BUREAU OF CATHOLIC INDIAN MISSIONS
Record Group 1 of Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records
Scope and Content: BCIM Series 2-1 Catholic School Reports

These school records are comprised of statistical summaries and special pupil attendance records. The statistical summaries were submitted annually by all Catholic schools in the United States that served primarily Native American pupils (112 schools from 19 states) whereas the pupil attendance reports were submitted quarterly as documentation for securing pupil tuition reimbusement from tribal trust funds, which were available to many, but not all Native pupils in Catholic schools (101 schools from 15 states). The reports are arranged alphabetically by state, there under by locality and school, and chronologically within each folder with the annual reports inter-filed chronologically among the attendance reports. For most schools, the files are incomplete with at least a few reports missing of one type or the other; for some schools, the reporting gaps are substantial with many reports missing. For Holy Name Boarding School and Holy Name Day School in Assinins (Baraga), Michigan, large gaps in the records apparently result from the interchangeable use of the two names for essentially one student body. However the quarterly reports are arranged separately according to whichever school is named on that report with those for the Boarding School preceding those for the Day School.

The statistical summaries note whether the school was a boarding or day facility, the numbers of its lay and religious employees, the names of affiliated religious communities, the amounts and sources of financial support, the number of total pupils with breakdowns by sex and average attendance, the numbers by religious and ethnic affiliations, and the number of times various sacraments were administered.

Beginning in 1904, the U.S. Government allowed Native American parents from tribes with treaty funds held in trust, to use them to pay tuition for their children to attend Catholic schools. To calculate the payments, it required the schools to submit quarterly attendance reports listing those pupils eligible for this tuition benefit. In 1908, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Quickbear v. Leupp that tribal treaty trust funds administered by the federal government were private, and not public, revenues, which validated the legality of the practice. See Series 16-3-1 for briefs pertaining to Quickbear v. Leupp at the various federal court levels, 1906-1908.

To be eligible for government Indian benefits and their tribe's trust-fund account, regulations required parents and their children to be enrolled members of the tribe. The regulations further required qualified parents to sign annual petitions to authorize the government to pay their tuition to Catholic schools from that account; they required the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions and the schools to sign contracts with the government; and they required the filing of quarterly reports documenting the attendance of students enrolled in tribes.

Not all Native American pupils qualified. But some schools listed all students, both qualified and non-qualified ones (e.g. non-enrolled Indians, non-Indians) and other schools listed only qualified pupils. Not all Catholic schools serving Native Americans had pupils who qualified, either because the pupils were not enrolled members of a tribe or because their native communities lacked a trust fund account held by the federal government. Consequently, some Catholic schools with native pupils never submitted these specialized attendance records.

Some schools that did submit pupil quarterly attendance records to the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions did so as early as 1900. Other schools did not begin the practice until the fall of 1908 or later. Schools then continued to submit the reports for as long as the pupils' tribes had trust funds and/or the school continued to operate. Reporting by a few schools ceased in the 1910s-1950s with reporting by all remaining Catholic schools ceasing during the 1960s-1970s.

The content and completeness of the reports vary widely. Typically they include lists of pupils' dates of attendance, related comments, ethnicity, and degree of Indian blood. Many reports have arranged pupil’s names first by gender, ethnicity, and lodging status (i.e. boarders, orphans) and there under alphabetically by surname. Some reports include staff names and their occupations and statistical summaries.

Catholic schools created the reports in triplicate and retained one of the three copies. They then forwarded the second and third copies to the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, which retained the second copy, and forwarded the third to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The copies retained by the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions now comprise the bulk of the Series 2-1 School Reports in the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records at Marquette University. The copies retained by two schools -- Holy Rosary Mission - Red Cloud Indian School and St. Francis Mission School in South Dakota -- are included in the Series 2-2 school attendance records in those collections). The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration holds the Bureau of Indian Affairs copies, which are inter-filed within the respective Indian Agency records at the corresponding branch repositories of the National Archives. For more information about the BIA copies at the National Archives, see Marquette’s Guides to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States. These records are not at Marquette, but at the institutions described. Because many sets of these attendance records contain gaps, knowing the whereabouts of other copies may be crucial for some research projects.

The Series 1-1 General Correspondence includes related letters between the schools and the Bureau pertaining to annual government contracts, pupil enrollment (includes enrollment lists), and attendance. Also included are petitions signed annually by the pupils' parents authorizing the schools to enroll their children in Catholic schools.

Background information about these records is also summarized here. For more information about access to these records and other genealogical records at Marquette University, please submit an Application for Genealogical Query. For some schools, redacted facsimiles (photocopies with obliterated confidential information) are available as noted in the descriptive inventories. In instances were records are more than 70 years old, comprehensive non-redacted facsilmiles may be available.

For contact information about access to these records at a record center of the U.S. National Archives, see Marquette's Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States. Unless the repository entry states specifically that Marquette holds copies of the records, the records described are not at Marquette, but at the repository identified by the entry.

BCIM Series 2-1 Surname Index: This index contains all student surnames found in the BCIM Catholic school attendance records.  It provides surnames, ethnicity, two-letter postal abbreviations of the state where the school was located, and the number of the box that contained the record.  Also included a few non-Indians who also attended these schools.

Afraid of Bear to Zuni: Surnames in English of Native American Origin within the Marquette Collections: Lists names found primarily in the school reports.

Series 2-1 Restrictions: FERPA governs access to these records.  In most instances, microfilm copies are not available via Interlibrary loan. However, whole folders of records may be available as PDFs. For folders with all records over 70 years old, PDF copies of non-redacted records are available for which fees may be assessed. For many records of any age, folders of redacted copies may be made available as PDFs. Please click, Ask an Archivist" for more information.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 governs access to student-related educational records, which is enforced by the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the U.S. Department of Education. In 1993, since FERPA's statutory language did not expressly answer questions regarding the termination of a student's right to prohibit disclosure, FPCO concluded that this right was personal and lapsed upon death (Correspondence of Leroy Rooker, Director of FPCO, to Honorable John J. Duncan, Jr., March 3, 1993). In standard archival practice, restrictions on life-long records are lifted 70 years after their creation. Furthermore, FERPA's restrictions do not apply to student records held by non-educational institutions such as the branch repositories of the U.S. National Archives, which also hold copies of these student attendance records inter-filed within the respective Indian agency records of Record Group 75, Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is possible that gaps among the copies in the Marquette Archives may not exist or exist elsewhere among the copies at the National Archives branch repositories. Information on the whereabout of these Catholic school records at National Archives branches is included in Marquette's Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States.

Reformatted records: The microfilm version of the Series 2-1 School Records is not available via interlibrary loan, since they contain restricted information governed by FERPA. However, redacted and/or unredacted PDF copies are available, for which fees may be assessed according to the Fee Schedule.

For more information, "Ask an Archivist" or submit a Genealogical Query.

Archival materials from the Raynor Memorial Libraries


Marquette Archives