manner of incredible cures
Tipi Sapa grew into a strong manly brave, groomed to take over his father's place as a chief of the Yankton Sioux. He was an intelligent young man, endowed with all the attributes of a great chief, with particularly outstanding leadership ability.

History is silent concerning Tipi Sapa's thoughts when his father first developed an interest in the words of the Episcopal missionary, and asked for a mission to be opened at the Yankton Agency. When the Rev. Joseph Cook arrived to begin his missionary work at the agency in 1870, both father and son were destined to become two of his first converts.

While riding past the mission church at Greenwood one day in 1870, Tipi Sapa was attracted by the sound of the congregation singing the hymn, "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah." The young chief, now an adult of 16 years, paused to listen to the strange, compelling words. Soon afterward, he heard the same hymn being sung once again at the mission church, and entered to listen attentively to the words of the song. When he left, Tipi Sapa had memorized the words of the first stanza of the hymn, and was deeply moved by the message.

The name of Tipi Sapa has been relegated to an exalted place among the distinguished Indian brethren of Freemasonry

Before long, he sought out Rev. Cook and indicated a wish to become a Christian. Rev. Cook was delighted, and related the requirements for becoming a member of the church.

One request was particularly troubling for the young brave; that of cutting off his beautiful, long hair and adopting the dress of a simple man. It was contrary to all Tipi Sapa's traditions as a Sioux warrior, and he initially rejected the notion. Rev. Cook was persistent, and after several requests to submit to the requirements, Tipi Sapa agreed, and asked to join.

Both Tipi Sapa and his father, Saswe, were baptized on Christmas Day, 1870, in the mission church at the Yankton Agency. They had already adopted white names. Saswe, being of mixed blood, was the chief of the "half-breed" segment of the Yankton Sioux. His father had been a French trapper, so Saswe decided his own name should be Francois des Lauriers. It was soon anglicized to "Frank Deloria.' His son, Tipi Sapa, adopted the white man's name of Philip Deloria following his reception into the Episcopal Church.

Philip was forced to endure scorn and ridicule from many of his people for turning his back on the old ways, and adopting the life of the white man. It was difficult to face their hostility, but Deloria displayed great fortitude and conviction from his earliest days as a Christian. He immediately became an active evangelizer for his new Way of life.

Rev. Cook, noting the leadership abilities of young Philip Deloria, determined to prepare him for a career in the church. He was enrolled at Nebraska College to begin an agenda of formal education. After two years at the college, he attended an additional year at the Shattuck School in Faribault, Minnesota.

His classes were interrupted during that period, due to an extended bout with pneumonia, depriving the young Dakota Sioux full advantage of the schooling opportunity. He did, however, display aptitude in the study of languages and mathematics.

When he completed his schooling phase in 1874, he was academically prepared to assume a role in the church at the Yankton Agency.

Returning to the agency, Philip became a lay reader in the church. He also continued day-to-day duties as an hereditary chief of his Sioux tribe.
A new church mentor had arrived during Philip's stay at the Shattuck School. He was the Right Rev. William Hobart Hare, a clergyman destined to become the distinguished head of the new Missionary Jurisdiction on the Niobrara (River). Bishop Hare arrived at the Yankton Agency on May 8, 1873, and established his headquarters. Rev. Cook was assigned to take charge of the Santee and Ponca missions, a post he held until his death in 1902. Among those Rev. Cook commended in the written account of his stewardship among the Sioux missions was Frank Deloria, as one who served diligently and faithfully.

The Episcopal records indicate that Philip Deloria was officially enrolled as a member of the Missionary Corps in 1874. When he was admitted as a Deacon of the Episcopal Church in 1883, his duties required extensive travel through all the Sioux agencies under the Niobrara jurisdiction. Those agencies included the Ponka, Yankton, Crow Creek and Lower Brule, three missions on the Cheyenne River, Red Cloud's and Spotted Tails agencies, plus the Shoshone and Bannock in Wyoming. During his role as a deacon, Philip's work of drawing converts into the Episcopal Church began in earnest. His remarkable powers of persuasion, coupled with the fervor of his evangelizing, accounted for many thousands of new converts during hislong career in missionary work. His new duties also required that he give up his position as a tribal chief of theYankton Sioux.

