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Coeur d'Alene embark on annual pilgrimage

CATALDO, Idaho - Each year on Aug. 15, Coeur d'Alene tribal members make a pilgrimage to the Cataldo Mission to celebrate the vision of an ancient chief, Circling Raven, who foresaw the arrival of a man in black robes with crossed sticks. This man would have news of an even greater Spirit, a savior of the world. He said this black-robed man would appear within 100 years. Chief Circling Raven died before such a person arrived but his son, Twisted Earth, later had a vision that a person would appear in about 60 years. It was 1842 when the first Jesuit priest arrived and he was openly welcomed by the Schi'tsu'umsh people, now the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.

The first mission was built in 1842 along the St. Joe River but spring floods forced relocation. A temporary chapel was built in 1846. The Cataldo Mission was begun in 1850 by Father Ravalli and completed in 1853. It now stands as the oldest building in Idaho. It served as the tribe's mission until 1877 when a reduction in the size of the reservation left the building outside the boundaries and a new mission was built at DeSmet, Idaho. The old Cataldo Mission is now a state park but stands as a memorial to the history of the tribe.

The annual pilgrimage celebrates the arrival of the "black robes" and the work of their ancestors who built this impressive building on a hill overlooking the Coeur d'Alene River. It also celebrates the Feast of the Assumption, which brings Catholics together on this date. The day began with a morning service at an outdoor altar adjoining the Mission. Several tribal members led a procession of about a dozen priests, some wearing chasubles of Pendleton blankets, to the altar in front of a backdrop of identical Pendleton blankets. The Catholic Mass was led by Bishop Driscoll from Boise, assisted by Father Thomas Connolly, the long-time priest at DeSmet. Indian dancers performed the cup dance following communion.

Felix Aripa and Laurence Nicodemus, two of the older tribal members, were recognized for their efforts in keeping the Native language alive. Tribal Chairman Ernie Stensgar, in speaking of Mr. Nicodemus, said "You have always known that it [Native language] is the most important thing. You are truly the person we have depended upon. Our mentor. Thank you."

A catered lunch was provided for those in attendance. Although the pilgrimage is for Coeur d'Alene members to remember and honor the past and a way to instruct youngsters of tribal history, a great many non-Indians also attended to listen to the service and to enjoy the drum and dancing that followed the meal.

Everyone was welcome.