Big Face, the Great Chief of the Flatheads, Brought His People to the Faith Through Good Example

May 27, 2021

St. Ignatius Mission, Flathead Reservation

In the spring of 1842 a succession of touching feasts took place. The Rocky Mountains witnessed for the first time the month of May devotions, the celebration of the feast of the Sacred Heart, and the procession of the Blessed Sacrament. The fervor of the Indians was such that numbers were permitted to receive Holy Communion frequently. “There are entire families,” writes Father De Smet, “who approach the holy table every Sunday. Often we hear twenty consecutive confessions without finding matter for absolution.”

The old chief Big Face was no longer witness of these wonders. He died during that same winter, after having, at ninety years of age, made his First Communion.

“Have you no sins to repent of since your baptism?” asked the missionary.

“Sins?” he replied, astounded. “How could I commit sins when it is my duty to teach others to live well?”

He was buried wrapped in the flag he waved every Sunday to announce the Lord’s Day. He also could chant his Nunc Dimittis, for he had lived to see his tribe a Christian people, practicing, in the heart of the desert, the highest Christian virtues.

Laveille, S.J., The Life of Father De Smet, S.J. (1801–1873), trans. Marian Lindsay (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1915), 135.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 779


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