Records on the emergence of an urban Native American Catholic ministry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 2.05 cubic feet. Gift of Siggenauk Center,1989. Processed by Mark G. Thiel, 1993 with transcripts by Gretchen Lau, 1999.
Milwaukee has had a continuous Native American presence in spite of the federal government's 1838 removal of native peoples from the region. Among the remaining native city dwellers were a few acculturated individuals intermarried within the French Canadian community. Others were intermittent visitors and temporary students. By 1928, Oneida Indians and others began seeking a variety of blue collar jobs within the city. Gradually the number of Indian residents increased in spite the overall shifting and transient nature of their population.
By the late 1970s, the Indian community numbered nearly 10,000 people of various tribal backgrounds and many had expressed intense negative feelings towards the Catholic Church. About one-third had been baptized Catholic but far fewer were active in any area parish. Reasons for non-participation ranged from alienation to poverty and physical infirmities.
Recognizing a need for a Native American ministry program, about 30 Native lay Catholic community leaders organized a steering committee in 1979. They envisioned a program with a broad ecumenical as well as a specifically Catholic thrust that would address social, religious, and community needs. Encouragement and guidance was found in recent Catholic Church developments such as the renewed national Tekakwitha Conference and the new Archdiocese of Milwaukee programs in lay ministry and the permanent diaconate. Furthermore, assistance was provided by local clergy and religious experienced with reservation and inner city ministry as well as the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bureaucracy.
In 1980 the program was established as both the Siggenauk Center and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office of Native American Ministry. The name Siggenauk was chosen to emphasize the intertribal nature of the outreach, as Siggenauk was a prominent 18th century Milwaukee leader of a intertribal village. Activities included worship, religious education, and social welfare concerns, all of which were developed utilizing both Catholic and tribal religious traditions. Involvement in the Center grew substantially after beginning with a small core group of dedicated families. Coupled with a reorganization of archdiocesan agencies, this led to the 1989 establishment of the Congregation of the Great Spirit as a parish for Native Americans and the simultaneous reorganization of Siggenauk as an interfaith spiritual and social welfare agency in collaboration with the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and traditional native religious faith communities.
Scope and Content
Siggenauk Center Series 1, Correspondence: Includes letters pertaining to the group's origins, formal establishment, growth, and transformation into a Catholic parish and an ecumenical social and cultural agency.
Siggenauk Center Series 2, Proceedings: Includes records pertaining to the group's origins, formal establishment, growth, and transformation into a Catholic parish and an ecumenical social and cultural agency.
Siggenauk Center Series 3, Miscellany: Includes clippings, newsletters, and photographs pertaining to the group's origins, formal establishment growth, and transformation into a Catholic parish and an ecumenical social and cultural agency.
The newsletter titles include a succession of three in 1979-1980 that preceded the formation of the Siggenauk Cener: Catholic Indian Community Group Newsletter, E98.M6 C375, Catholic Indian Community Newsletter, E98.M6 C375, and Native American Ministry Newsletter, E98.M6 C375. These titles were followed by the Siggenauk Project, E98.M6 S51, a single untitled issue, and the Siggenauk Center Newsletter, E98.M6 S51, 1980-1989.
Also included is a 1987 oral autobiography by Sister Genevive Cuny, S.S.F. (Oglala) (1930-) as a sound recording and transcript. Sister Cuny was then a national leader of the Tekakwitha Conference National Center (Great Falls, Montana).
The Index to Publications in Native America Collections includes all titles to publications in this collection.
Siggenauk Center Series 4, Financial Records: Includes records pertaining to the group's origins, formal establishment (1980), growth, and transformation (1988) into a Catholic parish and an ecumenical social and cultural agency.
Siggenauk Center Series 5, Client and Personnel Records: Closed until 2025.
Restrictions: In all series, researchers assume full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of these records. All series are ope with the exception of Series 5, which is closed until 2025. Consult an archivist for further information.