Walking with the Saints

John Johnson Enmegahbowh, an Odawa (Ottawa) Indian from Canada, was raised in the Midewiwin traditional healing way of his grandfather and the Christian religion of his mother. He came into the United States as a Methodist missionary in 1832. At one point Enmegahbowh attempted to abandon missionary work and return to Canada, but the boat was turned back by storms on Lake Superior, providing him a vision: “Here Mr. Jonah came before me and said, ‘Ah, my friend Enmegahbowh, I know you. You are a fugitive. You have sinned and disobeyed God. Instead of going to the city of Nineveh, where God sent you to spread his word to the people, you started to go, and then turned aside. You are now on your way to the city of Tarsish....’”

Enmegahbowh invited James Lloyd Breck to Gull Lake, where together they founded St. Columba’s Mission in 1852. The mission was later moved to White Earth, where Enmegahbowh served until his death in 1902. Unwelcome for a time among some Ojibway groups because he warned the community at Fort Ripley about the 1862 uprising, Enmegahbowh was consistent as a man of peace, inspiring the Waubanaquot (Chief White Cloud) mission, which obtained a lasting peace between the Ojibway and the Dakota peoples.

Enmegahbowh (“The One who Stands Before his People”) is the first recognized Native American priest in the Episcopal Church. He was ordained deacon by Bishop Kemper in 1859 and priest by Bishop Whipple in the cathedral at Faribault in 1867.

Enmegahbowh helped train many others to serve as deacons throughout northern Minnesota. The powerful tradition of Ojibway hymn singing is a living testimony to their ministry. His understanding of Native tradition enabled him to enculturate Christianity in the language and traditions of the Ojibway. He tirelessly traveled throughout Minnesota and beyond, actively participating in the development of mission strategy and policy for the Episcopal Church.

Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior, Faribault, Minnesota

The romantic and religious Gothic Revival style was used for a variety of structures in Faribault, including buildings associated with the various educational institutions and occasionally private homes. The Episcopal Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior was built toward the end of the style’s popularity, but the impressive structure clearly reflected the Episcopal Church’s English associations and the significance of America’s first Episcopal Cathedral. Although the cornerstone for the church was laid by Bishop Henry Whipple in 1862, scarcity of funds meant the the building was not completed and consecrated until 1869. The bell tower was completed in 1902.