Catholic evangelization of the Americas' aboriginal Indian peoples is an ongoing story of epic proportions. It is a saga on spreading the Gospel for over 500 years and it is a struggle for peace and justice, cultural accommodation, and the development of indigenous Christian faith communities.
With its centralized bureaucracy, numerous religious orders and dioceses, and access to substantial financial resources, the Catholic Church has been able to maintain mission programs on an extraordinary scale. Moreover, a number of its missionaries, especially Jesuits, have had classical educations and linguistic training, which enabled them to create extensive writings on indigenous life and languages, especially as these related to the Church and interaction with officials of Church and state.
Mindful of its mission as a Catholic university, and recognizing the value and preservation needs of Church records pertaining to Native American peoples, the Marquette University Department of Special Collections and University Archives made a commitment to collect and preserve this unique heritage. Marquette actively solicits and makes accessible collections of organizational records, personal papers, oral histories, and audio/ visual recordings. Marquette also acquires individual photographs, newsletters, recordings, and other documentation pertaining to Native Catholic activities as well as the products of research that benefited from its collections. Of particular interest are notable "at risk" collections that otherwise might not be saved without outside intervention. Furthermore, the department may accept other compatible collections relating to indigenous peoples of the Americas.
As a Catholic, Jesuit, university, the Marquette Archives staff has access to diverse Catholic descriptive tools and comparable Native American ones as well. This enables us to better identify the sometimes complex subjects from Catholic and Native American traditions documented in the records, photography, and recordings of the collections.
In 1977, the department became the repository for the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions. Thereafter, it became the repository for the Tekakwitha Conference and/ or acquired more than 50 other collections, which collectively document Catholic evangelization, pastoral, and social justice concerns. More than 100 native peoples in Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States are represented in the collections. While English is the prevailing language in most collections, some records use other languages as well, e.g. Dakota [Lakota], French, German, Ojibwa, Spanish.
Furthermore, the general collection of Marquette's Raynor Memorial Libraries hold over 30,000 related titles.