St. Thomas, Fort Totten
520 – 2nd Avenue N.
Fort Totten, ND 58335-0043
The Rev. Larry Theile
Native American author Owanah Anderson recounts the rich history of the Episcopal Church(s) of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe from Fort Totten. She reports about the first Church:
The congregation dates back to 1898 when Iyayukamani (He-Follows-Walking) loaned his home for services in the Dakota language. Years later, a woman in Rochester, Minnesota, donated $1,000 to build the Margaret Breckenridge Memorial Chapel on land acquired from Iyayukamani. The chapel, completed in 1923 was initially located atop Crow Hill but subsequently moved to the town of Fort Totten in 1952.
According to Church Elder Hermenia McKay, the Memorial Chapel was renamed St. Thomas, for the first name of Iyayukamani, who had so graciously fostered Episcopal worship.
The second church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Leeds ND, was moved to Fort Totten in October of 1982 and dedicated in 1983 by Bishop Hopkins of North Dakota.
The third building on the hill is in process of completion. Fr. John Floberg designed this building, initially funded by a UTO grant written by Reuben Schnaidt. Building work was begun in the spring of 2007. Workers for this building project have come from out of diocese mission groups, as well as North Dakota Congregations. The ND Diocesan Council, many individuals and several parishes have given additional monies to complete this project.
St. Thomas, Fort Totten, has a rich history of lay and ordained service that began with Ben Rainbow and Robert Black Fox serving as Lay Pastors. In 1930 William Skala Cross was the first Native American to be ordained in North Dakota (Anderson, 137). Through the decades many other distinguished priests and deacons have served St. Thomas including: Sidney Bears Heart, Moses Mountain, Daniel Makes Good, William Black Lance, Innocent Goodhouse, Captain Harris (Church Army), Bruce MacDuffie, Duane Fox, Alan Broadhead, Reuben Schnaidt (ELCA), John Floberg, Jackie Bernacchi, Bonnie McNaughton and Danny Whitehead.