St. Xavier. Mission town in western Montana’s Sniél-emen Valley. It is also the name of the church and boarding school where Indian children are trained by Roman Catholic nuns and priests. Like the real Montana mission town of St. Ignatius, in which D’Arcy McNickle was born, St. Xavier is on the Flathead Indian Reservation and was created to convert the Indians to Christianity. Its church has an air of grandeur given to it by the hovels that are set against it. Both the church and the school play important roles in the novel as places in which Indians are educated in Western values, with various levels of success. Mike and Narcisse, nephews of Archilde Leon, run away from the school to hide out in the mountains.
Max Leon’s ranch
Max Leon’s ranch. Ranch built up by Archilde’s father, a prosperous Spanish immigrant to Montana. Archilde develops a fondness for the ranch, even as he thinks of leaving it. He would like to be able to take with him its evening sounds and smells. Max’s house is as well furnished as any white man’s house, but Catherine, his Indian wife, lives apart from him in a nearby dirt-roofed cabin. Contrasts between these two houses reflect the divide between the white world and the Indian world. Although they are still married, Max and Catherine live differently and have different experiences. Max’s life revolves around cultivation of his land and the profit he derives from it. Catherine, meanwhile, is undergoing a gradual, inexorable return to the beliefs and rituals of her Salish people.
Mountains. The Sniél-emen Valley is enclosed by the Bitter Root Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. These mountains have unspoiled natural areas that are...
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