BUREAU OF CATHOLIC INDIAN MISSIONS
Record Group 1 of Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records
Scope and Content: BCIM Series 1-1 Correspondence, Hughes Administration, 1921-1935

The correspondence, by laws, and minutes of meetings under the BCIM's fourth Executive Director, Monsignor William M. Hughes, is divided into annual increments, which are further divided into five numerically-designated funding categories described below. Within them, the arrangement is first alphabetical by state and there under by localities and missions or schools with "general correspondence" pertaining to two or more missions or schools following at the end. The localities include both individual places and institutions and widely dispersed or sparsely settled areas in clusters comprised of several institutions not listed on the folder headings, e.g. "Arizona Territory, Pima Agency," "New Mexico, Pueblo Reservation."

10-Government Schools: Correspondence with government Indian schools, which typically had associated Catholic religious education and worship programs. The arrangement is alphabetical by U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia, and chronological there under.

20-Mission Schools: Correspondence with Catholic schools funded by private donations. The arrangement is alphabetical by U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia, and chronological there under.

30-Tribal Funds Schools: Correspondence with Catholic schools funded by tribal trust funds that were administered by the U.S. federal government. The arrangement is alphabetical by U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia, and chronological there under.

40-Missions: Correspondence with Catholic missions and parishes. The arrangement is alphabetical by U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia, and chronological there under.

50-General: General correspondence with Bureau personnel, religious institutes (communities or orders) or dioceses regarding two or more missions or schools, other Catholic agencies, U.S. government agencies, and the general public. Within folders marked A to Z, the arrangement is alphabetical by surname and chronological there under. In addition, the following special files were interfiled alphabetically by title: "Assistant Director, Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, [plus name];" "Bequests;" "Commission for Catholic Missions Among the Colored People and the Indians;" "Director, [plus name], Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions;" "Drexel, Katharine," for Saint or Reverend Mother Katharine Drexel, S.B.S.; "Editor, The Indian Sentinel, [plus name];" "Extension Society," for the Catholic Church Extension Society of the United States; "Holy Childhood Association," for the Association de la Sainte Enfance (Society of the Holy Childhood), Paris, France; "Interior Department," for the U.S. Department of the Interior (includes circulars); "Lecturer, Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, [plus name];" "Marquette League," for the Marquette League for Catholic Indian Missions; "Propagation of the Faith Society" for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Paris, France; and "Treasurer, Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, [plus name]."

In 1931-1932, the BCIM collected translations of the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, and other Christian prayers in 12 languages: Assiniboine (Box 207, Folder 10/Reel 76, Frames 0350-0503), Cheyenne (Box 200, Folder 18/Reel 170, Frames 0398-0526), Chinook (Box 202, Folder 19/Reel 171, Frames 1201-1220), Crow (Box 207, Folder 8/Reel 169, Frames 0184-0265), Dakota [Lakota] (Box 202, Folder 12/ Reel 171, Frames 0954-0982), Eskimo [Inuit] (Box 201, Folders 11 and 15/Reel 171, Frames 0268-0323, Box 206, Folder 15/Reel 175, Frames 0064-0135), Menominee (Box 201, Folder 9/Reel 171, Frames 0147-0184), Navajo (Box 198, Folder 27/Reel 168, Frames 0630-0688 and Box 206 Folder 22/Reel 175,Frames 0584-0680), Nez Perce (Box 207 Folder 3/Reel 175, Frames 1064-1137), Ojibwa (Box 200 Folder 16/ Reel 170 Frames 0292-0347 and Box 202 Folder 9/Reel 171 Frames 0853-0858), Salish (Box 199, Folder 11/Reel 171, Frames 0767-0778 and Box 207, Folder 2/Reel 175, Frames 0986-1063), and Siksika [Blackfeet]/ Piegan (Box 199 Folder 9/ Reel 169 Frames 0079-0183). Many of these prayers were then published in The Indian Sentinel. These and other prayers are also included in Series 8-1 and 8-2.

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.

Retrospective additions and special compilations, 1873-1976: Included is correspondence acquired after 2000 and not microfilmed; a compilation of Bureau correspondence by Native American correspondents selected from throughout the general correspondence, 1873-1975; and a compilation of Bureau and Collection legal documents and minutes of meetings by their boards of directors, 1876-1976. The BCIM Series 1-1 Index of Native American Authors includes all identified notable authors; PDF copies 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."

Archival materials from the Raynor Memorial Libraries


Marquette Archives