Record Group 1 of Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records
Scope and Content: BCIM Series 2-1 Catholic School Reports

BCIM Series 2-1 School Reports: The pupil attendance reports comprise the bulk of the documentation, which were submitted quarterly as documentation for funding dispensed to Catholic schools by the Bureau of Indian Affairs through the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions (101 total schools from 14 states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) whereas the statistical summaries were submitted annually to the BCIM by Catholic schools in the United States that served primarily Native American pupils (112 total schools from 19 states: 14 above plus Alaska, Maine, Nebraska, New York, and Pennsylvania). The reports are arranged alphabetically by state, there under by locality and mission school, and chronologically within each folder. For schools with both types of reports, the annual reports are 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, there are substantial reporting gaps with many reports missing. The BCIM Series 2 folder-level listings, provide further information about the records from each school.  

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.

Attendance Reports

Before 1904, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) dispensed funding to Catholic schools from federal sources via the BCIM. The amounts dispensed were calculated according to the enrollment of eligible tribally enrolled pupils listed on quarterly attendance reports submitted by the schools. From 1877 to the 1890s, school officials submitted simple handwritten reports without forms that listed the names and ages of pupils displayed on one or more pages. Tribal affiliation and days in attendance were often included and general school information, such as an annual financial statement, have been included as well.

During the 1890s, schools switched to reports that followed a standardized multi-page format required by the BIA. In most instances, school officials accomplished this by using government-issued forms. Initially, it requested statistical summaries about the school and its pupils, the names and duties of school staff, specific information about each pupil, and certification by both a school principal and the local Indian agent. Furthermore, besides the names and ages of pupils, the form required dates of attendance with explanations of extreme absences, and tribal affiliations and degree of Indian blood.  

Nonetheless, the content, completeness, and arrangement of pupil information varied widely, and not all pupils were included. Oftentimes, pupils were arranged first by gender, ethnicity, lodging and family status, i.e. boarders, orphans, and there under alphabetically by surname. One school official estimated that the reports from his school listed approximately 90% of its total pupils, since typically Catholic schools did not exclude local non-enrolled Native Americans and non-Native Americans from attending. However, the records of several schools include some non-Native American pupils who were ineligible for funding.

During the 1890s, church-state separation became a major political issue. This caused the decline of the federal funding of private church-sponsored schools serving Native American pupils, which stopped entirely by 1900 and caused the closure of many of these schools. However, following discussions between BCIM Director Monsignor William Ketchum and President Theodore Roosevelt, the government then began as a pilot program with a few private schools, in which pupils’ tuition payments would be financed by their tribes’ trust fund accounts. This program was limited to Native American pupils enrolled in tribes with trust accounts, and to be eligible, the pupils’ parents were required annually to sign petitions (sample petition cited below) that documented their permission for their children to attend that private school. This practice began as a limited pilot program in 1904, which expanded to all interested schools after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Quickbear v. Leupp, in 1908. Thereafter, it continued until a tribe’s account became depleted. Some accounts became depleted as early as the 1910s and all accounts were depleted by 1976. By state, all accounts were depleted as follows: California: 1930s; Oklahoma, Oregon, Wyoming: 1960s; and Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin: 1976. Thereafter, many Catholic schools closed.

Statistical Reports

The intermittent but annual statistical summaries were solicited and compiled by the BCIM. They note whether the school was a boarding and/or day facility during the reporting period, the numbers of its lay and religious employees, the names of affiliated religious communities (orders), 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.

Access to the Records

Catholic school administrators created their attendance reports in triplicate. They retained the first copy and forwarded the second and third copies to the BCIM, which retained the second copy and forwarded the third to the BIA. Today, Marquette University holds the BCIM record copies within the Series 2-1 School Reports and the regional branch repositories of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) hold the BIA record copies, which are interfiled among the respective BIA agency records as non-restricted records that are available only through on-site research. For further information on the whereabouts of specific BIA agency records at NARA facilities, see Marquette’s Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States, new version under construction, or old version. Consult with a NARA archivist for further information.

At Marquette University, archivists adhere to the Code of Ethics of the Society of American Archivists, which calls on archivists to protect the rights to privacy in archival records for third parties represented in them, i.e. former pupils and their descendants, while striving to accommodate the unique research needs of all researchers on a case-by-case basis. To provide rudimentary access for all within the attendance records, archivists and volunteers compiled an alphabetized master list of over 25,000 surnames found in them: https://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/Mss/BCIM/bcim-series2-1-index.pdf.  Each entry provides one surname and a corresponding tribal or non-Native affiliation (according to Library of Congress subject terms), the location of the school attended (state), and the box number of the original record. Added entries were used to accommodate persons with surname spelling variations and affiliations to multiple ethnicities while maintaining personal anonymity. Experience has shown that promising entries will yield positive results for about half of all searches.

About Related Correspondence

All related BCIM correspondence, such as school contracts, funding transmittals, parent petitions, and related BIA correspondence with BCIM is interfiled in the BCIM Series 1-1 Correspondence. Both BCIM Series 1-1 and NARA records contain such administrative correspondence. However, most parental petitions are found in NARA records only. Consult with a NARA archivist for further information.

For more information about the trust fund tuition reimbursement process, see Francis Paul Prucha. The Churches and the Indian Schools, 1888-1912, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979, 84-160 (narrative), 207-213 (Appendix A: Petition of Sioux Indians, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, FY 1906; Appendix B: Contract for St. Francis Mission School, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, FY 1906); 235-248 (footnotes to related NARA records and BCIM Series 1-1 Correspondence).

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

Reformatted Records: The microfilm version of the Series 2-1 School Records is not available via interlibrary loan. PDF copies are available; redaction may be required and fees may be assessed according to the Fee Schedule. For more information, "Ask an Archivist" or submit a Genealogical Query.