Archives: First Native American Bishop Consecrated (1972)

Bishop Harold Jones in South Dakota | Wikipedia

This article was published 50 years ago this week, in our February 13, 1972 issue.

Approximately 1,000 people attended the consecration of the Rev. Harold S. Jones as Suffragan Bishop of South Dakota, held on the evening of January 11, in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Sioux Falls. Bishop Jones, a Santee Sioux, is the first American Indian to be consecrated to the episcopate.

Chief consecrator was the Presiding Bishop and co-consecrators were the Rt. Rev. Walter Jones, Bishop of South Dakota, and the Rt. Rev. Conrad Gesner, retired Bishop of South Dakota.

Music was presented by the combined choirs of several area Episcopal churches along with those of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches in Sioux Falls. Brass and strings accompanied some of the numbers.

Red stoles and eucharistic vestments trimmed in Sioux designs had been made for the occasion by members of the Episcopal cathedral altar guild.

Mr. Kent Fitzgerald, an Ojibway, who is executive director of the National Committee on Indian Work, pointed out in his sermon the confusion often present in the minds of white men in their view of mission work among Indian people. “The best thing the white man has ever done to his Indian brother is to bring him the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” White men must still be wary of forcing their own cultures upon the Indian in the guise of religion, he warned. “What is important is the preaching of the Gospel; not the changing of a culture… The Indian people know that they have some insights to share with the rest of the Christian world, and they have been waiting to share them,” he said.

Other participants in the service included Mr. Stephen Plummer of Fort Defiance, Arizona, who read the Gospel. Bishop Jones was in charge of Good Shepherd Mission, Fort Defiance, at the time of his election.

Hymns, prayers, and the creed were sung and/or read simultaneously in Dakota and in English. There are 88 Indian chapels in South Dakota and the Sioux membership in the Episcopal Church in the diocese outnumbers that of whites.

Among the many guests attending the rite were the Roman Catholic Bishop of Sioux Falls, and members of his staff.

Following the service, a reception was held for Bishop Joes and his wife, Blossom. The Jones will live in Rapid City.

The Rt. Rev. Harold Jones (1909-2002), was raised by his grandparents while his grandfather served as a mission priest in Nebraska and South Dakota. He began his ministry serving missions churches on reservations in South Dakota, and later became director of religious education at the Wahpeton Indian School on the Lake Traverse Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. He was canon to the ordinary of the Diocese of Utah at the time of his election. Jones suffered a stroke just a year into his episcopal ministry, and retired early in 1976. He continued to assist in congregations in South Dakota for the next twenty years.  The Diocese of South Dakota still has a larger Native American population of any diocese in the Episcopal Church, with 48 mission congregations on reservations across the state. 

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