Jesuitical 18: Saint Louis University and Father De Smet

Father De Smet statue


Part 18 of my ongoing survey of the follies of many modern day Jesuits.  This story symbolizes the childish Leftism that is at the heart of much of modern Jesuitism:

Saint Louis University has removed a statue on its campus depicting a famous Jesuit missionary priest praying over American Indians after a cohort of students and faculty continued to complain the sculpture symbolized white supremacy, racism and colonialism.

Formerly placed outside the university’s Fusz Hall in the center of the private Catholic university, the statue will go to the university’s art museum, a building just north of the bustling urban campus.

The statue features famous Jesuit Missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. praying over two American Indians dressed in traditional clothing. Last Monday, just two days after graduation, it was removed from the location it has called home on campus for decades.

A university spokesperson told St. Louis Magazine the statue will be placed within the “historical context of a collection that’s on permanent display in our SLU Museum of Art.” The statue is set for the museum’s “Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions.”

“In more recent years, there have been some faculty and staff who have raised questions about whether the sculpture is culturally sensitive,” SLU spokesman Clayton Berry said.

Berry did not respond to The College Fix’s request for comment.

The De Smet statue has long drawn the ire of progressive students and scholars at the Jesuit university who argue the statue was a symbol of racism and white supremacy, among other oppressions.

In a recent op-ed published in SLU’s University News, senior Ryan McKinley stated the sculpture sent a clear, unwelcoming message to American Indians at Saint Louis University.

Go here to read the rest.  Obsessed with race?  Check.  White male bashing?  Check.  Ignorant of history?  Check.  Falling down before Leftist sacred cows?  Check.

And who was this Father De Smet whose statue was removed?

Pierre-Jean De Smet first saw the light of day in Dendermonde in Belgium on January 30, 1801.  His parents would have been astonished if they had been told that in his life their newborn would travel over 180,000 miles as a missionary, and most of it in the Wild West of the United States.

Emigrating to the US in 1821 as part of his desire to serve as a missionary, De Smet entered the Jesuit novitiate at Whitemarsh, Maryland.  In a move that today would have secularists screaming “Separation of Church and State!” and conspiracy buffs increasing the tin foil content of their hats, the US government subsidized a Jesuit mission being established in the new state of Missouri among the Indians.  At the time the US government often did this for missionaries of many Christian denominations among the Indians.  So it was that in 1823 De Smet and other members of the order trekked west and established a mission to the Indians at Florissant, Missouri, near Saint Louis.  Studying at the new Saint Regis Seminary in Florissant, Father De Smet was ordained on September 23, 1827.  Now a prefect at the seminary, he studied Indian languages and customs.  In 1833 he returned to Belgium for health problems and was unable to return to Missouri until 1837.

In 1838 he founded the St. Joseph Mission in Council Bluffs for the Potawatomi Indians.   He also began his career as a peacemaker as he journeyed to the territory of the Sioux to work out a peace between them and the Potawatomi.  It should be emphasized that Father De Smet was making these journeys at a time when he was often the only white man for hundreds of miles other than for a few mountain men and scattered traders.  He quickly earned a reputation among the Indians as utterly fearless and a white man whose word they could trust.

In 1840 he journeyed to the Pacific Northwest to establish a mission among the Flathead and Nez Perces tribes, who had been begging for a decade for “Black Robes” to be sent to them and teach them about Christ.  After visiting them, Father De Smet promised that he would go back to Saint Louis and return with another “Black Robe” to establish a permanent mission.  On his way back he visited the Crow, the Gros Ventres and other tribes.  In 1841 he returned to the Flatheads along with Father Nicholas Point and established St. Mary’s Mission  on the Bitterroot River, thirty miles south of present day Missoula.  The mission was quite successful as indicated by this event.  One of the converted chiefs of the Flatheads, after baptism, chose the baptismal name of Victor.  On one occasion Father De Smet was preaching to the Flatheads and mentioned how in Europe the Holy Father confronted many enemies of the Faith.  Victor became indignant and said, “Should our Great Father, the Great chief of the Black robes, be in danger–you speak on paper–invite him in our names to our mountains. We will raise his lodge in our midst; we will hunt for him and keep his lodge provided, and we will guard him against the approach of his enemies!”

