Two Wind River Reservation Priests Named On List Of Alleged Abusers

Dec 18, 2018

The St. Stephens church in Arapaho on the Wind River Reservation
Credit Flickr Creative Commons/Jimmy Emerson

A list of Jesuit priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse against them include two clergymen that served at St. Stephens Mission, a school and church on the Wind River Reservation. 

The list of 42 priests was released by the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church earlier this month. Paul Pilgram only served as a priest at St. Stephens for two years in the 1970s but went on to work at Regis High School in Denver. In 1991, four students from Regis High School filed a civil complaint against Pilgram. Seth Klamann is a journalist with the Casper Star Tribune who reported on the list.

"That same year, 1991, he was restricted from contact with minors," said Klamann. "But he remained in the clergy for more than a decade after that."

The second priest, Anthony Short, served in Wyoming longer and worked in several leadership roles during his time.

"[Short] spent a lot of time at St. Stephens," said Klamann. "He was the pastor and superintendent of the Indian School that's attached or closely related. He was an assistant pastor there and was the chairman of the mission's heritage committee."

Klamann said the list released by the Jesuits was relatively detailed. He said it even included the status of the Jesuit priest.

"For instance, the two Wyoming names are both alive still and both are under supervision. One, I believe, is living in a long-term care facility."

Neither of the men were accused by anyone from the Wind River Reservation or in Wyoming. Klamann said St. Stephens Mission declined to comment.

71-year-old Northern Arapaho member Ernie Whiteman attended St. Stephens in the early 60s before Pilgram and Short worked there. He said he also knew of other priest sexual abuse cases, although he personally was never abused during his time there.

"If you were abused by a priest when you were a child," said Whiteman, "and you're suddenly 17 years old, and this is like in 1970, who you going to talk to? Who you going to go to? Who's going to listen?"

Now, Whiteman's daughter Missy works for National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition collecting the oral stories of abuse and healing as told by tribal elders. She said the release of priests' names could trigger fresh pain.

"Because if these names come out, they still may be affected by this. Maybe they haven't told their story. Maybe they haven't told that secret yet," said Whiteman.

Her organization is collecting stories of boarding school trauma on its website. Eventually, the archive will be available to Native American researchers working on solutions to intergenerational trauma.