So it is not surprising that his granddaughter, Siuwheem, meaning “tranquil waters,” would be among the first to be baptized by Father Pierre-Jean De Smet in 1842. The black-robed priest was setting up missions in the West, and he was then starting one near present-day St. Maries in northern Idaho.
The St. Joseph’s Mission was constructed on the banks of the St. Joe River. Frequent flooding at that site caused the missionaries to soon abandon it. They moved to a hill overlooking the Coeur d’Alene River near present day Cataldo in 1846. They built what would become the Mission of the Sacred Heart there between 1850 and 1853. It stands today as Idaho’s oldest building.
Siuwheem has her own tribal legends. Two stories laud her for stopping battles, first with Spokane Indians, and then with the Nez Perce. As a teenager she married a member of the Spokane Tribe called Polotkin. Upon their baptism Father De Smet gave her the name Louise, and her husband the name Adolph, not only baptizing both but uniting them in marriage. From that point on Siuwheem was known as Louise Siuwheem Polotkin.
Louise was a talented translator and a fervent believer in the new religion the missionaries brought with them. She had a special love for children, especially girls, and took in several who their parents couldn’t care for.
Her grave marker includes the words “She taught religion to the children, cared for the sick and the orphans, taught hymns and prayers and came to this cemetery every night to pray for those buried here.” That marker, which includes the painting of the woman below, stands in the small cemetery on the grounds of the Mission of the Sacred Heart, which was later renamed in honor of another priest. It became the Cataldo Mission of the Sacred Heart. You can visit the grave and the mission at Coeur d’Alenes Old Mission State Park just off Exit 39 of I90 east of Coeur d’Alene.