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US: Jim Elliot plaque is reworded to remove references to ‘savages’

May 2021 | by Evangelical Times

Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts college in Illinois, is revising wording on a plaque commemorating the deaths of the five missionaries killed in Ecuador in 1956.

The plaque, which hung in the foyer of the college’s main chapel for 64 years, had been donated by the class of 1949.

According to a letter from college president Philip Ryken, the plaque was removed because it referred to the indigenous tribes as ‘savages’.

The tribe whom Wheaton alumni Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and others sought to reach for Christ were the Huaorani, sometimes known as the ‘Auca’, which is the Quichua word for ‘savage’. During an attempted encounter with a group of Huaorani, all five missionaries were speared to death.

The plaque was hung as a memorial at Wheaton, but according to reports, a dozen students and staff had expressed concerns about the wording. President Ryken said the use of the word ‘savages’ in the original wording needs to be revisited.

As reported in The Intelligencer, his letter said, ‘The word “savage” is regarded as pejorative and has been used historically to dehumanise and mistreat indigenous peoples around the world.’