Open main menu

Page:Quarterlyoforego10oreg 1.djvu/272

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
248
Edwin V. O'Hara

where it refers to the settlements which the missionaries induced their nomadic neophytes to adopt. He directed Father Point to draw up plans for the mission stations in conformity with the plans formerly adopted in the missions of Paraguay and described in detail by Muratori.[1]

One of the problems that DeSmet had to meet at the outset, was that of Indian marriages. He acted on the principle that there were no valid marriages among the savages, and he alleges the following reason: "We have not found one, even among the best disposed, who after marriage has been contracted in their own fashion, did not believe himself justified in sending away his first wife whenever he thought fit and taking another. Many even have several wives at the same time. We are then agreed on this principle, that among them, even to the present time, there has been no marriage, because they have never known well in what its essence and obligation consisted."[2] Consequently, immediately after the ceremony of baptism, the marriage ceremony was performed, after the necessary instruction had been given. This procedure gave rise to various interesting situations. Many who had two wives, have retained her whose children were the most numerous, and with all possible respect dismissed the other." Father DeSmet tells of one savage who followed his advice and dismissed his youngest wife, giving her what he would have wished another to give to his sister, if in the same situation, and was re-united to his first wife whom he had forsaken.

During the closing months of 1841, DeSmet undertook a journey from the Bitter Root Valley to Fort Colville on the Columbia. On All Saints Bay he met two encampments of the Kalispel nation, who were to be a great consolation to the missionary. The chief of the first camp was the famous Chalax. Although they had never seen a priest before, they knew all the prayers DeSmet had taught the Flatheads. This is a striking illustration of the religious sentiment among----

  1. See a letter dated St. Mary's, Rocky Mts., 26th Oct., 1841.
  2. Letter dated Dec. 30, 1841.