Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 6, 1999

The Indian who called himself Jesus


Many years ago, back in the late 1800s, when my great-grandpa came to America, he settled in Minnesota, where he cleared land for his farm.

At that time, trees covered the land, so Grandpa had to cut the trees down before he could build a house or plant anything. Cutting down the trees was called "clearing the land."

There were bears and deer, and also Indians living in the area. The early settlers wanted to make friends with the Indians. Some of the Indians were good people; but some would steal anything they could.

Grandpa and his brother would kill a deer and the family would eat it for every meal for as long as the meat would keep. There were no iceboxes and it was summer, so the meat didn't stay fresh very long. When the meat spoiled, they left it out for the bears in the forest to eat.

The settlers had to have water, so Grandpa claimed land by a lake. The family was able to drink, wash, and eat the fish they caught out of that lake. It was a very good place to build a log cabin.

The cabin they built had one big room with a loft up above where they could sleep. Winter was coming and it was getting cold, so they built a lean-to on the cabin for the horses. It was just big enough to keep the horses warm and the wolves away.

If the horses started to make noise and act upset, Grandpa could hear them in the cabin, and he would know that something was wrong. So he would take his gun and go outside to see what the problem was. Usually, the problem was just some wild animals, looking for something to eat.

One night, close to Christmas, Grandpa and his family were sitting in the cabin and listening to Grandpa read out of the Bible. He always read from the Bible before going to bed at night, sitting by the only lamp they had.

Grandpa happened to glance up and he saw a face looking at them through the cabin window. He jumped up, got his gun, and opened the door.

There stood an Indian. When the Indian saw Grandpa standing there with the gun, he turned and ran away. But Grandpa yelled, "Stop," and the Indian did.

Grandpa's brother came outside with the lamp and they saw that the Indian looked thin and hungry. The Indian grabbed for Grandpa's Bible.

"Do you want to know about Jesus?" Grandpa asked the Indian."I can tell you all about Him."

But the Indian ran away.

The next day, the Indian was back. He still looked hungry, so Grandpa brought out some food for him to eat.

The Indian grabbed for Grandpa's Bible again. Grandpa knelt down and prayed. "Jesus, we have a poor soul here and we are praying for him."

The Indian got down on his knees, just like Grandpa. Grandpa kept praying, and in his prayer, he said the name, "Jesus" several times.

The Indian copied Grandpa, and tried to say Jesus, too. By the time he left Grandpa's cabin that day, he could say Jesus very well.

The next time the Indian came, he brought his friends, and soon they were all able to say Jesus, as well as some other English words. Grandpa liked to read to the Indians from the Bible and it wasn't long before the Indians learned many things from the Good Book. The Indians and the settlers became good friends.

In the spring, the Indians came and helped Grandpa clear his land. They often brought him wild turkey and other meat to eat, and at Christmas time, they joined Grandpa and his family for Christmas dinner.

One day, the Indians told Grandpa they were leaving the area and they wanted to say good-bye. Grandpa was surprised to find that the Indian who first came to see Grandpa was now called Jesus by all of the members of the tribe.

Grandpa said, "Good-bye and God bless you" to the Indians, and they walked away.

Grandpa's little cabin was still on the farm in 1937. The Indians were members of the Little Crow Band.

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