King Islanders and Jesuits

Family of Five in Front of House

In 1916, Joseph Treca, S.J. took these photographs of the King Islanders while they were on the mainland in Nome. It appears that he took the individual photos of family units.

The Jesuits arrived to Nome, Alaska after the Nome Gold Rush of 1898. The Jesuits who arrived were missionaries who would look after the religious needs of whites, and they began to evangelize Native Americans in the area. One of these was Father Bellarmine Lafortune, S.J., a Jesuit who lived and evangelized in the Bearing Strait area. 

Father Lafortune began to seek permission to establish a mission on King Island in 1906. Shortly after the Jesuits built their missionary community in Nome, Lafortune noticed King Islanders visiting the church during the summers because, as he wrote of them later, "they understood it was a place of worship." From this point on, Lafortune advocated to his superiors for a mission on King Island.

It would be another 10 years before Lafortune was able to go to King Island and meet with the community in their home village of Ukivok. The same summer Father Treca took this photographs of the King Islanders, Father Lafortune visited King Island for the first time. 

Source: Lafortune, "History of the Mission of King Island," Lafortune's King Island personal diary, King Island and Little Diomede Collection, of the Oregon Province Archives of the Society of Jesus, Gonzaga University; and Louis L. Renner, Pioneer Missionary to the Bering Strait Eskimos: Bellarmine Lafortune, S.J. (Portland: Binford & Mort, 1979).

King Islanders and Jesuits