The Septima Koehler collection includes photographic prints, correspondence and student papers that document Septima's work as a mission teacher for the Episcopal Church in South Dakota from around 1895 to 1905. Koehler taught Sicangu Lakota students at St. Mary's Mission School on the Rosebud Reservation and Hunkpapa Lakota students at St. Elizatbeth's Mission School on the Standing Rock Reservation.
Scope and Contents:
The Septima Koehler collection includes photographic prints, letters, essays and student papers that document Septima's work as a mission teacher for the Episcopal Church in South Dakota from around 1895 to 1905. The collection has been divided into two series, Series 1: St. Mary's Mission School, circa 1895 and Series 2: St. Elizabeth's Mission School, circa 1899-1905. Series 1 includes photographic prints shot at St. Mary's Mission School on the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota. Septima Koehler taught there in the early to mid-1890s but it is unclear when the photographs were taken since the photographer is unknown. The majority of the photographs in the collection were shot at St. Elizabeth's Mission School in Wakpala on the Standing Rock Reservation, South Dakota which are a part of Series 2. These were taken between 1899 and 1902 and several include shots of Septima Koehler herself which suggest they were shot by someone who knew her. There are also a number of portraits of Lakota students who attended the school, some identified with names on the backs of the photographs, including members of the Deloria family among others. There is also a group portrait from the 1903 teacher institute held at Standing Rock organized by A.O. Wright, Supervisor of Indian Schools. In addition to the photographs, there are essays and lesson plans written by Koehler, a letter from Septima Koehler to her sister Aurora from 1902 describing the start of the school year and student papers and work sheets produced by the Native American students (mostly Hunkpapa Lakota) attending the school as well as a student roll book. There are also name and receipt books from Koehler's work with the "Babies' Branch", a missionary outfit that raised money specifically for children.
The majority of the photographic prints in this collection are silver gelatin and most of the St. Elizabeth's photographs are both circular and matted. The prints have catalog numbers P19485-P19523.
Arranged in two series; Series 1: St. Mary's Mission School, circa 1895 and Series 2: St. Elizabeth's Mission School, circa 1899-1905.
Biographical / Historical:
Septima Koehler (1848-1918) was one of seven children born to Herman and Aurore Koehler in Indiana. Both Septima and her sister Aurora worked as schoolteachers in southeasters Indiana from 1867 to about 1890 when the sisters began their mission work for the Episcopal Church. Around 1895 Septima was appointed by Bishop William Hobart Hare to teach at St. Mary's Mission School on the Rosebud Reservation while Aurora took a job as a librarian in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Only a few years later, around 1899, she was appointed to St. Elizabeth's mission school on the Standing Rock reservation where she taught under Principal Mary E. Francis. In addition to her teaching duties, Koehler also lectured on the importance of health and hygiene at reservation boarding schools, participating in the 1903 Standing Rock Institute organizing by A.O. Wright, supervisor of Indian Schools for the department of the Interior.
Between 1906 and 1908, the Koehler sisters moved to Nashville Tennessee to work within the African American community and from 1908-1909 they worked in a mill in LaGrange, Georgia. Septima died in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1918 from pneumonia.
The Hutchings-Koehler Family Papers, 1699–1916, can be found in the Manuscript and Visual Collections Department William Henry Smith Memorial Library Indiana Historical Society. This includes correspondence and notebooks from Septima Koehler during this same time period in South Dakota.
Archaeological and ethnographic plains materials collected by Septima Koehler and inherited by her great-niece Elizabeth Kelemen can be found in the NMAI ethnographic collections. They have catalog numbers 23/8260 – 23/8319. There are also 14 sketches from St. Mary's Mission students with catalog numbers 25/1093 – 25/1101.
Donated to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation in 1970 by Pal and Elizabeth Zulauf Kelemen. Elizabeth Kelemen was the great-niece of Septima Koehler.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Thursday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to email@example.com. For personal or classroom use, users are invited users to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not changed, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian.