Father De Smet traveled to Europe to raise funds for the missions and to recruit missionaries.  In 1844 he landed at Astoria after rounding Cape Horn with the missionaries he had recruited including six sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  A mission, Saint Ignatius, was quickly constructed in the area of the Kalispel tribe.

In 1846 Father De Smet made peace between the Crow and the Blackfeet, after a battle between them, in the Yellowstone Valley.  Father De Smet so impressed the warlike Blackfeet that he was able to convince them to make peace with the other tribes they were at war with.  Father De Smet left Father Nicholas Point to establish a mission with the Blackfeet.

Father De Smet was now called away from the mission field to teach at Saint Louis University.  His fame was now immense as word of his travels and missions among the Indians of the far west spread.  He was often called upon by tribes to plead their causes in Washington, and he was often consulted by the government who regarded him as the foremost expert on the Indians of the northern Plains, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific NorthWest.

In 1851 Father De Smet made peace between the Indians of California and Oregon and whites who were flowing into these areas as a result of the gold rush.  During the US-Mormon War of 1858 he served as a chaplain with the US forces under General William Selby Harney.  Father De Smet had earlier helped Harney make peace with the Sioux in the mid-Fifties.  After the peaceful conclusion of the US-Mormon War, Father De Smet accompanied General Harney to California and Oregon where he was instrumental in preserving the peace between the Indians and the Whites.  During this time Harney became a friend and admirer of Father De Smet, so much so that Harney eventually converted to Catholicism.

In 1862 he was asked by the government to go on a peace mission to the Sioux.  Learning that a punitive expedition against the Sioux was planned, Father De Smet refused to go with it, believing that the Sioux had legitimate grievances.  This is an example of why Father De Smet was so trusted by the Indians he encountered.  He was tireless in denouncing actions by whites, especially the trading of whiskey to Indians and encroachment by whites on tribal territories guaranteed by treaty, that caused the Indians to go to war.  In 1867, although his health was visibly beginning to fail, he set out at the request of the government for the territory of the Sioux on a peace mission.  Thousands of Indians talked to the legendary Black Robe, laying their grievances at his feet.  He had to return to Saint Louis after becoming seriously ill, but he returned in 1868, the only white man trusted by the Sioux chiefs.  Alone he traveled across the Bad Lands to the Sioux encampment of 5,000 braves under Sitting Bull.  He counseled the Indians and convinced them to meet with the peace negotiators from the government.    On July 2, 1868 the treaty of peace was signed.  Father De Smet died in Saint Louis on May 23, 1873.

Throughout his life Father De Smet was showered with honors for his work as a missionary, including being made a chevalier by the King of Belgium.  His numerous writings still are an important source of information about Indian customs and languages.  However to Father De Smet what was important about his career was spreading the Gospel among the Indians, and protecting them to the extent that he could from the ravages of war, both from the whites and from intertribal conflicts.  It is a lasting testament to him that wherever he went he brought the Peace of Christ.

Now that I think of it, I agree with the removal of the statue of Father De Smet.  Modern Jesuits, most of them, are simply not worthy of being in the presence of a statue of this great Jesuit of yesteryear.

More to explorer


  1. “The De Smet statue has long drawn the ire of progressive students and scholars at the Jesuit university ”
    Golly. I hope they catch the guy that held the gun to their heads and forced them to matriculate there. (Or, was the statue just erected last year? -sarc)
    (another excellent TAC post, BTW)

  2. Should have left the ignorant ignorant of their ignorance. That was the culturally sensitive thing to do. After all, the first circle of hell can only be improved by having Pocahontas keeping company with VIrgil and Horace.

  3. The American Indians were kneeling before the Crucifix with Jesus Christ. Since Jesus Christ has fallen into the politically incorrect with God, our Father and His, who would expect college faculty and graduate students to know anything about Catholicism. Father Isaac Jogues and the Blackrobes, Ren Goupil and John LaLande,were martyred and buried at Aurieville in New York for bringing Jesus Christ to the Native Americans.
    For fear of ridicule, fear of persecution or ostracism and sometimes fear of knowing the truth, the Emperor is naked.

