SIGGENAUK CENTER (1980-1989) RECORDS

Records of an intertribal urban Native American Catholic ministry of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 1980-1989, and its prior formation. In 1989, it which was succeeded by Congregation of the Great Spirit and the Siggenauk Interfaith Spiritual Center.

3.4 cubic feet. Gift of Siggenauk Center, 1989; Congregation of the Great Spirit, 2016; and Dee Maisells, 2016. Processed by Mark G. Thiel, 1993 and 2016-2018, with transcripts by Gretchen Lau, 1999.


Historical Note

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 Archdiocese of Milwaukee established a two-part ministry comprised of the Siggenauk Center and the Office of Native American Ministry. The name Siggenauk was chosen for the center to emphasize its intertribal nature, as its namesake, "Siggenauk," was a prominent 18th century intertribal village at Milwaukee. Activities of the center included worship, religious education, and social welfare concerns, all of which were developed utilizing both Catholic and tribal religious traditions. After beginning with a small core group of dedicated families, participation grew substantially from acriss the Native American community.

At the end of the decade, maturity of the center's operation and a reorganization of archdiocesan agencies led to the establishment of the Congregation of the Great Spirit as a "personal parish" for Native Americans and the simultaneous reorganization of Siggenauk as an interfaith spiritual and social welfare agency with collaboration with the Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist, and other faith communities represented in the Native American community.

 

Scope and Content

Siggenauk Center Series 1, Correspondence: Includes letters regarding the group's growth and transformation into a Catholic parish and an ecumenical social and cultural agency. A few letters were published in The Crossing of Two Roads: Being Catholic and Native in the United States, Marie Therese Archambault, Mark G. Thiel, and Christopher Vecsey, editors, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2003.

Restrictions: Researchers assume full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of these records.

Siggenauk Center Series 2, Proceedings: Includes minutes of meetings plus related documents regarding the group's growth and transformation.

Restrictions: Researchers assume full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of these records.

Siggenauk Center Series 3, Miscellany: Includes appreciation awards, an autobiography by Sister Genevieve Cuny, O.S.F. (1930-) (Oglala), a presentation on Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and the Mohawk Turtle Clan by Sister Kateri Mitchell, S.S.A. (Mohawk), a banner, clippings, newsletters, and photographs regarding the group's growth and transformation.

The newsletter titles include a succession of three in 1979-1980 that preceded the formation of the Siggenauk Center: 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.

The appreciation plaques were given to the Siggenauk Center youth group, 1978, in recognition of their assistance in carrying out a Native American Spiritual Day, and to Hoke and Dee Maisells (Ho Chunk), 1990, in recognition of their dedicated support in the founding and development of Siggenauk Center.

The banner was used in processions at special events, which may have included the Tekakwitha Conference during the late 1970s.

Both Sister Kateri Mitchell, S.S.A., and Sister Genevive Cuny, O.S.F., made their presentations as guest speakers at a Siggenauk Center Native American Spirituality Day, July 1987. Both presentations are available as sound recordings and transcripts.

Restrictions: Researchers assume full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of these records. Box 3, which contains client and personnel records, is restricted until 2025. Consult an archivist for further information.

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.

Restrictions: Researchers assume full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of these records.

 

Related Resources

Other records in repository: Congregation of the Great Spirit Records, Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records, Kateri Tekakwitha Oral History Project Records (interviews of Larry Richmond, Masalene Albring, John Clifford, and Dee Maisells), Tekakwitha Conference Records, and Search the Collections.

About records in repository and elsewhere: Marquette's Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States.

Questions: Ask an Archivist.

Archival materials from the Raynor Memorial Libraries


Marquette Archives