Protestant missionaries had an established presence in Nez Perce country for over twenty years when Father J.M. Cataldo arrived 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, going on to establish Gonzaga University, a large mission complex grew on the site. One of the first structures to be built was a chapel 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, though no longer in use.
The Mission Era
During the mid nineteenth century, Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries spent time among the Nez Perce.
Visit Saint Joseph's Mission
Plan your trip to the site where Father Cataldo established a Roman Catholic mission.
Last updated: August 31, 2020