Previously, upon his return from school in 1873, Philip and two other young Yankton Sioux had established a "Planting Society" to formalize their conversion to the Christian agricultural life style. They built log cabins and began farming on mission land, and began recruiting additional members for their society. They suffered considerable hostility from their tribesmen, primarily in the form of vandalism to their crops and properties. Deloria and his fellow-members persisted in their efforts, nevertheless, and by 1900 the society boasted membership from every agency in the Niobrara jurisdiction.

Deloria's outstanding accomplishments as a deacon in the Episcopal Church eventually convinced Bishop Hare to elevate his Sioux worker to the priesthood. At the annual Niobrara convention at the Cheyenne River Agency in Fort Sully on Sept. 4, 1892, Philip was ordained a priest of the Episcopal Church by Bishop Hare. He was assigned to the Standing Rock Agency to replace Rev. Edward Ashley. The Standing Rock Agency was near the northern border of South Dakota, on the Missouri River, near the home of Sitting Bull, the legendary chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux.

Sitting Bull, aloof and distant, ignored the efforts of Philip Deloria to convert him to Christianity. One of his converts, though, was the Great War Chief, Gall, who served under Sitting Bull at the massacre of Custer and his command at the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. Gall began attending services at St. Elizabeth's Church at Standing Rock. The fierce looking Sioux chieftain gave close attention to every word of Rev. Deloria's sermons. He remained stem and stone-faced, giving no indication of his inner thoughts.

Eventually, he was converted and baptized into the Episcopal Church, with Bishop Hare officiating. At Gall's death, he was buried in the cemetery at St. Elizabeth's Church, in compliance with his wishes.

Following Gall's conversion to Christianity, he honored Philip Deloria with an extravagant feast, referring to the priest as "My younger brother," in recognition of Deloria's status as a Yankton Prince. Gall testified that Philip's sermons made God's word plain to him. He also bought his daughter into the church fold. Gall's grandson, Jerome Howard, became a senior lay reader at the Mobridge Prince of Peace Center in the 1950's, continuing their tradition of fidelity to the Christian faith.

In 1911, Philip Deloria became a Freemason at Aberdeen, South Dakota. The archival files of the Grand Lodge of South Dakota do not yield the date Philip received the Entered Apprentice Degree. The Fellowcraft Degree was conferred on May 16, 1911, and Philip was raised on June 27, 1911, becoming a full member of Aberdeen Lodge No. 38. He was a member in good standing at the time of his death.

During the winter of 1916-17, Philip was in residence at the Standing Rock Mission, as usual. He resided in a little white cottage situated between the mission school and St. Elizabeth's Church. That winter, Rev. Deloria conducted a most unusual ceremony. At the same time Bishop H. L. Burleson was consecrating the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, Philip was duplicating his ceremonial activities in a service at St. Elizabeth's. The impressive consecration rite had a profound impact upon the Sioux parishioners.

The charitable record of the Standing Rock Sioux, as well as all within the Niobrara jurisdiction, was outstanding. It meant great personal sacrifice for the dirt poor Christian Sioux to contribute substantially to any charitable effort, but they gave willingly. During the early days of WWI, before the United States entered the conflict, they donated generously to Belgium and Armenian relief efforts. Earlier, the Sioux made dramatic contributions to the victims of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906; and later to flood victims in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Sioux charities also covered Chinese relief programs. Those were graphic demonstrations of Christian lessons learned at the Sioux missions. Every Sioux resident of the Standing Rock Agency was a member of the Red Cross in 1917, and a total of 5,000 young Sioux men were in the United States Army that year.

Major recognition came to Rev. Deloria during the years of his ministry. On the occasion of his retirement from the Standing Rock mission in 1925, the Order of Sangreal was conferred on the distinguished clergyman by the Right Rev. Hugh L. Burleson,

Bishop of South Dakota. Among the witnesses to the ceremony were 2,500 Sioux, many of them personally brought to the altar of Christianity by Philip Deloria. Among the comments made by Bishop Burleson were the words, '... because he heard the voice of Christ while a pagan chief of an Indian tribe, he renounced all to follow the Master; and in 53 years of service has not ceased to set forth the glory of the love of God...'

