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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 1, 2009 - Volume 7 Number 1


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The Indian Priest
Father Philip B. Gordon

by Paula Delfeld
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

THE INDIAN PRIEST: Father Philip B. Gordon, 1885-1948, by Paula Delfeld, Copyright 1977 by Franciscan Herald Press, 1434 West 51 Street, Chicago, Illinois 60609

Library of Congress Catalog in Publications Data:
Delfeld, Paula
The Indian Priest, Father Philip B. Gordon, 1885-1948
1. Gordon, Philip B., 1885-1948. 2. Chippewa Indians - Biography 3. Catholic Church - Clergy - Biography. 4. Clergy - United States - Biography
1. Title
E99.C6G643 282'.092'4(B) 76-44869
ISBN 0-8199-0650-6

Nihil, Obstat:
Mark P. Hegener O.F.M.
Censor Deputatus

Msgr. Richard A. Rosemeyer. J.C.D.
Vicar General, Archdiocese of Chicago

January 17, 1977
"The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed."

Made In The United States of America

By Father Gordon's Best Friend
Paul Villaume

The Indian Priest is the life-story of a dear friend of mine, a wonderful priest, a holy man, a proud American Indian and a good citizen

Father Gordon deserves what Paula Delfeld has so carefully researched and written. She writes gloriously of his pride in his Indian heritage. She tells of his priestly qualities. He loved God through his deep Catholicity; he loved the priesthood of the Catholic Church. Most importantly she tells the reader about a man who was loved by those who knew him well - as a priest, a scholar, a raconteur, a leader in the fight for man's dignity no matter what his origin.

He was a most important part of my life from 1925 to 1948, age 10 to age 33. In the book he comes to life in a very real sense.

In this short introduction I pay tribute to my dear friend and to the lovely lady who has done her difficult job so well. Father Gordon would have loved it. - P.V.

Among the numerous articles I have had published about 300, a subject occasionally emerges that seems to warrant more than just an article, Such was the case with the story of the first Indian priest, Father Philip Gordon.

For several years I had acted as chauffeur for an elderly couple, Mr. And Mrs. Orrin McGrath, to take them to their cottage at Minong, Wisconsin ten miles from Gordon, the birthplace of Father Gordon.

The McGraths, who now reside in North Fond du Lac, had lived in northern Wisconsin for many years and knew the country well. Orrin, better known as 'Mac' interests was the Gordon family. He showed me an 'Outline for Biography of a Chippewa Indian Who Became a Catholic Priest,' a 43- page booklet which apparently had been written with the intention of using it for writing an autobiography, with the help of Dan Wallace and Fred Holmes. No book was ever completed as far as I was able to ascertain. Apparently, they were all advanced in years and were unable to complete the project. Father Gordon had mentioned sending a manuscript to Dan Wallace, but none has been found. He may have referred to the outline.

The more I heard about Father Gordon, the more interested I became. I wrote to the Wisconsin Historical Society to find out what they might have about him. It was very little, but they mentioned a column the priest had written for four years in the Inter-County Leader, published at Frederic, Wisconsin.

I had heard of this newspaper, published in a small town in Polk County, from Bernice Abrahamzon, who is employed there. I wrote to her and she assured me that Father Gordon had indeed written a series of articles entitled, "History of St. Patrick's and Other Interesting Events." The only problem was that the series was not on microfilm but in bound copies, and they had no way of reproducing the articles.

Bernice quoted a few sentences and said there was a wealth of information; I was intrigued. I wondered why I had never heard of the Indian priest. I went to Frederic and photographed all the columns, written weekly for four years, and worked during my spare time the following winter, making prints of the film I had taken. It was not easy, but it was the beginning of two years of research resulting in this book.

After considerable correspondence, research, travel, and interviews, I was nearing the end, but I was sadly lacking information about Father Gordon's later years. Almost all of his contemporaries were dead. I found people here who were young during Father Gordon's time, and remembered him, but few who knew him intimately.

At some point I had checked the St. Paul directory for the name of Villaume, after seeing photos of Paul Villaume in the above-mentioned outline. I found a Paul Villaume in the directory, and assumed he would be a descendant. I knew Paul Villaume had named his son Philip Gordon after the priest but he might have had another son or a nephew.

I contacted Paul Villaume and was amazed to find he was the original. He was quite young when he traveled with the Indian priest. I went to St. Paul to interview him. He was extremely interested in my project and furnished much of the information for the later years of Father Gordon's life as well as some interesting photos.

In the book I hope to show the development of an Indian boy who knew life on the reservation, but rose above discrimination, became educated and spent his life fighting for the cause of the Indians and for unity of religious and ethic groups.

Father Gordon was ahead of his time in his attempt to combine two worlds, the Indian and the white, and the spiritual and the human.

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