Believing in the Past: Part 1

Henri Chatillon

On the heels of Native American Heritage Month it is time to honor my ancestors.

Two folks have benefitted from historical accounts of their sojourns and I like to think I draw on their qualities.

Author of the popular book The Oregon Trail, Francis Parkman, wrote a lot about my great-great-great-great grandfather, Henri Chatillon, his guide.

I find it fitting to now call Oregon home, a place my ancestor once inhabited.

Parkman’s recollections of Chatillon are, in a word, loving.

He was “brave and true-hearted,” courtly, honest, wise, and handy with knife and rifle.

When Parkman met him, Henri was about 30, and stood six foot, and “very powerfully and gracefully molded.”

Parkman continues:

“The prairies had been his school; he could neither read nor write, but he had a natural refinement and delicacy of mind such as is rarely found, even in women. His manly face was a perfect mirror of uprightness, simplicity, and kindness of heart; he had, moreover, a keen perception of character and a tact that would preserve him from flagrant error in any society.

“Henry had not the restless energy of an Anglo-American. He was content to take things as he found them; and his chief fault arose from an excess of easy generosity, impelling him to give away too profusely ever to thrive in the world. Yet it was commonly remarked of him, that whatever he might choose to do with what belonged to himself, the property of others was always safe in his hands.

“His bravery was as much celebrated in the mountains as his skill in hunting; but it is characteristic of him that in a country where the rifle is the chief arbiter between man and man, Henry was very seldom involved in quarrels.

“Once or twice, indeed, his quiet good-nature had been mistaken and presumed upon, but the consequences of the error were so formidable that no one was ever known to repeat it. No better evidence of the intrepidity of his temper could be wished than the common report that he had killed more than thirty grizzly bears.

“He was a proof of what unaided nature will sometimes do. I have never, in the city or in the wilderness, met a better man than my noble and true-hearted friend, Henry Chatillon.”

My hope is that I might one day embody some of these fine attributes: bravery, generosity and kindness.

[Blog 16 of Native American Heritage Month. I pledge one blog each day.]

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in american indian, Henri Chatillion, Indian, Native Science and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Believing in the Past: Part 1

  1. Quite the shoes to fill. It’s pretty cool that you know what at least one of your ancestors was like!

    Like

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