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Bad Eagle Journal

The Comanche Nation and Christian Religion

by David Yeagley · July 11, 2010 · 66 Comments ·

Different demoninations of Christianity have come through Comanche land in the past. Some seemed more appealing to reservation Indians than others. It seems the market is still open. Pentecostals are the lastest “trader” in Comanche land.

Let’s look at the lay of that land. By 1881, six years after the final Quahada band came into Fort Sill (1875), the Episcopalians started a mission program under J. B. Wicks. But before then, as early as 1869, the Quakers (and Dutch Reform) were working in southwestern Oklahoma among the plains tribes. Yet, even Laurie Tatum made no progress among the Comanche–who still resisted the “civilized” life. (The Comanche got into peyote, anyway, once they did start settling. Some say Quanah Parker brought it into the tribe, but others say Mumsekai.) Commissioner Thomas J. Morgan (under U.S. President Harrison) was a strong assimilationist, and missionaries influenced him to clamp down on the peyote “religion.” But the Comanches were not really considered much of a market for the missionaries. Comanches were still isolationists, psychologically, as well as demographically.

Mumsekai, ca. 1920.

Most of the missionaries established themselves around Anadarko. The Methodist-Episcopal were there. The Reformed Presbyterians were there also. Between 1885 and 1893, there were five different government agents trying to manage the programs. There were Indian schools set up, both mission schools and government schools. It was all about assimilation, to prepare young Indians for American citizenship.

Of course, the original encounter with Christianity, for the Comanche, was the old Spanish mission. That was Catholicism. That involved the imagery, the visual aids, and the trinketry, so to speak. These things do catch the eye. The Tortured Man had a psychological appeal as well. He could take pain. He was brave. But, Comanches were to close to the wind to abide in a domestic setting. They didn’t go for the contemplative life.

So no one made any real headway. Not even the old Mormon “messianic” influence, in the modified, adapted form of Wovoka (Paiute) the Ghost Dance prophet, lasted long. Comanches saw it in 1890. Only a band of Penetekas involved themselves temporarily, and that was because they happened to have been assigned lands bordering some the of the more northern plains tribes down in southwest Oklahoma–and those tribes were getting into it.

Comanches didn’t even go in for the Sun Dance. There’s only one historical recorded dance among the Comanche, at that was in 1874, not long before the Comanche freedom was to end. Comanches just didn’t do the group religion thing. Organized community ceremony was foriegn to the Comanche psyche and its incredible individualism.

Chewing Elk, 1872.

Adventism came into Oklahoma at the turn of the century. Some rural families affined themselves to it. My own Comanche family did. But Adventism was never an influence within the people. It offered nothing beautiful to look at, and nothing emotionally exciting. The end of the world? Comanches had already been through that.

Interesting, though, the word for “Saturday” in turn of the century Comanche was ka po hah rab by. The same basic word for “sabbath.” Probably, po hah is from po ha cut, or power (medicine.) Rab by? I’ll take that for “rabbi.” The Comanche word for “father” is ahp. The way it’s pronounced, it is quite similar to the Hebrew abba. (Ah, the wonders of etymology and linguistics.)

That instinctive Comanche affinity with the wind is showing itself currently in another Christian influence: pentecostalism. This is a community emotion. This is something like the wind. Everyone can feel it together. It has been in Indian country a good while, but, recently, it has blown up a storm right in the middle of Comanche land. It hit the tribal meeting yesterday, July 10, 2010.

At the Comanche Nation Business Committee meeting yesterday, the two new committee members were sworn in, one of whom was Mark Wahadooah. Mr. Wahadooah, who won his election by a 17% margin, clearly considers that fact a serious mandate to act on his campaign promises. He made that distinctly obvious. Mr. Wahadooah is an Assemblies of God activist, and himself was apparently involved in the Palo Duro event which we have addressed. It seems that his faith, and his promises to the people, gave him his great margin of victory over Ed Eschiti for the position of Committee Member No. 2.

Mr. Wahadooah, brings pentecostalism (and tu-taiwo blood) to the very seat of tribal authority. This is of grave concern.

Mr. Wahadooah is a warm and appealing person, with great spirit. He is also very forward, aggressive, and, for his first public showing as a tribal committee member, a bit too much so. He behaved as though he had equal authority as Chairman Michael Burgess. He challenged the committee several times, and repeatedly ignored the kind cautions Chairman Burgess offered him. Of course, Mr. Wahadooah feels he is manifesting the spirit on which he campaigned. He feels he is doing what he was elected to do. He is not repecting any authority above the people who elected him, or, what he considers to be their wants. He feels he is representing them.

This amounts to non-cooperation, at least, and insubordination, at worst. This is the outcome of that kind of aggression. Regardless of the sincerety, the passion, the intent, it manifests itself as disruptive and challenging.

I do not know Mr. Wahadooah, but I know how Comanche meetings go. I am concerned about this. I am concern because the matter of Christian religion is involved in Comanche affairs. The people want honesty, accountability, and transparency. A good number are demanding it, more and more. Shall it come through pentecostalism?

