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Sophie D. Aberle Papers

Identifier: MSS-509-BC

Scope and Content

The collection is divided into 20 overlapping series. There is considerable redundancy between series. Aberle's professional work often overlapped with her earlier research, causing documents to be filed with similar materials as she used them. Therefore, there is little chronological order to the materials in the collection. In addition, while writing her unpublished autobiographical book, she reviewed her research and correspondence files, shifting materials around according to whether she used them for her book, even filing some documents with her manuscript. What remains, while topically disorganized, is a record of the process of reviewing and compiling her life's work into book form.

Aberle's correspondence is predominantly located in Series III - VI and IX.

Series descriptions:

I. Academic Studies. This series contains handwritten, typed, and photocopied documents regarding Aberle's education at Berkeley, Stanford, and Yale, as well as material pertaining to her academic appointments. Diplomas, transcripts, fellowship and scholarship documents, correspondence, a resume, and a list of fellow students are furnished. The documents date from 1919-1941.

II. Research Among the Pueblos. This series contains documents relating to Aberle's early field research among the Pueblos of New Mexico. The material dates from 1926-1961. Typed, handwritten, and photocopied documents are provided, including note cards, lists, charts, reports, notebooks, and questionnaires.

This series is divided into two subseries, the first of which contains documents relating to Aberle's work among the Pueblos. Many of the documents in this subseries concern Aberle's initial research at the Pueblo of San Juan. Included are bibliographic references, ethnographic and medical note cards, church records, data on birth and marriage, household surveys, and a photographic log. Aberle's unpublished research report entitled "The Pueblo of San Juan" is also furnished. Other material concerning Native Americans of New Mexico, especially Hopi, Santa Clara, Cochiti, and Navajo, are provided. These documents include school attendance records, economic and political histories, payrolls, as well as notes on dance and ceremony. Aberle's data on children's health (including x-ray, agglutination, and tuberculosis testing) and women's health (including puberty, menstruation, and breast development) are also housed in this section.

The second subseries, concerning infant mortality in New Mexico, contains documents which are sorted by county. Some of this material dates to the 1950s and 60s, because her early research on children's health overlaps with her later position on the Committee on Infant and Maternal Mortality of the New Mexico Medical Society (1954-1957).

III. United Pueblos Agency. Material relating to Aberle's tenure as Superintendent of the United Pueblos Agency, from 1935 to 1944, is housed in this series. These documents date from 1923-1944, with a few documents extending beyond Aberle's tenure as Superintendent, dating from 1948-1973. Correspondence, memos, articles, notes, meeting minutes, petitions, Pueblo constitutions, telegrams, and copies of newspaper clippings are included. Aberle's manuscript concerning the formation of the United Pueblos Agency, "Consolidation of Separate Agencies" is furnished, along with United Pueblos Agency bulletins. Several reports regarding land claims, soils, grazing, water rights, economics, job training, social security, health, and religious freedom are provided. In particular, many of these documents pertain to Acoma, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Laguna, Isleta, and Navajo issues. Additionally, correspondence with several noted figures such as Elsie Clews Parsons, John Collier, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Clinton P. Anderson are housed in this section of the collection.

IV. Commission on the Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities of the American Indian. This series houses documents relating the administration of the Commission on the Rights Liberties and Responsibilities of the American Indian. Documents associated with both Aberle's and her husband, William Brophy's tenures as head of the commission are provided. The materials date from 1929 to 1978, and most concern the termination of federal supervision for Native American groups. The series contains typed and handwritten text including notes, copies of newspaper clippings, news releases, correspondence, speeches, articles, booklets, manuscripts, charts, reports, Congressional Records, by-laws, and constitutions. Native American issues addressed in this series include education, peyote use, religious freedom, civil rights, land disputes, water rights, relocation, economics, livestock, employment, alcoholism, crime, and juvenile delinquency. Several Native American groups are mentioned in the series including, Pima, Papago, Navajo, White Mountain Apache, Mescalero Apache, Jicarilla Apache, Ute, Cochiti, Zia, Jemez, Santa Ana, San Felipe, San Juan, Santo Domingo, Taos, San Carlos, Klamath, Sioux, Menominiee, and Crow among others. Correspondence between noted anthropologists such as Clyde Kluckhohn and Leslie White are also furnished.

Additional materials in this series relate to Aberle's tenure on the New Mexico Commission on Indian Affairs and representing New Mexico on the Governor's Interstate Indian Council, 1966-1969.

V. National Science Board and other Professional Activities. This series contains documents relating to Aberle's position on the National Science Board and her involvement with the National Research Council and National Science Foundation. The material in the series dates from 1950-1986. Other professional activities that Aberle participated in during this time period are also included in this series. Documents relating to the National Science Board, National Research Council, and National Science Foundation include telegrams, newspaper clippings, notes, invitations, expense accounts, correspondence, brochures, catalogs, and newsletters, and meeting minutes. A transcript of an interview with Aberle concerning her appointment to the National Science Board is also furnished.

