Yankton Sioux Chief Pananniapapi (“Struck by the Ree”) Defends His Tribe’s Catholic Faith

July 1, 2024

Struck by the Ree . . . (c. 1804–1888) was a chief of the Native American Yankton Sioux tribe. . . .

In 1804, a great pow-wow was held for the Lewis and Clark Expedition at Calumet Bluff/Gavins Point (near present-day Yankton, South Dakota) that included the “Shunka” sacred dog feast ceremony. During the festivities, the explorers learned that a boy had just been born, and they asked to see the infant. They wrapped the baby in an American flag, held him up, and proclaimed him as destined to be a great “American”. According to the traditions of the Yankton people, that baby boy was Struck by the Ree, who in manhood became a leader among the Yankton, and traveled to Washington, D.C.  For his efforts in promoting peace between whites and Native Americans, he received medals from U.S. Presidents Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, and James Garfield. . . .

Struck by the Ree

Struck by the Ree was a devout [Roman Catholic]. Under the Grant peace policy of 1871–1881, the federal government assigned Indian reservations to certain Christian denominations, regardless of the Indian people’s wishes. Struck by the Ree opposed this policy and responded to the government with these words: “My opposition to your plans is a sincere and conscientious duty to the Great Spirit, which I desire to discharge. I made up my mind on this subject twenty-two years ago. I wish to put the instruction of the youth of my tribe into the hands of the Blackrobes; I consider them alone the depositories of the ancient and true faith of Jesus Christ, and we are free to hear and follow them…. Since my first talk with the Blackrobes I have no other thought but to embrace the ancient religion of Jesus Christ, if I can make myself worthy. My mind is made up.”

Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark.

As an elder, he walked with a cane, and the congregation would respectfully wait for the old chief to enter the church and take his place in the “bishop’s chair” before commencing [Holy Mass]. He died in 1888.

Wikipedia contributors, “Struck by the Ree,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Struck_by_the_Ree&oldid=983518964 (accessed June 27, 2021).

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 792


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