Probably the most significant honor bestowed upon the great Sioux religious leader was his designation as one of the 98 "Saints of the Ages." Deloria was assigned a niche in the reredos of the high altar at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He was only one of three Americans so honored among 98 historical religious leaders distinguished by their good works. Deloria's marble statue stands in a canopied niche behind the great altar, the crowning recognition for his life devoted to the service of the Episcopal Church.
Philip's beloved wife died in 1916. She had been a dedicated and beloved member of the Episcopal Church, and her passing was a great loss for Deloria. However, he was comforted by the affection and Christian efforts of his children. There were three daughters, the most visible being Ella, a graduate of the All Saints' School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Columbia University in New York City. Ella gained fame as a linguist and anthropologist. She served on the faculty of St. Elizabeth's School at Wakpala, South Dakota, too. Daughter Susie kept the home for Rev. Deloria while he lived. She, too, was a graduate of the All Saints' School in 1916, the year her mother died.
Vine Deloria Jr.

Post/ Cyrus McCrimmon
Native American scholar, activist and author Vine Deloria Jr. is receiving this year’s Wallace Stegner Award from the Center of the American West. His 1969 book, ‘Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto,’ helped put Indian rights into the national spotlight.

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2002
Subject: Longtime Indian activist Vine Deloria Jr. to receive
Wallace Stegner Award for his cultural contributions

Denver Post,1413,36~45~940069~,00.html#

Longtime Indian activist Vine Deloria Jr. to receive Wallace Stegner Award for his cultural contributions
By William Porter
Denver Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - The barrel-chested man on the sofa fires up an unfiltered Pall Mall, jets a blue cone of smoke toward the ceiling, and ponders out loud how it feels to be an icon staring down the barrel of a 70th birthday.

"You always like to think you're younger than you are and still active," he says. "So when I started getting these lifetime achievement awards back in 1995, it came as a shock. I wondered, 'Do they know I'm going to die and rushed me up the list?"'

He pulls on the cigarette, grins like a man not over-worried about showing up on obituary pages any time soon.

When that time comes, the obit - at least the nutshell version - will read something like this: Vine Deloria Jr., award-winning writer, scholar and Native American activist; author of groundbreaking best-seller, "Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto."

Deloria, with his iron-gray hair and chunky eyeglasses, remains very much with us.

The 69-year-old Golden resident is this year's winner of the Center of the American West's Wallace Stegner Award. The honor is bestowed each year on someone who has made a sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the West. Deloria will be honored at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Boulder at the University of Colorado's University Memorial Center.

Deloria seems gratified and amused by the attention.

"If I sell five books these days it's a big deal," he says. "More and more, I go to conferences where people come up and say, 'My grandfather spoke highly of you.'

"I even get people who ask, 'Didn't you used to be Vine Deloria?' I say I gave that up because it didn't pay. I'm just a little old man now."

Which is not what he is at all.

"He's a major figure in the history of the West," says John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund. "He's one of the most important Indian leaders we've ever had."

Until Deloria seized the nation by its lapels in the late 1960s, Indians were viewed by many of their countrymen as ciphers rather than as a contemporary people facing issues such as education, jobs, health care and civil rights. Indians were images, suitable for decorating paintings, coins and Western movies, but scarcely viewed as a political entity.

Deloria launched a dialogue with non-Indian America that helped change that perception.

In November Deloria is due to travel to Albuquerque to deliver the keynote address at the National Indian Education Association's annual conference.

"Issues change as generations change, but I've tried to stay out front with issues that will be of interest to future generations," he says.

One project occupying his time is his effort to compile old federal documents and treaties that tribes can use in legal proceedings.

Deloria lives with his wife, Barbara, in a split-level ranch house outside of Golden. The tree-ringed house sits beside a quiet dirt lane. A pale blue Ford pickup truck, crowned with a camper shell, is parked in the driveway.

The father of three grown children, Deloria has been a granddad for 20 years. Along with their photos, his living room is filled with Indian pottery, rugs and weavings. Books are everywhere, including the mysteries that Deloria dives into whenever he needs to unplug his brain.

Although Deloria's accomplishments are very much of his own making, his upbringing gave him a head start. A Hunkpapa Lakota born in Martin, S.D., he grew up in a distinguished family.

His great-grandfather Francois Des Laurias ("Saswe") was a medicine man and leader of the Yankton Sioux's White Swan band. His grandfather Philip Deloria was an Episcopal missionary priest. His aunt Ella Deloria was a noted anthropologist; and his father, Vine Sr., was the first American Indian named to an executive post in the Episcopal church.

After a two-year stint in the Marine Corps, Deloria earned degrees from Iowa State University and Augustana Lutheran Seminary in Illinois. He decided against a church career. Deloria felt it was not the most effective way to help his people.

