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Carlos Montezuma papers

Identifier: Ayer-Modern-MS-Montezuma

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, writings, miscellaneous documents and memorabilia, clippings and photographs relating to Carlos Montezuma.

Mainly incoming correspondence, much of which is from educator and activist Richard H. Pratt. Other correspondents range from relatives and other Indians including Indian author Simon Pokagon and other individuals concerned with Indian affairs, to Chicago patients, social contacts and admirers. The few outgoing letters and drafts of letters concern both Montezuma's medical practice and his activist views. Among his writings are drafts of an article on the Carlisle School on what he calls "the Indian question," manuscript copies of several speeches on that subject, a pamphlet, "Let My People Go," and a group of miscellaneous notes for articles or speeches. The miscellaneous material includes a manuscript transcript "Account of the capture of Maria Ruiz's mother, July 3, 1889," ads, brochures, bills and receipts, clippings and a periodical of 1921 " The Sagamore," and other bits of memorabilia presumably retained by Montezuma. There are a few photographs and photoduplications, only one of which is of Carlos Montezuma.


  • Creation: 1888-1936
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1888-1922



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Carlos Montezuma papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Carlos Montezuma 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 Carlos Montezuma

Indian activist and physician of Arizona and Chicago, Illinois.

Carlos Montezuma was born a Yavapai Indian in southern Arizona on or about 1866. As a boy he survived a murderous attack by rival Pimas, and was then sold to an itinerant Italian photographer named Carlos Gentile. Gentile changed the boy's name from Wassaja to Carlos Montezuma and took him east to New York and Illinois. As he grew up he was educated well enough to be able to attend the University of Illinois and eventually the Chicago Medical College, where he received his MD in 1889. While in medical school he began a long friendship and correspondence with Richard Henry Pratt, head of the famous Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, who became a major influence, encouraging him to dedicate himself to continue to work for the rights of Indians.

After several years working on western reservations for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Montezuma realized he was opposed to the Bureau's policy of maintaining and operating these reservations, feeling that Native Americans could only achieve their potential if given opportunities within the white, urban America. Thus began Montezuma's continual allegiance with the newly founded Society of American Indians and his role as a firm critic of the government's Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In 1896 Montezuma returned to Chicago to establish a medical practice and later, from 1916 to 1922, to publish a personal newsletter called Wassaja, in which he carried on his fight against the Bureau and his crusade for a place for Indians in twentieth century America. Active all his life as a national leader in Native American affairs, and well known both by his writings and his speeches, in 1922 Carlos Montezuma returned to Arizona to die of tuberculosis in 1923.

A biography by Peter Iverson, entitled Carlos Montezuma, was published in 1982.


1.7 Linear Feet (4 boxes)


Mostly correspondence, but also writings, miscellaneous documents and memorabilia, clippings and photographs relating to Indian rights activist and physician Carlos Montezuma of Arizona and Chicago, Illinois.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1888-1936
Boxes 1-3
Series 2: Works, undated-1915
Box 4
Series 3: Miscellaneous Material, 1889-1935
Box 4


3a 55 1


Received in 1984 by David Miller and Frederick Hoxie of the Newberry Library's D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History. Papers were found in a trunk after the death of Montezuma's wife and eventually were brought to the Newberry Library.

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2003

Inventory of the Carlos Montezuma papers, 1888-1936, bulk 1888-1922
Finding aid prepared by Virginia H. Smith
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