Date of Award

Spring 1984

Document Type




First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Second Advisor

Rev. Jeremiah Sullivan

Third Advisor

Dennis Wiedmann


During the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church registered sensational gains in the United States. This feat was not equalled anywhere else and was due not only to the great influx of Catholic immigrants, but also to the extensive missionary activity of the different orders such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, Capuchins and others. These missionaries were motivated by tremendous zeal and a genuine concern in saving the souls of the Indians. Their strong beliefs and desires enabled them to endure every form of sacrifice and hardship, even torture and death, in the building of their small parishes and the conversion of the Indians. One area that received much attention from the Catholic missionaries was the territory of Montana. Once established, they faced many obstacles, but were undaunted in the attempts to "educate," "civilize" and "Christianize" the Indians of the territory. While some view this as strictly "cultural imperialism" in a very gross sense, the missionaries' objectives and actions must be viewed in the context of their time and in relation to what was happening to the Indians elsewhere. This thesis lies within the general area of cultural, religious and educational interaction between whites and Indians during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although there were many different religious orders, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, that worked to "civilize" and "educate" the Indians, I have chosen to focus on the Jesuit Fathers and the Ursuline Sisters. While there were many locations established for this work, I have elected to look mainly, but not exclusively, at St. Peter's Mission for the Blackfeet Indians.