‘Selected Letters of A.M.A. Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla & Nesqualy 1846-1879’
SPOKANE, Wash. – Patricia O’Connell Killen, academic vice president at Gonzaga University, will discuss her recent book about the early Northwest Bishop A.M.A. Blanchet at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25 in the McCarthey Athletic Center’s Herak Room. Sponsored by the Greater Gonzaga Guild, the event is free and open to the public.
Killen co-edited “Selected Letters of A.M.A. Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla & Nesqualy 1846-1879,” with Roberta Stringham Brown, professor of French at Pacific Lutheran University, which was published last fall by University of Washington Press. This selection of 45 letters by the first Catholic Bishop of today’s Washington state provides a view of early Washington history through the eyes of an intelligent, devout, energetic, perceptive, and occasionally irascible cleric and administrator.
In 1846, French Canadian-born A.M.A. Blanchet was named the first Catholic bishop of Walla Walla in the area soon to become Washington Territory. He arrived at Fort Walla Walla in late September 1847, part of the largest movement over the Oregon Trail to date. The Northwest underwent profound social and political change during Blanchet’s 32 years in the region as the Hudson’s Bay Company moved headquarters and many operations north following the Oregon Treaty, U.S. government and institutions were established, and Native American inhabitants dealt with displacement and discrimination. Blanchet chronicled both his own pastoral and administrative life and his observations on the world around him in a voluminous correspondence – almost 900 letters – to religious superiors and colleagues in Montreal, Paris, and Rome; funding organizations; other missionaries; and U.S. officials.
Nearly all of Blanchet’s correspondence was in French. After translating it, Brown and Killen chose 45 of those letters to annotate and introduce, creating a history of early Washington that provides new insights into relationships, events, and personalities.
A number of the letters provide firsthand glimpses of familiar events, such as the Whitman tragedy, the California gold rush, Indian wars and land displacement, transportation advances, and the domestic material culture of a frontier borderland. Others voice the hardships of historically underrepresented groups, including Native Americans, Metis, and French Canadians, and the experiences of ordinary people in growing population centers such as Seattle, Walla Walla, and Vancouver, Wash. Still others describe the struggle to bring social, medical, and educational institutions to the region, a struggle in which women religious workers played a key role. The letters and the editors’ annotations provide an engaging and insightful look at an important period in the history of the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada.
Vice President Killen received her master’s degree and Ph.D. in religious studies from Stanford University, where she specialized in the religious history of North America. She has received several recognitions for her scholarly work in both the United States and Canada. She has been the chief academic officer at Gonzaga since July 2011.
The Greater Gonzaga Guild is dedicated to raising awareness of Gonzaga’s scholarly and cultural contributions to the region. The Guild is open to all people interested in learning.
For more information, please contact Mary Joan Hahn at (509) 313-6095 or via email.