Native American Boarding School Project Update: Individual Grants Awarded to Scholars

In April 2022, the ACHA began a year-long effort to reckon with the history of the Catholic Church’s involvement with Native American Boarding Schools. This project is the result of the ACHA’s award of a 2022 SHARP grant by the American Historical Association.

To date, three listening sessions between archivists, historians, and members of Native communities have taken place. Each had “accessibility” as their central theme, resulting in a new and deeper understanding of how to create better access to records in church-affiliated archives. Twenty-four individuals joined a five-member working group to complete this first phase of the SHARP grant.

In the Fall of 2022, the ACHA began the second phase of its grant project: the awarding of smaller individual grants to help promote the historical discipline and further probe the problem of “accessibility.” In order to make some practical application of the points raised during the listening sessions, the project’s five-member working group solicited and vetted several projects that it believes will further historical knowledge and advance the field of inquiry on the Church’s role in the boarding school legacy.

The ACHA’s working group is therefore pleased to announce that the following have obtained funding:

Deacon Roy Callison and Susan Callison
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, American Indian Catholic Outreach

For ongoing community engagement and collection of oral histories from Native American Boarding School survivors and their descendants throughout the state of Oklahoma. The testimonies will be deposited at the University of Oklahoma’s Western History Collections and Oklahoma Historical Society and the Archives and Special Collections of the Raynor Libraries at Marquette University.

Dr. Bryan Rindfleisch
Department of History, Marquette University

In support of continued archival research and the finalization of a report to be submitted to the Oklahoma Catholic Native Schools Project, a joint effort between the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and St. Gregory Abbey. The report is anticipated to be formalized for publication as a book and presented to all of Oklahoma’s 39 tribal nations. Data drawn from various institutional archives in and outside Oklahoma, together with pertinent information copied from parish records, will be deposited at the University of Oklahoma’s Western History Collections and Oklahoma Historical Society, and the Archives and Special Collections of the Raynor Libraries at Marquette University.

Jenna Kunze
Senior Reporter, Native News Online

For a three-part series on the role of the Catholic Church in Indian Boarding Schools throughout the United States, to be published on Native News Online within the next year. The expected long-form journalism will incorporate the photojournalism of Mr. Brian Adams. Kunze has already produced the first in the projected series.

Zara Surrat
Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

For dissertation research using the archives at Marquette University and the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum in South Dakota. Surrat’s project centers on the late 19th and early 20th century religious and educational history of St. Francis Mission Indian School, an on-reservation Catholic boarding school for the Sicangu Lakota children of the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Using written and material culture sources, especially administrative and personal records from the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, she hopes to engage broader themes at the crossroad of Americaan assimilationist practice and Catholic-Protestant tensions.

Darby Ratliff
Department of American Studies, St. Louis University

For dissertation research on a project tentatively entitled “Education, Empire, and Americanization: Native American Boarding Schools and Catholic Education in the 19th Century.” Ratliff will compare and contrast parochial education in both Native and non-Native contexts to see how these two types of communities “speak back” to the wider purposes of Catholic education. Using Marquette University’s Catholic Native American collections and the Kane Collection and the Edward A. Cudahy Collection of Jesuitica, both found at Loyola University of Chicago, she will examine school reports and curricula found in those repositories.

Marsha Small

To assist in field work surveys, particularly in relation to Chemawa (Oregon) and Red Cloud (South Dakota) Indian Schools and their cemeteries, the purchase of equipment to collect and map data, coupled with archival research at the National Archives in Seattle.

Amy Cooper Cary
Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Marquette University

To speed up electronic access to records in the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Collection, the purchase of high-speed microfilm scanning software (ST Cruise Control) to be installed at the Raynor Memorial Library, Marquette University.

Dr. Gabrielle Guillerm
Research Coordinator for Truth and Healing, Maȟpíya Lúta (Red Cloud Indian School)

To assist the school’s Truth and Healing program, assistance is provided to support translation-related fees for the work of up to four translators for texts in Latin and German, mainly from the 19th century. Sources are drawn from Marquette University’s Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions (BCIM) records in the Special Collections and University Archives at Marquette University as well as the Jesuit Archives in St. Louis, Missouri.


The final phase of the ACHA’s grant will take place March 24-25, with a hybrid conference. Fifteen scholars from across the nation will convene in Tucson to present their thoughts on the boarding school legacy. This conference will be live-streamed with morning and afternoon sessions, concluding with a round table discussion among our participants.

For further information, please contact the ACHA grant coordinator, Dr. Patrick Hayes ([email protected]).