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Donald Edmond Pelotte

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Donald Edmond Pelotte

Bishop of Gallup
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
SeeDiocese of Gallup
In officeMarch 31, 1990 to
April 30, 2008
PredecessorJerome J. Hastrich
SuccessorJames S. Wall
OrdinationSeptember 2, 1972
by Edward Cornelius O'Leary
ConsecrationMay 6, 1986
by Robert Fortune Sanchez
Personal details
Born(1945-04-13)April 13, 1945
DiedJanuary 7, 2010(2010-01-07) (aged 64)
Gallup, New Mexico, US
EducationJohn Carroll University
Fordham University
Styles of
Donald Edmond Pelotte
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleMonsignor
Posthumous stylenone

Donald E. Pelotte SSS (April 13, 1945 – January 7, 2010) was an American prelate of Abenaki descent in the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the third bishop of the Diocese of Gallup in New Mexico from 1986 to 2008.[1] Pelotte was the first self identified Native American to be appointed a Catholic bishop in the United States.


Early life[edit]

Donald Pelotte was born on April 13, 1945, in Waterville, Maine, to Norris Albert Pelotte and Margaret Yvonne LaBrie Pelotte. His father was self-identified Abenaki,[2][3][4][5][6][7] and his mother was of French-Canadian descent. Donald and his twin brother Dana were the youngest of five brothers.

Donald Pelotte studied at Eymard Seminary in Hyde Park, New York during his high school years. He did his college studies John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio and later completed doctoral studies at Fordham University in New York City. His doctoral dissertation was entitled: John Courtney Murray, Theologian in Conflict: Roman Catholicism and the American Experience. This was later published in book form by Paulist Press.[8]


Pelotte was ordained a priest on September 2, 1972, by Bishop Edward Cornelius O’Leary.[9] At age 33, he became the Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and was the youngest major superior of a religious community of men in the United States at the time.

Coadjutor Bishop and Bishop of Gallup[edit]

On February 24, 1986, Pope John Paul II named Pelotte as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Gallup; he was consecrated on May 6, 1986 by Archbishop Robert Fortune Sanchez.[1] Upon the retirement of Jerome J. Hastrich, then Bishop of Gallup, on March 31, 1990, Pelotte automatically replaced him.[8]

From 1986 to 2008, Pelotte also served as the episcopal moderator of the Tekakwitha Conference, an association of Native American and First Nation Catholics.[10] In 1992, Pelotte walked out of the Tekawitha annual meeting. This was in response to a dissident group within the conference that accused the Catholic Church of ignoring Native American rituals.[7]

Pelotte is also the only known Roman Catholic bishop to have ordained his own twin brother. Pelotte ordained Father Dana F. Pelotte to the priesthood, on September 4, 1999, in Waterville.[11]

On July 23, 2007, Pelotte suffered a traumatic brain injury at his Gallup home. According to chancery officials and a police report, Pelotte said that he fell down his stairs. He was hospitalized at John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, spending some time in the intensive care unit.[12]

On January 3, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Thomas J. Olmsted, the bishop of Phoenix, as apostolic administrator sede plena of the Diocese of Gallup, and granted Pelotte a one-year leave of absence to continue his recovery.[13] One year later, after seeing pictures of himself from the Emergency Department, Pelotte said he was no longer sure that his injuries were the result of a fall. This statement fueled speculation that his injuries came from being assaulted.[14]

Retirement and legacy[edit]

On April 30, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI accepted Pelotte's resignation as bishop of the Diocese of Gallup.[15][1]

O December 30, 2009, Pelotte was hospitalized in Gallup in critical condition. He died on January 7, 2010. The funeral mass for Pelotte was held on January 14, 2010, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup. Per his wishes, he was buried in the crypt of the cathedral.[16]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Gallup
31 March 1990 – 30 April 2008
Succeeded by


  1. ^ a b c Cheney, David. "Bishop Donald Edmond Pelotte". Catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  2. ^ "First American Indian prelate, Bishop Donald Pelotte, dies at age 64". Archdiocese of Baltimore. 2012-01-19. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  3. ^ "Waterville's Donald Pelotte, 1st Indian bishop, dies at 64". Bangor Daily News. Associated Press. 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  4. ^ "Bishop remembered for including Indian practices". www.nativetimes.com. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  5. ^ "Donald Pelotte, first Native American bishop". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  6. ^ Clark, Heather (2010-01-11). "Donald Pelotte, 64; was first American Indian bishop". Boston.com. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  7. ^ a b "Catholic Indians Try to Reconcile 2 Traditions". The New York Times. 1992-08-17. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  8. ^ a b "Most Rev. Donald E. Pelotte". Diocese of Gallup. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  9. ^ "Bishop Donald Edmond Pelotte [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2022-09-21.
  10. ^ Tekakwitha Conference History Archived 2010-06-10 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  11. ^ "Brotherly love - Bishop Donald E. Pelotte ordains twin brother, Dana F. Pelotte". National Catholic Reporter. The Gale Group. 1999-09-17. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  12. ^ Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola (2007-08-04). "Bishop moved from ICU". Gallup Independent. Archived from the original on 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  13. ^ Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola (2008-01-04). "Pope steps in". Gallup Independent. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  14. ^ HardinBurrola, Elizabeth (1 August 2008). "Photos of Bishop Donald E. Pelotte/Pelotte Plight compared to Jesus Crucifixion". The Gallup Independent. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  15. ^ Cf. Holy See Press Office, Daily Bulletin of 30.04.2008, Rinunce e nomine, Rinuncia del Vescovo di Gallup (U.S.A.)[permanent dead link] (in Italian)
  16. ^ Clark, Heather (14 January 2010). "Bishop Pelotte remembered in Gallup". KRQE Channel 13. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013.

External links[edit]