Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Week Six: Awesome Connection

           This week turned into a tremendously more informative one than I had expected. After conducting routine background research into the location of St. Mary’s mission, I came across some information that the site was still open as a historic site. From their website I was able to get into contact with the director of the non profit, Colleen Meyer. During our conversation Ms. Meyer was able to clue me into two things that I previously was not aware of.
First, the location of the mission today is actually the fourth site of the mission. It seems that the first location of St. Mary’s mission is actually underwater. According to their sources, the first mission had to be abandoned due to flooding so they moved the mission to another location to about a half of a mile up stream. After that they moved the mission to where the historic Ft. Owen site is today. And finally, after the congregation proved to be too large, they built the church on the site of what is today the historic St. Mary.
            Secondly, she was able to shine light on a mystery I was trying to solve. During the course of my research I came upon a discrepancy of information concerning the Marian apparition to the Flathead Indians. In one recently written book it was stated that the Blessed Virgin had appeared to a young Flathead girl who was on her deathbed. However, in the 1905 version of the De Smet travels, it stated that it was a little boy who saw the Blessed Virgin in a tent. She informed me there was actually TWO sightings of the Blessed Virgin, one before De Smet arrived, and one afterwards. According to her sources, the first sighting was before De Smet and the missionaries arrived. The message that was conveyed was that the “Black Robes” were coming and that the Flatheads need to follow their instructions. The second sighting was just as I had read in the 1905 book, that she was pleased that they had named the mission after her.
            Ms. Meyer also told me that she was going to send me some materials that could possibly aid me in my research, and true to her word she sent me three items. The first was a book entitled, St. Mary’s in theRocky Mountains by Lucylle H. Evans. In this book is a plethora of background information on St. mary’s mission itself. It had pictures to put with some of the names I had been reading about for the past six weeks. The book even had a version of the Lord’s Prayer in the native Flathead and Pend-D’Oreille language! Second there was a copy of a rare pamphlet that was written by Father De Smet and published in 1843. In it he discusses the origins, progress and prospects of the catholic missions in the Rocky Mountains. Lastly, there was a museum pamphlet for the historic site itself. I hope that sometime during the course of all this research I am afford the time to go and actually visit this place!  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Week Five: Map Work and Possible Connections

On the last blog post I had mentioned that I had a goal of finding an exact timeline when Father De Smet was within the boundaries of the map.  I was able to accomplish exactly that this week. The exact timeline gives me an idea of what was going on in the area with exploration as well as who else was passing through the territory. I spent most of my time this week though on my hands and knees in the basement of my house hovering over the laminated map, and using my computer as a guide. I was putting a face to the landscape I was seeing on the map itself, which is a very exciting endeavor.
I started with St. Mary’s Mission. I looked at topographical maps of the area and was surprised to find out that the mission is preserved in the city of Stevensville, Montana. I intend this week to call the phone number I found to see if I can get in contact with Lucylle Evans, who is a local historian in the area. If I have any questions about the surrounding area I hope she could clear them up for me, and also get a good contact close to the area I am researching.
This week I also received a bonus. Fed Ex dropped off a book from the professor I am currently working with. It is entitled, Sacred Encounters, and is an amazing resource. Inside there are other maps, as well as pictures I can use to get a firm layout of the land. I was astonished at the detail in some of Father De Smet’s other maps, which were included in this book, and I hope I will get to work with those as well.
Also, in the course of my book research, I was led to two other titles that will help me greatly. The first is entitled Nicolas Point, S.J.: His Life& Northwest Indian Chronicles. The second is entitled, Wilderness Kingdom, Indian Life in the RockyMountains: 1840-1847; The Journals and Paintings of Nicolas Point. Lastly, a book I found in my own research, Letters and sketches with a narrative of a years residence among the Indiantribes of the Rocky Mountains, held a wealth of knowledge as well. Father Nicolas Point, S.J. is important because he has a lot of experiences with the Native Americans from this area. His drawings and writing have helped to, just as De Smet’s writings have, portray a picture of not only life, but more importantly the landscape of this beautiful and rugged area.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Week Four: More Material and Map Work

Finally! This week I actually got to start working on the map itself. I started by looking first at the time that Father De Smet was traveling to see the Flathead Indians. But much to my disappointment, the only thing I could plot on the map was the final leg of his journey to Three Rivers. This is also true for his second trip up to see the Flathead Indians. However, on this trip he established St. Mary’s Mission and that was easily plotted. Also during this particular time, De Smet made a few trips to forts or other missions in the area, all of which I can plot. I think I may also plot various other missions in the area with their founders as well as times they were active if possible to add the overall value of the map itself.  
Right now I am using post it flags to mark particular places with dates of arrival and departure. I have a map key I made separate with numbers in order to keep everything straight. I am marking significant events and using the date or suspected dates to keep a running timeline of De Smet’s movements.   
I received a Native American map that I ordered in the mail this week. On this map I can see some of the missions depicted from the De Smet writings, as well as some trails used in the area. If I can transcribe some of the trails from this map to the De Smet map, I may be able to depict De Smet’s routes exactly. Also, it lists tribes that were active in the area at the time. This Native map has a large scale, so with it I can actually track De Smet’s movements all the way to and from St. Louis. This enables me to see the entire picture and thus get a better understanding of all the things described in the writing.
After I am done depicting everything I can on the map, the next step will be to figure out a block of time that De Smet is in this area and get a hold of the archivist in St. Louis. I will then be able to determine what specific letters were written while he was active in this part of the country. I will then be able to depict whom he was corresponding with and give a short biography of that person. 
The goals for this upcoming week is to get most of the important places on the map plotted and try to establish that block of time I described above. I think I may be able to get most of this done in a full day. We will see.
But for now I am excited at the progress of this project. I truly feel like this project is coming together at a good speed, and before long I will be adding detail that will only enhance this maps usability. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Week Three: Gathering Materials

I really thought this week was going to be less interesting than the last two just because I planned to mostly acquire materials needed to work on the major portion of this project, which is the map. However, as the week progressed I was pleasantly surprised with the turn of events.
This past week I was able to have the Loyola University Digital Media Lab print out two maps for the project. I took one to an off campus business and had it laminated so that I could proceed with drawing on the map itself. It still shocks me to see the amount of detail that was put into this map by De Smet, and without the help of modern cartography technology. Also, I was able to successfully order a very interesting map of the Pacific Northwest. This particular map is detailed with areas where certain Native tribes lived and naturally considered their territory, as well as where the fur trading posts were located that were essential in helping De Smet’s missionary work become successful. Also, I was able to find four books, De Smet’s letters Vol. II, III, and IV as well as a biography, all from the early twentieth century at our library here on campus. I was overjoyed to find a pullout map in the 1915 biography of his life. On this map it shows the routes he took to set up the missions in the Pacific Northwest. This is an amazing find because it will help me detail the larger map.
                                    (Pacific Northwest Map ordered from this site)
I spent the other portion of this week trying to pin down a general time frame of the Virgin Mary sighting by the Flathead Indians. The professor I am working with on this project was kind enough to get me access to the digital edition of the first volume of De Smet’s letters, which I could not get from the library, and here I found the information I needed. “Accordingly on Christmas Eve, (1841) a few hours before midnight mass, the Village of St. Mary was deemed worthy of a special mark of heaven’s favor. The Blessed Virgin appeared to a little orphan boy named Paul, in the hut of an aged and truly pious woman.” This was exactly the passage I needed to find! Now I can email the archivist of the Jesuits in Rome with a date and see if I can find any additional information, and add this to the map as well. Another truly thrilling week comes to an end.