Nate Saint (Nathanael Saint)

Nate Saint

Nate Saint (August 30, 1923 – January 8, 1956) was an evangelical Christian missionary pilot to Ecuador who, along with four others, was killed while attempting to evangelize the Huaorani people through efforts known as Operation Auca. Nate Saint was born in 1923. When he was seven he took his first plane ride with his brother Sam, who would eventually become a commercial pilot for American Airlines. While in the airplane he discovered a love of flying. His family was somewhat unusual. His brothers made a sleeping patio on the roof of their home, and his dad built a roller coaster in the backyard. When he joined the army he was stationed in Las Vegas NV, but was transferred to several other locations over the years. A leg injury from a sledding accident caused him some problems while he was in the army. About a year before he was discharged, he almost died while climbing a mountain in Yosemite National Park. After that incident he learned to live life to the fullest.

In September 1955, Nate Saint was joined by his teammates, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian. Saint finally found a [Huaorani also known as Aucas] settlement while searching by air. To reach the tribe, Saint and the team lowered gifts to the Huaorani in a bucket tied to the plane. The Huaorani were widely feared by other Ecuadoreans, because they combined a desire to be left alone with a willingness to use force. They attacked and killed any intruders without provocation. Nevertheless, the tribe was excited on receiving the gifts and gave some gifts back. Finally, the missionaries decided to try to meet the Huaorani on the ground; and, on January 3, 1956, using the beach as a landing strip, they set up camp four miles from the Huaorani settlement. Their initial contact was encouraging; however, on Sunday, January 8, 1956, the entire team was killed on the beach (known as “Palm Beach”) when armed Huaorani met and speared them. Nate Saint and the other four men became famous worldwide as a result. Life magazine published a 10-page photo essay on the story, which was also covered in Reader’s Digest and many other publications. Today, a small school for missionary children in Shell, Ecuador, bears Nate Saint’s name.

Rachel Saint, Nate’s sister, continued the mission efforts to the Huaorani, which eventually came to fruition. This resulted in many of these natives becoming Christians, including those who had killed Saint. In 1966, Marjorie (Marj) Farris Saint married Abe Van Der Puy, President of HCJB World Radio. Abe died in 2003, and Marj died in 2004, from cancer. She is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, south of Ocala, Florida. Nate’s older son, Steve Saint, spent time as a child visiting his missionary family members and friends and getting to know the Huaorani. Steve was baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ by Mincaye, who was the very man who killed his father but later converted to Christ. Steve Saint now works with the Huaorani people and travels around the world, preaching the gospel, often accompanied by Mincaye. A documentary based on the story, Through the Gates of Splendor, was released in 2005. The following year, a feature film, End of the Spear, was released on January 20, a week and a half after the 50-year anniversary of the killings. Steve Saint also helped write Jungle Pilot, based on his father’s diary about his time in Ecuador and work with the Huaorani Indians.

More Images

  • 003449a-HQ-PDND-Personnel-NateSaint -

  • Nate_Saint -


  • August, 30, 1923
  • USA
  • Hershey, Pennsylvania


  • January, 08, 1956
  • Curaray River, Ecuador

Cause of Death

  • spearing


  • Remains buried along the Curaray River, Quito, Ecuador

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