St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Father Phillip Gordon, Chippewa Priest

From the Wisconsin Magazine of history 1919

The Wisconsin State HIstorical Society had the pleasure of a visit in the month of December from Father Philip Gordon, missionary to the Chippewa Indians in northern Wisconsin. Father Gordon was born at the town of Gordon, named for his father's family. His mother is a Chippewa and he himself is a member of the Bad River band of that nation. His Indian name is Ti-bish-ko-ge-zick, which means "looking into the sky," an appropriate term for a sky pilot, although he received it when a child, before determining his profession. He was named in honor of an uncle on his mother's side of the family. His grandfather was born at the old La Pointe village on Madeline Island and was interpreter for Father, later Bishop, Baraga, the early nineteenth century apostle to the Wisconsin Indians. The name was originally Gaudin, of French origin, but it has become Anglicized into Gordon.

Father Gordon passed his boyhood in the woods of northern Wisconsin; at the age of thirteen he was sent to St. Paul to be educated. Later he studied in Europe at Rome, Innsbruck, and Bonn. Now in the prime of life he is devoting himself to the uplifting of his people and to helping them to a fuller and richer life. When asked if he was interested in the old Indian traditions he replied, "Yes, but they must be preserved in books, not in men."

Father Gordon makes his headquarters at Reserve on Lake Court d'Oreilles; he officiates however at six chapels: one at Reserve; two on the Lac du Flambeau reservation; one at the mouth of Yellow River, for the St. Croix band; one on Mud Lake in Rusk County; and one at the Old Post, so-called, on the west branch of Chippewa River. This latter place is called by the Indians "Pakwaywang," meaning "a widening in the river"; it is about fourteen miles east of Reserve in section thirty-two of township forty, range six west.

Father Gordon ministers to the Court d'Oreilles band, the Lac du Flambeau band, and the St. Croix band of Chippewa, the latter of whom have no settled homes and many of whom are still pagans. He is an ardent advocate of Americanization and of creating in the Indians a desire for a better standard of life. Most of the Chippewa can read and write, over ninety per cent being literate. In the Court d'Oreilles band the oldest full blood is Anakwat (The Cloud), who lives at the post. Both he and Gaw-ge-ga-bi of Round Lake are much respected because of their age and wisdom.
The orator of this band is Billy Boy, who lives at Reserve and speaks beautiful Chippewa. Father Gordon says there is as much difference between the common language of the reservation and that of the orator as there is between the slang of our street Arabs and the literary idiom of our best writers. He says Billy Boy is a master of Chippewa; his language is sonorous and beautiful, full of original terms and lofty similes.

Father Gordon thinks prohibition will save the Indian race; improvement in manners and morals has been noticeable since this measure became effective. He is very proud of his boys who served in the European War, five of whom lost their lives on the battle fields of France. He is collecting their letters and reminiscences for the Wisconsin War History Commission and promises to write an article on "The Chippewa in the World War."

Recently Father Gordon made a visit to the Potawatomi Indians of eastern Wisconsin, who have been so long neglected both by the government and by missionary agencies. At Soperton in Forest County he met the representatives of this tribe, most of whom are still pagan, and discussed plans for a mission. There are about three hundred Potawatomi living in Forest and in northern Marinette counties, some of whom have recently joined this band from their Kansas home. Their only missionary to the present time has been the Reverend Erik O. Morstad of the Lutheran missions. The government recently acknowledged the claims of the Wisconsin Potawatomi to a share in the tribal funds, and it is hoped that they may be raised from the conditions of poverty and degradation into which they have fallen. Dr. Carlos Montezuma of Chicago accompanied Father Gordon on his visit to the Potawatomi. The former is a member of the Society of American Indians and, like the latter, an enthusiastic advocate of making the Indians citizens and responsible for their own development.

Carlisle Indian School Newspaper PA

Philip B. Gordon First of His Race to Be Ordained in the United States.

Philip B. Gordon (Ti-bish-ko-gijik), a Superior boy, will be the first Indian priest ordained in the United States, and with the exception of one, who was ordained in Rome, the first ordained in the world.

Mr. Gordon was ordained in the priesthood by the Rt. Rev. Joseph M. Koudelka, D. D., Bishop of Superior, at the Sacred Heart ProCathedral on December 8, 1913. It marks the entrance into the ranks of the Catholic clergy of the first Indian of the Chippewa tribe and the second Indian of any tribe.

One other Indian priest, the Rev. Albert Neganquet, was ordained several years ago at Rome for the diocese of Oklahoma. Mr. Gordon, however, will bear the unique distinction of being the first native-born American to be actually ordained within the bounds of the United States.

Philip Gordon is the son of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Gordon, 171 West Fourth street, East End. His grandfather, Antoine Gordon, was one of the pioneer settlers of Douglas County and was closely related to the celebrated chieftain,Hole-in-theDay. Through the old gentleman's influence with the chief, a threatened uprising of Chippewas was prevented during the days of the Sioux outbreak in 1862.

Previous to coming to Douglas County the elder Gordon resided at LaPointe Island, near Ashland, and it was while there that he helped welcome Father, afterwards Bishop, Baraga, the Apostle of the Chippewas, on his first visit to northern Wisconsin as early as 1835. Sometime later Mr. Gordon moved to Amik on the St. Croix, last named Gordon in his honor. Here Mr. Gordon died about five years ago at the extreme age of 98 years.

Philip B. Gordon, grandson of A. Gordon and son of W. D. Gordon and A-ta-ge-kwe, was born at Gordon 26 years ago. He received a common school education in the Douglas County public schools and at St. Mary's Indian School, Odanah; then successively a high school, college, and university training at St. Thomas College and Seminary, St. Paul; the Propaganda University at Rome; Innsbruck University, Tyrol, Austria, and finally at St. John's Abbey, St. Paul. Besides Chippewa and English, Mr. Gordon speaks fluently German, French, and Italian.

Bishop Koudelka will ordain Mr. Gordon for his Indian missions, of which the most important are at Bad River, Lac Courtes Oreilles, and Lac du Flambeau reservations with something over 2,500 Catholic Indians.

P. Rivers, of De Pere, Wis., was ordained at the same time. Ordinations took place Sunday and and Monday. The two young men have received minor orders and subdeaconship, deaconship, and the priesthood. —Superior (Wis.) Telegram.

Father Gordon visited Carlisle a year ago on returning from his studies in Europe. We were especially impressed with his earnestness, which foretells of a useful life in helpful service to his people. With the great inducements of the present day for material gain, our admiration is doubly stirred when we see a young man cast aside such opportunities in order to grasp the richer treasures of spiritual development and Christian service, and we commend this young man for his wise choice.