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