The Brotherhood of Christian Unity (BCU) was started by three young Dakota Yankton’s in 1873. Their primary goal was to teach their members to become planters. This was at a time when the Native American people were being confined to a local area called reservations. They had been nomadic people and were never in one place long enough to plant and harvest crops, as they followed the buffalo herd and other game to obtain their food source.
Having to adapt to a new way of life was hard on the elder men, so three young men, Phillip Deloria, 19; David Tatiyopa, 21; and Felix Bronut, 20 began to do planting & cultivating of crops, teaching others, who were interested. Its first name was the Planting Society, in Dakota, Wozu-omnicia. About ten years later it was changed to Brotherhood of Christian Unity.
At the time of placing the Native Americans onto reservations by the government, different denominations began to come to these reservations to convert them to Christianity. These younger people who were part of this new “Society” began to develop a following. While adapting to the planting, stationary vs. nomadic, way of life and Christianity these young men started this society. Their purpose was: to “Oppose what is evil and help what is good”, to work for the church, and give assistance to the old and widowed.
The initial society consisted of only males in good standing with the church and was nondenominational. By 1940 it consisted of primarily Episcopalians, but in the 1960’s it returned to its nondenominational roots. As time elapsed a women’s group was formed with their own officers and were a subgroup to BCU. Over the years, the women’s group became full members of BCU and today BCU includes everyone, not just Native American.
The main focus of BCU started as planters, then in the 30’s and 40’s they put their focus on helping fund the 3 schools for Native American children. St. Mary’s for girls in Springfield, Hare School for boys in Mission and St. Elizabeth’s for co-ed K-12 in Wakpala—all in South Dakota. In the 2000 era the focus was on the youth. Thunderhead Episcopal Camp has become BCU’s main focus for the past 25 years, plus helping with projects and construction for the elderly and others who need help.
BCU is a 501.c.3 tax exempt organization and we rely on donations to assist us in purchasing materials and equipment so we can do projects that make people’s lives better.
We hold monthly meetings on the 4th Saturday of each month at 11:00 am in the Deloria Center on Sully Avenue in Pierre, SD. We start with a meal (free) and continue with prayer, singing and business.
Some of the projects we have done these past 3.5 years through our group which meets in Pierre are: TEC work weekends – this included insulating and installing OSB interior walls in all the cabins; installing metal roofs on all TEC buildings; built a ramp for an elder; built a covering on a dangerous basement for an elder; finished a covering over a shed for an elder; installed a metal roof on a church; did electrical trouble shooting and fixed a ceiling in a church; replaced sheetrock and painted rectory water damage; cleaned cemeteries; held a gospel music concert for the public; held a carnival for the youth; gave a pizza party for our youth at Pierre Indian Learning Center (PILC); we have put together “survival” packages for the homeless, three times over the past year; and other projects to touch those in need.
We rely on our membership for donation of their time, travel expenses, food for the meals, and money for items for the homeless and we have a very dedicated group. We welcome new members and monetary donations so we can continue to be a beacon of hope to many throughout South Dakota and beyond.
* Taken from document written by The Venerable Vine Deloria, Sr. The full document can be found on here.