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Carrie Sahmaunt, oldest Kiowa Indian, dies at 101

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Carrie Sahmaunt recounts some of her life's story in this 2001 file photograph.

Jan. 18, 2006

By United Methodist News Service

Carrie Sahmaunt, who was the oldest living member of the Kiowa Indian Tribe, died Jan. 15 at the age of 101 at her home in Meers, Okla.

The funeral service was scheduled for Jan. 18 at Mt. Scott Kiowa United Methodist Church, near Lawton, Okla., with burial in the Mt. Scott Inter-Tribal Cemetery. The church was built in 1895 by her family and is often referred to as the mother church of the Kiowas. Her parents, the Quoetones, and husband’s family, the Sahmaunts, were charter members. Today, Mt. Scott Kiowa United Methodist Church is an official United Methodist historical site.

Sahmaunt’s Kiowa name was Tsat-Mah, which means “Door Woman.” She was born Aug. 20, 1904, in Carnegie, Okla., during a Sun Dance being held north of town. It was when she was forced by the U.S. government to attend the Rainy Mountain Boarding School with other Kiowa children that she received her English name, “Carrie.”

All Native American children were given English names and would be punished if they were caught speaking their language. Despite that, Sahmaunt was among a few Kiowas who still spoke the language.

Sahmaunt was one of three Kiowas who received a 160-acre land allotment from the federal government almost 100 years ago. In addition to being a full-blood member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, she was a women’s leader in the United Methodist Church.

“The conference lost another legacy in the passing of Carrie Sahmaunt,” said the Rev. David Wilson, superintendent of the United Methodist Church’s Oklahoma Indian Missionary (regional) Conference.

“She was a living testimony and inspiration to Native and non-Native people across the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and the state of Oklahoma,” Wilson said. “She will be missed, but I am comforted to know that so many of her children and grandchildren continue to live what she taught and lived through her belief in Christ. She not only taught what she believed, but she lived it.”

When she turned 100 years old in 2004, more than 400 people from several tribes and groups across the country and the state of Oklahoma gathered for the birthday. She received a birthday card from President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, as well as a proclamation from the Oklahoma governor, Brad Henry, in her honor.

According to Jacob Tsotigh, a member of Norman (Okla.) First American United Methodist Church, Sahmaunt influenced the lives of countless American Indian people with whom she came in contact.

He also said her parents were leaders of Mt. Scott Kiowa United Methodist Church, and she remained an integral part of the congregation.

Sahmaunt was a strong believer in education and made sure that all of her 10 children and a nephew furthered their education beyond high school. In 1976, she was named the “Merit Mother of the Year” for the state of Oklahoma, and in 1988, the Oklahoma Council for Indian Education named her “Indian Education Parent of the Year.” She was the first president of the former West District Women’s Society of Christian Service in the United Methodist Church’s former Indian Mission. She also was a staunch advocate for United Methodist Women, and monthly UMW meetings were held at her home so that she could participate.

“The passing of two of her daughters and one granddaughter in the last couple of years weighed heavy on her heart in recent weeks,” Tsotigh said in an e-mail. “She was surely ready to meet her reward through a lifetime of service and dedication to her people, God’s people, that reached across cultural boundaries and social status to reflect the genuine presence of God’s love to those with whom she served. May God bless her legacy and memory.”

Married to the late Joel Sahmaunt, she is survived by eight children, 23 grandchildren, 41 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference