Indian and White
In the History of the Northwest
By Holice and Pam
Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this book. The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers! Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!
Strangely enough, in our first edition the names of Peter Gaucher and Young Ignace were appended to the following illustration. The two Indians, whose likeness appear here, were met by Geo. Catlin in 1832, and as we learn from Catlin himself that they w then on the homeward journey from St. Louis to their own country in the Rocky Mountains. They were the survivors of a deputation of four, two members of which died shortly after they had arrived in St. Louis. Now, Peter Gaucher and Young Ignace did not go to St. Louis until 1839, and were not apart of any deputation of four, but constituted a special deputation themselves, consisting of two menders. It is therefore evident that they cannot be the Indians met by Catlin.
However, the mistake has proven o service, as the sequel will show. The pictures in the cut are even more important for our purposes then if they were those of Peter Gaucher and Young Ignace.
According to Catlin's statement, his two braves were a part of a delegation, the remaining two of which had died in St. Louis. As this statement is in perfect accord with Bishop Rosati's, who also speaks of a deputation of four, two of whom died in St. Louis, we must conclude that both Catlin and Bishop Rosati speak of the same Indians and the same delegation. But it is unquestionable that the deputation of which Bishop Rosati speaks in his two letters is that of the Flat Heads in 1831. Therefore the Indians spoken of by Catlin must have belonged to the same deputation. Consequently the two he met and painted from life and whose likeness appear in the cut before us were two of the four Indians sent to St. Louis by the Flat Heads in 1831.
Still, it has been alleged that Catlin's two Indians did not belong to any flat Head deputation, but to one sent by the Nez Percés. But these very pictures provide us with an argument to disprove such an assertion.
There is no record of any other Indian deputation with the same object in view from the Rocky Mountains to St. Louis, previous to the one of 1831, the first Flat Head expedition.
Therefore, if Catlin's two Indians did not belong to that expedition, to what one did they belong? Not to any of those that followed, because all of these went forth at dates subsequent to the meeting with Catlin. Therefore, on his won testimony that his two braves were really a part of the deputation he speaks of, it becomes evident that they belonged to the one which our Flat Heads sent out in 1831, and any assumption to the contrary must be dismissed as contradicted by the pictures before our eyes.
True, Catlin makes his two Indians Nez Percés, and another of their companions, Keepeellelé, one of the two who died in St. Louis, seems to have been of the same tribe, according to the record of his burial given above. Three, then, of the four would have been Nez Percés. Is not this sufficient evidence against the Flat Heads claims?
We must admit that the objection is not without plausibility. But it runs counter to facts, and therefore, how plausible so ever, and specious it may appear at first sight, it is not, and cannot be tenable.
What are the facts? We have already narrated them as they were learned by our missionaries from the lips of the Indians themselves. An it be that in the interval of not more then ten years between their first endeavors to obtain Black robes and the arrival of the Fathers among them, and in the matter that absorbed their whole attention, the Indians lost their memories? Or can it be seriously thought that these simple-minded children of the forest would attempt to impose upon and deceive others, in order o gain credit for themselves, as the authors of events in which they had no share?
The evidence that gives the Flat Heads the merit of that first expedition appears to the writer so convincing as to preclude the possibility of doubt. At the time of our writing, in this year of grace 1910, the whole story in its substance can still be learned from the lips of Francis Saxá on of the two lads whom their Father, Old Ignace, took with him to St. Louis in 1835. Historically, nothing can be more certain than that the delegation which reached St. Louis in the fall of 1831 was sent out by our flat Heads.
But if so, it will be asked, how comes it that the same delegation is assigned by some to the Nez Percés? The reason for
this assertion is to be found, first, in the fact that the relation of the two tribes to each other was not well known, and secondly, ina prejudice which had so little to do with obscuring the truth.
It must be well understood that, though they are two different nations; one, east; the other, west of the butter root Mountains, each with it own language, chiefs, customs, etc., still, comparatively nearness, common interest and common dangers brought and kept Flat Heads and Nez Percés in the closest relations. Members of one tribe could always be found mingling with those of the other. This naturally led to occasional inter-marriages. There were, besides, a few others, five or six Nez Percés by blood, who lived with the Flat Heads, as if they were members of the tribe. It is known that two of these were in the deputation that went to St. Louis in 1831.
Under such conditions of mixed parentage and constant intercourse, not a few of these people must have been more or less familiar with the language and customs of both tribes, and could easily be taken by strangers for either Flat Heads or Nez Percés. This is known to have occurred when they were trading at the forts, or fell in with other Indians.
It is important, however, to bear in mind that it was far more likely that Flat Heads should pass for Nez Percés than the Nez Percés for Flat Heads. Why so? For the simple reason that the Nez Percés were a much larger and more influential community, were more widely and better known. Besides, the Nez Percés lived in a country easy to access; whereas our Flat Heads dwelt in the very heart of the Rocky Mountains and numbered only a few hundred.
