Chief Narcisse Isadore, born in 1882, was a great grandson of Chief Three Moon. Narcisse’s tribe, the Lower Kutenai, called home: “the horseshoe bend of the Kootenai River…the land I inherited from my ancestors situated on both banks of the river.” Not much is known about Narcisse’s childhood, but he was proudly raised in the ways of his people. Living in the Kootenai Aboriginal Territory, they harvested wild plants and fruits; the hunting grounds belonged to the whole tribe and fish were abundant in the river and lakes. Narcisse became a skilled hunter; hunting by the moon and only for as much as could be eaten. Once, Narcisse stayed in a thicket all night waiting to get a deer. Everyone was worried about the patient hunter, but he returned in the morning successful.

In 1900, at age 18, Narcisse married Catherine Adams; sadly she passed away in 1903. In 1904, he married Isabel David, who passed away the following year. Narcisse then married Anne Nichols Jerome in 1906; to this union were born 11 children of whom 2 grew to adulthood.

Narcisse witnessed many changes in his people after the arrival of the white man: from religion to living conditions and in general the unfair way humans treat each other. The soft spoken gentle man tried very hard to better the condition of his people.

Prior to becoming Chief, Narcisse urged his people to extend honor to the Catholic priest who served the Mission, asking his people to donate money to build a “proper” church. Raising $1,000, they had a fine wooden church built that was called St. Michael’s. With no money for seats, Narcisse’s people knelt on the floor, each leaving their hat on the front porch. A few years later, the B.F. Reader’s Club gave them $54 which Narcisse used to paint the church and build benches.

In 1912, a school house was added at the Mission. Narcisse hoped his people might become better educated. He learned to speak English, but witnesses said he spoke Kootenai so eloquently, they would rather listen to him than to his interpreter.

On November 18, 1916, the fair minded Narcisse Isadore was elected Chief of the Kootenai Tribe in the little church. The men fired a salute to honor him and a feast and dancing ensued. The next morning, Chief Narcisse informed his people of his desire to enforce discipline in the school and admonished them to ”obey the laws of the white.” He chose to set a fine example for his people.

For years, Chief Narcisse witnessed the troubles his people had with land allotments; land given and taken away repeatedly from 1892 up into the 1930’s. Chief Narcisse worked diligently with the white farmers, learning farming methods to help his people with their allotted valley farm land. But the government agencies took many land allotments and put them up for auction. In 1927 alone, 32 individual 80 acre allotments valued at approximately $69,000 were auctioned off for less than their value to white farmers. The proceeds went into the forming of drainage districts with little or nothing paid to the Kootenai Tribal land owners.

Discouraged by these proceedings, Chief Narcisse felt deep concern for the declining condition of his people. Inadequate housing, food and healthcare weighed heavily upon him. In 1931, with the aid of Dr. Fry, Nurse Chadwick, school teacher Phena Anderson, Mary Hawkins and Rosa Causton, he was successful in having 18 houses built on 10 acres purchased by the government at the Mission.

Chief Narcisse died April 29, 1935. The Kootenai people felt “sorrow in their hearts” at the loss of their beloved Chief.

Chief Narcisse Isadore
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