Record Group 1 of Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records
Scope and Content: BCIM Series 1-1 Correspondence, Stephan Administration, 1885-1900

Pre-1921 originals are fragile. Patrons must use the microfilm version unless granted an exemption by the archivist in charge.

The correspondence, by laws, and minutes of meetings under the BCIM's second Executive Director, Father Joseph A. Stephan, is divided into annual chronological increments, and there under, the arrangement is alphabetical by U.S. states, territories, the District of Columbia, and Rocky Mountain Missions, i.e. Jesuit-administered missions or schools in Idaho, Montana, and Washington, with North Dakota and South Dakota listed as "Dakota, North" and "Dakota, South." Within these areas, the arrangement continues alphabetically throughout with individual folders for missions or schools and/or localities with Catholic-mission related activities. The localities include both individual places and institutions that are widely dispersed or clusters of sparsely settled areas with a number of institutions not listed on the folder headings, e.g. "Arizona Territory, Pima Agency, Papago Reservation;" "New Mexico, Pueblo Reservation."

Filed at the end of these states, territories, or areas is BCIM general correspondence pertaining to two or more missions or schools within it, e.g. "Alaska, General Correspondence." Note that North and South Dakota has a combined two-state folder, "Dakotas, General," which follows "Dakota, South." Also included is occasional Commission correspondence.

District of Columbia: The bulk of correspondence under this heading pertains to business in and near the District, such as correspondence with officials of the U.S. Congress, Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs (including Indian agents) and officials of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions and the Archbishop of Baltimore. Also included is correspondence with Katharine Drexel, mission fund raising organizations such as the Association de la Sainte Enfance (Society of the Holy Childhood), Paris, France, Commission for Catholic Missions among the Colored People and the Indians, Baltimore, Maryland, Leopoldine Stiftung (Leopoldine Society), Vienna, Austria, Marquette League, New York, New York, and Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Lyon, France; superiors of religious orders, which staffed missions and schools, and correspondence pertaining to two or more Catholic missions and general concerns not pertaining to any specific mission. Also inter-filed are meeting minutes of boards of directors of the BCIM, Commission, and Marquette League.

Within the folders all dated material is arranged chronologically followed immediately by corresponding folders with undated and circa dated 1884-1900 materials.

After 1887, the federal government allotted most reservations. In many instances, with assistance from the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, Catholic missions and schools were able to secure allotments on the lands so used. If and when that occurred, the allotment descriptions are interfiled within the correspondence of the respective missions and schools by their date of issuance.

Father Stephan (German-American) corresponded in German with some missionaries in North Dakota, South Dakota, and possibly other states, 1885-1901.

During the Stephan era, correspondents produced and retained copies of outgoing correspondence with letterpress books, many of which provided only marginally legible copies at best. In the microfilm, these copies represent an estimated 5% of the frames, and when archives staff produced the microfilm during the 1970s, they lacked digital tools to enhance legibility. While enhanced digital copies are now available, the enhancement of these letters does not guarantee legibility.

General Information

These records contain extensive and diverse historical narratives about Native Americans and their communities, and especially Native American Catholics and their Catholic parishes and events. Also detailed are the Catholic missionaries and their evangelization through parishes, schools, and special events. These accounts are especially valuable whenever related historical records have not survived elsewhere.

Archivists have made extensive efforts to properly identify, arrange, and copy the documents. However, researchers should be aware that, in at least a few instances, legibility and misinterpretation of handwriting has compromised the order of documents, e.g. abbreviations for both "January" and "June" may appear as "Jun." Also, some marginally legible original documents are unreadable in the microfilm version. Patrons coping with such issues are invited to "Ask an Archivist."

Most correspondents were Bureau personnel, ordinaries (bishops and archbishops who headed dioceses and archdioceses), U.S. government officials, benefactors, e.g. Katharine Drexel, and representatives of national and international Catholic missionary organizations. Common topics include Catholic education and evangelization, Native American socio-economic issues, and related U.S. Government policies, legislation, and appointments. Substantial volumes per year occurred between 1915-1945.

A number of non-English letters are also included, which reflects the mutual linguistic abilities of the first three BCIM directors -- Brouillet (French), Stephan (German), and Ketcham (Choctaw) -- and their correspondents as well as the publicity interests of the fourth director (Hughes). Where they exist, English summaries or full-text translations are available online with links in the appropriate folder titles of the inventories or as PDF copies available on request. Newspaper clippings are included as well with additional ones in Series 15.

