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Teaching the old way; Pastor brings Native Descendants Church to Chico

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, August 11, 2018
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Faith and Heritage

FAITH AND HERITAGE – Ron Teel stands in front of the Native Descendants Circle Church, located at 300 W. Decatur St., in Chico. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A Cherokee with blue eyes, a ponytail and a well-used Bible walked into Chico, on Thursday, realizing a dream.

Within a circle of pews, Ron Teel, adjusts kindling wood, where a congregation will gather inside a traditional Christian church building, set up to honor the traditions of Native Americans.

UNITING WORLDS – The Native Descendants Circle Church will unite native practices with Christian teachings. Ron Teel, the pastor of the church, said those of all denominations, tribes and nationalities are welcome. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Circles are big in Teel’s culture, as are the four directions, otherwise known as a cross.

“It’s all about balance,” he said. “But we teach the same things. We’re a Christian church.”

Teel, a Cherokee with roots from Tahlequah, Okla., has ridden his motorcycle along a spiritual journey that’s taken him to the Gulf, Central Mexico and now, Chico, of all places, where he will open a church.

During his childhood in Crafton, Teel said his father, Horace Teel, taught him the ways of the Cherokee as well as the gospel.

“He showed me how to fish and hunt like the Cherokee,” Teel said.

Horace was a pastor and school teacher in Crafton and Bridgeport in the ’50s and ’60s. Teel said Horace was also a chaplain for the Lost Battalion during World War II as well.

After two tours in Vietnam and attending seminary, Ron Teel followed his father’s footsteps, ministering through prisons and mission trips before eventually coming back to Wise County.

Over the years, Teel has come to understand his roots and his people. He’s fought for their rights to worship in prisons as a minister. They would pass around the air pipe, using vivid imagination to honor the traditional ways in basements of prisons since they were banned from using the chapel. There, he gave native descendants a chance to get in touch with their roots.

Restored from Within

RESTORED FROM WITHIN – The Native Descendants Circle Church building, built in 1896, was restored recently by Mike Smith with the assistance of Terry Young. Ron Teel said the church is a Christian church for people with some native heritage. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Starting Aug. 26, Teel will smudge Wise County residents’ foreheads to cleanse their spirits before administering a traditional native service amid a circle of pews, passing around the sacred pipe, filled with kinnickinnic or tobacco, at the Native Descendants Circle Church in Chico, 300 W. Decatur St.

Teel remembers hearing the church bells of his future church ring as a kid. But he never envisioned God or ‘Grandfather’ would bring him back here.

“I remember hearing the bells, the bells have been silent, but they called me back,” he said. “I am overwhelmed with the privilege God has given to me, to be able to ring that same bell 66 years later.”

The church has been dilapidated for years. Mike Smith and contractor Terry Young recently restored the church. He came back to his childhood home in Crafton this year and stumbled upon the church building. Then everything came together.

“Grandfather has held this building all these years to reopen it now,” Teel said. “It’s the right time, not because of me. Chico needs this; this area needs this church.”

Every second and fourth Sunday starting Aug. 26, Teel plans to cleanse peoples’ spirits while teaching them about the Trinity and his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“People will come to this church that wouldn’t go to another church otherwise,” Teel said. “I can reach people here. Not just native descendants but people in search of faith.”

Ministering comes natural to Teel. He knows he can connect with different people, from bikers to the straight-laced.

“We welcome everyone,” Teel said.

One Response to “Teaching the old way; Pastor brings Native Descendants Church to Chico”

  1. Carolyn Peet says:

    This is beautiful. And the church is beautiful. Bless you for doing this in His Name.

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