  4. Wonderful story, thankyou.
    Have you read “Jesuits” by Malachi Martin S.J.?
    Explained a lot for me, especially about this goofy pope.

  5. I have read all of Martin’s books. He was a good writer, and I think he captured the decay within the modern Jesuits, but everything he stated that he personally claims to have witnessed needs to be rigorously checked with other sources, as he was a fabulist of the first order, to put it politely.

  6. Perhaps the Jesuit colleges and universities in the US should be investigated under the Rico statutes – they have a racket going by presenting themselves as Catholic schools.

  7. In the 1980s, our Traditional Study Group was assisting at Mass in the Cathedral in Portland, Maine for the feast of the American Martyrs when the Priest denounced their racist mission and the conversions – and we immediately got up and walked out of the cathedral.

    We are at the abyss in the Catholic Church and another step may just send us into it.

    It is worth recalling that it is only The Holy See of peter which was promised it would never fail

  8. I imagine the fell geniuses are drafting their next 15 ,000-word apology for bringing the natives to Christianity and the rewards of eternal life which Christ so dearly purchased for us with His Life, Death, and Resurrection.

  9. Graduated from this institution and it was once a great school. Will no longer donate a penny. Sad!!

  10. This type article makes me say,” I wouldn’t send the proverbial “dog” to this or most “Catholic” colleges. Is there one that exists where this wouldnt have happened if the statue was on their campus? Is there ANY alternative?? America has a history of Catholic martyrs and Catholic priests who saved souls for Christ. Now this nutty college wants to diminish their efforts by historically stupid statements and actions therefrom. Christianity, brough to the US by Europeans, who were Protestant (and before that Catholic-influenced), developed our culture that has existed and has dominated from our founding. Here’s a “flash”—-I dont want it to change! I want it to dominate, to be the ideal…NOT other cultures or identities. And in the end it is all about politics….the libs support this anti-tradition culture entirely! Look at Obama and his efforts to trash the culture! And these people running the colleges. They are supported by tuition, grants, etc , and why any Catholic would send their kid to that dump is unknown ! Someone tell me—what stops this anti tradition movement? This anti white, at any and all cost, invention of false history? Do we have to sit and watch this happening? LETS GET SOME SOLUTIONS TO THIS AND STOP JUST TALKING ABOUT IT.If we dont, this will be a really hostile country to live in…because I for one will not allow it without a fight.

  11. Emigrating to the US in 1821 as part of his desire to serve as a missionary, De Smet entered the Jesuit novitiate at Whitemarsh, Maryland. In a move that today would have secularists screaming “Separation of Church and State!” and conspiracy buffs increasing the tin foil content of their hats, the US government subsidized a Jesuit mission being established in the new state of Missouri among the Indians. At the time the US government often did this for missionaries of many Christian denominations among the Indians

    Rather smart– makes it so they know where these groups are, and has a chance of making it so the local tribes are folks who will actually be able to make agreements with. (A constant source of friction was how the leaders of a tribe would make agreements…and the young thugs would ignore them, with no penalties. Cultural differences, like the idea of a harvest belonging to the folks who planted and tended it, rather than the ones who happened to be able to take it when it was ready; it’s actually a rather difficult bit of property theory if you don’t grow up with the assumption.)

  12. Mary, you might enjoy the comment SuburbanBanshee made:
    So this is a famous, proactive moment of a triumph for lay catechists, for Native Americans evangelizing Native Americans, and for the reputation of Jesuits among Native Americans. It is Iroquois badassery, as well as a tribute to Nez Perces and Flatheads being on fire for Jesus, and persistent in trying to get a priest.

    Oh, but it’s racist. Because amazingly, Catholics kneel before the Cross.

