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Louise Obermiller and Andrew J. Blackbird Collection

Identifier: LOB

Scope and Contents

Documents created between 1856 and 1947 and collected by multiple individuals and institutions with connections to the town of Harbor Springs, Michigan, and surrounding communities. The bulk of the collection documents the efforts of Louise Obermiller and Andrew J. Blackbird to substantiate and defend claims to land ownership and annuities on behalf of Odawa and Ojibwa bands in Little Traverse Bay and nearby communities, stipulated in treaties signed with the United States government in 1836 and 1855. Materials date between 1856 and 1912 and include survey maps, tax receipts, warranty deeds, and other property records; correspondence between Louise Obermiller, Effie Obermiller, Andrew J. Blackbird, Odawa and Ojibwa chiefs, government officials, and community members throughout northern Michigan; and legal records including court proceedings, lists of treaty signatories and claimants, affidavits, testimonies, and depositions.

Also included are miscellaneous reports from the Holy Childhood of Jesus Catholic Church and Parish (1885-1947); five photographs of Catholic churches in Michigan, facilities, and students at the Holy Childhood School in Harbor Springs; and a collection of letters that Margaret Blackbird Boyd received from Lucy E. Abbot of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, between 1882 and 1887. Collection is arranged into four series (and subseries) by accession and maintains the order imposed by the vendor.


  • Creation: 1856 - 1947


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Advance notice is required.

Conditions Governing Use

Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Andrew Jackson Blackbird (Makade-binesi, or “Black Hawk”) was an Odawa interpreter, historian, and community leader known for his efforts to document the history of his people and advocate for their rights under treaties with the U.S. government.

Born around 1815, Andrew was raised in the Little Traverse Band of the Odawa Indians in what came to be known as Harbor Springs, Michigan. One of ten brothers and sisters, Andrew’s father was the Odawa Chief Gabriel Mackadepenessy and the name of his mother is unknown. As a young adult, Andrew received education at the Twinsburg Institute (Summit County, Ohio) and the Michigan State Normal School (later Eastern Michigan University). He met and married Elizabeth Martha Fisk in 1858 and together they raised four children in Harbor Springs, where Andrew worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs and later as postmaster.

Andrew was also a committed legal advocate for the Odawa and Ojibwa communities, helping Civil War veterans receive their pensions and representing his people in treaty negotiations with the U.S. government at Detroit in 1855. In the following decades he spent years defending indigenous land claims through the U.S. court system. In 1887 he published his History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan, which wove together oral tradition and his personal family experiences to document the histories of his people and their responses to settler colonialism. He died in Harbor Springs on September 7, 1908.

Biographical / Historical

Marie Louise Obermiller was an artist and socialite born on September 29, 1855, in Tiffin, Ohio, to Dr. Johann Meinrad and Mary Anna (Bork) Obermiller. Sister to Philip (1854-1883), Theresa (1857-1944), and Effie (1858-1927), she was raised in a prominent Catholic family in Toledo, Ohio, and received education in Europe. As an adult, Louise split time between residences in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, where she became a prominent artist painting portraits and still lifes.

Louise also owned a vacation home in Harbor Springs, Michigan, where she became acquainted with Andrew J. Blackbird and other members of the Little Traverse Band of the Odawa Indians. During the 1880s and 1890s, she became a legal advocate for indigenous communities in northern Michigan as they sought to defend their rights to communal land holdings and annuities, stipulated in treaties signed with the United States government in 1836 and 1855. She traveled extensively throughout the region, meeting with chiefs and leaders in Ojibwa and Odawa communities to gather documentation and coordinate legal strategy.

In her later years, Louise lived near family in Cleveland, Ohio. She died on October 4, 1940, in Los Angeles, California, while visiting her sister Theresa (Obermiller) Wagar. She was interred in the Obermiller family mausoleum at the Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio.

Biographical / Historical

Margaret Blackbird Boyd (1817-1892) was an Odawa educator and artist, known for her role in defending Native American land rights in Harbor Springs, Michigan during the 1870s and 1880s. She grew up in Harbor Springs with her family, including her brother, Andrew J. Blackbird, and their father, the Odawa chief Black Hawk. Margaret’s education at a large convent school in Cincinnati, Ohio, afforded her fluency in written and spoken English, which she would later utilize in her political advocacy work to defend Odawa rights.

Beginning around the 1870s, Margaret and other Odawa in Harbor Springs faced harsh discrimination with a flood of white settlers to the area. Hundreds of Odawa lost their land and homes, often due to illegal seizures, tax hikes, and intimidation. Margaret spoke out against these injustices, writing numerous letters to government officials, including several exchanges with Lucy E. Abbot of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.

Biographical / Historical

The Holy Childhood of Jesus Catholic parish in Harbor Springs, Michigan, was established in 1829. The parish was administered by priests from multiple religious orders over the course of the 19th century, including diocesan priests from Cincinnati, Redemptorists from Chicago, and diocesan priests from Detroit and Grand Rapids. In 1884, Franciscans from the Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis, Missouri) took over administration of the church and ministered there for most of the 20th century (until the 1990s). In 1885 they also founded a boarding school for indigenous youth, which the School Sisters of Notre Dame (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) operated for nearly a century until its closure in 1983 or 1984. Under Franciscan leadership, the Holy Childhood of Jesus Catholic Church and School became key institutions in the lives of local Odawa and Ojibwa communities. Today the parish church is one of four that make up The Catholic Communities of L’Arbre Croche along with Holy Cross Parish, St. Nicholas Parish, and St. Ignatius Church.


1.25 Cubic Feet (1 Paige box)

5 linear feet (3 oversized folders (16" x 20"))

Language of Materials





Collection is arranged into four series by accession as follows: Holy Childhood Church Records, Holy Childhood School Photographs, Margaret Blackbird Boyd Correspondence, and the Louise Obermiller and Andrew J. Blackbird Materials. The Louise Obermiller and Andrew J. Blackbird materials are further arranged in subseries that reflect their original grouping into separate binders: Property Records and Correspondence, Part 1; Property Records and Correspondence, Part 2; Andrew J. Blackbird Correspondence; Obermiller Family Correspondence; Odawa and Ojibwa Correspondence and Documents; and Legal Records, Court Proceedings, and Correspondence.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials purchased from Marc Lafayette and/or Perr Myers by Jean McManus (Catholic Studies Librarian) in January and April 2021 and June 2023.

Related Materials

Separated Materials

One Paige box (accession #2023-074) containing printed items was separated and delivered to the Rare Books and Special Collections unit on September 21, 2023, for integration into their collections. Items include copies of two books authored by Andrew Blackbird; a copy of Blackbird's 1842 edition of Postal Laws of the United States; and printed items from the press of the Holy Childhood Indian School, including catechisms, dictionaries, periodicals, and other publications. Many are in the Ojibwe language.

Processing Information

Subject and name headings for bands and tribal nations have been assigned in accordance with Library of Congress (LC) vocabulary terms for Indigenous peoples, some of which were, at the time of processing, broadly acknowledged to be incorrect and under revision. These terms were applied in the interest of aggregating like material within cooperative catalogs, and will be updated as corrections to LC vocabularies are published. Similarly, portions of this finding aid rely on transcription of historical documents which may contain outdated or offensive terminology. Within archivist-devised notes and folder titles, groups are referred to by self-identified preferred name, where one has been determined.

Louise Obermiller and Andrew J. Blackbird Collection
Jason Kauffman and Tyler Davis
December 13, 2023
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Archives Repository

607 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame Indiana 46556 United States
(574) 631-6448