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Peace chief to receive Peace Pitcher at Charlotte 2005

   
 


Lawrence Hart will receive the Peace Pitcher from the Peace and Justice Support Network during the Charlotte 2005 assembly.

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Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Mission Network / PJSN joint release
June 14, 2005
-by Ryan Miller

Elkhart, Ind. — A Cheyenne peace chief dedicated to preserving the Cheyenne heritage will receive the Peace Pitcher during the Charlotte 2005 convention from the Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA.

PJSN leaders announced that Lawrence Hart, pastor of Koinonia Mennonite Church and executive director of the Cheyenne Cultural Center, both in Clinton, Okla., will receive the pitcher, which is presented every two years to recipients who have devoted their lives to peace and justice. The presentation will be at 6:45 p.m. July 8 in the South Carolina Hall of the Hilton Hotel.

Hart also has profile as a respected native leader in Canada, having most recently visited Manitoba for the North American Native Assembly held during the summer of 2004 in Riverton.

PJSN’s Leo Hartshorn, minister of peace and justice for Mennonite Mission Network, said Hart was an easy choice.

“PJSN is recognizing Lawrence for his preservation of history, culture and the tradition of peacekeeping,” Hartshorn said. “We chose Lawrence because of his long life of work as a Cheyenne leader and peace chief.”

Hart took the peace chief mantle, which requires living by and spreading the traditional Cheyenne philosophy of nonviolence, from his grandfather, who raised him for the first six years of his life. A former U.S. Marine fighter pilot, he left the military when he accepted the peace chief role – what he calls a 180-degree turnaround aided by a friend at Bethel College in Newton, Kan., who died while a missionary in the Congo. Hart said his friend's acceptance helped him grow into his role as a peace chief.

Hart said the peace chief tradition harkens back hundreds of years to a chief named Sweet Medicine, a cultural hero considered by the Cheyenne to be a prophet. Sweet Medicine instituted the council of 44 peace chiefs, leaders who committed to following Sweet Medicine's teachings.

"That was to be a peacemaker, no matter what the cost," Hart said. Peace chiefs would not take up arms, even in self-defense. "Felix Manz, Michael Sattler, Hans Hut. These Anabaptist martryrs are comparable to the peace chiefs who died violent deaths."

The son of Homer and Jennie Hart, long-time lay ministers among Mennonite clusters in Oklahoma, Hart since has helped to bring Native American peacemaking traditions in connection with Anabaptist traditions.

Hart has played a key role in Mennonite Central Committee’s “Return to the Earth” project, which recovers ancestral remains of Native American peoples that have been taken to museums and universities. Hart works to recover those remains and return them to their people for ceremonial burial. In 1993, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt appointed him to the National Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee.

He was instrumental in working to have land along the Washita River in Oklahoma designated as a national historical site and was a founding member of Mennonite Indian Leader’s Council, a predecessor organization of Native Mennonite Ministries. Hart also founded the Cheyenne Cultural Center.

PJSN has honored Hart before. The Cheyenne chief’s visage appears on one version of the network’s “Peace Takes Guts” T-shirts which honors men and women who have made peacemaking the focus of their lives. Other peacemakers on the shirt include the international women’s peace organization Women in Black, 16th-century Anabaptist martyr Maekyn Wens, Catholic priest and activist Philip Berrigan, Catholic, migrant worker advocate and non-violent activist Cesar Chavez and preacher, abolitionist, and women's suffragist Sojourner Truth.

Previous recipients of the ceramic pitcher, which is specially made by Goshen, Ind., potter Dick Lehman, include Atlee and Winifred Beechy, Marian and Delton Franz, Edgar and Ethel Yake Metzler and Gene Stoltzfus.