  13. either slu is not doing a very good job of educating its students; or, placing reality in its proper context is beyond the ability of some people.

    why the administration surrendered is a good question. probably they just did not want the publicity the protestors were creating.

    hopefully, those in charge of the college will evaluate why so many of their students and professors are incapable of placing reality in its proper context.

    it is an absurdity to classify preaching the gospel as racist or supremacist. the fact that professors and students at slu are ignorant of this is an indictment of the inefficacy of the university.

  14. This country need to promote her saints – through the Church process of recognition, and through the public proclamation of their deeds. We need shrines and relics, and our own tradition of pilgrimage. It’s good that this country has a genuine, how-the-word-is-supposed-to-be-used diversity of Catholic traditions from the various lands of immigration, but we also have a claim as a Catholic country ourselves. Every diocese should have a Cabrini or Seton parish. Regions should have their regional saints. Kateri should be as common a name in the US as Patrick is in Ireland. I mean no disrespect to those who are devoted to Our Lady through her miracle in Guadalupe, or to Catholics (myself included) who practice traditional devotions with foreign origins. But is there an American Catholic custom? A sacramental? Something that reflects our faith? Is there any country anywhere near our size that doesn’t have one? I can think of one such tradition we have – prayer in front of abortion clinics. It does fit our American spirit; it’s ecumenical and an act of civil protest, and it does point to the Catholic Church in America’s role as a how-the-word-is-supposed-to-be-used minority voice. But are there any others?

  15. Actually, Kateri as a given name is trending up a bit. Over the last few years, there have been about 60 American girls a year given the name Kateri, For at least ten years before that, about 30-40 US girls a year have been named Kateri. Not super popular, but not bad.

    Seton has a little bit of life as a boy’s name, recently. Probably because of Seton Hall sports.

    Genesis has popped up into the top 50 girl’s names. I wonder if it’s a Bible class thing, or because of sounding like a Jennifer name? Trinity is also still pretty high.

    Luna has popped up quite a lot, which I attribute to My Little Pony. But it is a lovely name. There is an old martyrology that lists St. Luna Mista, which is probably a miscopying of St. Summista, but there’s no story that we know about her either way! 🙂

  16. Luna Lovegood was a character in Harry Potter. I think that the name Harry also had a bump in popularity. I’m going to guess that Albus and Draco were still too much of a stretch.

  17. Foxfier & the Man himself, Donald.
    Thank you.
    Can I rent you guys for other projects?

  18. They will also probably have to rip out the iconography of St. Louis Cathedral which, as I recall, also depicts Catholic missionaries in the Americas.

  19. Like Ray, as a former SLU student, now-alumnus, I used to walk past this [once-inspiring] statue group on W Pine Ave: the inscription on the wall read, “Where the rivers met, De Smet began,” memorializing his epic travels of evangelization into unimaginably dangerous territories.

    I knew even then one day this group of statues was going to come down, listening to the socialists teaching throughout the university then (80’s,90’s), as I walked back and forth each day.

    So, I propose completing the epigram for posterity: “Where the rivers met, De Smet began; since then, the Jesuits have cut and run”

  20. Thank you, Foxfier. I have read the piece and commented. The young savages are removing any sign of Faith by hurling invectives, “white supremacists”, “racists” and imposing their version of atheism and tyranny, bullying decent people into their version of our religion. The savages ought to have been called up on it to prove “white supremacists’ and ‘racists”, if only to display their ignorance of our history.

  21. Carissimi,
    I tried dissolving the Jesuit Order and give all their properties, missions, and assets to the Franciscans, but the Franciscans refused. They would rather stay poor and save their souls.

  22. I graduated from SLU Law in 1987. To say that the experience was interesting is to acknowledge the meanness of the old curse, “may you live in interesting times.”

    I was, then and now, pro-life. In fact, my matriculation at the Law School was delayed due to the need to complete a law suit filed against me by an abortionist who didn’t care for picketers and prayers in front of his center. Attending the Law School introduced me to the concept of Catholic in name only. Just before my start, the undergraduate college had been scandalized when a resident assistant brought a Planned Parenthood representative in for a talk with students.