Photographs in this collection include indoor and outdoor portraits, domestic scenes, landscapes of Gwich'in (Kutchin), Seminole and Cheyenne Indians taken by Deaconess M. Bedell from her work as missionary between 1907-1939.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of photographs made by Deaconess Bedell while she worked as an Episcopal missionary among the Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne), Gwich'in (Kutchin), and Seminole peoples in Oklahoma, Alaska, and Florida respectively. Although Bedell work in Oklahoma from 1907 to 1916, the Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai photographs are dated from 1910 to 1915 and consist of informal group portraits of men, women, and children dressed in both traditional and Anglo American clothing; group pictures of school children--boys and girls--at the Whirlwind Mission school and the mission campus itself; and traditional and Anglo American dwellings of Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai individuals. Among these photographs are studio portraits collected but likely not made by Bedell. Bedell worked in Alaska from 1916 to 1931; the Alaska photographs in the collection date from 1926 to 1931. Among the photographs are informal, outdoor group portraits of Gwich'in men, women, and children, and photographs depicting the landscape, dog sled teams, and Gwich'in dwellings, summer camps, and men fishing and boxing.The Florida photographs date from 1933 to 1939 and depict informal, outdoor group and single portraits of Seminole men, women, and children in traditioanl clothing, photographs depicting men rowing dugouts, Seminole dwellings (chickees), camps, and baskets. Most of these photographs were made at the Glade Cross Mission in the Everglades. The negatives are primarily copy negatives.
Prints: organized in folders; arranged by print number
Negatives: organized in envelopes; arranged by negative number
Harriet Mary Bedell was born on March 19, 1875, in Buffalo, New York, to Horace Ira Bedell and
Louisa Sophia Oberist. Bedell was confirmed in the Episcopalian church and graduated from Normal School in 1894. Following graduation, Bedell worked as a school teacher before deciding to enroll in the New York City Training School for Deaconesses in 1906. She also spent several months in Buffalo at a local hospital learning the rudiments of nursing. Between 1907 and 1916 Bedell was sent to the Whirlwind mission in Blaine County, Oklahoma. There, she worked as a missionary-teacher among the Cheyenne alongside Deacon Oakerhater (Cheyenne). During her time in Oklahoma Bedell contracted Tuberculosis and spent some time in Denver, Colorado recovering. By 1916 plans were made to close the Mission and Bedell was told she was to be transferred to Alaska where her teaching skills were needed. She accepted the remote post in Stevens Village, Alaska, among the Gwich'in (Kutchin) people. In 1922, Bedell left Alaska briefly to be officially ordained as a Deaconess in Portland, Oregon. During her time in Alaska, Bedell also established a boarding school in nearby Tanana but due to the stock market crash of 1929 and the scarcity of funds the boarding facility was unable to remain open. In 1931, following an unsuccessful trip to Buffalo to try and raise money, it was decided that there was no reason for Bedell to return to Alaska.
In 1933, Bedell travelled to Florida by invitation to speak and was appalled by the living conditions she witnessed among the Seminole in southern Florida. Bedell worked to reopen the Glade Cross Mission in Everglades City which had closed in 1914 as well as opening a new Mission in Collier City. In addition to focusing on health and education, Bedell encouraged the Seminole women she worked with to revive traditional doll-making, basket-weaving and intricate patchwork designs. Bedell worked in South Florida until 1960 when hurricane Donna destroyed her home and the Glade Cross Mission and she decided to retire. Bedell lived to be 94 and spent her final years at the Bishop Gray Inn in Davenport, Florida until her death on January 8, 1969. In the year 2000 Bedell was named a "Great Floridian" and in the diocese of Southwest Florida celebrate Harriet Bedell Day annually on January 8th.
The Harriet Bedell Collection of 126 prints of Bedell working among the Seminole Indians in South Florida from 1933 to 1960 is located at the State Library and Archives of Florida. Information can be found here: Harriet Bedell Collection.
In 1940 Harriet Bedell sent her negatives to the Museum of the American Indian, via William Stiles, to be made into prints. These prints are the bulk of the collection [P14817-P14911, P14955-P15050]. Later in 1940 Bedell presented the museum with an additional 29 prints [P14913-P14941] and in 1941and 1942 Bedell sent two additional gifts totaling 13 prints [P15328-P15330, P15355-P15364].
Access is by appointment only, Monday - Thursday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment.
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadbast materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gwich'in Indians -- Missions -- Photographs Search this
Cheyenne Indians -- Missions -- Photographs Search this
Seminole Indians -- Missions -- Photographs Search this