Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Mission images exhibited at Smithsonian

The “Black Robes” meeting with Flathead at their encampment. This print of a mural by artist Edgar S. Paxson depicts Father Anthony Ravalli’s arrival at St. Mary’s Mission in 1845. Fr. Ravalli is presented by Angus McDonald of the Hudson Bay Company to Chief Victor of the Flathead Tribe. The original mural hangs in the Missoula County Courthouse.

Two images from St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville have been selected for inclusion in an exhibition entitled “Stories of Encounter” at the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

“One great misunderstanding that has been handed down over time is that this western hemisphere was a virtual wilderness before ‘discovery’ by European explorers,” according to Erin Beasley of the National Museum of the American Indian. “Recently this myth has been challenged and progress is being made to re-inform the public about the advanced cultures that greeted those explorers.” NMAI is presenting an interactive map activity that lets visitors explore 24 stories that give a glimpse of the situation at each site when the great civilizations of the Americas met explorers from outside this hemisphere.
“The experience will be done without sound but with lush and intriguing visuals and short but concise use of text,” said Beasley. “We want the visitors to follow their own curiosity, learning new information and/or deepening their knowledge of those crucial times of encounter.”
In addition to dispelling the “empty parkland” vision of the Americas, the map will also communicate that these moments of encounter happened over a long period of time and not all in the

1879 historic photograph of St. Mary’s Mission, Stevensville. This was the fourth St. Mary’s Chapel built for Christian worship by the Flathead Indians. This and the image below will be part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian.


“This process of encounter and subsequent change was prolonged, profound and difficult,” said Beasley. “These moments in time changed the world and contemporary peoples continue to live with the results.”

“It is a distinct honor for St. Mary’s Mission to be one of twenty-four stories selected to represent the American Indians and their encounter with the European culture,” said Colleen Meyer, director of Historic St. Mary’s Mission. The first mission was established in 1841 by Jesuit missionaries in what is now the town of Stevensville.

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