King Islanders and Father Lafortune

None of the photographs in the Treca collection include an image of Father Bellarmine Lafortune though it's clear that Lafortune spent extensive time in the summer of 1916 with the community. In early June, the Jesuit house diary in Nome describes the ice as beginning to pull away from the shore. A few days later on the 15th, Lafortune left Nome on a boat (the Bear) for "a missionary excursion to King Island." He remained on the island for about a week before returning to Nome. The Jesuit who wrote about Lafortune's trip remarks that it was a "successful" trip. A King Islander man who was baptized the year before had prepared many other King Islanders for baptism. 

In early July the Jesuit house diary notes that the number of "Eskimos" attending mass has grown by quite a bit. Perhaps this indicates that the King Islanders had arrived in Nome. 

The entire summer of 1916 proved to be full of "Eskimo" related events. The house diary notes a lot of work being done on the Eskimo chapel. The Jesuits and the Eskimos built and extension on the chapel to better accomodate the growing number of attendees. They also fixed up the roof. This perhaps explains why many of the more summer-y photographs have what appear to be building supplies nearby. 

On August 15, the house diary notes that "the chief of King Island" died that morning and was buried that evening. The Jesuit house diary also states that he was at "Sandspit" when he died. "Sandspit" is a reference to a Native encampment on the beach at Nome. See here for a photograph of "the sand spit" a few years earlier in 1912. It is possible that some of the photographs Treca took were here; while many of the photographs were taken in front of the "Eskimo chapel," a few photographs have what appear to be small homes behind them. More contemporary photographs "at the sand spit" can be found here. 

Source: Nome House Diary of the Jesuits, Nome Collection, Part 1, The Alaskan Mission Collection of the Oregon Province Archives of the Society of Jesus, Gonzaga University. Summer of 1916 included on pages 164-167. 


King Islanders and Father Lafortune