Rev. Thomas E. Connolly, S.J. visits with Z2 and her History Day project group at Gonzaga University today.
Today I drove Z2 and four of her friends to Gonzaga University. They had made an appointment with Father Thomas Connolly, the priest at the Sacred Heart Mission in Desmet, Idaho. He was gracious enough to talk to them about their topic.
This year's main theme for National History is Conflict and Compromise. Z2's group is producing a documentary on how moving to the reservation changed the lives of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. They are going to tell the story from the perspective of two Indian girls, and talk about how life was before the reservation and after, and one of the changes was attending the Indian Boarding School in DeSmet.
Connolly has been a priest with the Coeur d'Alene tribe for 30 years, and you can tell he loves his job. It was enjoyable listening to him tell about how things were for the tribe. He explained to the girls how, after the tribe moved to the reservation, they realized their children would need to learn English to live in the "white man's world". He explained how a group of tribal members travelled to Walla Walla, Washington to talk to the Sister of Providence to come and teach the girls in school, because, at that time, only the boys were being taught by priests and seminarians.
He explained how, in reality, the Indians were invaded and their land taken away. And, since these people now occupied their land, they would have to learn how to communicate and work the way the white man did, or they would not be able to survive.
Life became much more regimented for the children once they went to the boarding school. Since there were a large group of them at the school, they had a routine and chores, and learned domestic chores such as sewing and cooking and laundry in a different way than they were used to knowing at their homes.
One of the biggest changes was not being with their family. That was very hard on, not only the children, but the parents and grandparents as well. But they knew their children needed to be schooled.
We travel again on Monday to Desmet to visit the mission there, and meet the parish secretary who has information on the schools. I look forward to hearing what she has to share about this topic as well. What a wonderful learning experience for these girls, and me, too.