Lac Qui Parle Mission Sunday event to be held this weekend

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

This Sunday, the 63rd annual Lac qui Parle Mission Sunday will take place at the historic site in the State Park. The event, hosted by the Chippewa County Historical Society, is held at the Lac Qui Parle Mission a site for Christian missionary work with the Dakota founded by Joseph Renville. Renville, the son of a French trader and a Dakota woman, was an interpreter for Lieutenant Zebulon Pike in 1805-1806 and Major Stephen Long in 1823. In 1826, Renville, an agent for the American Fur Company, established a fur-trading post near Lac qui Parle. Because he was fluent in Dakota, English, and French languages, he worked as an intermediary between the people who lived near his post. Renville invited missionaries to establish a mission and school near his post, and through the established Lac qui Parle Mission worked to form and strengthen relationships between European and Dakota community members. Renville worked throughout his time at the trading post to translate Bible and hymns into the Dakota language, which was among some of the first attempts to record Dakota language in written form. One of Renville’s projects at that time was composing the hymn “Lac qui Parle”, inspired by Jeremiah 10: 12-13. The hymn was translated into English later by Philip Frazier, a Congregational church Dakota pastor. 

The hymn, “Lac qui Parle” has been in the Dakota Odowan since 1846, and will be performed by the Dakota Ascension Choir at the Lac qui Parle Mission Sunday event in the place where the song first transpired. Though Lac qui Parle Mission was abandoned by the missionaries in 1854 and fell into disrepair, the area was designated as a state park in 1941, and the Works Progress Administration reconstructed the Mission building, which is maintained for visitors to see today. Renville remained a part of the mission in Lac qui Parle until he passed away in 1846. 

Celeste Suter of the Chippewa County Historical Society writes of the song, “It is perhaps the most widely known Christian Indian hymn in the United States, a legacy to all people from the Santee Dakota, who still sing it in their native language.”

In addition to “Lac qui Parle”, the Dakota Ascension Choir will also sing “Many and Great” in both English and Dakota Languages. The worship service Sunday will be led by Dr. Reverend Clifford Canku, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The service will be followed by a potluck lunch at noon in the picnic shelter near the damn site, with lemonade provided. Those visiting are asked to bring a dish to pass as well as their own dishes and utensils, as well as a folding chair. It is also recommended that visitors bring bug spray. In the afternoon, Jeff Williamson and friends will present a program titled “A Potpourri of Dakota Mission Topics” at 1 p.m. The event is free, and anyone can attend. For more information, visit the Chippewa County Historical Society’s website at chippewacohistory.org.