The Lost Mission of the Manastash

Ah, to be a young Oblate missionary in Washington Territory before the Indian Wars, when you were the only educated man for a thousand miles, and all you wanted was to stop revolutions and explore the concept of Grace. Well, you had to earn the right, from both the Jesuits and your proposed flock.  The church removed Father Charles Pandosy from the Chamna Village at the mouth of the Yakima River, because they wanted him to convert souls, and he hadn’t, and they didn’t like his strategy of starving himself in honour of the barrenness of the place and hunkering down and waiting for people to come back the next summer to fish for salmon. The Americans were restless. There might not be another summer. The Jesuits, being French Canadian, knew about military occupations. So, while Chief Owhi and his people, the proposed converts, settled in at Manastash Creek, with their ancestors, such as this dreamtime deer in the creek itself, sheltered by spirit cliffs and shaded by cottonwoods…

ancestorowhi … Pandosy claimed a square mile of land out in the sun, where this spirit hill on the west side of the creek mouth, stared at him and stared at him and stared at him, and laughed a bit, and do you see the deer ghost just above the trees? I’m sure Pandosy did, too.. manastash

To talk to Owhi, he had to go up the creek. To be fed, he had to go up the creek and ask. And this darned deer flickered there on the hill. He got the idea of going barefoot, and making himself into one of his new people, so that he could win their trust. For this, the Jesuits laughed at him, and ordered him to leave Owhi and settle at the St. Joseph Mission with Kamiakin’s people at Ahtanum Creek, in the next valley over. And when the US Army burned him out for trying to stop war, the Jesuits sent him to Canada… where they eventually forced him to sell his 640 acres to them, and to recant his claim of damages against the U.S. Army. To actually believe in Christian Grace in the face of the politicization and racialization of faith … what a lost opportunity, for all of us.

8 replies »

    • I’m glad! When I was writing it, I was thinking, “Hmmmm…. will this be, like, too obscure, even for me?” But it’s readable. Hurrah!


  1. It is definitely readable, although a sad reminder of how religious organizations can sometimes be blind to their most spiritual members.


  2. Well, he was also grumpy and had a problem with authority. On the other hand, they treated him like a child. He was a musician, and by the looks of his letters, a poet.


  3. We Red Bones are more righteous then the pope. We do not pray with spoken words, but in our thoughts and deeds. Chritians prayed then slayed. America’s religion is materialism and their god, the dollar. The creator is in the eye of a song bird, the leaves of the trees and father sun burning above.


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