Also included in the series are documents relating to Aberle's position on the Committee on Infant and Maternal Mortality of the New Mexico Medical Society, 1954-1957. These materials include correspondence, notes, charts, maps, and issues of the Congressional Record. Also furnished are documents relating to Aberle's work on the Bernalillo County Indian Hospital, the New Mexico Commission for Indian Affairs, the Indian Legends Project, Planned Parenthood, and the North American Indian Travel College.

VI. Computer Assisted Instruction Program (CAI). This series contains typed and hand written documents relating to the Computer Assisted Education Program, 1965-1980. Correspondence, budgets, articles, notes, memos, funding applications, grant proposals, newsletters, salary listings, and brochures concerning CAI are furnished. Aberle's address at the 94th hearings on computer-assisted instruction, 1975, is provided along with her paper "Bibliography of Computer Assisted Instruction Stressing Elementary education."

VII. "Our Illusion of Roots." This series contains numerous typed and handwritten drafts of Aberle's unpublished manuscript "Our Illusion of Roots," also called "The End of an Illusion". The manuscript outlines her experiences among the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and her changed perspective of her role and work. The material in this series dates from 1976-1985. This series includes documents removed from Aberle's files to be used in writing her book. These files are grouped by subject heading, including ethics, industry, history, cattle herds, land reorganization, spirituality, health, and education. Also included are comments by editors and friends on drafts of the manuscript as well as correspondence with publishers.

VIII. Publications. This series contains Aberle's publications, including her dissertation, Cyclic Proliferate Phenomena in the Mammary Glands, Vagina and Uterus of the Guinea Pig. Journal articles include, "Frequency of Pregnancies and Birth Interval Among Pueblo Indians," "Child Mortality Among Pueblo Indians," "Maternal Mortality Among the Pueblos," "Physical Status of Two Hundred and Nineteen Pueblo Indian Children," "Studies of the Growth and Development of Pueblo Indian Children," "Vital Statistics of the Pueblo Indians, and "The Vital History of San Juan Pueblo."

Other publications include, A Primate Malaria, "The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico: Their Land, Economy and Civil Organization," and Twenty-five Years of Sex Research: History of the National Research Council Committee for Research in Problems of Sex.

IX. Personal Documents. The series contains Aberle's personal papers as well as some of her husband, William Brophy's. These documents span 60 years, from 1927 to 1987. Material such as Aberle's birth certificate, passports, vaccination records, awards, marriage licenses, and retirement records are provided, as are Brophy's death certificate, and Aberle's Right to Die Statement, financial documents including stock market, real estate records, life insurance, and medical bills. Personal correspondence between Aberle and Brophy is housed here and well as correspondence, invitations, and greeting cards among Aberle's friends. Several of Gary Pittsenbarger's (Pitts) personal documents are included, as Aberle was Pitts's sponsor and friend. A few of the papers from Aberle's long-time friend, Edith Mirrielees, are furnished as well.

Also housed in this section are newspaper articles concerning Aberle, notes on her grandmother, Alpha Phi Fraternity directories, a price quote on her books, information on gardening, material from her trip to Asia, a White House invitation, and personal schedules and notes. Correspondence regarding her appearance in Who's Who in the West is also furnished. Finally, a typed index of Aberle's files is provided.

>X. Aberle/Brophy Real Estate. This series contains documents relating to properties owned by Aberle and Brophy and development plans for Albuquerque's West Mesa. Materials include warranty deeds, easements, maps, bills, correspondence, permits, development plans, water and sewage information, meeting minutes, notes, and information on green belt designations.

XI. Land Issues. This series contains documents regarding land jurisdiction issues between federal, state, and Native American land holdings. This series also provides information on the Hopi and the Navajo land dispute. Grazing issues and issues pertaining to highway development, the taxability of land holdings, and development of Native American lands are documented in this series, as are heirship issues and land grants. Press releases from the Department of the Interior, 1963-1973, and land status reports for all the pueblos for 1969 are included, as are "Annual Reports on Indian Lands" 1964-1983.

XII. Termination of Federal Aid. This series houses information related to the termination of aid by the Federal government in general and specifically on the Menominee and Klamath tribes. It includes reports analyzing the effects of terminating funds, such as "An Outline Study of the Effect of Termination of Federal Responsibility," "Administration of Withdrawal Activities by the B. I. A.," and "Welfare Costs to States." Correspondence about termination, written by W. A. Brophy, information on wardship issues, and documents related to reorganization plans by Native American tribes in response to federal aid termination (Johnson O'Malley Act and the Indian Point 4 Program) as is a comparative analysis of statistics of federal funding by state.

