University of Arizona

Papers of Bonaventure Oblasser

Born in Portland, Oregon, on March 7, 1885, Emil Oblasser studied for the Franciscan priesthood (taking the name of Bonaventure) at Mission Santa Barbara from 1901 until 1908. His missionary work in Arizona resulted in the construction of over a dozen schools and churches on what would become known as the Papago Indian Reservation in southern Arizona. He was a member of the Committee that contributed to the formation of the reservation (1915), and he was a key advisor in both the legal battle against the Hunter Heirs in their claim to Papago Lands (1926) and in the formation of the tribal constitution (1936).

These papers best document the activities of Bonaventure Oblasser in his daily struggles to secure the spiritual and financial needs of his missionary work to native peoples in California, and especially, Arizona. The bulk of the correspondence from 1908 to 1940 details his efforts to fund schools with supplies, furniture, and teachers, and to assist the Tohono O'odham (Papago) in shaping their geographical and political future. The correspondence covers the spectrum of his work, including topics such as: administering to the vast expanse of reservation; financing and constructing the buildings for religious and educational purposes; communicating with governmental officials and agencies on behalf of the Tohono O'odham on issues relating to the formation of the reservation, water, land and mineral rights; and assisting in the compilation of the tribal constitution.

There is also present some materials relating to censuses of various villages.

The Subject Files contain correspondence, interviews, writings, and other records relating to various topics.  The second subgroup of papers relate to the personal life and career of Nicholas Perschl. Included are excerpts from his diary and autobiographical writings for his early years as a missionary; general correspondence from 1901 to 1969, chiefly with other Franciscans, former students, and friends. and letters (in German) from members of his extended family in Austria.

Some materials in Latin, Spanish and German.