Father Pierre Jean DeSmet

In response to Flathead delegations apparently requesting Catholic missionaries, Jesuit priest Pierre Jean DeSmet traveled from St. Louis to the Green River Rendezvous in 1840 on a reconnaissance expedition. He returned the following year as head of the Rocky Mountain Mission and established St. Mary’s Reduction at present-day Stevensville, Montana. Following a request by the Coeur d’Alene Indians, DeSmet travelled to Lake Coeur d’Alene and stayed with the tribe for three nights, giving religious instruction. DeSmet promised to send black-robe missionaries to establish a tribal ministry. Thus was born the Mission of the Sacred Heart the following year, in 1842. A strong supporter of the mission, DeSmet often served as an intermediary between Indians and the U.S. government. He travelled extensively throughout the northwest, establishing missions, as well as to Europe to bring missionaries and funding.