Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Sitting Bull, Society of Jesus Pages: 1 (310 words) Published: September 19, 2014
Desmet, Pierre Jean (1801-1870), Jesuit missionary among the American Indians. He was born in Dendermore (Termonde), Belgium, on Jan. 1801. He went to the United States and joined the Society of Jesus in 1821. Ordinated a priest in 1827, he was among a group sent west to found the Missouri Province of the Jesuits, but poor health forced him to retire to Belgium for four years. Returning to the American West, Desmet founded a mission among the Potawatomi Indians at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1838. In 1840 he visited tribes in the Rocky Mountains and a year later founded St. Mary’s Mission near Missoula, Mont. IN 1842 he made the first of 16 journeys to Europe to seek funds and personnel for the missions. On his return in 1844 he founded a central mission on the Willamette River in Oregon. After founding 1838 a mission among the Potawatomi Indians at Council Bluffs, Iowa, he established St. Mary’s mission near the present-day site of Missoula, Mont., in 1841; three years later, on the Willamette River in Oregon, he opened the most important in a chain of missions covering the Northwest. Although from active missionary work in 1846, he continued to travel extensively among score of tribes, often serving in peacemaking capacity. By his courage and powerful personality to Desmet earned the respect of Northwestern and Plains tribes. Recalled from active missionary work in 1846 to serve as treasurer and secretary of the Jesuit province of St. Louis, De Smet continues to make periodic journeys among the Indians until his death on May 23, 1870. His rapport with the Indians often enabled him to act as a peacemaker and agent for the government. In 1868 he was instrumental in starting negotiations with Chief Sitting Bull of the Sioux. His books include New Indian Sketches (1865) and Western Missions and Missionaries
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