De Smetiana

The De Smetiana Record Group contains over one hundred depictions of Native Americans by Jesuit Nicolas Point (1799-1868), sixteen bound letter-press books of the correspondence by missionary Jesuit Peter John De Smet (1801-1873), and forty of the earliest maps of the Northwest United States. The Map of the Northern Rocky Mountains and Plateau, in particular, provides a detailed representation of the geography and native communities in the region of the Columbia River. The prints by Point and maps by De Smet are available for use through our website. Our De Smetiana, in short, stands among the most consulted records in the Jesuit Archives.

The archives wishes to move forward with a large-scale digital collection project to involve the conservation, digitization, and delivery of our letter-press books. We estimate 5,000 letters, measuring approximately sixty inches, exist in the books. In addition to his skills in cartography, De Smet corresponded with military, political, and religious leaders throughout the nineteenth century. He also chronicled meetings with indigenous peoples and mountain guides. Scholars in academic disciplines such as anthropology, archives studies, education, history, religion, and science, around the world and across institutions, would particularly benefit immensely from access to these materials. A recently completed inventory of letters and paper artifacts, arranged alphabetically according to recipient and chronologically according to date of creation, allows us to organize and search the collection. We currently restrict access to the letters because of the paper’s fragility. Where the work by Hiram M. Chittenden and Alfred T. Richardson, Life, Letters, and Travels of Father Pierre-Jean De Smet SJ, provides access to the missionary’s published letters, scholars also consider access to his unpublished letters essential for their research.


De Smetiana Card Index