We find a confirmation of this truth in the fact that Lewis and Clark in the account of their travels have much to say of the Nez Percés, while they seem not to have known so much as the name of the Flat Heads. This is the more singular, because the Ootlastshoots of whom they speak, and with whom they treated and traded, as their diary leaves no room to doubt, could be no others than our Flat Heads.
This fact must also be remembered when we are told that
the four Indians in question, on visiting General Clark in St. Louis were spoken of by him as Nez Percés.
This visit is a matter of history, and is mentioned, as we have seen, by Bishop Rosati. The General had been in their country and most likely they had all head of him and perhaps some of them had met him personally. What was more natural than that they should call on him?
Some non-Catholic writers have not ceased to refer to this visit as convincing proof of their contention that the original deputation of Indians was not made up of Flat Heads, because, forsooth, General Clark had referred to them as Nez Percés!
The General had been among both Flat Heads and Nez Percés. But whilst he tarried only a few days in the country of the former, he spent several months among the latter. He did not even learn the true name of the Flat Heads or Selish; moreover, since they lived close to the Nez Percés, how easy for him to confound one tribe with the other and designate both by the name of the better known?
What has been said of the Lewis and Clark expedition applies also to Geo. Catlin, who seems to have known as little or nothing of the Flat heads. True, in his Letters and Notes, etc., Catlin speaks of Flat heads, but he uses the work ina general sense, that is, to signify all the tribes supposed to have practiced, at one time or another, the barbarous custom of flattening the head. But we have failed to discover in his whole work the faintest allusion to our Flat Heads of the Bitter Root Valley.
With all this before us, we can easily understand how people unacquainted with the facts could be misled into ascribing the deputation to the wrong parties. The more so, that prejudice was not wanting to befog the truth, as will appear directly.
It seems certain that the Nez Percés had even at that period some knowledge of Christianity, received from Catholic sources, i.e.. s., from French Canadians in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company. For it is well known that many of the company's employees, all over this western country, were Canadian Catholics, and that several of them were zealous in sowing the seeds of Catholicity among the Indians with whom they came in contact. Peter C. Pambrun, in charge at Fort Walla Walla
in the early thirties, a devout Catholic, may be mentioned as one of those lay missionaries who did much toward introducing and fostering the teachings of Catholicism among the natives along the Columbia.
That the Nez Percés, in particular, had received their first notions of Christianity from French Canadians in the employ of the Hudson Bay company, is the explicit statement made some forty years ago to Father J. M. Cataldo, S. J., by Oo-yás-kas-it, an old chief of the tribe. Moreover, the intermingling with the Flat Heads and their adopted brethren, the Iroquois, must have made them somewhat acquainted with Christian teaching.
The Nez Percés, too, were desirous of having missionaries among them, and as that desire arose from what they had learned from Catholic people, we may be certain that the teachers or missionaries they first wanted were priests or Black Robes. Hence, there is good reason to assume that the deputation of 1831, though organized by the Flat Heads, carried with it the request for missionaries of at least some Nez Percés, if not of the whole tribe. The fact that there were in the delegation two who were at east partly Nez Percés would seem to strengthen this belief.
However, the Black Robe was long in coming. Meanwhile, Methodists and Presbyterians arrived upon the field, and offered their services to both the Flat Heads and Nez Percés. The later received them, but not so the former, who remained unshaken in their determination to have non but Catholic missionaries.
The Nez Percés were drawn into Protestantism by men who went out to them because of the call for priests which had gone forth from the Flat Heads; an appeal for missionaries that was probably the fist of its kind in the history of Christianity. It created quite a stir all over the United States, as well as throughout Europe. The Protestant sects were not slow to profit by it.
Yet that appeal was distinctively Catholic both in origin and in aim; priests, not preachers, were wanted by the Indians. But some have not been willing to admit this fact, because rather disparaging to them and their cause. Therefore, the timely discovery was made that that "the claims to the first missionary
efforts in the Northwest country made by the Flat Heads were unfounded." And the counter claim, which gives the credit of the expedition to the Nez Percés, was propagated by tongue and pen, from pulpit and bench.
Geo. Catlin gives the names of his two Indians as, Hee- oh'ks-te-kin' (Rabbit-skin-leggings); and H'co-a-h'cotes-min (No-horns on his head). Father J. M. Cataldo, who spent a number of years among the Nez Percés and has become thoroughly familiar with their tongue, declares the names to be "corrupt Nez Percés language." Though the corruption might be due to some other cause, such as misspelling, misprint, and the like, may it not be also an indication that Catlin's two braves were not, after all full-fledged Nez Percés?
With still greater reason, the same might be thought of Keepeellelé, the record of whose burial makes him both Flat Head and Nez Percés. How could he be both? As easily and as truly as the writer is both an American by choice and more than half a century's residence in this country.
Therefore, even admitting that not only two, but all four in the band were Nez Percés by birth, which, however, was not the case, it would not follow that the deputation had not been sent out by our Flat Heads. For whatever their extraction, the moment that they had become identified with the tribe, they could well be looked upon as Flat Heads. So much for the controversy, and now let us get back to our narrative.
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