CHIEF’s Beginnings

CHIEF began in March of 1975, when Tom Claus called together more than 100 Christian Native leaders, from different areas of the hemisphere, who represented mission agencies, denominations, schools, colleges, tribes and government agencies to participate in the Conference on Christian Indian Leadership and Evangelism held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Delegates came from the Arctic villages of Canada, from the reservations across the U.S. and even from the jungles of Central and South America.

During this three day conference participants gathered together to pray for and discuss the spiritual, physical and social needs of Native peoples and to develop a course of action to help meet those needs.

The following were the primary objectives recommended by the delegation:

  1. Development of a strong and growing lay leadership with the tribal communities.

  2. Providing fellowship for evangelical Native American Christians, and a strong Native voice to the whole church on issues which concern the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

  3. Conducting an international Native congress on evangelism and Christian leadership with Indian pastors, evangelists and Christian educators from the entire western hemisphere.

  4. Encouraging more qualified Indian young people to go on to higher education as a preparation for Christian service.

  5. Creating pride in their Native identity and in the Native ability and leadership potential.

  6. Acquainting the church at large with those programs and organizations that were making a distinctive evangelical contribution to Native communities and churches in order to mobilize the church to a greater degree toward effective evangelism.


By the end of the conference, the consensus of the delegates was to target and respond to the areas of greatest need. First, to disciple and develop a strong leadership for the continued growth of the indigenous church. Then, to encourage the local churches to send out their own people to evangelize every tribe and nation.

With this mandate and vision, CHIEF was formed and organized by the conference delegates. For more than 42 years, CHIEF has provided discipleship training, evangelism outreach and practical helps to approximately 300 tribes in the Americas and in Mongolia.