This history of The Indian Advocate is being reprinted with the
permission of the principal author, Daniel F. Littlefield; it encompasses
pages 163-167 of American Indian and Alaska Native Newspapers and Periodicals,
1826-1924 : Published by Greenwood Press, Westport Connecticut, USA.
THE INDIAN ADVOCATE (1889)
The Indian Advocate was published by the Benedictine Fathers at Sacred
Heart Mission, Indian Territory (later, Oklahoma), near present-day Shawnee,
between January, 1889, and April, 1910. It began as a quarterly of twenty-four
pages with two columns each. Occasional illustrations appeared throughout
the life of the magazine.
Sacred Heart was founded in 1875 as a monastery by Isadore Robot, O.S.B.,
a French monk, born at Tharoiseau, Yonne, France, in 1837. In 1873, he was
sent to the United States as a missionary. After his arrival in New Orleans,
the archbishop of that city sent him to work among the Potawatomis in Indian
Territory. At the site of Sacred Heart, he was joined by three other monks,
and the monastery was established. Robot was appointed Prefect Apostolic
for Oklahoma in 1876 by Pope Pius IX. In the eyes of the Church and the
monks, the task of the prefecture was to attend to the spiritual needs of
some thirty American Indian tribal groups and about six thousand black people,
in short, all the Catholics and potential converts in Oklahoma and Indian
An Indian school for boys was opened almost immediately and, according to
the publication, flourished. In 1880, some Benedictine nuns from New Orleans
opened a girls' school and operated it until 1884, when it was turned over
to a group of Sisters of Mercy from Illinois. The influx of whites in the
1880s led to the establishment of the College of Sacred Heart, an institution
distinct from the Indian schools. St. Mary's Academy was added by the Sisters
of Mercy to accommodate young ladies. A charter for the schools was issued
later by the Oklahoma legislature.
After Robot's death in 1887, Father Thomas Duperou became the head of the
school and monastery. He enlarged both institutions and added a Gothic church,
completed in 1892. In 1896, the monastery was promoted to the status of
abbey. The next year Duperou died and was succeeded by Father Felix DeGrasse,
one of the pioneer priests of the community. When DeGrasse died in 1905,
he was succeeded by Father Bernard Murphy.
A prospectus for The Indian Advocate, published in 1888, said that
the object of the quarterly was "the progress of civilization in the
Indian Territory, by promoting the spiritual as well as temporal welfare
of the Indian race." It was "placed under the protection of Our
Lady of the Rosary, of St. Michael, the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, and
of St. Benedict, the great promoter of civilization in ancient as well as
modern times " To be published in April, July, October, and January,
it would "plead the cause of the last remnants of the Indian tribes,
and of the Benedictine Missionaries, who have consecrated their life to
the evangelization of these Children of the Wilderness."
The mission at Sacred Heart had no press until 1894, so the printing of
the prospectus and the publication itself was done somewhere else, possibly
in New York or Philadelphia. 1
The first editor of the publication was Father D. Ignatius. While the editor
for The Indian Advocate is not named in most issues of the magazine
(a fairly common practice among Catholic publications), it may be assumed
that the abbot was instrumental in determining editorial policy. A short
prospectus published in the early volumes of the Advocate set forth
its purpose, described its contents, and provided clues as to the audience
it expected to serve as well as to the attitudes held by the publishers
toward the Indians. It would "plead the cause of the last remnants
of the Indian tribes, and . . . give a history of their progress toward
civilization," including "a general history of each tribe; their
progress in education and religion; their occupations, industries, schools";
and "a history of our missions, statistics, and other interesting matter
that can not be found in any other publication."
The Advocate was aimed at an audience of friends and supporters of
the Catholic missions to the Indians as well as Indian students and members
of the local community. The same emphasis on the "progress" made
by the Indians and on the missionaries' efforts in "educating and converting"
them can be seen here as in the Protestant missionary publications. This
emphasis clearly reflects federal policy during the period and also indicates
the aims and methods of the missionary movement among most denominations.
One of the reasons for the existence of the Advocate was the same
as that for other missionary publications: to convince the mission's supporters
that the mission was succeeding in its task of ''civilizing" the Indians.
Another role for the publication was formulating public opinion in Indian
affairs. The Indian Advocate commented on the political affairs of
the time, especially those regarding the Church and its missionary efforts.
The January, 1901, issue stated the case clearly. The aim of the Advocate
was to promote the cause of the Indians, the interests of the Church in
the Twin Territories, and the general advancement of the future state of
Typically, the Advocate was comprised of four content areas: American
Indian items, Church-related pieces, articles on schools and education,
and histories and descriptions of missions and missionaries past and present.
The items relating to the Indians included histories of various tribal groups.
Articles like ''The Osages" and ''The Cheyennes" provided general
information, while others, ''Choctaw Customs," for example, and ''An
Indian Marriage" addressed particular aspects of the Indian cultures.
