With Tears the Flatheads and Pend d’Oreilles Bade Farewell to Father De Smet

September 30, 2021

The season was then far advanced, and the missionary was obliged to start at once in order to reach St. Louis before the winter set in.

The Pend d’Oreille, were also known as the Kalispel. This is one of the Kalispel’s Log Cabins in Pend Oreille County, Washington.

“I decided to leave,” he tells us, “on August 27th [1840]. Early in the morning of that day seventeen warriors, the pick of the two tribes, came with three chiefs to my tent. The old men in council had selected these braves to act as my escort through the country of the Blackfeet and the Crows, the two tribes most at enmity with the white man. Long before sunrise all the Flatheads had assembled to say good-bye. No word was spoken, but sadness was written on every countenance. The only thing that consoled them was a formal promise to return the following spring, with a reinforcement of missionaries. Morning prayers were said amid the tears and sobs of the Indians, which drew tears from my own eyes, although I endeavored to control my emotions, trying to make them understand that my departure was imperative. I exhorted the tribe to serve the Great Spirit with fervor, and to avoid anything that might give scandal, dwelling once more upon the principal truths of our holy religion, and giving them, as spiritual chief, an intelligent Indian I had myself carefully instructed. He was to replace me during my absence. Night and morning and every Sunday they were to recite prayers in common, and he was to exhort them to the practice of virtue. I authorized my deputy, furthermore, to privately baptize the dying and infants in case of need. With one voice they promised to obey all my injunctions.

Angelic La Moose, whose grandfather was a Flathead chief.

“With tears in their eyes the Indians wished me a good and safe journey. Old Big Face arose and said:

“‘Black Robe! May the Great Spirit accompany you on your long and dangerous journey. Morning and night we will pray that you may safely reach your brothers in St. Louis, and we will continue to pray thus until you return to your children of the mountains. When the snows of winter will have disappeared from the valleys, and when the first green of spring begins to appear, our hearts, which now are so sad, will once more rejoice. As the meadow grass grows higher and higher, we will go forth to meet you. Farewell, Black Robe, farewell.’” (To Francis De Smet.)

E. Laveille, S.J., The Life of Father De Smet, S.J. (1801–1873), trans. Marian Lindsay (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1915), 112–3.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 797

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