We must remember, leaders are elected to lead, not to follow. The numunu simply cannot lead themselves anymore. We’re not living out the free, open plains now. We’re “organized,” and we’re following rules of order. The affairs of the tribe are hectic, and there are constant crises occurring. Decisions have to be made rapidly, often without consultation. Under the present constitution, there is no possible way for all the Comanche people to know every detail of every situation. There is no possible way to get a consensus on every decision that is made. (This is why I have suggested a very different kind of constitution.)

And so the wind blows in Comanche country. Pentecostal wind. Is it a good thing? Will it blow in the right direction? Will it bring good rain?

I will say only this: there are many different religious groups among Comanche people today. Many Christian denominations, and even some new, non-Christian influences. I would not want to see any one denomination creating a dominant influence. I don’t consider Indian country some ironic hunting ground for competing Christian denominations. Indians have enough problems without this divisive force from the outside. A social hunting ground may be how Indian country is perceived by the outsiders, but, I hope Indians, especially Comanches, can navigate through these high winds, and remain sovereign and independent. I know many Christians want to see Indians become more self-reliant and independent. However, what we saw in Palo Duro in April may not be the path to preserves us.

With Mr. Wahadooah’s premier performance July 10, it is clear that the April affair in Palo Duro was a power grab.

Maybe it was a good thing. Maybe it will lead to good things. I express great caution right now, that’s all. I feel like it is an invasion. I feel we are under seige. This is ironic and agonizing–or, at least, suspicious. I would not want to offend any Christian brother, or any Comanche in this. Good may come of it. I hope it does.

I am only trying to bring a historical perspective to what’s happening, and to help achieve an objective view.

I do not want the chairman to be undermined, and that’s what happened July 10. I express these thoughts with the greatest reserve and concern. Hear me, my people.

I neglected to mention the earliest Comanche mission of all, the Deyo Baptist Mission, 1888. It was the work of Elton Cyrus Deyo, from Colgate Theological Seminary (Maine). Robert Yappa Teka Coffey (1902-1994) became the first Comanche to be pastor. As a matter of fact, my mother (Norma Portillo) played piano for the congregation when she was a young girl in the early ’30’s. She knew three or four chords on the keyboard, and that sufficed for most hymns.

Posted by David Yeagley · July 11, 2010 · 5:45 pm CT · ·

Tags: American Indians · Bad Eagle Journal · Christianity · Politics · Race · Religion

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66 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David Yeagley // Jul 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm   

    Thras, this is a precious thread. We don’t want to lose this one! I appreciate all the input. It is remarkable, actually.

    I have a few texts up my sleeve, which you haven’t referenced yet. I may still do a genocide piece…

  • 2 Pamela K. // Jul 12, 2010 at 7:39 pm   

    As I mentioned earlier, I was raised Catholic, but I never knew about the history of the early churches edicts against the Jews until about fifteen years ago thanks to Zola Levitt.
    For instance, the early Roman Catholic Church forbade Christians and Jews to marry or eat together, and forbid Jews from observing the Sabbath. (Council of Elvira, circa A D. 306).
    Synagogues were outlawed. (Edict of Milan, A.D. 313)
    Permission is granted to burn Jews guilty of breaking the law. (Roman edict, A D. 315)
    It was forbidden to associate the celebration of Easter with the Jewish Passover. Easter was ordered to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring equinox. (Canon I of the Synod of Antioch, A D 419)
    These edicts were a harbinger to the rise of terrible persecution of the Jewish people over the centuries which would eventually lead up to the most horrible time of persecution and death, the Holocaust.
    Many Jewish people believe that the Holocaust of WWII was allowed to happen not just because Hitler came to power and mandated his “final solution” to kill all the Jews, but because Christians allowed it to happen. And although Der Furher was an avowed athiest, many who worked for him claimed to be Christians. They were soldiers and they were guards at concentration camps. They were members of Hitler’s youth groups. And most “good Christians” in Germany who attended church without fail every Sunday sat idly by on Monday morning as their Jewish neighbors were rounded up by other self-proclaimed Christians and hauled off to their deaths.
    Today, the rising tide of anti-semitism in Europe goes largely unreported in the world news media. Replacement Theology is rampant in the Christian churches, and this includes the American branch of the Roman Catholic Church. Although some American Catholics disdain Replacement Theology and liberal influence in their church, just look how many Catholics voted for Obama!

  • 3 Pamela K. // Jul 12, 2010 at 8:08 pm   

    This is a shocking report that recently was broadcast by CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) Hungary’s Anti-Semitic, Anti-Gypsie Party

  • 4 David Yeagley // Jul 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm   

    Here you go, PK:

  • 5 David Yeagley // Jul 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm   

    Is it a naive thing to ask, WHY do Jews get blamed when there are economic problems in a country? Are the financial manipulations of someone like George Soros any part of the reason?

  • 6 Pamela K. // Jul 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm   

    Probably. He is a creep of the highest order. He’s what Binyamin Netanyahu referred to as “one who forgets he’s Jewish.”

