Catholic Native America Collections

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Post-Columbian collections encompassing Indians/ Indigenous peoples of North, South and Central America, the bulk of which pertain to the Catholic Church and Native Americans or Indigenous people in the United States since 1874.

Aspects of church work, from Catholic evangelistic work, Catholic (social) action, Catholic social teaching or Christian sociology, to pastoral ministry or theology prevail throughout most holdings. Civil rights of indigenous peoples, economic justice, education, Christian inculturation in indigenous cultures, social reform, and government relations and accountability are widespread. Extensive audio visual, photographic, and textual holdings present indigenous and Christian beliefs, practices, music, and oral testimony/histories among several ethnic groups. A number of recordings and textual records feature indigenous languages, most of which are endangered, and many of which have translations. Most holdings pertain to urban and rural people in the United States and former dependencies, especially the Dakota-Lakota, Inuit-Yupik (Eskimo), Ojibwa-Ottawa (Odawa), Apache-Navajo (Dené), and Piman (Akimel O'odham-Tohono O'odham) Indian peoples. The records present the pioneering, spiritual, and social justice legacies of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (Mohawk-Algonquin), Saint Katharine Drexel, Holy Nicholas Black Elk (Lakota), Père Jacques Marquette, S.J., Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. (Potawatomi), and other notables, as well as local history records by/about parishes, schools, communities, and racially mixed people. A few notable collections include school attendance and/or sacramental records of genealogical value.


Deacon with pine boughs in his hands in Tekakwitha Conference procession, St. James Cathedral, Seattle Washington, 1993 Signing the Lord's Prayer in Plains Indian Sign Language at Tekakwitha Conference, Phoenix, Arizona, 1984
A deacon processed before Mass at the Tekakwitha Conference, St. James Cathedral, Seattle, Washington, 1993. Tekakwitha Conference Records, Anne M. Scheurman, photographer. Angel McFarland Sobotta (Nez Perce) signed the Lord's Prayer in Plains Indian Sign Language at the Tekakwitha Conference, Phoenix, Arizona, 1984. Tekakwitha Conference Records.


Past research: These lists identify the notable writings that resulted from past research about Native Americans and African Americans conducted with Marquette University archival holdings.  For those considering or engaged in new projects, it presents prospective topics and secondary resources. For more information, please ask an archivist.

Historic Directories: Many different types of directories, such as city directories, occupational and professional directories, ethnic directories, and church directories, were created for past reference purposes but remain useful as historical research tools. More information about Catholic Directories.

Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States: Marquette's Native Guide describes the holdings of related archival records not at Marquette University, and in so doing, it interconnects and makes discoverable hidden details about Native ethnic (tribal) and Catholic groups, dates, and places represented in the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records and other Marquette collections that are not described in its finding aids. The entries describe and illuminates record holdings, the Native ethnic (tribal) and Catholic groups represented, and the dates and places of events, e.g. church and school operations, sacraments. Many of the identified records have genealogical value. Because some Catholic and Native groups are commonly known by more than one name, also consult the Native Guide's master lists of Catholic and Native group names for the subject terms used, which are the ones used by the Library of Congress and are the prevailing terms used throughout this website. To insure comprehensive results, feel free to "Ask an Archivist."

Records about Native Americans with genealogical value: The Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records, Series 2-1 School Attendance Records contain thousands of records with genealogical value about Native Americans. To learn if family members might be included, patrons are invited to consult this comprehensive index to the students' surnames, BCIM Series 2-1 Surname Index and  to submit a Genealogical Query, which will enable archives staff to recommend effective access solutions while respecting the personal privacy of living people represented in the records. Patrons are also invited to consult Marquette's Guide to Catholic Records about Native Americans in the United States, which features repository entries about archival records not at Marquette. Several entries identify records with genealogical value.

Marquette University's first students of color: Because the early Marquette University student records lack personal details, researching students' ethnicity requires outside sources and knowledge of university history. In 1907, the Milwaukee Medical College (now Medical College of Wisconsin) became the Marquette Medical School, and in 1908, the Milwaukee Law College became the Marquette Law School with alumni of both institutions declared Marquette alumni retroactively. In 1904, Josiah A. Powless (1871-1918) of the Oneida Nation (Wisconsin) graduated from the Milwaukee Medical College. Two African Americans, Horace S. Scurry (1865-1943) and Eugene Scott, attended the Milwaukee Law College before 1908 and 1911-1914 respectively, but they did not graduate. In 1926, Mabel Watson Raimey (1898-1986), also an African American, completed the Marquette Law School Evening Program and was recognized as an alumna.

Pictures in Native America collections: Marquette's digital collections present a representative sampling of its pre-1980 off-line photographic holdings about American Indians. Furthermore, pre and post-1980 images from several collections are used in PDF pictorial histories of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions and the Tekakwitha Conference that are linked to the respective history note pages of those descriptive inventories. All images (whether or not they are displayed online) are available through on-site visits and special requests with custom scanning as needed. For more information, click "Ask an Archivist".

Catholic Ladders: Several collections in the Marquette Archives contain Catholic ladder pictorial catechisms, related writings, and/or photography depicting them. More information: In the Spotlight - "Catholic Ladder" Pictorial Catechisms.

Reading Photographs: More information on reading and identifying historic photographs, especially those about Native Americans.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: The Native America collections contain many photographs, writings, and recordings about St. Kateri and her Native American followers, a number of which appear in the book, Native Footsteps along the Path of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (Marquette University Press with the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, 2012), and the video, The Legacy of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (2013). To learn more about the collections, use keywords "Kateri" or "Tekakwitha" in "Search the Collections" and "Digital Collections". For further information, click "Ask an Archivist" and see the St. Kateri Tekakwitha resource list for K-12 educators.

Black Elk: One native sainthood candidate whose life is perhaps the best documented is Nicholas William Black Elk, Sr., an Oglala Lakota healer and catechist from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota whose life has inspired many to follow in his footsteps. This video, The Life and Holiness of Nicholas Black Elk, Our Brother in Jesus Christ (with illustrated text and credits and endnotes) and a handout, present a variety of resources from many collections and sources in the Marquette Archives and elsewhere.

When the Saints Go Marching In: A history of canonization with lessons learned from causes, past and present, with an emphasis on those pertaining to African and Native Americans (2015).


Painting of St. Kateri Tekakwitha by Claude Chauchetiere SJ

Painting Father Marquette and the Indians by Wilhelm Lamprecht

Holy Man Nicholas Black Elk wearing War Bonnet 1937
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, S.J., ca. 1685 Father Marquette and the Indians," Wilhelm Lamprecht, 1869 Nicholas Black Elk, W. Ben Hunt, 1937


Access and Services

Marquette welcomes public use of its collections. However, for optimum service, patrons are invited to consult with the archivist before their first use of Marquette materials and thereafter as needed. All original items must be used in the department's reading room whereas most microfilm and many publications and recordings may be borrowed through interlibrary loan. To insure the immediate availability of materials and audiovisual equipment, appointments are advised for all on-site research. Restricted materials are subject to special regulations and are not available through interlibrary loan.

Service Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and evening and weekend hours by appointment. Photographic identification is required for access to the Raynor Memorial Libraries. For more information see General Information and Services and contact:


Mark G. Thiel, Archivist
Pronunciation: Teel

Marquette University
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
R360 John P. Raynor, S.J., Library
1355 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233

Raynor Memorial Libraries
P.O. Box 3141
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-3141

Telephone: (414) 288-5904
Fax: (414) 288-6709


Archival materials from the Raynor Memorial Libraries

Marquette Archives