    The levels of hostility and loathing varied, but were cresting in and around the Women’s Law Caucus who, in a way quite similar to the current controversy, could only see opposition to abortion as oppression of women. My years there culminated with a visit in an ass. dean’s office following a complaint about a poster I’d put on the student bulletin board excoriating the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. The ass. dean told me that my act was “the most unprofessional act” at the law school in his experience. I thought it odd because our class was still chuckling or pained (depending on who you were) at the incident two weeks earlier when two classmates were caught “in flagrante delicto” on a class room floor by an evening adjunct professor. The adjunct opened the door and flipped on the lights before the two could get entirely disentangled and clothed.

    While attending, I knew of, and celebrated, the Native American heritage that came to me through my paternal grandmother. I did not know, through that same grandmother, that, by Jim Crow standards, I was an Octaroon, as my great grandfather was African American.

    I lived on campus, in married student housing. I participated in law school events. I never saw the statue of Father De Smet. I have seen the photograph now that the statue has been hidden away from public display.

    What a bizarre world we live in. A man of faith spends his life propagating that faith. A university sets up a statue to honor that man, a member of the Jesuit community, because of that dedication.

    Nothing about such behavior screams racism, imperialism, colonialism. It does scream compassion-ism. It does scream care-ism. It does scream kindness-ism. Those “-isms” are not so very popular these days, but grudge-ism and victim-ism seemed to have made an advance at my alma mater.

    If you doubt me on how De Smet’s evangelical outreach constitutes kindness and care, I’ll refer you to Penn Jillette, who tells the story of being given the gift of a Bible by a concerned Christian. Jillette, an ardent atheist, expressed profound respect that a person who literally believed Jillette’s soul was in danger actually acted on that belief in an effort to render aid to him. Jillette tells the story on his YouTube channel if you care to see it. (

    The statue of De Smet, if it is a symbol of a “history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy,” as Ryan McKinley complained, is no more so such a symbol than that much more obvious and noticeable one, College Church.

    When will that vestige of colonialism be taken down, or converted to a museum?

  23. Brilliant comment James. When I was at the U of I Law School in 1979-1982 I was known as the outspoken conservative. I helped found the Christian Legal Society chapter there and continued my activities with the student pro-life group, Life Is For Everyone, that I helped found as an undergrad. I think I would have received more flack from students and faculty except that it was assumed I was a lost cause and that arguing with me was an exercise in futility. I was voted most likely to sentence someone to death for illegal parking, a distinction I cherish a third of a century later, especially considering my many years of criminal defense work!

  24. Interesting title for the assistant dean (the “ass.dean”), JMH. I think his/her brethren staffed several other departments and teaching positions @ SLU also.

    For those alumni possibly interested, the statuary group used to be in front of Fusz Hall at 3700 W Pine Bl, between Spring and Vandeventer (perhaps for Billiken alumni to lay flowers for the memory of Pere De Smet). W Pine was not a busy street, because it dead-ended at that time at Spring. Now it is engulfed within the U. campus. But it was an imposing group, and also must have cost some serious coin in the day. It got your attention. That is bad.

    The chapel at the same address, which used to have Sunday Masses, and was open to the public, has now been turned into the “Museum of Contemporary Religious Art”: because, soon, all religious images will only belong in a museum, of course.

    I am waiting for the next time I go back and imposing French gothic St Francis Xavier (“College”) Church, the official parish and campus church, to be turned into a museum. Or maybe a coffee haus.

    However, regardless, for socialists, re. the De Smet statuary group, the very image of the Church Militant is something that must be leveled.

    “Forward, kameraden!”

  25. How my heart grieves because of the lack of knowledge & godly wisdom/understanding these modern day fools in our so called “institutions of higher learning” exhibit regarding Heros of the faith & the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”

    Romans 1: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”

  26. “LETS GET SOME SOLUTIONS TO THIS AND STOP JUST TALKING ABOUT IT.If we dont, this will be a really hostile country to live in…because I for one will not allow it without a fight.”

