David P. Oakerhater, born c. 1850 and later given the name Okuhhatuh (Sun Dancer), was a warrior and leader of the Cheyenne in Oklahoma and led a band of warriors against the United States government in a dispute over Indian land rights. In 1875 he and twenty-seven other military leaders were taken prisoner by the United States Army and sent to a military post in Florida. There, thanks to the efforts of a concerned Army captain, they learned English, were encouraged to earn money by giving art and archery lessons to visitors, and encountered the Christian faith. David and three others were moved to become Christians and to go north to study for the ministry. David was baptized in Syracuse, New York, in 1878 and was ordained to the diaconate in 1881. He returned to Oklahoma and there founded schools and missions, and continued to work among his people until his death on August 31, 1931. When he first returned to Oklahoma in 1881, he said:
“You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all he tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace.”
adapted from James Kiefer’s biographical sketch
at the Society of Archbishop Justus website
O God of unsearchable wisdom and infinite mercy, you chose a captive warrior, David Oakerhater, to be your servant, and sent him to be a missionary to his own people, and to exercise the office of a deacon among them: Liberate us, who commemorate him today, from bondage to self, and empower us for service to you and to the neighbors you have given us; through Jesus Christ, the captain of our salvation; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The propers for the commemoration of David Pendleton Oakerhater, Deacon and Missionary, are published on the Lectionary Page website.
The icon is of the David Pendleton Oakerhater window in St George’s Episcopal Church, Dayton, Ohio.