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Karen Watembach Collection

Accession Number
Karen Watembach
Jon Ille
Access Restrictions on Use
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
All publication rights are held by Little Big Horn College and use for publication must be approved by archivist.
Preferred Citation of Materials
The Karen Watembach Collection, Little Big Horn College Archives, Crow Agency, MT 59022.

Collection Description

1.5 Linear Feet
The collection includes drafts of Karen Watembach’s Master’s thesis, research notes, copies of documents from various archives (both public and private), and annotated bibliographies written by the creator.

Historical Note

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Crow Indians faced increasing pressures from federal authorities to conform to the demands of life on the reservation. Federal officials emphasized assimilation into the dominant society and religion played a major role in these efforts. Numerous denominations arrived on the reservation including the Catholic, Congregationalist, Baptist, and Unitarian during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Among these denominations, Catholics arrived first on the reservation and established a Jesuit mission near present St. Xavier in 1888. After the Jesuits arrived, Ursuline sisters followed shortly after and helped establish a school that introduced Catholicism and the rudiments of Euro-American civilization to the Crow community. By 1920 an active community of Catholics existed on the reservation pointing to the success the Jesuits and Ursulines had in outwardly converting Crows to Catholicism. The Karen Watembach Collection includes primary and secondary sources that document the early history of the Catholic Church on the Crow Reservation.

Biographical Information

Karen Watembach was born in Wibaux, Montana in 1942. After graduating from high school, Watembach entered the Presentation Sisters Community in 1960. She remained a member of the community until the early 1980s. In 1971, she received a bachelor’s degree in theology from Marquette University and her master’s degree in history at Montana State University in 1983. Watembach’s graduate research focused on the development of Catholicism on the Crow reservation during the early reservation period (1880-1930).

After completing her master’s degree, Watembach taught at Little Big Horn College during much of the 1980s. Watembach currently resides in Sheridan, Wyoming.


The research included in the collection formed the basis of Watembach’s Master’s thesis titled The History of Catechesis on the Crow Reservation that she received from Montana State University in 1983. Watembach held the research prior to its donation to the Little Big Horn College Archives in 2011.


Box 1

  • File 1-Draft Master’s Thesis
  • File 2-Partial Draft, Master’s Thesis
  • File 3-Notes, Master’s Thesis
  • File 4-Partial Appendices, Curriculum Vita
  • File 5-Partial Appendices, Crow Sermons
  • File 6-Maps, Crow Reservation

Files 7-17 include correspondence from Crow Reservation to the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions (BCIM).

  • File 7-Correspondence, 1924
  • File 8-Correspondence, 1925
  • File 9-Correspondence, 1926
  • File 10-Correspondence, 1927
  • File 11-Correspondence, 1928
  • File 12-Correspondence, 1929
  • File 13-Correspondence, 1930
  • File 14-Correspondence, 1931
  • File 15-Correspondence, 1932
  • File 16-Correspondence, 1933
  • File 17-Correspondence, 1934

Box 2

  • File 18-Notes, History Books Related to Missions
  • File 19-Research Notes, Master’s Thesis
  • File 20-Research Notes, Master’s Thesis
  • Box two also includes four small file boxes that includes an annotated bibliography Watembach produced as part of her research on index cards.