From our archives, 100 years ago
A sad incident on the Pend Oreille River illustrated the desperate condition of the Kalispel Tribe in 1912.
The Spokesman-Review reported that Marie Susanne, an 11-year-old Kalispel girl (the paper spelled it Calispel) was dying of an unspecified illness. She “begged for a priest” on her deathbed.
Yet a “total invoice of the tribe finances showed less than 40 cents,” the cost of a telegram to Spokane. So Chief Masselow (spelled Massalah by the paper) instead had to write a letter to Father Taelman, president of Gonzaga College. Father Taelman took the next train after receiving the letter, but “lost the race with death.”
Taelman conducted a funeral at the tribe’s traditional burying ground, yet he reported that Masselow delivered the most moving address.
“This world is a valley of tears,” said the chief, standing over the crude coffin. “We are now poor and suffering, but if we are true to God there is a country above where we shall meet again. We shall no longer see you with our eyes. Your body is dead and buried, but your soul lives on. You have gone where we must follow.”
Taelman reported that the tribe had no school and no doctor. Nearly all of the shrinking tribe had been sick over the winter. They are “always destitute and on the verge of starvation.” A reservation was finally established in 1914.