Event—Public Programming

Father Powell: a Winter Talk with an Elder of Spiritual and Scholarly Traditions


American Indian Center canoe club race on Lake Michigan in the early 1960s. Photo by Orlando Cabanban.

Listen to the audio recording of this event.

FATHER PETER J. POWELL is Senior Research Associate of the Newberry Library, with which he has been associated since 1973, and Founder-Spiritual Director of St. Augustine’s Center for American Indians in Chicago. His most recent scholarly work, In Sun’s Likeness and Power, was published in 2013 by University of Nebraska Press and the two volumes are the final in the seven volume study of Cheyenne Indian culture envisioned by Fr. Powell when he began writing in 1959. Father Powell believes a priest ministering to Native Americans must not only serve his people’s spiritual and physical needs, but also assist in preserving their tribal cultures. He has spent summers visiting the North Cheyenne since 1955.

Father Powell’s scholarly work has been recognized and supported by numerous prestigious awards, including fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His book People of the Sacred Mountain won both the 1982 National Book Award in History and the Anisfield-World Award in Race Relations. In addition to several honorary doctorates, Father Powell also holds a knighthood bestowed by King Peter of Yugoslavia and is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Chief’s Society. He is currently at work on a study of Northern Cheyenne ledger art and continues to be Spiritual Director at St. Augustine’s. It is difficult to calculate the number of people Father Powell has touched during his eighty-plus years, both in his spiritual work—St. Augustine’s marked 54 years of service to Chicago’s Indigenous community—and in his scholarly production—a recent survey of Google Scholar revealed more than 295 citations of his research.

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This program is part of Religious Change, 1450 - 1700, a multidisciplinary project exploring how religion and print helped make the medieval world modern. The project is generously supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.