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!
OTHER EXPEDITIONS SENT FORTH BY THE FLAT HEADS
The Protestant expedition that had passed through their land in 1834, and still more, the report made by Insulá and his party upon their return from Green River in the summer of 1835, convinced the Flat Heads that their first deputation had failed. They were greatly disappointed, but not discouraged. On the contrary, their very disappointment seemed to increase rather than diminish their yearning for the true Black Robe. Hence, another expedition was resolved upon shortly after Insulá'a return.
It was Old Ignace himself this time who offered to go, and we are inclined to believe that the news brought to the tribe by the Green River band, prompted his resolution and hastened his departure, in order, perhaps, to forestall the intrusion of non-Catholic teachers among the Flat Heads.
He left late in the summer of 1835, and took with him his two sons, Charles and Francis, lads between twelve and fourteen years of age, for the purpose of having them solemnly baptized, and perhaps also confirmed, though of this latter we have no direct evidence. Old Ignace started with the intention of going to Canada, the place of his birth, where he thought he could more easily obtain missionaries, this being, as just said, the principal purpose of his long journey. Learning, however, that there were Jesuit Fathers in St. Louis, he turned his steps in that direction and reached the place late in the fall, after many privations and sufferings.
His two sons were baptized by one of the Fathers at the college on the eve of the feat of St. Francis Xavier, December 2, 1835, according to the record of their baptism, for a copy of which we are indebted to Father Thos. Sherman. The record is as follows: "1835 2 Decembris Carolus & Franciscus
Xaverius Ignati Partus Indiant ex vulgo Flat Heads solemniter baptizati fuerunt."
Ignace pleased the cause of the Flat Heads with Bishop Rosati; and with the latter's assurance that missionaries would be sent to them as soon as possible, he left with his two sons and safely returned to the mountains.
His son Francis is still living and has been a personal friend of the writer for very many years; and perhaps in the whole of Missoula County there is not a man more respected by white and India than François Saxá, the name by which he is known.
Eighteen months having passed after Old Ignace's return, and no tidings of any Black Robes being on the way, a third expedition went forth in the summer of 1837. This third delegation consisted of three Flat Heads proper, one Nez Percés and Old Ignace himself, the leader of the party, five in all. At or near Fort Laramie, our little band was joined by some whites, one of the number being W. H. Gray, whom we have already met in company with the Rev. Mr. Spalding and Dr. Whitman.
W. H. Gray was going back to the States from the Presbyterian mission on the Columbia, the object of his present journey being to secure assistants for the establishment of a Presbyterian mission among the Flat Heads. In furtherance of his plan he purposely passed through the Bitter Root Valley, the usual route more to the south. That he received no encouragement from the Flat Heads is evident from the act of his meeting with Ignace and companions who, according to Mr. Gray himself, were going "to urge the claim for teachers to come among them."
Our Indians and Mr. Gray's party were now traveling together, and while passing through the country of the hostile Sioux, at a point called Ash Hollow, on the South Platte, they fell in with a large way party of that tribe. Being attacked, our little band bravely defended themselves, killing some fifteen of their
assailants. But they were greatly outnumbered by the foe, and all five perished in the unequal struggle.
Old Ignace was dressed like a white man, and he had been ordered to stand apart with the whites. But he spurned the command, and preferred to share the lot of his adopted brethren. Thus perished the one who may justly be called the apostle of the Flat Heads.
The untimely taking away of Old Ignace and his companions was a rude shock and caused the greatest grief to the whole tribe. It did not, however, shake in the least their determination to secure Black Robes, because soon after a fourth delegation was resolved upon in one of their councils. Two of the Iroquois adopted by the Flat Heads showed themselves willing to undertake the task, undismayed by the previous failures and the last disaster. This final effort was destined to be crowned with success.
The two Iroquois who formed the fourth delegation, were Peter Gaucher (Left-hand Peter) and Young Ignace, so called to distinguish him from Old Ignace. Leaving their Flat Head Company home in the summer of 1839, they joined some Hudson Bay Company men about to make the voyage to St. Louis by canoe. Their course lay naturally down the Yellowstone River and the Missouri. In passing St. Joseph's Mission, at Council Bluffs, they stopped to confer with the priests in charge, and it is indeed a remarkable coincidence that they should have met there the very man destined to comply in person with their long-cherished desires. Their visit is thus described by Father De Smet:
On the 18th of last September two Catholic Iroquois came to visit us. They had been for twenty-three years among the nation called the Flatheads and Pierced Noses, about a thousand Flemish leagues from where we are. I have never seen any savages so fervent in religion. By their instructions and examples they have given all that nation a great desire to have themselves baptized. All that tribe strictly observe Sunday and assemble several times a week to pray and sing Canticles. The sole object of these good Iroquois was to obtain a priest to come and finish what they had so happily com-
menced. We gave them letter for our Rev. Father Superior at St. Louis. They thought nothing of adding three hundred leagues to the thousand they had already accomplished in the hope that heir request would be granted.
The two brave Iroquois arrived safely in St. Louis and, having laid the desires of their tribe before Bishop Rosati, they were assured by him that a priest would be sent to them in the following spring.
But before proceeding any further with our narrative, we must listen again to Bishop Rosati, who as an eye-witness of several of the facts just related, cannot but shed much light also on the rest.
In a letter dated "St. Louis, Oct. 20, 1839," and addressed to the Father General of the Society of Jesus at Rome, Bishop Rosati wrote as follows:
Eight or nine years ago (1831) some of the Flathead nation came to St. Louis. the object of their journey was to ascertain if the religion spoken of with so much praise by the Iroquois warriors was in reality such as represented and, above all, if the nations that have white skin had adopted and practiced it. Soon after their arrival in St. Louis they fell sick, called for a priest and earnestly asked to be baptized. Their request was promptly granted and they received holy baptism with great devotion. Then holding the crucifix they covered it with affectionate kisses and expired.
Some years after (1835) the Flathead nation sent again one of the Iroquois nation (Old Ignace) to St. Louis. There he came with two of his children, who were instructed and baptized by the Fathers of the college. He asked missionaries for his countrymen and started with the hope that one day the desire of the nation would be accomplished, but on his journey he was killed by the infidel Indians of the Sioux nation.
At last a third expedition (Peter Gaucher and Young Ignace) arrived at St. Louis after a voyage of three months. It was composed of two Christian Iroquois. Those Indians, who talk French, have edified us by their truly exemplary conduct and interested us by their discourses. The Fathers of the College have heard their confessions and to-day they approached the holy table at high mass in the Cathedral Church. Afterwards I administered to them the sacrament of Confirmation, and in an address delivered after the ceremony I rejoiced with them at their happiness and gave them the hope of soon having a priest.
They will depart tomorrow; one of them will carry the good news promptly to the Flat Heads, the other will spend the winter at the mouth of the Bear River, and in the spring he will continue the journey with the missionary whom we will send them.
Of the twenty-four Iroquois who formerly emigrated from Canada, (continues Bishop Rosati) only four are still living. Not only have they planted the faith in those wild countries, but they have besides defended it against the encroachments of the Protestant ministers. When these missionaries presented themselves among them, our good Catholics refused to accept them. "These are not the priests about whom we have spoken to you," they would say to the Flat Heads; "these are not the long black-robed priests who have no wives, who say mass, who carry the crucifix with them." For the love of God, my Very Reverend Father, do not abandon these souls!
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