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June 2006
vol. 61 no. 2

In this issue

In the early spring of 2006 some three hundred persons gathered at Clinton, Oklahoma, to explore the legacy of Indian/Mennonite relationships since 1880. The conference was titled “Cheyenne, Arapaho, Mennonite: Journey from Darlington.” It was sponsored by the Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church USA. Lawrence and Betty Hart of Clinton were guiding spirits in planning and hosting the conference. The June and September issues of Mennonite Life will focus primarily upon essays based on conference presentations, while also including annual features and a response to a debate on health care from our previous issue.

The “Journey from Darlington” program included a field trip to the site of the 1868 Washita massacre, as well as seminars, plenary speakers, panel sessions, and demonstrations of a variety of dances performed during current powwows. The event offered an opportunity for fresh assessments of the historical encounters between Mennonite missionaries and Native Americans, as well as the broader contexts of that relationship. The contemporary discourse of these issues emphasizes the destruction and pain inflicted by the outside invasion of Indian lands and communities. The Clinton conference confronted that guilt-ridden legacy, but also found ways to move toward reconciliation and hope, not least through witnessing the opening of the “Return to the Earth” project—a federally-recognized process to return unidentified Indian remains from museums to burial grounds on ancestral lands as a long-needed result of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. As developed by Lawrence Hart, the process involves meaningful participation from multiple tribal and denominational groups.

This issue includes eight essays that arose from the thirty-six seminar sessions at Clinton. The essays examine the Mennonite/Indian encounter from a wide variety of perspectives, historical, cultural, and literary. Barbara Thiesen’s account of the Mennonite mission at the Darlington Indian Agency documents the setting of this encounter in the beginning years. Marvin Kroeker tells of the Mennonite settlement in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. John Sharp explores issues of guilt, reconciliation, and hope. Other essays address topics including the portrayal of Cheyenne culture at Kauffman Museum, the contributions and limitations of Mennonite missionaries, a German novelistic revision of the Darlington history, the development of indigenous Christian hymns, and biographies of a linguist and a general (as well as of key missionaries).

This issue also includes our annual Mennonite Bibliography, a listing of titles published in 2005 and acquired by the contributing libraries. Also included are titles acquired in 2005, published prior to that year, but not included in previous Mennonite Life bibliographies. We are pleased as always to note the expanding field of discourse represented by this extensive bibliography; we extend a special thank-you to the many cooperating libraries for this fine resource.

Every Beginning Is Hard: Darlington Mennonite Mission, 1880-1902

by Barbara A. Thiesen

Photos: A Selection from the "Journey from Darlington"

The Cheyenne Hymns, the Hymnbook, and Plains Indian Culture

by Dave Graber

The Darlington Mission in Theodor Fontane's Novel Quitt

by Mark Jantzen

Mennonites and Native Americans: A Reconciliation?

by John E. Sharp

George Armstrong Custer and Samuel S. Haury

by James C. Juhnke

Tsistsistas in Kauffman Museum: On the Making and Meaning of the Cheyenne Segment in the Permanent Exhibition "Of Land and People"

by John M. Janzen

Natives and Settlers: The Mennonite Invasion of Indian Territory

by Marvin E. Kroeker

Rodolphe Charles Petter, Linguist

by Willis Busenitz

Mennonite Bibliography 2005

by Barbara A. Thiesen

Fransen Responds to Health Care Debate: "The Christian Responsibility to Care for Each Other"

As always, the editors thank our book reviewers and are happy to present reviews by Gerhard Rempel, Melanie Zuercher, and Stanley Bohn.

Book Reviews