It was Christmas Eve, 1841, in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Montana was still decades from statehood. The Salish Indians in that locality had welcomed missionaries only in September. Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, the well-known Jesuit missionary, had arrived with two fellow priests to found a mission among the Salish, also then called the Flatheads, who were eager to learn the Catholic faith and be baptized.

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