• Nez Perce National Historical Park. Front Page banner photograph is of Heart of the Monster, an ancient place where the Nez Perce creation story originates. The secondary page photograph is of Nez Perce beadwork.

    Nez Perce

    National Historical Park ID,MT,OR,WA

Saint Joseph Mission

St Joseph Church, ca. 1975

St. Joseph's church, taken around 1975. It is one of the only buildings that is still standing. It is privately owned and there is no public access.

Nez Perce National Historical Park Historic Image Collection NEPE-HI-0418

Protestant missionaries had an established presence in Nez Perce country for over twenty years when Father J.M. Cataldo arrived in the area in 1867. Despite fierce competition from some of the Protestant Churches on the reservation, Cataldo was successful in establishing St. Joseph's mission, the first Roman Catholic mission to serve the Nez Perce people. A local Nez Perce leader known as Chief Slickpoo, gave permission to establish a mission on the lands used by his band.

While Father Cataldo would leave once the mission was established, and would go on to establish Gonzaga University, a large mission complex grew on the site. One of the first structures to be built was a chapel was built in 1868, but a permanent location was not established until construction of Saint Joseph's Mission was completed at a more secluded site in 1874. The mission closed in 1958 and most of the buildings are now gone, however, the chapel has been preserved and is still standing today. Please note, the chapel is privately owned and is closed to the public.

Did You Know?

Salmon is an important part of the Nez Perce diet

Salmon is a sacred fish for the Nez Perce. It is sustained them for thousands of years and has shaped their culture and religion. Today the Nez Perce Tribe is playing a leading role in the restoration of wild Salmon runs in the Columbia River Plateau.