    I am working on that right now. Apart from the rare radical conversion as an adult, if most people reach the college age without a meaningful relationship with God–having learned to depend on Him in a practical manner and having not experienced their need of His caring for them–they are often forever lost to the cause. I have concluded that it simply is not possible to reform the corrupt systems currently in place. We simply must begin with new uncorrupted systems and teach a godly remnant–so that truth is not lost from living memory. I will be able to retire from my current job in 6 years & an already have taken some actions toward setting a specific plan in motion. It has never been easier to teach and provide info to people than it is now with the technology that we have at our finger tips. I do not want to put all if my thoughts on this in a public forum as Indint want the liberals to be given a heads up. I feel a specific leading from God in this area. Please allow me to encourage you to pray and ask God to show you specifically what you can do to help save a Godly remnant. He is faithful and will show you for sure.

  27. Thank you, John R, I signed the aforementioned petition: the goal is 20,000, and they are just short of 5000 right now…not bad for such a short amount of time. I wonder if they talked to anyone about this before they just did it.

    Ugh, the socialists HATE confrontation—-that is, confrontation that THEY haven’t initiated. Let’s see where it goes. I will write about it on my next SLU fundraiser e-mail and letter(s) I expect soon.

  28. Just signed the petition as well.

    Saturday tfp is holding emergency Rosary Rallies across America to ask divine assistance regarding the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on so-called same sex marriage.

    Saturday June 13th at noon.

    Did Ireland upset you?
    If so take time to gather at one of the sites on the 13th, ( feast of Marys Immaculate Heart ) and publicly ask God for help.

    Can you imagine Priests being told they Have To officiate at a same sex wedding?
    Unimaginable right?
    Please consider helping by having your own rally. Visit America Needs Fatima site for details.

  29. Yes, Ireland’s vote upset me. And I think back to the consequences of PF’s foolish and ill-manner comments about Catholics being “obsessed” with abortion, homosexual marriage, and contraception (Sept 19, 2013, America magazine interview).

    Since then, for example, the Illinois state legislature quoted him in their justification for passing a gay marriage act, Sr. Jane Laurel, OP, has been forced out of her work as a Catholic high school teacher, and here in San Franpsycho, Arbp. Salvatore Cordileone is being directly controverted by powerful forces appealing to PF to remove Cordileone from office for being “insensitive” and not reflecting the new papal stance on acceptance and tolerance. NYTimes apostate Catholic Frank Bruni writes (May 27, 2015), “On Same-Sex Marriage, Catholics are Leading the Way:” he got your memo, PF! And of course, then there is Ireland. It is hard to fathom how in two years, Pope Chaos has catalyzed so much collapse. Well done good and faithful servant!

    Usquequo, Domine?

  30. Steve Phoenixtop.

    I feel your pain..seriously!
    It’s interesting that todays memorial is dedicated to Saint Charles Lwanga & Companions. Why?
    Because they were put to death by a king who was a homosexual. They tried to reason with him, never backing down from teaching the truth, and the king became frustrated with them. He wouldn’t renounce his lust for same-sex partners and killed St. Charles and companions.

    We faithful must remember we are in the company of the holy Saints and Angels as we face todays homosexual kings queens and henchmen.
    We too must speak the truth to them.
    We too will face frustrated opponents that would love to shut us down, even stepping on Our Religious Freedoms to help soothe their disfigured consciences.

    We must take a stand! We must be willing to stand in public and speak the truth.

    Please consider this an invitation to honor Our God and His commandments.
    Please stand up on Saturday the 13th of June.
    I am the Rally Capt. for our small town in Northern Michigan. I ask you to become one in your town. It’s easy. It’s a step into the breach.

  31. I had read the College Fix article and immediately contacted the SLU President. Would have contacted Trustees had I been able to find their email info. Received a particularly lame and pathetic excuse of an email response so sent a letter to the editor of the St. Lewis Post-Dispatch. Asked others to contact the university president too. So after all that it was a real pleasure to come across this excellent article that detailed the Father’s life. Sent it to the college president, told him he needed a lesson in history before bowing before the Marxist influence at the college he leads.

  32. You can email the senior student who wrote the editorial here His contact info was easily found at the St. Louis University website under the People Finder tab. Not sure if he is accessing it since he was a senior though.

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