Enmegahbowh (his Ojibwa name means The One who Stands before his People; his conversion name was John Johnson).
Enmegahbowh was born the son of an Ojibwa Chief about a day's journey north of Toronto ca. 1820. He was trained by his grandfather in Midewiwin practices and was a member of the Grand Medicine Lodge. But in 1832 he followed Methodist missionary John Clark to Sault Ste. Marie. Enmegahbowh attended school on the Keweenaw Peninsula from 1833-1835. For two years he served as an interpreter at Methodist Episcopal missions along southern Lake Superior and in Wisconsin. In 1837 he traveled to Jacksonville, IL to attend the Ebenezer Manual Labor Training School and in 1839 Enmegahbowh began his life work as Asst. Methodist Episcopal missionary just above Little Falls, Minnesota. In 1840 he co-founded Rabbit River Mission and in 1841 he married Biwabiko-geshig-equay, Iron Sky Woman (niece of Bugonaygeshig (Hole in the Day the Elder)). Between 1841 and 1845 he was associated with missions at Whitefish Lake, Sandy Lake, Leech, Cass and Red Lakes. In 1845 he met Episcopal Priest Ezekiel Gear at Ft. Snelling and switched from Methodism to Episcopalianism.
In 1852 Enmegahbowh and Reverend James Lloyd Breck co-founded St. Columba Mission at Gull Lake and in 1859 he is ordained as a Deacon. In July 1868 Enmegahbowh and his family traveled to the newly formed White Earth Reservation where he soon erected a log Church of St. Columba in memory of the former one at Gull Lake.
Enmegahbowh was ordained as the first American Indian Episcopal priest in 1867 by Henry Whipple at the Cathedral Church in Faribault. He served the White Earth mission congregation for 44 years, frequently traveling with Whipple on his trips to the other Minnesota missions. Enmegahbowh spoke eloquently about Whipple following the bishop's death in 1901.
"I write the language of my sorrowful heart. I cannot say much at this time-my heart is too heavy. When I heard that our Bishop had died, I said, 'No, this cannot be!' I did not think our Bishop could die."
There are a number of varying accounts regarding Enmegahbowh's life.
En-me-gah-bowh's Story: An Account of the Disturbances of the Chippewa Indians at Gull Lake in 1857 and 1862 and their Removal in 1868, Woman's Auxiliary, Saint Barnabas Hospital, Minneapolis, Minn., 1904. (Reprinted in 1985 and 1994 by St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Brainerd)
'The Story of Enmegahbowh's Life,' Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate Being Reminiscences and Recollections of the Right Reverend Henry Benjamin Whipple, D.D., LL.D. Bishop of Minnesota, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899. pp. 497-510.
Enmegahbowh:Native and Christian, A paper on the First Native American Episcopal Priest, for a class on Native Americans and Christianity, by Margaret Lucie Thomas, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California, December 16, 1994.