The majority of papers on Menominee tribal issues deal with termination. However, there is also a February 1962 report by Louis S. Spindler on "Menominee Women and Cultural Change," annotated by S. D. Aberle, and a report on building improvements.

Documents related to the Klamath tribe cover topics such as economics, termination, and the effects of termination. Directly related to these topics are issues of forestry usage, sale of land by tribal members, and the potential economic effects to tribal members who sustained their living through forestry. Also included is a tribal registry.

XIII. Navajo and Pueblo Tribal Issues. Papers relating to Navajo issues relate to land development, specifically as it pertains to irrigation usage, livestock, and the "Navajo Farm Training Program." These papers include Oswald Werner's 1968 report, "Styles of Learning: The Evidence from Navajo," information on dormitories, a 1950 survey of Indians living off the reservation. Journal of the Navajo Tribal Council, 1953-1961 is included in this section.

The final section in this series contains papers pertaining to the Pueblo and Hopi. Documents including meeting agendas, constitutions, by-laws regarding the All Indian Pueblo Council (AIPC) will be found here. The scope of these documents is broad, covering history, Indian Head Start, UNM Teacher-Training Project, and the Speech and Hearing Project. The pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Picuris, Pojoaque, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Sandia, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Zia, and Zuni are represented. Lists of Pueblo leaders are included. The scope of information concerning specific pueblos is broad, covering constitutions, religion, school, art, wedding rites, and oral history. Information on the Hopi is not as vast, including documents regarding Hopi business.

XIV. Relocation, Employment, and Education. This series deals specifically with the effects of relocation on education and employment, containing papers on relocation and vocational training, and relocation and assimilation, including documents on specific education and training programs, such as the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, B.I.A. operated boarding schools, and the Southwest Field Training School. This series documents the role of the federal government in education, bilingual and multicultural education programs, literacy and linguistics, and the Computer Assisted Integrated Program. Education issues pertaining to specific Indian groups such as those members of Isleta Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, and the Navajo Nation are also discussed in this series.

XV: Tribal Governance, Law and Order. Papers documenting tribal government formation and preliminary planning for tribal governments are found within this series. Constitutions and by-laws for numerous Indian tribes in Alaska, California, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Texas, South Dakota, Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, Wisconsin, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, and Michigan are contained here. Constitutions and by-laws for various Pueblos, Jicarilla Apache, and Navajo people of New Mexico are found in this series.

Additionally, this series contains information on American Indian criminality and judicial procedures, at both the federal and tribal level. Information pertaining to specific law cases involving Indians, including charges and sentences, are housed here. Congressional Meeting reports, spanning from the 78th-95th Congressional Meetings, 1943-1978 are included.

XVI. Health Issues. For the most part, this series includes articles about topics such as mental health, the relationship between nutrition, pregnancy, and infant mortality, and the effects and treatment of alcoholism. Included within this series is also a 1956 report titled "Health and Demography" and numerous documents on medical associations.

XVII. Miscellaneous Subject Files. Topics within this series include but are not limited to art, the Commission on Indian Affairs, ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations, population, religious freedom, water issues, and papers related to William A. Brophy. Ethnicity includes papers pertaining to cliches and euphemisms about Indians. Interethnic relations contains papers discussing the relations between Indians, Anglos, and Mexicans. And, within the topic of population are papers regarding census figures.

XVIII. Miscellaneous Publications and Bibliographies. This series includes varied published journals and articles ranging from New Age Magazine and Yale Alumni Magazine to the Albuquerque Journal's coverage of Georgia O'Keeffe's death and a 1938 report titled "Women in Federal Service." There is also a published collection of John Collier's editorials from 1933-1935 and the 1945 Handbook of Federal Indian Law written by Felix S. Cohen. Also contains bibliographies compiled by Aberle on index cards.

XIX. Audio Tapes: Recordings of meetings of the Commission on the Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities of the American Indian, 1958. Also contains an interview with Stewart Muntz and some dictation by Aberle.

XX. Oversize. Oversize materials consist of nine folders primarily of maps and a few certificates. Many are related to other parts of the boxed collection. Maps are subdivided into sections. Folders 1 A-1 E pertain to Pueblo Indian, Navajo and Apache land holdings, land use, agriculture, grazing and soil conservation surveys, with several maps for the United Pueblos Agency jurisdiction, Spanish Land Grants, National forest lands and fire maps, and the Rio Grande Watershed. They particularly show the relation of the Indian lands to the Spanish grant lands and National Forests. Folder 2 consists of maps for the History of New Mexico covering Spanish settlement, Indian relations and conflicts, U.S. military activites and land survey maps from the U.S. Surveyor General, Land Office. Folder 3 has maps of the lands of Sophie D. Aberle and William Brophy, and neighboring properties in the East Mountains and on the West Mesa. Folder 4 has a small set of maps about the controversial English wood cutting lands in Belize, Guatemala. Folder 5 contains Aberle and Brophy commissions, certificates and awards, and miscellaneous.

