Shoulderblade, Julia Yellow Horse (1913-1973)

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The ministry of Julia Shoulderblade, born 1 May 1913, bridged two cultures, Native American and white. Her mother, Rose Coal Bear from Lame Deer, Montana, came from a family with some prestige, as they were Keepers of the Sacred Hat, a bundle of sacred objects that had meaning in religious ceremonies of the Northern Cheyenne. Julia's father, John Yellow Horse, came from Birney, Montana.

Julia's father died when she was three. Her mother married Milton Whiteman, who became one of the two ministers that missionary Rodolphe Petter ordained among the Northern Cheyenne. Rose and Milton were strong spiritual leaders in the church, and Julia was always a part of the Christian community. In spite of objections from the church community, she married James Shoulderblade on 19 March 1946. After two years, James was converted and later called to the ministry by the church at Birney. Their children were Timothy, Wendaline Valdo, Mary Magdaline, and Titus.

Julia and James were among the first in Montana to sing openly the indigenous Cheyenne spiritual songs along with hymns taught by the missionaries. The use of these songs had been forbidden by the missionaries because they used Cheyenne tunes with words composed by the Cheyenne Christians. But the Shoulderblades introduced the songs as their way of saying what God meant to them. Recordings were made, and eventually the songs were included in a hymnbook Tsese-Ma'heone'Nemeototse, which was published in 1982.

Julia's gifts lay in her formal and informal participation in the work of the church. Especially appreciated was her ability to read Scripture in Cheyenne. She was one of the few Cheyenne Christians who could read fluently Rodolphe Petter's translations. Julia taught Sunday school to the older Cheyenne in their language and was active in home Bible study groups. She also visited in the homes of those who never attended church. Julia brought to the church the idea of caring for God's family with the old Cheyenne way of gift giving. She and the church women arranged showers for young mothers and brides, drawing into the circle those on the edge of the church community. They made comforters for themselves and for those who were sick or cold.

Ill health plagued Julia for much of her life. Diabetes, cancer, and arthritis sapped her energy. But even during the times she was bedridden, she was active in intercessory prayer. She died on 16 May 1973. At her memorial service in the Birney church, a group from Petter Memorial Church at Lame Deer sang hymns in Cheyenne, and a quartet of Cheyenne women from Birney Mennonite Church sang hymns in English. She had asked that the Cheyenne custom of burying the deceased's belongings with the body not be observed, as she would not need them in her next life. Julia bridged the two cultures, her Cheyenne past with its tradition of the spirit of the Sacred Hat and the Christian present with its faith in God.


Unrau, Ruth, ed. Encircled. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1986: 317-323.

Author(s) Ruth Unrau
Date Published 1989

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MLA style

Unrau, Ruth. "Shoulderblade, Julia Yellow Horse (1913-1973)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 24 Sep 2020.,_Julia_Yellow_Horse_(1913-1973)&oldid=77765.

APA style

Unrau, Ruth. (1989). Shoulderblade, Julia Yellow Horse (1913-1973). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 September 2020, from,_Julia_Yellow_Horse_(1913-1973)&oldid=77765.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 136. All rights reserved.

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