Special Collections 
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SIGGENAUK CENTER (1980-1989) RECORDS


Records on the emergence of an urban Native American Catholic ministry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 2.05 cubic feet. Gift of Siggenauk Center, 1989, and Dee Maisells, 2016. Processed by Mark G. Thiel, 1993 and 2016 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 program was established as both the Siggenauk Center and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office of Native American Ministry. The name Siggenauk was chosen to emphasize the intertribal nature of the outreach, as Siggenauk was a prominent 18th century Milwaukee leader of a intertribal village. Activities included worship, religious education, and social welfare concerns, all of which were developed utilizing both Catholic and tribal religious traditions. Involvement in the Center grew substantially after beginning with a small core group of dedicated families. Coupled with a reorganization of archdiocesan agencies, this led to the 1989 establishment of the Congregation of the Great Spirit as a parish for Native Americans and the simultaneous reorganization of Siggenauk as an interfaith spiritual and social welfare agency in collaboration with the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and traditional native religious faith communities.


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 Cener: 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 and Sister Genevive Cuny 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.

The Index to Publications in Native America Collections includes all titles to publications in this collection.

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.

Siggenauk Center unprocessed additions: Approximately 0.6 cubic foot of primarily correspondence and proceedings remain unprocessed. (Received 2016.)

 

More Related Resources

  • Native America Collections: Checklist to Marquette special collections about native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

  • Search the Collections (sidebar)
  • Guides to Catholic-Related Records about Native Americans in the United States: Over 1,000 repository entries in PDF format to help genealogists and historical researchers find the records they need on American Indians and Alaskan Natives. The entries provide contact information on the repositories, brief descriptions about the records, the Native groups served, and the associated Catholic organizations. Many of the entries include institutional chronologies to explain the history of the records.

Black and Indian Mission Office > Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions

Tekakwitha Conference National Center

U.S. Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops > Cultural Diversity in the Church

 

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