Translation: Language and Religion

Jesuit missionaries operated throughout the Pacific Northwest, and the photographs in this exhibit were taken as part of the missionaries' work in a relatively defined geographic area - Spokane, Oroville, Inchelium, the rural Pia church, and areas and homes in between. While some missionaries during this time period may have traveled longer distances, these are really our "local" missionaries for the area. 

Many, if not most, of the locations described in the textual works written by Father Griva, Father Prando, and other missionaries that accompany these photographs are still standing. Inchelium, featured in some photographs in the exhibit, was relocated almost 15 years after the photographs were taken from its original location to another spot on the Colville Indian Reservation, and remains a small community with less than 500 members. Oroville grew to a small city of 1,600 people, and the rural Pia church remains on the reservation, rennovated and restored to its former glory.

These photographs mark the meeting of two huge cultures and civilizations: the Kalispel people and those from the Colville Indian Reservation (and, more generally, Native peoples across the Pacific Northwest) and Jesuit missionaries, both sides with defined values and visions for the future. The photos and text we have chosen demonstrate the ongoing cultural act of translation and interpretation on two levels: religion and language. How did the two peoples learn to understand each other? How did they, not only linguistically, but viscerally and literally, transmit information about a god in the sky, the holy trinity, and the sacraments? How were these concepts understood and perceived by the Native peoples? Hopefully this exhibit provides some insight into these questions. 

The photographs contained in this exhibit were taken by or at the very least, at the direction of Jesuit missionaries and their staff. These photographs have remained in the possession and control of Jesuit institutions, including Gonzaga University, in the years since they were created. These photographs have never been made public, nor have they been made accessible to the Native American tribes who are the subject of many of these photographs. 


Alexis Kostun, Mark Caindec, Wesley Davis