History

(photo)

In 1841, the Catholic Jesuits sent messengers to tell other tribes they were coming to the Pacific Northwest. The Kalispell Indians welcomed the missionaries who they believed had strong spiritual powers. The Kalispell Indians were known to be honest, generous and docile. They welcomed the white man, and his new religion. Goods brought by the white man such as guns, knives and woolens were superior and so the Indians believed their religion must be superior. Father DeSmet, one of the Catholic priests was looking for a more beautiful mission site and chose an area close to a cave he named "The New Manresa". The cave had an altar made of stone and flat rock slabs were used as pews (See Figure H1). The "New Manresa" would be used as a chapel for the mission.

Figure H1
Figure H1:
Altar in the cave

The view from the cave is spectacular and looks out over the Pend Oreille River towards Cusick (See Figure H2). The cave remains as it was in the early 1800's. Farming practices taught to the Indians failed because of flooding and soil that was laden with blue clay and ashes, the result of a volcanic eruption. The Manresa Grotto as it is known today continues to be used by the tribe for ceremonial and tribal meetings. Manresa Grotto is also open as a tourist attraction. Buffalo and abundant wildlife can be seen in the near areas.

Figure H2
Figure H2:
View from the cave

The Kalispell Tribe had gone from 3,000 to 395 members by 1875. They watched the white man take their land, ravage their wildlife and leave their people in despair. The tribe still remains today through perseverance and they continue to try and make a strong community with little or no resources. In 1914 a reservation was established but much of that land was mountainside or flood plain areas. In the 1960's only one or two houses on the reservation was equipped with running water. Annual income for a tribal member was under $1,500 a year.