Native American Evangelical Leader Dies After Suffering Heart Attack Before Nat'l Prayer Breakfast

The Christian community is currently mourning the death of Richard Twiss, CEO and founder of Wiconi International, a nonprofit organization which seeks to unify the country's evangelical community with the Native American community.

Twiss, 58, died on Saturday, Feb. 9 after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday, Feb. 6 prior to attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

As Wiconi International posted on its Facebook page, Twiss "passed into the eternal kingdom of the Creator as he took up the journey of life on the other side, to be with the Lord whom he loved and served so diligently on this side of life."

"Richard walked the good road with Jesus from 1974, and continues his walk now on the other side of life," the memorial Facebook post continued.

"In the final hours of Richard's journey on this side, he was surrounded by his wife Katherine, his four sons, Andrew, Phillip, Ian and Daniel, along with close friends who sang, prayed, laughed and reminisced together about his impact in life among them, and within the wider kingdom of his Creator," the post concluded.

Twiss, a Native American whose original name, "Taoyate Obnajin," meant "stand with the people," converted to Christianity in 1974 and founded the nonprofit organization Wiconi International in 1997.

The mission of Twiss's nonprofit organization is to "work for the well-being of our Native people by advancing cultural formation, indigenous education, spiritual awareness and social justice connected to the teachings and life of Jesus, through an indigenous worldview framework."

Several Christian and Native American leaders have expressed their appreciation for Twiss and their condolences to his surviving family, including his wife and four sons.

"This is an incredible loss to his family but it is also an incredible loss to all indigenous people who are struggling for identity within the context of their own cultures while holding firm to the Christian faith," Tony Campolo, founder of the Red Letter Christians movement and friend of Twiss, stated on the RLC website.

Additionally, the Rev. Mike Peters, a friend of Twiss and founder of the Four Fires Ministries, which seeks to bridge the gap between Native Americans and mainstream American culture, also said of Twiss on the Native News Network:

"Richard was a man of integrity and respected the world over. He followed his vision in spite of hardship and adversity and was a spokesperson for all indigenous cultures. He will never be replaced but we will move forward with that same vision."

Twiss, who spent the majority of his time in both Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., has been praised for his efforts in helping Native American youth to feel more accepted by mainstream American society.

Although an official date has not been set for Twiss' funeral, the Wiconi International Facebook page says that a memorial service will tentatively take place in Portland in early March 2013.