The U.S.-Dakota War Remembered by Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church (Part I)

Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church at its October 7, 2012, worship service remembered the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.[1] This post will review the first part–Preparing for the Word– of this very moving three-part service.[2]

The service’s Prelude was the beautiful chant and melody “Lakota Wiyanki” (Beautiful Women) sung by the Westminster Choir and our Middle and High School Choirs. The English translation of the Dakota words goes as follows: “The voices of the four winds call, giving courage; courage, beautiful one, to walk forward, to walk forward with pride.”

The original Lakota words and melody of “Lakota Wiyanki” were “caught” or created by Cara Willowbrook and then given to her friend, Gail Woodside, an Apache Nation musician and artist. Gail then gave them to her friend, Judith Herrington, the Founder and Artistic Director of the Tacoma Youth Chorus, to be arranged, published and enjoyed by others.

Jon Romer

The Introit followed. It was a traditional Lakota gathering song, “The Waving Blanket,” played on a Native American Flute by Jon Romer, who became acquainted with the instrument and music while he taught at Leech Lake Tribal College in Minnesota.

The Call to Worship was “Prayer Song,” which was sung in the Dakota language by Dale Lohnes, a member of the Dakota Lakota tribes of the Sisseton Wapheton Nation.

The Processional Hymn was the haunting “Heleluyan” (No. 595 in the Presbyterian Hymnal).  “Heleluyan” is the Muscogee (Creek) word for “Alleluia.” The choir split into four sections and sang it once in unison from the four corners of the church after which the choir sang it as a four-part round with members of the congregation joining the section of the choir closest to them. The singing from the four corners of the church emphasized the Lakota belief that the loop or circle is sacred.

Elona Street-Stewart

Elona Street-Stewart, a Presbyterian elder from another church and a member of the Delaware Nanticoke tribe, gave the following Call to Confession followed by the Prayer of Confession (the Ojibway Prayer):

  • “Call us to repentance, to turn ourselves around to face the truth of our own sins and not just to feel sorry for trespasses committed by others; to turn around toward the light of Christ, and see you reflected in each other in the circle. Deepen our understanding of redemption and strengthen our ministry of reconciliation. We pray you mend the hoop of our hearts and let us live in the truth of the gospel and the loving acts of Jesus Christ.”
  • “Grandfather, look at our brokenness. We know that in all creation only the human family has strayed from the Sacred Way. We know that we are the ones who are divided and we are the ones who must come back together to walk in the Sacred Way. Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love, compassion, and honor that we may heal the earth and heal each other.”

Ms. Street-Stewart then made the Declaration of God’s Forgiveness: “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; a new life has begun. Friends, hear the good news.” The congregation joined her in the conclusion: “In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia! Amen.”

This first part of the worship service concluded with the choir’s singing a verse of  Hymn No. 355 in The Presbyterian Hymnal, “Hear the Good News of Salvation,” in the Lakota language followed by the congregation’s joining them in singing the first two verses in English. The first verse goes as follows: “Hear the good news of salvation: Jesus died to show God’s love. Such great kindness! Such great mercy! Come to us from heaven above. Jesus Christ, how much I love you! Jesus Christ, You save from sin! How I love you ! Look upon me. Love me still and cleanse within.”

[1] Prior posts set forth a summary of the War, a contemporary white settler’s comments on the War and this year’s sesquicentennial commemoration of the War.

[2] Subsequent posts will discuss the other two parts of that service–Listening for the Word and Responding to the Word. The theological underpinnings for Westminster’s order of worship were reviewed in a prior post. The following materials about this service are online: a video, the bulletin and the texts of the sermons that were in the second-part of the service.

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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