As a missionary working among the Indians of the Columbia Plateau and the Plains, Jesuit Pieter Jan De Smet (Dendermonde 1801—Saint Louis 1873) was a privileged witness to an important phase in the history of the development of the United States of America. He was also to see, from close up, how this young nation began its massive expansion towards the West. This mass migration was to cost the indigenous population dear as, in record time, the local native people saw the loss and destruction of their traditional territories and way of life based on a nomadic existence spent hunting bison.
Dazzling nineteenth-century Indian clothes and weapons illustrate the way the Native Americans lived and thought, as described in detail by De Smet in his countless letters. De Smet’s travels and encounters with the Indians are recalled with maps, drawings, paintings, photographs and documents.
The exhibition focuses on the role of De Smet, not only as a missionary, but also as defender of the Indians themselves, an advocate for peace and a mediator with the American government. The common thread that runs throughout is De Smet’s life story, his journeys and his many encounters with the different peoples in the area to the West of the Rocky Mountains and the Upper Missouri Valley. This exhibition does not end with the death of De Smet in 1873, but carries the story of the Native Americans and that of numerous missionaries who followed in De Smet’s footsteps, right through to today.
Provinciaal Cultuurcentrum Caermersklooster - Pieter Jan De Smet and the Indian tragedy - 05.02.2016 - 01.05.2016
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