Father Edward M Griva SJ at St. Rose of Lima

Father Edward Griva, S.J. was an extremely active missionary on the Pacific Northwest missionary "circuit." He spent years living and working among the Kalipel and Colville Reservation tribes, and unlike some missionaries who declined to learn the language of a tribe they were working with, or those who half-heartedly tried but failed, Father Griva spent many years of intensive years of study of Plateau languages.

Among other things, he created language dictionaries that worked to bridge the gap between English and the languages of the Native American tribes. These language dictionaries were often used by other missionaries to attempt to communicate with Native populations. 

Father Griva's focus on language is documented in a variety of documents, but particularly in the photographs below. 

Questions for Confession in the Kalispel Language

For the missionaries who worked in the area, hearing confession from those living in Native American communities was a huge portion of their daily work life. 

Questions for Confession in the Kalispel Language is a historically unique document; one that likely isn't replicated in other Catholic archives. When one hears confession, the priest doesn't ask a list of specific questions about which sins you might have committed; it's up to you to provide an exhaustive accounting. The priest likely will, however, ask clarifying questions throughout to obtain additional information. 

This is an item that exits due to the unique historical context of colonialism and missionary religion; it also serves as an archival reflection of the kinds of things that were considered confession-worthy "sins" committed by the Natives whose confession Griva was taking. Griva likely added questions to his book as the topics came up in confession; rather than being a master list of questions to ask, the book served as an interpretive cheat sheet. In that way, these documents form a snapshot of the ways the Kalispell adapted Catholicism to fit their times and circumstances: what "sins" did Griva have to learn the content of in addition to the language for in order to properly communicate with those he was teaching? 

Confession - or the Sacrament of Penance - plays a unique role in the Catholic Church not only as a sacrament, but as the gateway to another sacrament - one must confess before taking first communion or communion on Easter Sunday, for example. This mainstay of the Catholic religion was important not only for these reasons, but because it pragmatically served as a good benchmark for the absorption and adoption of the religion among Native peoples. For such a short activity, confession could be a regular, efficient way to make sure the lessons from the church were really making an impact.