Letters from the Rocky Mountain Indian Missions: Father Philip Rappagliosi

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Letters from the Rocky Mountain Indian Missions: Father Philip Rappagliosi. Edited by Robert Bigart. Translated from the Italian by Anthony Mattina and Lisa Moore Nardini; translated from the German by Ulrich Stengel. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 2003. Pp. xliv, 148. $49.95.)

The worth of this volume is best appreciated when the terms in the title are defined. The "letters" are thirty-three in number. The "Rocky Mountain Indian Missions" are Saint Mary's Mission in the Montana Bitterroots during portions of 1874; Saint Ignatius Mission in the Mission Valley in Montana's Lower Flathead River Valley in 1875; and Saint Peter's Mission for the Blackfeet from 1875 to 1878. The Indians in the title refer to the Salish Flatheads, Coeur d'Alenes, Kootenai, Upper Pend d'Oreilles, and Blackfeet, but also include the Canadian Métis, a mixed-blood group on the Northern Plains. The author of the letters is Philip Rappagliosi, S.J. (1841-1878), an Italian Jesuit missionary.

Overseeing the first-time translation of Rappagliosi's words and ushering them into print is Robert Bigart, librarian emeritus at Salish Kootenai College in Montana. All but three of the letters were translated from Memorie del P. Filippo Rappagliosi, D.C.D.G., missionario apostolico nelle Montagne Rocciose (Rome, 1879). That Bigart was able to locate a copy of the book, plus the other two sources for the three odd letters, is a tribute to his skill as a librarian. That Bigart could write such an authoritative, structured, and informative introduction to this book is a tribute to his ability as an editor. There is no formal bibliography, but the sources Bigart consulted can be surmised by reading the "Abbreviations" and the "Notes" at the rear of the book. …