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Records of YMCA work with American Indians

Identifier: Y.USA.68


Reports, correspondence, newsletters, and historical material regarding YMCA work with indigenous people in the United States, particularly the Dakota Indians in South Dakota and Nebraska. Much of the collection consists of historical files compiling early correspondence, reports, articles, and constitutions, along with summaries of events prepared by various YMCA historians and librarians. Also included in the collection are records concerning several of the Indian schools and YMCA Indian summer schools, especially the schools in Carson, Nevada and Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as well as Riggs Institute in Flandreau, South Dakota, and small amounts of material from or about various Native American YMCA branches in South Dakota. The collection also includes several newsletters, including one in the Dakota language. Material from the 1970s and later consists primarily of records of the Sioux Young Men's Christian Association and its relationship with the YMCA's World Service division, including material collected and donated by Daryl Soltau, a board of trustees member of the General Convention of Sioux YMCAs.


  • 1871-2014


Language of Materials

English, Dakota

Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The first Indian YMCA was organized on April 27, 1879, near Flandreau, South Dakota. Following the 1862 war between the Dakota people and white settlers in Minnesota, the government had executed 38 Dakota men, and many more languished in military prison. Volunteers from the Young Men's Christian Association visited many of the imprisoned tribesmen, bringing clothing and bedding, in addition to teaching English language lessons and Christianity. The Dakota men were so impressed with work of these volunteers and the mission of the YMCA, that upon their release in 1879, some of them, including Chief Little Crow's son, Thomas Wakeman, started the Koskada Okadiciye, or Young Men's Association, based loosely on the model of the YMCA.

The Association operated independently and unknown to the broader YMCA movement until 1885, when H. F. Williams, the YMCA state secretary for Minnesota attended an annual convention of missionaries at the Sisseton Agency in South Dakota. Ten associations with 159 members were formally recognized and received into the state YMCA organization of Minnesota and Dakota by the end of that year. Student associations were also established at the Indian schools at Santee Agency, Nebraska and Carlisle, Pennsylvania. By 1894 there were twenty-five Native American associations with 698 members, and the International Committee was asked to provide a secretary to coordinate the work. Dr. Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa), a member of the Santee Sioux, formerly with the Indian Health Service during the Wounded Knee Massacre, was selected by the national YMCA to fill this role while his successor was trained at the YMCA Training School (Springfield College). By the time Eastman resigned in 1898, the number of Indian associations had grown to near forty. Eastman's successor, Arthur (Walking Horse) Tibbetts, fostered continued growth of the YMCA movement among the Native American community over the following decade.

In 1970 the Sioux YMCAs voted to become a family association and in 1971 a summer residential camp, YMCA Camp Leslie Marrowbone was started. The YMCA was incorporated in 1972 as the Sioux Young Men's Christian Assoication, became a member of the National Council of YMCAs in 1977 and assumed full responsibility for fund-raising in 1983. In 2022, the Sioux YMCA Board of Directors changed the name of their organization to YMCA of the Seven Council Fires (or YMCA Oceti Šakowiŋ in the Lakota language).

Information taken from “Our Y's Global, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mission” ( accessed August 17, 2023); "Sioux YMCA: About Us" (; accessed 29 April 2015); C. Howard Hopkins History of the YMCA in North America, (New York: Association Press, 1951); and from the collection.


1.6 Cubic Feet (3 boxes)


Reports, correspondence, newsletters, and historical material regarding YMCA work in the American Indian community, particularly the Dakota Indians in South Dakota and Nebraska.

Processing Information:

Includes material donated as y20140606.

Catalog Record ID number: 9973986385801701

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman~Shedlov.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2021-12-28: Language was changed to incorporate more of the diversity of terminology used by the Native American community to describe itself
  • August 2023: Historical note updated to reflect the Sioux YMCA's name change to YMCA of the Seven Council Fires

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area