Deloria eventually broke from the faith he was raised in. "Christianity is a religion at the end of its rope," he says. "It's a religion that had to invade to convince rather than have people come to it."

From 1964 to 1967 Deloria lived in Washington, D.C., where he served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians.

That period was the incubator for "Custer Died For Your Sins," the national bestseller that won Deloria fame and acclaim in 1969. He was 36 years old.

"Indians were an unknown quantity," Deloria says. "There was a huge gap in how we were perceived by the average citizen and who we actually were. I had to be up front in the book, get the problems and politics out in the open."

"'Custer' was really the impetus to changing the entire federal Indian policy," Echohawk says.

Deloria became a high-profile presence. He was a go-to figure for anyone needing a What It All Means quote from a Native American. He testified for the defense at the 1974 Wounded Knee trial of activist Russell Means.

But Deloria remained a scholar at heart.

Being a public man and a private scholar can be a hard balancing act.

"If you're going to do any meaningful work, you have to get out of the public eye and spend serious time in libraries," Deloria says. "That's where the important things happen."

He still writes at a brisk pace. "Evolution, Creationism and Other Modern Myths," his latest effort, was just published. Three more books are in the works. He has published more than 20 during his career.

Although retired from teaching posts at the University of Arizona and University of Colorado, where he taught history. Deloria serves on an array of boards. One of his causes is the Intertribal Bison Council, founded to improve the health of Indians by returning them to traditional foods.

He also sits on the board of the National Museum of the American Indian, slated to open in 2004 in Washington, D.C. Deloria harbors mixed feelings about the project.

"A museum suggests that a culture is a material thing," he says. "It suggests you can judge a people by the things they produced."

No stranger to controversy, Deloria has raised eyebrows in recent years with views poking the scientific establishment: Petroglyphs suggest humans walked the Earth with dinosaurs. Older civilizations of intelligent beings were wiped out by cataclysms, leaving the Earth to rejuvenate in a cycle of destruction and recovery, which runs counter to the prevailing scientific notion of continuous evolution.

Deloria lays out the ideas in books with provocative titles: "Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact," "Evolution, Creationism and Other Modern Myths."

Such notions don't sit well with academia, which tends to treat them as contrarian at best and crackpot at worst.

"I've always tried to take ideas that I found prevalent among traditional peoples and articulate them in a way that would be competitive with doctrinal views," Deloria says. "The audience for them is Indians and young non-Indians receptive to new views."

So here he is, on the cusp of another award, comfortable in his skin and his nearly 70 years.

He is asked about his legacy. It is a vexing question for a man with three books in the works.

"That's really hard to say," Deloria says. "I've tried to help people, to help them stand on their own and realize they can stand on their own."

Then he laughs. "But you know, when you make an omelet, there's always the matter of getting the eggs out of their shells."

Vine Deloria was Philip's only son. He followed in his father's foot-steps, becoming a deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1913, and was ordained into the priesthood later the same year. The ordination was conducted at St. Elizabeth's, where his family lived for so many years.

Philip Deloria died on May 8, 1931, at age 77. The great Tipi Sapa belonged to the ages. One of the most distinguished leaders of the Episcopal Church, and a Prince of the Dakota Sioux, passed quietly into the pages of American history. Although a complete published history of Deloria has never been authored, sufficient documentation survives to certify to the importance and magnitude of his work. His name is prominent in many accounts of the missionary activities of the Church among the Sioux nation. The name of Tipi Sapa has also been relegated to an exalted place among the distinguished Indian brethren of Freemasonry.

He stands beside a small select number who have brought both honor and pride to their people and to our fraternity. At the head of that handful of names, three stand head and shoulders above the rest. They are Joseph Brant, Ely Parker, and Philip Deloria. As Deloria became the voice of the Dakota Sioux, so did Joseph Brant speak for the Iroquois nation. Among his accomplishments, General Ely Parker authored the text of the surrender document at Appomattox in 1865 in his role as military secretary to General Grant.

That troika of Indian Princes lived vastly different lives during their moment upon life's stage, but a common thread of Masonic brotherhood connects one to the other.

Ill JOSEPH E. BENNETT, 33°,was active in the Scottish Rite Valley of Cleveland before retiring to Texas in 1988. He now spends time writing for a number of Masonic publications.