Petter, Rodolphe Charles (1865-1947)

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Petter family living in a tent cabin near Fonda, Oklahoma, while church was being built;
L-R: Marie Petter, Rodolphe Petter, ? (standing), Chief Mower, ?, ?, Valdo Petter, daughter of Mower, daughter of Mower, ?, ?.
Source Mennonite Library and Archives. Photo 2003-0280

Rodolphe Charles Petter: a missionary (General Conference Mennonite [GCM]) to the Cheyenne Native Americans in Oklahoma and Montana; was born 19 February 1865, at Vevey on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, the son of Louis Petter. He attended the local and other schools and the Basel Missionsschule (1883-89). While in military train­ing he became acquainted with a Mennonite, Sam­uel Gerber, visited the Jura Mountain Mennonites, and heard about the mission interest of the Men­nonites in America. J. A. Sprunger of Berne, Indiana, who was on a tour of the Swiss Mennonite churches, suggested that he consider work among Native Americans. On 14 May 1890, he married Marie Gerber. On 7 August they landed in New York to become missionaries to the Cheyenne under the mission board of the General Con­ference Mennonite Church. They spent the year 1890-91 at Oberlin College, Ohio, and in 1891 began their work at Cantonment, Oklahoma. After his first wife's death he married Bertha Elise Kinsinger of Trenton, Ohio, 28 November 1911, who was also a mis­sionary to the Cheyenne.  In 1916 the Petters took over the Cheyenne mission field at Lame Deer, Montana, where they were active until his death on 6 January 1947.

Petter was one of the most outstanding mission­aries and linguists working among Native Americans. He created a dictionary of the Cheyenne language (see bibliography), reduced the Chey­enne language to writing, produced a grammar, and translated Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, portions of the Old Testament, and the entire New Testament. He became a nationally known ethnologist, and his numerous works are found in all leading libraries in this field. His reports about his mission work were published primarily in Christlicher Bundesbote and The Mennonite. The Rodolphe Petter Collection is on display in the Bethel College Historical Library.


Books by Petter

Petter, Rodolphe.  Assetosemeheo heamoxovistavatoz no hosz Maheoneeszistotoz = “The Pilgrim's Progress” and Some Bible Portions. Cantonment, OK: Printed for the Interest of the Mennonite Mission Among the Cheyenne Indians, 1904. 264 pp.

Petter, Rodolphe. Cheyenne Grammar. Newton, Kansas: Mennonite Publication Office, 1952. 70 pp.

Petter, Rodolphe. English-Cheyenne Dictionary: Printed entirely in the interest of the Mennonite Mission among the Cheyenne Indians of Oklahoma and Montana. Kettle Falls, Washington: The Mennonite Mission among the Cheyenne Indians of Oklahoma and Montana, 1915. 1126 pp.  Web version:

Petter, Rodolphe. Hosz Maheo Heeszistoz: Portions of the Old and the New Testaments, translated and arranged by Rodolphe Petter. Cantonment, OK: Mennonite Mission, 1913. 145 pp.

Petter, Rudolphe.  Maheo Henitae-Histanovestoz: Zeoxtoese-Hesetovaomohettoz Vovoe-Histanova na Maheonoxtoenoe-Manhastova = The kingdom of God: in its development from the creation down thru the history of Israel: Literal and Paraphrastic Translations from the Old Testament Together with Their New Testament Connections. Lame Deer: R. Petter,1926. 282 pp.

Petter, Rudolphe.  Nivova-Pavhosto = The Four Gospels, translated by Ro­dolphe Petter. Lame Deer, 1928: 273 pp.

Petter, Rudolphe.  Pavhosto--the Gospels of Luke and John / translated from the original text by Rudolphe Petter.  Cantonment, OK: R. Petter, 1912.  295 pp.

Petter, Rudolphe.  Zemona hoemao maheon-hoestomohestova. Zeēnano ninitaehaman na nivostanevstomanehaman Jesus Maheonxostaanasz. (The New Testament in Cheyenne). / Trans. by Rev. Rodolphe Petter, from the Greek, with careful comparison with the Latin Vulgate, and other versions.  New York: American Bible Society, 1934. 666 pp.

Petter, Rodolphe. Zesenemeoxtox: Cheyenne Songs. Kettle Falls, WA: Mennonite Mission, 1916. At least seven editions. pp. 40.

Petter, Rodolphe.  Zistxuistō, or, Cheyenne reading book. Quakertown, Pa.: U.S. Stauffer, printer, 1895. 36 pp.

Petter, Rodolphe Charles and Petter, Bertha Elise Kinsinger. Einiges aus meinen Missionserfahrungen in den vergangenen Jahren. [Lame Deer, Mont.: R.C. Petter], [1936?]. 72 pp.

Petter, Rodolphe Charles and Petter, Bertha Elise Kinsinger. Reminiscences of past years in mission service among the Cheyenne. [s.l.: s.n., n.d.]. 79 pp.

Books and Articles About Petter

Petter, Mrs. Rodolphe. "Kurze Lebensgeschichte Dr. Rodolphe Charles Petter." Christlicher Bundesbote (April 1, 1947): 10.

Petter, Rodolphe Charles. "How I Became a Missionary." Men­nonite Life X (January 1955): 4-13.

"Nachruf des Dr. Rodolphe Petter, Apostel der Cheyennen Indianer." in Bundesbote Kalender (1947): 1-32.

Unruh, D. J. "Ro­dolphe Petter, Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord." The Mennonite (January 1947): 5.

Who's Who Among the Mennonites (1943): 191.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Petter, Rodolphe Charles (1865-1947)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 22 May 2024.,_Rodolphe_Charles_(1865-1947)&oldid=175681.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). Petter, Rodolphe Charles (1865-1947). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2024, from,_Rodolphe_Charles_(1865-1947)&oldid=175681.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 155-156. All rights reserved.

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