Open main menu

Page:Quarterlyoforego10oreg 1.djvu/282

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
258
Edwin V. O'Hara

and the friends of the EngHsh interests, which they had also fully avowed, to have routed us, and then the country might have slept in their hands forever.[1] The truth is, of course, quite the contrary to these representations. What Father DeSmet feared was that Oregon might be lost to the United States, at least temporarily, by indecision on the part of our government.

In a letter to Senator Benton, written in 1849, DeSmet recounts a conversation which he had with several British officers on the brig Modeste, before Fort Vancouver, in 1846, in which his attitude towards the Oregon question is made clear. The party was discussing the possibility of the English taking possession, not merely of Oregon, but of California as well. Father DeSmet ventured the opinion that such a conquest was a dream not easily realized, and went on to remark that should the English take possession of Oregon for the moment, it would be an easy matter for the Americans to cross the mountains and wrest the entire country from them almost without a blow. On hearing these sentiments, the captain asked DeSmet somewhat warmly: "Are you a Yankee?" "Not a born one, Captain," was my reply, "but I have the good luck of being a naturalized American for these many years past; and in these matters all my good wishes are for the side of my adopted country."

Father DeSmet pushed on from Lake Pend d'Oreille, through dense forests, to the Kootenai River, where he encountered a branch of the Kutenai (Kootenai) tribe, which he calls the Flat-bows. He found them well disposed and already instructed in the principal doctrines of the Catholic faith by a Canadian employee of the Hudson's Bay Company. On the feast of the Assumption (1845), he celebrated Mass among them and erected a cross, at the foot of which the Indians renounced their practices of jugglery and superstition. The Kutenai tribe furnished another illustration of the marvelous dispositions for faith which Providence had planted in


  1. Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer Association for 1893, page 200.