Fr.  Joseph Griva  S.J..

    Edward Griva was born near Turin, Italy on September 20, 1864.  Following a formal education in his native country, Griva completed his schooling in the Society of Jesus at DeSmet, Idaho.
    Griva's initial Missionary experience was among the Assiniboine Indians (1894-1895) at St. Paul's Mission.  Here he began the study of his first Native American Language, a learning process that progressed through twelve Indian tongues during his following half century in the mission field.  Later stations were at St. Charles Mission, Pryor Creek, Montana among the Crow Indians (1895-1898), the Yakima Reservation (1898-1902), St. Francis Regis Mission on the Colville Reservation (1902-1903), back again to the Assiniboine (1904-1907) and St. Ignatius Mission among the Kalispel and Kootenai (1907-1912).
    Deteriorating Health caused Griva to be transferred to an Italian parish in San Jose, California in 1912 but a year later he returned to the Colville Reservation.  Here he remained at Nespelem and Omak from 1913 until his death in 1948.
    Griva's facility in learning  Indian languages was amazing.  At one point he was thought to be the only white man able to speak and write the Yakima language, and only one of two in the the first half of the twentieth century to speak Assiniboine.  He also wrote dictionaries in Columbia, Colville, Crow and Kalispel languages plus various other grammars and texts.
    His autobiography states:

"No one can expect to learn these languages by himself but he must listen to the way that the Indians speak both with regard to pronunciation (and) as to the way of making a sentence.  Hence I tried to pay close attention to the way of talking of the Indians whenever I had a chance, and write down in a small memorandum all the words that I could catch, and then ask the meaning of every word and write it.  It is a study that requires lots of time and still more patience."
    In leaning an Indian language Griva also relied heavily on previously published material, even some from other tribes.  He successfully used Sioux tribal materials developed in South Dakota in his work with the Assiniboine since both tribes belonged to the same language group.  Yet, in the end, he concluded that "many people have the idea that one Indian language helps to learn another.  It is not so by any means."
    An incredibly diligent worker, Father Griva helped to construct sixteen churches around the Pacific Northwest.  Yet, it was his Indian language work that was the source of this greatest pride.  He feared for the safety of his manuscripts to the point where, in 1946, he solicited, through a newspaper article, a vault in which to place his holdings.  Upon his death two years later on October 21, 1948 his linguistic materials came to the Oregon Province Archives where they testify to his position as premier Jesuit linguist among the Salsas tribes.
Excerpt from the "Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Oregon Province Archives of the Society of Jesus Indian Language Collection: The Pacific Northwest Tribes". Copy write, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA, 1976