Westmont Magazine Return to the Rez

After a career as a microbiology/cell biology professor at CSU Northridge, Tacheeni Scott ’66 has returned to his roots. A full-blooded Navajo raised on the reservation in Arizona, he has founded Dineh Bible Ministries (DBM) to train biblically qualified elders for reservation churches. Tacheeni prefers to call his people by their original name: Dineh, “The People.” “Red Streak into the Water” is his clan name.

A partial retirement allows Tacheeni and his wife, Debbie Bridwell Scott ’70, to devote more time to the new ministry.

Tacheeni served for several years on an advisory board for Flagstaff Mission to the Navajos because his mother was their first convert in 1948; he came to faith in 1953. When the general director resigned in 2001, the governing board asked Tacheeni to assume the directorship. As the first Dineh general director, Tacheeni soon learned that the mostly non-Dineh board did not share his long-term vision for doing ministry among his people. He decided to resign.

Tacheeni then turned to AmeriTribes, formerly Navajo Gospel Mission. Now focused on Mexico, Ameritribes owns a Flagstaff conference center under-utilized by Dineh Christians. Tacheeni wrote the organization and asked to use the facility for a new ministry.

Dr. John Tebay, long-time AmeriTribes board member and senior pastor at Calvary Church of Placentia, Calif., met with Tacheeni and said AmeriTribes had been praying for a vision for the Flagstaff property. “You are the answer to our prayers,” he told Tacheeni.

In May, AmeriTribes officially formed Dineh Bible Ministries as a subsidiary of their organization. This arrangement, intended to be temporary and short-term, gives DBM a good start.

The Scotts have asked six couples (including the three most respected Dineh pastors) to join them in training elders for Dineh churches. Before beginning this work, they will all receive training to be the kind of elders described in I Timothy 3 and Titus.

“Accountability is a key to training elders,” Tacheeni says. “As accountability is unheard of on Indian Reservations, we will teach our people how to serve and grow under authority as the Bible teaches.”

Tacheeni says he needs to learn this lesson himself. “As a scientist in my own lab, I was in total control of everything: test tubes, media, students, etc. But in ministry, it is very different.”

The Scotts will work with the First American Indian Bible Church in Los Angeles, which lacks a pastor. The congregation includes long-time friends of the Scotts. Tacheeni may serve as interim pastor in 2004 after his training is complete. He will encourage church members to join the efforts of DBM back home on the Rez.

At one time, missionaries founded churches on the reservation, but as mission boards withdrew, they left abandoned buildings behind because they never trained biblically qualified elders. Tacheeni plans to work with existing Dineh churches and reopen others.

With a background in children’s and women’s ministries, Debbie will continue this outreach in Dineh churches. Arizona Child Evangelism Fellowship has assigned a couple to work with DBM.

By training Dineh elders, Tacheeni hopes to change the continuing perception that Christianity is a white religion. With the decline of the Dineh religion, alcoholism and the use of Peyote have increased. “The old religion is gone, so there is no way to deal with family concerns and disagreements and bring about unity,” Tacheeni says. “In the void, our Dineh people have turned to Peyote, which was never part of the traditional religion. The Peyote religion, which uses an hallucinogenic drug, calls itself the Native American Church (NAC). Satan is sneaky and is responsible for using the name of Jesus and the term ‘church’ to fool the people who pray to ‘Lord Peyote.’”

Tacheeni welcomes individuals and churches who would like to partner with DBM to train elders. Eventually, he would like to see established churches on the Rez partnering with other tribes to serve unreached urban Indians. “Los Angeles has the most urban Indians in the United States — and a greater population than most reservations today,” he says.