Evangelizing the Sioux?


“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through him might be saved.”

07/28/22 — Oglala Sioux Tribe Temporarily Suspends All Christian Missionary Work | Sovereignty I (nativenewsonline.net)

07/25/22 — Christian Mission Ousted from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after Distribution of Hate Materials | Currents (nativenewsonline.net)

08/02/22 — Pine Ridge officials mandate churches register with Council in new ordinance (argusleader.com)

08/05/22 — Dances with Wolves: Fun Facts from Your Favorite Western Film – Herald Weekly

Distribution of this flyer on the grounds of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation created a furor, and in response the tribal authorities passed an ordinance that, in effect, says all missionaries operating on the reservation must be licensed.


One Matthew Monfore distributed the flyers; he is associated with Jesus is King Mission; in the wake of this furor, the tribal counsel expelled him from the reservation.  Apparently, this was not the first time he has passed out these flyers.  Some witnesses at the hearings claimed that Monfore is, or is also, associated with the Dream Center Mission; however, the executive director of the Dream Center emphatically denied that.

I don’t know if the tribe has anything equivalent to the First Amendment.  I also don’t know what Tunkasila means.  Is it essentially the same as what Christians call God, or is it more equivalent to something like the Greco-Roman god Zeus?  Is this god, or God, worshipped by all Sioux?  By anyone but Sioux?  Is there uniform religious belief among Sioux, or among Native Americans generally?  That last seems to me to be unlikely, notwithstanding the claims of  New Age folks in the 1970s and 1980s that Native spirituality is uniform.

Some of those who testified at the hearings seemed to believe that all who teach or practice Christianity should be banished from the reservation, in the interest of maintaining tribal culture.

I also wonder what anyone is to do, who believes the Bible verse I quoted first above, when she or he encounters the Sioux; whether that person is the antagonistic Matthew Monfore or instead the much more peaceable Lori McAfee.

The concepts underlying that Bible verse, including such notions as that there is a heaven, there is a hell, and there is a need for salvation, may be absent from Native or Sioux culture.  The very notion of sin may be very different among these folk, than it is among the missionaries; if, indeed, the folk in question have any such notion at all.  The very worldview of these folk who have essentially lived in the Stone Age for hundreds of years, may have little semblance to that of folk whose assumptions root in the Greco-Roman world.

So, there is the need to thoroughly learn the ways of one’s hearers, before one would teach any thing.

About Dances with Wolves

Things were lots different in 1990.  I spent the spring semester of that year at seminary in Gettysburg.  It was my first-ever contact with a computer mouse, as I saw my classmate left-click and hold the button down and scroll over an image on-screen to select it.  Today computer mice hardly even exist.

So also, that same semester, somehow I came upon a newspaper — I don’t recall which one, or how I came upon it — the kind that consisted of these large sheets of cheap, rough paper that you held in your hands, to read the printing on them.  Those hardly exist any more today, either.

So, here in this newspaper, I happened to read a review of Dances with Wolves, which I had not seen yet, but would go see in a local theater a few weeks later.  This review was my first-ever encounter with the term “politically correct.”  The reviewer said that any movie must be politically correct, if it is to garner any considerable media attention or Oscar consideration.

And “politically correct,” this film certainly is.  It was on a mission to invert (flip upside-down) the derogatory representations of Native Americans that have appeared in the media ever since forever; though I don’t know that I’ve ever seen or heard any of them, except possibly for the portrait of “Injun Jim” in Huckleberry Finn; representation of Natives as dirty, drunken savages.

In contrast, Dances with Wolves presents numerous derogatory comments on whiteness; all of them wholly gratuitous, that is, needless and pointless.  The major at Fort Hayes is very, very drunk, and John Dunbar winces when he hears the liquor bottles clink in the major’s desk drawer.  Minutes later, the major — driven by the futility of whiteness — blows his brains out; Dunbar, already in the wagon traveling toward Fort Sedgwick, hears the gunshot, and turns around and frowns, as if he knows exactly what has happened.  The wagon driver farts loudly around a campfire, and an illiterate soldier wipes his ass with a page from Dunbar’s precious diary.

It is practically a deus ex machina that the Sioux village includes a white woman for Dunbar to fall in love with, so as to avoid all issues associated with interracial romance.  Having had interracial romances myself, I personally have no issues with them; one either will or will not accept what comes, for the sake of one’s love for one’s partner.  But, luckily for him, Dunbar faced no such issues.

Michael Blake wrote quite a number of books about life in the American West in the 19th century.  He must have been an expert; he must have done tons of research.  His personal life has had its ups and downs.  The Wikipedia article suggests that he wrote his novel specifically as the prospective basis for a screenplay.  I understand that the novel had Dunbar live among Comanches rather than Sioux.  It seems that Costner learned about the writing of the novel long before its completion, and more or less sponsored it; one can speculate about how much influence Costner had over the novel, and how much came from his personal vision.

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