This Day in Indiana History - September 02, 1838 - Father Benjamin Petit Requested Permission to Accompany Potawatamie West on Trail of Death
|A Day in Indiana History - September|
Benjamin Petit (April 8, 1811 – February 10, 1839)
The son of Chauvin Petit and his wife, Benjamin was native to Rennes, in Brittany, France. After graduating from the University of Rennes law school, he practiced as an attorney for three years before deciding to enter the priesthood. After graduating from the Seminary of Saint Sulpice in 1836, he left France to perform missionary work in the United States among the Amerindian tribes. Assigned to the Catholic Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, Vincennes Bishop Simon Brute ordained him as a priest on October 14, 1837 in Vincennes. Petit took up his mission among the Pottawattamie at Twin Lakes, Indiana in November 1837. He managed to learn their language by June 1838. Beloved by his new charges, the Pottawattamie called him "Chichipe-Outipe" (Little Duck). General John Tipton and his militia troops showed up unexpectedly on August 29, 1838 to remove the Pottawattamie to Oklahoma. Members of the tribe entreated the priest to accompany them on their perilous journey. On September 2, Petit requested Bishop Brute for permission to accompany the tribe. The bishop at first refused, but relented on September 7.
Petit accompanied the tribe on their trek, ministering to their spiritual needs. He kept a detailed journal of the terrible journey, a valuable resource for modern historians. During the trip, he suffered from a fever, like many of the natives. He saw them to their destination and stayed with them until a local priest could join them.