The Pine Ridge Reservation is home to 43,000 Oglala Lakota people. It is currently located in the southwest section of South Dakota. It was established as a reservation by the treaty of 1868. The principle chief at the signing of the treaty was Chief Red Cloud. He is considered to be one of the most powerful chiefs of Native Americans of all time. This reservation originally was larger then the state of Rhode Island and encompassed portions of several states. It was reduced in size over the years by new treaties, changes in treaties and outright disregard of existing treaties. Over the years the Lakota people have been forced to assimilate into the white culture. Every Lakota person knows the history of the Sand Creek Massacre, the murder of Sitting Bull, The murder of Crazy Horse, The Battle at the Little Big Horn, The Wounded Knee Massacre and the almost total destruction of the buffalo herds and their personal means of survival.
Many religious groups have entered the reservation and have taught that the only way Native Americans can worship GOD is as the white culture. This has proven to be confusing and without real understanding by Native Americans. Up until the 1950’s very few religious groups taught or encouraged scriptural principles. Native Americans today are still being exploited in many ways. Theft of their personal land and lack of government assistance other that welfare is very common. Today on Pine Ridge Reservation there is 80% alcoholism, 80% unemployment and 80% of all children have been physically or sexually abused. This is the poorest area of the United States by government acknowledgement.
Dennis accepted Christ as his personal Savior at age nine during family devotions. Leala accepted Christ as her personal Savior at age 19. My first visit to the reservation was about seven years ago. I visited the home of the Treaty Chief Oliver Red Cloud. I met him very briefly some time before as he spoke at the funeral of my friend, Chuck Trenemeyer. Chuck visited the reservation on an infrequent basis taking food, clothing and visiting the Veterans there. Chuck had planned to take me on a visit to the reservation but passed away before it could be done. About a year later after Chuck’s death and no mention of the reservation during this time, my wife and I began to pray in earnest about how God would have us serve Him. I have always been interested in Native American culture. I even have some Native American blood in my family background. After much prayer, asking God’s direction and searching Scriptures, we both felt the Lord’s leading to began ministering on the reservation. I had never been there. I was new to Northern Colorado and I only knew one Native American that I worked with. We began ministering by taking donated food, clothing and furniture to the people of Pine Ridge..
Many Native Americans have visited our home in Colorado since that time. This has been a seed planting ministry. On many visits to the reservation several men of our local church have also participated. Since I have retired from the Federal Government, and again through prayer and searching the Scriptures, my wife and I have visited the reservation very frequently. At our request our local Church, the Pastors and Board of Elders presented us before the Church for commissioning.
During the last year we have seen several Lakota people accept Christ as their personal Savior. This has included Chief Oliver Red Cloud, his son, two daughters, his nephew and a cousin not to mention several others in the community not related to the Chief. We have also seen several Christians who were backsliders, return and are living for Christ currently. By frequent visits, and direct contacts we have been able to gain the trust of these Native Americans, but it is a seed planting and sometimes slow moving ministry. We have seen much positive happen for the cause of Christ in these last seven years.
But this is entirely by God’s grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit. There are hills and valleys, ups and downs, but this is what we believe God has called us to do.