And then, sometimes I sing and nothing happens but inspired noise!
Yesterday we held the memorial reading for Vine at the UNM Library's Willard Room. Mary Bowannie told us about the family's memorial in Golden, Colorado and her stories of Vine. We heard many stories, jokes and touching vignettes about the powerful influence of this man, his words and his actions, from students, staff, faculty and community members. I left with renewed vision and energy to keep going in this place.
Here's one of my favorite stories from his classic, Custer Died for Your Sins, first released in 1969, a primer of inspiration for Indian people everywhere. Enjoy.
“On the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota my grandfather served as the Episcopal missionary for years after his conversion to Christianity. He spent a great deal of his time trying to convert old Chief Gall, one of the strategists of Custer’s demise, and a very famous and influential member of the tribe.
My grandfather gave Gall every argument in the book and some outside the book but the old man was adamant in keeping his old Indian ways. Neither the joys of heaven nor the perils of hell would sway the old man. But finally, because he was fond of my grandfather, he decided to become an Epsicopalian.
He was baptized and by Christmas of that year was ready to take his first communion. He fasted all day and attended the Christmas Eve services that evening.
The weather was bitterly cold and the little church was heated by an old wood stove placed in the center of the church. Gall, as the most respected member of the community, was given the seat of honor next to the stove where he could keep warm.
In deference to the old man, my grandfather offered him the communion first. Gall took the chalice and drained the entire supply of wine before returning to his seat. The wine had been intended for the entire congregation, and so the old man had a substantial amount of spiritual refreshment.
Upon returning to his warm seat by the stove, it was not long before the wine took its toll on the old man who by now had had nothing to eat for nearly a day.
“Grandson,” he called to my grandfather, “now I see why you wanted me to become a Christian. I feel fine, so nice and warm and happy. Why didn’t you tell me that Christians did this every Sunday. If you had told me about this, I would have joined your church years ago.”
Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins, 1969