Category Archives: Native Americans

Paul Patkotak, a Pioneer Pentecostal Eskimo, Helped Bring Revival to Alaska

Patkotak Paul

This Week in AG History — July 21, 1963

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 19 July 2018

Paul Patkotak (1891-1980) was born during a harsh winter on the North Slope of Alaska. His Eskimo parents left him on the tundra to die rather than face almost certain death from starvation due to lack of food. Paul survived, however, and later became one of the earliest Eskimos to identify with the Pentecostal movement.

Paul’s parents were traditional Eskimos and lived near Wainwright, a village on the Arctic Ocean. He was born in the family’s snow house. At the time, his parents and their five other children were on the verge of starvation. Other families also faced the agonizing choice of whether to allow their children to die from exposure or starvation. Paul’s father insisted that the newborn must be placed in the snowbank, but his mother initially resisted. After several days, though, it seemed obvious that she was postponing the inevitable. They bundled up little Paul, placed him on the cold tundra, and left to go hunting for food.

Shortly after Paul’s parents left, his grandmother ventured outside and rescued the hapless newborn. She tucked her bundled grandson into her own clothing, but she fell in the snow and was unable to get up and return to the house. It seemed that both would die from exposure. However, a hunter discovered their plight and brought them to his hunting camp. That night little Paul had nothing to eat, but he survived in his grandmother’s care.

The following morning, a caribou herd wandered into the camp. The hunters killed enough animals to provide food for the winter months. Paul’s grandmother fed Paul with milk from one of the caribou cows, which she had managed to milk. Later that day, Paul was reunited with his mother, who had never expected to see him again.

Paul was reared according to traditional Eskimo customs, learning to fish, trap, and hunt. He had contact with government workers and missionaries, who gave him a rudimentary education based on Bible stories. Although he did not become a Christian until years later, the stories of Jesus intrigued Paul.

Unlike many of his Eskimo friends, Paul wanted to further his education. He worked hard, trapping and pelting countless white foxes, which he planned to sell to make his dream possible. In 1911, he boarded a steam freighter with his pelts and headed for Seattle.

Paul arrived in Seattle and felt overwhelmed by the large city. He discovered a Free Methodist school called Seattle Seminary (now Seattle Pacific University), which he wanted to attend. He was not qualified to enroll, but professors allowed him to sit at the back of the classroom and audit classes.

Paul’s limited reading skills hampered his ability to understand, and other students severely ridiculed him. He grew desperate. He wanted to learn, but education seemed out of reach.

One day in 1913, while Paul was wandering down a street in Seattle, a man asked him, “Are you hungry for the Lord?” He responded affirmatively, and the man led Paul to a small Pentecostal congregation affiliated with the Apostolic Faith Mission (Portland, Oregon), which had roots in the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909).

The young Eskimo sensed the power of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal meetings. An African-American woman caught his attention when she testified that God looks at a person’s heart, not at the color of their skin. He realized that he had built up hatred toward white students at the seminary who mocked him. He also realized that he needed to abandon his belief in the power of traditional Eskimo shamans. Paul responded to the altar call, repented of his sins, and peace and joy flooded his heart.

Paul spent the next two years at a government boarding school for Native Americans, where he improved his reading skills. He also remained active in the Apostolic Faith Mission.

Paul sensed a burden for the Eskimo people. In 1913, in a letter published in The Apostolic Faith newspaper, Paul testified of his newfound faith in Christ and stated that he felt called to bring the gospel to his people. He began praying for a mighty revival to come to the Eskimos.

In 1919, Paul, his wife, and children moved to Alaska. They adopted the nomadic lifestyle of a hunter and trapper. This lifestyle made it somewhat difficult to effectively witness to other Eskimos, as they often lived in isolation. Paul was a faithful Christian and shared the gospel when he was able to do so. He was not a credentialed minister, but he went on several extended evangelistic tours across Alaska. The family later moved to Wainwright, so that their children could receive an education.

In the 1950s, the development of the oil industry brought significant changes to the North Slope of Alaska. Outsiders brought money and new opportunities for sin, disrupting traditional society.

In 1954, Paul joined forces with Sherman Duncklee, an Assemblies of God evangelist who was planting a church in nearby Barrow. A significant revival swept Barrow, and then Wainwright. Assemblies of God churches were formed in these towns, and the revival spilled over in to the Presbyterian church and divisions between the churches came down. Paul’s son, Steven, was among the hundreds of converts in the revival. Another convert, Ned Nusunginya, would become the first Eskimo to be ordained by the Assemblies of God.

Paul had prayed since 1913 for revival among the Eskimo people. After 40 years of prayer, a spiritual awakening had finally come to the Eskimos!

The story of Paul Patkotak illustrates several themes in Pentecostal history. The interracial nature of the Azusa Street Revival reverberated through early Pentecostalism, and people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds found new life in Christ through Pentecostal churches. Significantly, much of the ministry among early Pentecostals was performed by lay persons, such as Paul. The testimonies of these early converts helped bridge cultural divides and laid the groundwork for the development of revivals and churches.

The July 21, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included an account of Paul Patkotak and the Wainwright revival. Read the article, “Arctic Village Turns to God,” by Ida Cecelia Piper, published on pages 24 and 25.

Photograph used with permission of the Apostolic Faith Church (Portland, Oregon).

