Skip to main content

Dorothy R. Parker D'Arcy McNickle research papers

Identifier: Ayer-Modern-MS-ParkerD

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence and writings of D'Arcy McNickle collected by Dorothy R. Parker, together with a variety of records documenting McNickle's life and work, including a genealogical chart, a diagram of McNickle's land allotment, grammar school pictures, college transcript, medical discharge, marriage licenses, interviews, newspaper clippings including book reviews, project reports, and obituary notices. The bulk of the papers pertain to McNickle's employment history, beginning as editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica, followed by his outstanding work and leadership in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Crownpoint Project. Other materials include personal letters to friends and family members, recommendations for an honorary doctorate, correspondence regarding McNickle's academic appointment at the University of Saskatchewan, and the majority of his published articles. Copious amounts of correspondence document each of McNickle's major accomplishments and reveal his personal insights and expertise in negotiations between the Indian and White cultures.


  • Creation: 1863-1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1904 - 1989



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Dorothy R. Parker D'Arcy McNickle research papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Dorothy R. Parker D'Arcy McNickle research papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Dorothy R. Parker

A specialist in the history of the North American Indian and assistant professor of history at Eastern New Mexico University, Dorothy Ragon Parker's (1927-) publications include Phoenix Indian School: The Second Half-Century, and articles and reviews in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal and elsewhere. Parker's investigation into D'Arcy McNickle's family background began with the generous assistance of his niece, O. Jahala Currie, in Calgary, Alberta. However, the most important single source of information on D'Arcy McNickle was the collection of his personal papers at the Newberry Library in Chicago. In 1986, Parker received a fellowship to research the McNickle Papers there. During her visit, she was able to interview then Newberry President and Librarian, Lawrence W. Towner, and Frederick E. Hoxie, at that time Director of the D'Arcy McNickle Center, both of whom knew McNickle well. Parker resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Biography of D'Arcy McNickle

Writer, novelist, activist, employee of the United States Government Bureau of Indian Affairs, director of the American Indian Development, professor of anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan, and first program director of the Center for the History of the American Indian.

William D'Arcy McNickle was born on January 18, 1904 in St. Ignatius, Montana on the Flathead Reservation. His mother, Philomene Parenteau, was a French Cree (Métis), and his father, William James McNickle, was of Irish descent. McNickle was the youngest of three children; his sisters were Ruth Elizabeth and Florence Lea. McNickle's mother applied for membership in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (known as the Flathead Tribe), which adopted her family, and they received a land allotment under the 1887 Dawes Act. McNickle's parents divorced in 1913; his mother remarried Gus Dahlberg, and McNickle assumed his name for a short time. His father never remarried.

His early education began at the St. Ignatius Mission School in Montana; in 1913 he and his sisters enrolled at the Salem Indian Training School in Chemawa, Oregon. He attended the University of Montana from 1921 to 1925, but he did not complete the requirements for graduation. In 1925, McNickle sold his land allotment and departed for Europe to attend Oxford University; the following year he studied at the University of Grenoble in Paris. McNickle returned to New York and briefly attended Columbia University in 1933. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1963, and the University of Colorado awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1966.

In 1936, McNickle moved to Washington D. C. to work as an administrative assistant for the Bureau of Indian Affairs under John Collier, Commissioner of Indian affairs. Later he became the field representative to the Commissioner, and eventually the Director of Tribal Relations. In 1952, he was appointed director of American Indian Development, Incorporated, which was administered by the University of Colorado, Boulder. McNickle arranged workshops for Indian students nationwide. His attention soon focused on the Navajo community in Crownpoint, New Mexico. In 1966, McNickle was selected to chair the newly created department of anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina campus. He retired from academic life in 1971, and returned to Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the last stage of his career, he was asked to participate in the research center at the Newberry Library's Center for the History of the American Indian, and was appointed its first program director in 1972. After his death, the Center was renamed the D'Arcy McNickle Center for Indian Affairs in his honor (1984). Another educational institution that reflects McNickle's influence is the Native American Educational Services - NAES, an accredited university in Chicago which provides a two-year curriculum for Indian students. In 1987, the Salish-Kootenai Community College built a library to commemorate McNickle's contribution to Indian youth; the D'Arcy McNickle Library is located on the Flathead Reservation in Pablo, Montana.

McNickle had many volunteer positions: He chaired the steering committee of the 1961 American Indian Chicago Conference and was the primary author of their conference manual, "Declaration of Indian Purpose." He was a founding member of the National Congress of American Indians (1944), a fellow of the American Anthropological Association, and a member of the executive committee of the Society for American Archaeology (1972-1973).

McNickle is the author of three novels: The Surrounded (1936), Runner in the Sun: A Story of Indian Maize (1954), and Wind from an Enemy Sky (1978). His non-fiction work includes They Came Here First: The Epic of the American Indian (1949), Indians and Other Americans (1959 and 1970, with Howard E. Fey), Indian Tribes of the Untied States: Ethnic and Cultural Survival (1962, revised in 1973 as Native American Tribalism), and Indian Man: A Life of Oliver La Farge (1971). McNickle also wrote many articles including a 20,000-word essay for the 1951 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (14th ed.), titled "Indians, North America," and book reviews for American Anthropologist. He wrote short stories and poetry, and was published in many popular magazines including Esquire, Common Ground, the Chicago Tribune Magazine supplement, and Frontier and Midland. The Hawk is Hungry and Other Stories, edited by Birgit Hans is an anthology of his published and unpublished works (1992).

McNickle was married three times: first to Joran Jacobine Birkeland from 1926 to 1938; Roma Kaye Kauffman from 1939 to 1967; and last to his AID co-worker, sociologist Viola Gertrude Pfrommer, from 1969 to 1977. McNickle had two daughters, Antoinette Marie Parenteau McNickle (with Joran, 1933) and Kathleen D'Arcy McNickle (with Roma, 1941). He died suddenly of a massive heart attack on October 10, 1977 in his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


1.7 Linear Feet (4 boxes)


Correspondence and writings of author and activist D'Arcy McNickle collected by Dorothy R. Parker during research for her book, Singing an Indian Song: A Biography of D'Arcy McNickle (1992). Other materials include project summaries, photographs, legal papers, passports, and documentary information.


The papers are organized chronologically, beginning with information about McNickle's ancestry dating from 1673, and extending beyond his final years with obituaries and critical analyses of his literary style. McNickle's published essays, book reviews, and unpublished speeches and Parker's correspondence (alphabetical) follow.


3a 56 1


Gift of Dorothy R. Parker, February 2002.

Processed by

Karyn Goldstein, 2002.

Inventory of the Dorothy R. Parker D'Arcy McNickle research papers, 1863-1989, bulk 1904-1989
Karyn Goldstein
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States