Some pieces described contemporary conditions among the people while others,
''American Indians in the 16th Century," for example, were histories
relying on the reports of early missionaries. Some news related incidents
and movements among Indians in the Twin Territories and elsewhere, like
''Execution of a Creek," and "Indian Ghost Dances," and ''Indian
Worship-Mescal Eaters." American Indian lore appeared in articles describing
ceremonial dances and the practices of medicine men. Another regular feature
was biographical sketches of some of the older Indians who had lived through
periods of great upheaval. The Advocate printed political statements
as well, including editorials on the whiskey trade. These were often outspoken,
like the magazine's stand of January, 1896, against Commissioner of Indian
Affairs Thomas J. Morgan's policy of assimilating Indians against their
will. An early article, "The Rights of the Indians," recounted
instructions given to a group of white settlers by Father Ignatius Jean
at Purcell, April 21, 1889. Other items described conditions among the black
people of the territories.
In much the same way as the American Indian-related content attempted to
introduce friends and supporters to the Indians, much of the religious material
introduced the Catholic Church and its missionaries. Articles described
various aspects of Church doctrine, clarifying political and social positions
taken by the Church, and presenting moral instruction through uplifting
verse and didactic essays and fiction. For example, articles and editorials
on subjects like divorce and trial marriages were written to clarify the
Church's position on such matters while seeking to convince readers of the
rightness of its positions. Political issues, especially those involving
Catholics or the Church itself, were addressed in editorials and essays.
One example is an article signed by Theodore Roosevelt on religious discrimination
in politics; specifically, the essay addressed charges by political opponents
that William Howard Taft was "sympathetic" to Catholics. Another
essay, on the Catholic view of the separation of church and state, explained
the Catholic citizen's allegiance to the Pope, a perennial election-year
topic. Essays and commentaries appeared from time to time that were critical
of other denominations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints and the Baptist Church. The evils of Socialism, identified as a "religion,"
were addressed as well.
Moral instruction, both direct and indirect, found its way into the pages
of The Indian Advocate, as one might expect. Sermons and didactic
essays were reprinted. The fiction that appeared was almost always religious
in theme, recounting the adventures of the morally righteous and faithful.
"The Mesa Mirabilis" by Father Cleorge is one such story which
tells the tale of how Ignacio, an altar boy, recalls his religious instructions
and baptizes a "pagan" Indian boy just before they are both killed.
Such stories are similar to the bulk of Catholic juvenile literature published
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in which a hard decision-made
with the aid of religious training-turns out to be the right decision. Inspirational
and religious verse was also published.
Since the major business of the mission was the operation of schools, education-related
material was prominent. The "Locals" department was a regular
feature, carrying news of school events and extracurricular activities.
''College Echoes" provided similar information. News from other mission
schools in the area-St. Patrick's in Anadarko and St. Elizabeth's in Purcell,
for example- appeared, as did news items reprinted from school publications
in other parts of the country. The Advocate editorialized against
what it identified as a conspiracy against Catholic Indian schools. It also
published accounts of the difficulties encountered by missionaries attempting
to set up new schools in outlying districts especially among the Indians
and blacks. Efforts to do so were opposed bitterly by local Protestants,
especially the Baptists, who saw Catholic schools as institutions intent
on proselytization rather than on education.
The items dealing with missions were similar to those about the schools:
both provided descriptions of contemporary activities, histories of specific
missions and missionaries, and pleas for support for present and planned
projects. Specific appeals were made for certain needs, among them help
for a community of former slaves near Sacred Heart on the banks of the South
Canadian River and funds for a proposed industrial school for Indian students.
Reports on contemporary activities often contained accounts of the temporal
and spiritual ''progress" being made by the Indians.
In 1900, The Indian Advocate was expanded to thirty-six or more pages
with single columns. In 1901 it became a monthly publication and ceased
in 1910 when the abbey burned.
The Indian Advocate is important to the history of the missionary
movement among the American Indians, especially of Catholic efforts. The
publication is useful in understanding the nature and background of the
often bitter battles over the Indian's education fought by Catholic and
1. Lester Hargrett, Oklahoma Imprints, 1835-1890 (New York: R. R. Bowker
Company, 1951), 188-189.
Bibliography: Carolyn Thomas Foreman, Oklahoma Imprints, 1835-1907
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1936); Grant Foreman, "Notes
from the Indian Advocate, w Chronicles of Oklahoma, 14 (March, 1937), 67-83;
Lester Hargrett, Oklahoma Imprints, 1835- 1890 (New York: R. R. Bowker,
1951); William L. Lucey, S.J., ''Catholic Magazines: 1890-1893," Records
of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, 63 (September,
1952), 133-156; Eugene P. Willging and Herta Hatzfield, ''Catholic Serials
of the Nineteenth Century, Oklahoma-New Mexico," ibid., 74 (Summer,
1963), 174-184.Publication History
Index Sources: None
Location Sources: NUC; OkShS; OkU-WHC; ULS
Title and Title Changes: The Indian Advocate (1889-1910)
Volume and Issue Data: The Indian Advocate (Vol. 1, No. 1, January,
1889-Vol. 22, No . 3/4, March/April, 1910)
Publisher and Place of Publicaion: Benedictine Fathers, Sacred Heart
Mission, Sacred Heart, Oklahoma (l889-l9l0)
Editor: Father D. Ignatius (1889)