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Revival We Need,” by Robert C. Cunningham

• “The Vision of the Lord,” by Arch P. Collins

• “The Precious Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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American Indian College: New Campus Dedicated 50 Years Ago

AIBCThis Week in AG History — April 28, 1968

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 26 April 2018 

Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) American Indian College was founded Sept. 23, 1957, by Alta M. Washburn and her husband Clarence, under the name All Tribes Indian Bible School. They saw a great need to prepare Native Americans for church ministry. Classes first met on the church campus of All Tribes Assembly of God in downtown Phoenix. In 1967 the school was renamed American Indian Bible Institute (AIBI) and became a regional school of the Assemblies of God.

The school dedicated its current 10-acre site in a north Phoenix neighborhood in 1968. The Pentecostal Evangel reported that a number of district and national officials as well as staff members and students of the school, home missionaries, and friends from several states gathered for the dedication service.

It was an outdoor convocation held near the base of a towering lava hill in northeast Phoenix. Curtis W. Ringness, national secretary of the Home Missions Department, was master of ceremonies. The all-Indian AIBI choir sang several special songs for the dedication, and each member gave a brief, inspiring testimony. Eleven North American tribes from six states were represented in the school’s choir.

Charles W. H. Scott, executive director of Home Missions and chairman of the board of directors of the school, was the guest speaker. In his message titled “Vision and Task,” he challenged those in attendance “to believe God for the erection of needed buildings on the new site.” He reminded the audience that both vision and task was necessary to carry the building program through to completion. “A vision is but a fleeting dream without undertaking actual labor,” said Scott. “The task is just drudgery without a real vision.

Scott said he was anxious to see a classroom building constructed on the very place where the dedication was being held. He appealed to those in attendance to pray with him for the fulfillment of that desire. He reported on the progress of the Institute, mentioning among other things that an architect had been appointed by the school board to prepare the first blueprints for construction. Two dormitories, a dining hall-kitchen complex, and a classroom building were planned for the first phase of the relocation. Additional funds were needed to pay for the property as well as the new construction. A group called Friends of Indian Missions was dedicated to help with the fundraising efforts

The move to the new campus was completed in 1970. Just as Scott had envisioned, the main building for the school was erected in front of the towering lava hill, where the dedication service had been held two years earlier.

The school changed its name from AIBI to American Indian Bible College in 1982. The college received regional accreditation in 1988 and later changed its name to American Indian College of the Assemblies of God (AIC) in 1994. In 2016, AIC partnered with SAGU, Waxahachie, Texas, becoming SAGU American Indian College. It is one of 17 endorsed schools of higher education in the Assemblies of God.

Read the article, “New Campus Site for Indian Bible School Dedication,” on pages 14-15 of the April 28, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Verdict,” by Revivaltime Evangelist C. M. Ward

• “God Is for Squares,” by David Wilkerson

• “Strong Crying and Tears,” by Evangelist Arne Vick

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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American Indian College: Training Native Americans for Pentecostal Ministry for 60 Years

AIC

American Indian College, 1980.

This Week in AG History — September 9, 1973

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 7 September 2017

American Indian College was pioneered 60 years ago in Phoenix, Arizona, by a white female Assemblies of God missionary, Alta Washburn, who recognized the urgent need to train Native American leaders.

At the time, the U.S. census reported about 500,000 Native Americans living in the nation. Many were migrating from rural reservations to urban areas, and various denominations started “Indian missions,” mostly led by white missionaries.

Alta Washburn and her husband began serving the Apache Indians on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona in 1946. They understood firsthand the importance of developing indigenous leaders. As whites, their ministry on the reservation was limited. But Native American migration to the cities opened new ministry opportunities. They moved to Phoenix in 1948 and started All Tribes Assembly of God, which became an important spiritual and social refuge for Native Americans from various tribal backgrounds who often felt out of place in their new surroundings.

Washburn believed that she was called to empower Native Americans to become pastors and leaders in their own communities and tribes. She had a vision to plant Native American churches throughout Arizona. An important part of this vision was the establishment of a Bible school to train pastors. The school she founded, initially called All Tribes Indian Bible Training School, opened its doors on Sept. 23, 1957. Washburn remained as president of the school until 1965.

The Sept. 9, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the history of the school. The article noted that the school emphasized study of the Word of God and training in practical ministry. One of the most visible student ministries was the Tribalaires, a traveling group of students who sang and ministered in churches across the nation.

Simon Peter, a Choctaw, became the school’s first Native American president in 1978. The school changed its name several times over the years — American Indian Bible Institute (1967), American Indian Bible College (1982), and American Indian College (1994). In 2016, American Indian College became a campus of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, retaining its name and mission, while benefiting from the resources and faculty of the larger school.

Since its origins 60 years ago, American Indian College has grown significantly and now serves nearly 25 tribes as well as other ethnicities. Alta Washburn’s vision for a school to train Native American leaders has made a lasting mark, not only on the deserts of Arizona, but across the nation, wherever its graduates have served as pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and church workers.

Read “Indian Youth Train for Ministry,” on pages 14 and 15 of the Sept. 9, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “What We can do for our Colleges,” by Albert W. Earle

• “I Like My Problems” by Ralph Cimino

• “Jesus is Always in Vogue,” by J. Robert Ashcroft

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, History, Native Americans