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Helen L. Peterson papers 1944-1992

Peterson, Helen L
National Congress of American Indians
City and County of Denver Commission on Community Relations
American Indian Development, Inc
Physical description:
55 linear feet
Coeur d'Alene Indians
Colorado River Tribes
Shoshoni Fort Hall
Navajo Indians
Apache San Carlos
Dakota Indians
Menominee Indians
Salish Indians
Mohawk Indians
Bannock Indians
Winnebago Indians
Kootenai Indians
Warm Spring Apache Indians
Collection descriptions
Helen Peterson, an enrolled Oglala Dakota, studied business administration at Colorado State College and the University of Colorado and has had a career as an administrator. In 1948, she was appointed the first director of the Denver mayor's Committee on Human Relations (later the City and county of Denver Commission on Community Relations). In 1953-1961, she served as the executive she served as the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C. In 1962, she returned to her former position in Denver, serving there until 1970 except for 1968 when she served as assistant director after she determined and gained approval for the idea that a member of the legal profession should be the director. In 1967-1970 , she also served as executive director of American Indian Development, Inc., an educational organization devoted to helping American Indians expand their activities in community, local, state, and national life. Peterson was later an assistant to the Commissioner with the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Peterson was named outstanding American Indian of 1955 at the annual American Indian Exposition at anadarko, Oklahoma. She was given distinguished service awards by Columbia University, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Congress of American Indians, White Buffalo Council of Denver, and the National Institute for Women of Color. In 1973, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Colorado.
The collection includes correspondence, notes, miscellaneous administrative documents, financial records, calendars, questionnaires, notes from interviews, survey forms, copies of resolutions, proceedings, speeches, programs, press releases, printed and processed material, and many other types of documents. Mainly these relate to Petersons's career and special interests between 1953 and 1970. There are also a few documents that concern the organizations which Peterson served for periods preceding or following her periods in office. Of special interest are the amterials related to the NCAI, many of which supplement the records in that organization's files. The collection also includes documents that concern a wide range of Indian interests and activities.
Cite as:
Helen L. Peterson Papers, National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution
NCAI Bulletin
Local number:
Researchers must contact the NMAI Archives for an appointment to access the collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian Archives

Proceedings of oral history meeting 1993

Cowger, Thomas
Peterson, Helen L Dakota-Colville
Ruwell, Mary-Elizabeth
Rainer, John C
Walz, Erma
Robinson, Rose Hopi
Bennette, Robert L
Manning, Arthur T
Kennelly, Janet
National Congress of American Indians
Physical description:
157 pages
Oral histories (document genres)
Albuquerque (N.M.)
In 1993, NAA Director Mary Elizabeth Ruwell and Native American Program Director JoAllyn Archambault acted on the urging of Helen L. Peterson, former Excutive Director of the National Congress of American Indians to gather together early leaders of NCAI to record their memories of some of the important issues in federal-Indian relations in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
Interview with early leaders of NCAI. Topics included the creation of NCAI - the motivation and forces behind it, NCAI's role in combating the federal termination policies of the 1950's, the Garrison dam, the Tsongas forest, NCAI's relations with both the federal government and membership tribes
Federal-Indian relations
Local number:
NAA Ms 7610
Data Source:
National Anthropological Archives

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