Photographs are housed in CSWR Pictorial Collections.


  • 1913-1987


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Sophie D. Aberle was born Sophie Bledsoe Herrick on July 21, 1896 in Schenectady, New York. As a youth she had several instrumental female mentors, among them her grandmother and namesake, Sophia Bledsoe Herrick, a science and history writer for popular magazines. Educated by private tutors, Aberle (the name was from a brief marriage) applied for and received high school credit in order to attend college at the University of California in Berkeley. She later transferred to Stanford University where she completed her B.A in 1923, M.A. in 1925, and earned a doctorate in anatomy in 1927. Upon leaving Stanford, she came to New Mexico for the first time to research sexual behavior at San Juan Pueblo. Quickly discovering that the language barrier would prevent that research, instead she focused on the social life and customs of the pueblo. She returned to school at Yale University School of Medicine where she researched female reproductive biology, earning an M.D in 1930.

In 1935, John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, united five Indian administrative units to form the United Pueblos Agency. Aberle, who by this time had researched and published several articles on child birth and mortality among the Pueblos, was named superintendent of the new agency. Encompassing both the New Deal and World War II eras, her administration focused on issues relating to health, education, land, and agriculture. During this time she met William A. Brophy, Special Council for the Pueblos; they married in 1940. In 1944 Brophy was appointed Commission of Indian Affairs. Aberle left the United Pueblos Agency to accompany him to Washington where she did medical research for the National Academy of Science.

Returning to Albuquerque in 1948, Aberle continued her professional interest in health care and her service to the Native American population of New Mexico. She was a research director at the University of New Mexico, a health consultant to the All Indian Pueblo Council, a founder and staff member of the Bernalillo County Medical Center, on staff at the University of New Mexico Department of Psychiatry, and served on the New Mexico Commission on Indian Affairs, to name a few of her numerous activities. Of national note, she was Director of the BIA Indian Education Survey, 1963-1967 and a member of the Commission on the Rights, Liberties and Responsibilities of the American Indian, becoming Executive Director in 1959 when William Brophy resigned due to poor health.

In 1965 she began working with Pueblo leaders to bring computers into the pueblo schools. Her association with the Computer Assisted Instruction Program lasted until 1976 when she was fired by the All Indian Pueblo Council in a dispute over financial control. At that point she became disillusioned about her life-long approach toward working with Native Americans. She began 9 years of effort at writing a book based on her career. Alternatively titled, "Our Illusion of Roots" and "The End of an Illusion," the manuscript, a somewhat disaffected review of her career, was never published.

Aberle died in Albuquerque in 1996, having celebrated her 100th birthday. Her home on Albuquerque's West Mesa now serves as the visitor's center for Petroglyph National Monument.


36 boxes (34.5 cu. ft.) + 9 oversize folders


This collection documents the professional and personal interests of Sophie D. Aberle. There is an abundance of research materials pertaining to the Pueblo and Navajo Indians, as well as general Native American issues, including relocation. Records pertaining to Aberle's tenure with the United Pueblos Agency, the Commission on the Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities of the American Indian, and the National Science Board are included in the collection.

Collection Available Online

Maps of Indian Lands and Pueblo Land Grants listed in this guide to the Sophie D. Aberle Papers are available in digital format at the Center for Southwest Research's Manuscripts Digital Collections. Search there for the word "Aberle" under "Name of Collection" to find them.

Related Archival Material

Center for Regional Studies and the Center for Southwest Research Fellows presentations describing the Sophie D. Aberle Papers by Melinda Zepeda and Sue Ruth.

American Indian Oral History Collection. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. William Zimmerman, Jr. Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Project. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. Robert W. Young Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Shirley Hill Witt Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. Sacred Lands Project Collection. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. Sophie D. Aberle Papers. Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Pueblo Archives. Albuquerque, NM. William A. Brophy and Sophie Aberle Brophy Papers. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Independence, MO. Women in New Mexico Collection Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Francis Cushman Wilson Papers on Pueblo Legal Issues Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Ward Alan Minge Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Oral history interview with Theda Rushing Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico United States Pueblo Lands Board Report Regarding Pueblo of Laguna Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Photographs have been transferred to Sophie D. Aberle Photograph Collection. Postcards have been transferred to the CSWR General File Postcard Collection PICT 995-027.

Original audio recordings are stored in B3.
Finding Aid of the Sophie D. Aberle Papers, 1913-1987
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Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 509 BC::Sophie D. Aberle papers)//EN" "nmu1mss509bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
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Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131