The names of Catholic institutions with their corresponding place names are used throughout the descriptive inventories according to the names current at that time. Be aware that a number of institution and place names changed over time and that more than one name may have been used simultaneously. For examples, St. John's Mission School on the Gila River Reservation in Arizona was known first as St. John's Mission, Komatke, Arizona and later as St. John's Mission, Laveen, Arizona and the Holy Rosary Mission School near Pine Ridge on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is now known as Red Cloud Indian School.

The years 1884, 1900, 1920, 1934, 1976, and 2007 were transitional years between old and new directors. To avoid splitting years, all of the records for these years were filed under the outgoing director.

Prior to 1977, the series 1-1 folder headings identify the principal institutions (e.g. parishes, missions, schools), their localities, and the year of the records, and thereafter, they identify the year of the records without identifying institutions and localities. Throughout, the headings do not identify the Native American and Catholic groups (e.g. arch/ dioceses, religious congregations/ orders) involved, some of which varied over time, and they do not identify the "mission stations" filed under the pre-1977 "general" headings of the states and District of Columbia, some of which were temporary and short lived.

For presumptive identifications of Catholic and Native American groups, places, and years, see the Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States. Consult its user tips, listings of Native American groups and Catholic groups, and guide entries, which illuminate the Bureau records and other Marquette collections.

Whenever a bishop's correspondence to/ from the BCIM or Commission pertained to one institution, it was filed among the correspondence for that institution. But if it pertained to more than one institution, it was filed under the general correspondence for that state. Researchers unfamiliar with the related Catholic arch/ diocesan histories, may wish to consult the diocesan entries in the Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States and/or the Index to the Catholic Directories for the United States with Appended Countries, 1817, 1822, 1833-.

Between 1977-1980 and in 1997, Marquette University microfilmed Series 1 through 1975 with the exception of scant amounts of pre-1976 correspondence received later. Some early ledger-book copies contain marginal legibility. The original record order has been maintained, which includes varying combinations of hierarchical, alphabetical, chronological, and numerical arrangement according to the changing needs of the directors and staff of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

Additions and Special Compilations, 1873-1990: BCIM correspondence from the Stephan (1885-1900), Ketcham (1901-1920), Hughes (1921-1935), Tennelly (1936-1976), and Lenz (1977-1990) administrations acquired after 2000, which has been neither microfilmed nor interfiled within those respective records. Rather, these additions have been maintained separately and cross-referenced with their respective holdings.

These additions and special compilations pertain primarily to real estate and special funds with long-term BCIM interests; a compilation of BCIM correspondence with Native American authors selected from throughout its general correspondence; and a compilation of BCIM and Commission legal documents and minutes of meetings by their boards of directors. "Bureau of Catholic Indian MIssions Property Descriptions and Notes by State," 1990, is a 66-page historical report detailing BCIM interests in lands for missions, schools, cemeteries, etc., plus mineral rights in 18 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) and the District of Columbia. Also noted are the dates and parties to the acquisition and disposal of the interests, which is documented by correspondence in these additions. The BCIM Series 1-1 Index of Native American Authors includes all identified notable Native authors. PDF copies of the BCIM Real Estate Report and correspondence by Native American authors are available on request.

Series 1 Index of Correspondence (Work in-progress): An off-line database that contains all correspondents with the BCIM and Commission through 1976, including additions. Not included were BCIM directors and Commission secretaries while in office. Names are alphabetized by surnames, if known, or forenames when surnames are not given, e.g. "Sister Mary." Titles and initials designating religious order affiliations are included, e.g. "Sister Mary, O.S.F." If known, places of residence, name variations, and Native American ethnicity is included. In some instances, native ethnicity was confirmed through cross-referencing with Series 2-1 BCIM School Records and other sources that confirmed affinities between specific surnames and ethnic groups. The index is especially useful for locating correspondence by frequent writers who corresponded from multiple locations, e.g. Katharine Drexel. For more information, please contact, "Ask an Archivist."

Reformatted records: The microfilm version of the Series 1-1 Correspondence is available via interlibrary loan within the United States; please follow the "Guidelines for Interlibrary Loans." PDF copies are available as well, for which fees may be assessed according to the Fee Schedule.Because the original correspondence before 1920 is in fragile physical condition, researchers desiring access to these years may be directed to the microfilm.

For more information, "Ask an Archivist."