  • 7 Pamela K. // Jul 12, 2010 at 9:50 pm   

    Soros grew up in a time of political unrest in Hungary which most likely helped to shape his extreme left-wing viewpoint. In the book I am currently reading, “Give Me Liberty” by Rose Wilder Lane, she writes about her experience as a foreign correspondent in Budapest in 1922. One night she accompanied the police on a night raid in a working class neighborhood where the police went in and searched men’s pockets for Labor Cards, which was a form of identification that all Hungarians were obliged to carry at all times. These cards were also stamped by the men’s employers.If it showed no stamp from an employer, the men were hauled off to jail. It was even worse for the women who could not prove they were employed. The police would haul them off to jail, accusing them of prostitution. After all, the police figured, how else were these women making a living? These police also raided the tenement homes of people they accused of not working, or knew to be unemployed. It sounds crazy, but what it really was about, was having total control over people. Soros tactics might be a little different but the influence of his Hungarian upbringing is more than apparent. With him, it’s all about control too.

  • 8 Illana // Jul 13, 2010 at 7:42 am   

    As all of you live in USA, you cannot imagine how much Europe is a neurotic continent, which reproduces the same mistakes than in the past in another way.

    I am not surprised by this country : hungarian still persecute the “tsigane” and the few jewish that live there.. assuming that gypsies are lasy, dirty and other unacceptable prejudices !!

    They should be blamed by UN and the international community for that.
    I am sad to say that I am proud of the way Israeli defend their land to avoid been persecuted like in Europe…

  • 9 Bear // Jul 13, 2010 at 8:11 am   

    REG you said on Jul 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    The examples you listed said in context “Go and sin no more.” but did not define ’sin.’ or preach against it.

    (The word of God defined sin in countless scriptures already. This had been addressed numerous times. And the “word” /Jesus is pretty specific in the old and new testament about what is to be perceived as sin.
    John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

    John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.)

    “He did not accuse the merchants of ’sin’ only that they were making the temple a den of thieves.”

    (Perhaps it should be implied that Christ drove them out because they were illegally parked then???? Of course he drove them out because of the sin they were involved in!)

    “Abram worshiped the moon, fertility goddess “Sin” in Ur; until God came to him and offered him a deal. “Worship me and I will give you what Sin has not provided, a son.”
    (Actually it was Christ / “Melchizedek” that met with Abram. Abram humbled himself before God, paid his tithes, and eventually entered into a covenant with God before God could begin to bless him. Hebrews 7:1 – 3
    The King of Righteousness
    “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”)

    “Sin is the worship of other gods, falling away in other words. ”
    (Idolatry is just one of ten commandments or “sins” that God identified in the old testament.)

  • 10 Pamela K. // Jul 13, 2010 at 9:37 am   

    . People in the United States and Europe have no idea what it is like to live under the constant threat of annihilation from their enemies like Israel has to on a daily basis. (Well, not yet, anyway.)
    You hear a lot about the Jewish Holocaust, but hardly ever about the Porrajmos, or “The Burning’ which was the calculated extermination of the Gypsies by Nazi Germany.
    After she and her family were betrayed and sent off to concentration camps, Anne Frank wrote about seeing groups of naked Gypsy girls being herded off to the gas chambers.
    Seeing what is going on in Hungary today, it never ceases to amaze me how history, especially bad history, tends to repeat itself. Especially when ‘good and upstanding’ citizens stand idly by and let it happen.

  • 11 REG // Jul 13, 2010 at 9:53 am   

    Bear- Have a nice day.

  • 12 Pamela K. // Jul 13, 2010 at 10:58 am   

    In keeping with the subject of genocide, in the book, “Centennial” by James A. Michner, there was a U.S. Army Commander who believed that the Plains Indians in Colorado were one of the lost tribes of Israel. He also believed that this gave him the right to go into the Indian camps after the men had left to go on their buffalo hunt and slaughter all their women, children, babies, and old people. I think this character might have been based on an actual person. James Michner was a meticulous researcher and I rcently read where General Grant tried to forbid Jews from living in Illinois and Indiana during the Civil War. He accused the Jewish merchants of conspiring with the South. This order was rescinded by President Lincoln. I was wondering if Michner’s character might have been based on him, however, this is just my own speculation.

  • 13 Thrasymachus // Jul 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm   

    Just came across this study of the origin and nature of Islam (I know this is off-topic, but thought some might be interested):

    Allah, Who Is He?

  • 14 Bear // Jul 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm   

    Thanks for the friendly debate on this issue. Hope you have a good day also.

  • 15 Pamela K. // Jul 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm   

    To correct my earlier comment, General Grant’s infamous Order # 11 actually expelled Jews from northern Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

  • 16 David Yeagley // Jul 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm   

    Did you know Grant appointed a Jew as Commissioner of Indian Affairs? He thought it was wrong to try to force the Indians to be Christian. He thought a Jew would be less likely to do that.

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