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Papers of Rita Napier

Call Number: RH MS 592


This collection consists of copies of government and other publications and unpublished materials, family history materials, newsletters, and photocopies of historical documents, all materials gathered in Rita Napier's study of history, particularly the history of Native Americans and the state of Kansas. The materials are organized by when received from Napier at the Spencer Research Library.


  • Creation: 1806 - 2011


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Rita Napier

Rita G. Napier was born on July 27, 1940 in Sedalia, Missouri, the daughter of Delmar and Freta Napier. She earned her B.A. Degree in American History from American University in 1962, followed by her M.A. in 1965 and Ph.D. in 1976.

From 1962-1966, Napier worked as a teacher at the Hoonah Indian Village High School in Hoonah, Alaska, a Tlingit village, where she received an Outstanding Teaching Award. In 1967 she was a Smithsonian Institution Research Fellow. In 1968, Napier was an assistant archivist for the National Archives and later went on a National Geographic Society research and photography expedition to Alaska. From 1969 to 1971 she taught at Longview Community College in Lee's Summit, MO.

Napier moved to Lawrence in 1973 to teach at the University of Kansas full time, after a stint during the 1960s as a teaching assistant. She remained at KU for the rest of her career, retiring in 2012 as professor emerita.

During her time as a history professor, Napier received numerous awards from the University of Kansas, including Outstanding Woman Teacher (1979), Hall of Fame Inductee (1982), H. Bernerd Fink Award for Outstanding Classroom Teaching (1983), Wally and Marrie Steeple’s Faculty Award (1998), and the Kemper Teaching Award (2004). Napier also served on many boards and received further awards throughout her career, including serving on the 1989 Governor’s Task Force (which created a new statewide curriculum for Kansas history), on the Governor’s Board on the Preservation of Unmarked Burial Sites from 1991-1995, and on the Kansas Humanities Council from 1991-1997 (for which she received the Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Humanities). In 2003 she received the American Association of State and Local History's National Award of Merit.

Napier established the first program of Native American history courses at KU (now the Indigenous Studies Program), in which she created the courses Environmental Studies, American Indian History, Plains Indians, the Indian in the 20th Century, and Kansas Ethnic and Racial Groups. Napier spoke at numerous conferences, presented at humanities lectures, acted as historian-in-residence in a Kansas community, wrote a series of radio programs and newspaper articles on the history of Kansas trails, helped write grant proposals, completed research for film series, and worked on museum exhibitions. In 2003 she consulted on the script and provided on-camera commentary for a PBS documentary called Who Owns the Past, regarding Native Americans' struggle to control ancestral remains.

Rita Napier passed away on November 7, 2016.


9.25 Linear Feet (11 boxes + 3 oversize boxes, 2 oversize folders, 2 video cassettes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

Two boxes in the collection contain materials related to the founding of the University of Kansas' Indigenous Nations Studies Program. One box contains syllabi and class evaluations for Napier’s classes. Further material includes academic papers, manuscripts and essays, anthologies, curriculum vitae, conference materials, newsprint, and two video cassettes, all related to Napier's academic teaching and other professional projects.

The Morgan family papers consist of letters collected by Eliza Knowles Morgan. Most of the letters are addressed to Eliza, but some are to other family members, including her husband Walter Morgan and her mother Gulielma Knowles. Eliza (Lizzie) Morgan was a 19th century medical doctor who lived in Leavenworth, Kansas with her husband Walter Morgan.

This collection also includes the Potawatomi Land Use Papers (reports about land use and population growth policy in Kansas), and photocopies of material on Buffalo Bill (William Cody) and his Wild West show.

Physical Location

RH MS 592

Physical Location

RH MS 1226

Physical Location

RH MS 1359

Physical Location

RH MS Q110, RH MS Q271, RH MS Q394

Physical Location

RH MS S21, RH MS S39

Physical Location

RH Video 48

Other Finding Aids

For a more detailed listing of the materials associated with call number RH MS 1226, see ksrl.kc.napieraddition.pdf.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Rita Napier, 2001, 2002, 2003.

Processing Information

Portions of collection previously shelved at 2003-02-02.

Guide to the Rita Napier Collection
Papers of Rita Napier
Finding aid prepared by ha/mab, 2005. Finding aid encoded by ha/mab, 2005. Finding aid revised by skt, 2010; cmh, 2010; mwh, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Papers of Rita Napier, RH MS 592, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States