Donald Edmond Pelotte

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Styles of
Donald Edmond Pelotte
Mitre plain 2.png
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleMonsignor
Posthumous stylenone

Donald E. Pelotte SSS (April 13, 1945 – January 7, 2010) was the third Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico.[1] He was the first person of Native American descent to become a Catholic bishop in the United States; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., was later the only active American diocesan bishop of Native American descent.[2] He is also the only known Roman Catholic bishop to have ordained his own twin brother. Bishop Pelotte ordained Father Dana F. Pelotte, SSS, to the priesthood, on September 4, 1999, in their childhood parish of Waterville, Maine.[3]


Pelotte was born on April 13, 1945, in Waterville, Maine, to Norris Albert Pelotte and Margaret Yvonne LaBrie Pelotte. His father was Abenaki[4][1],[5][6][7][8][9] and his mother was of French-Canadian (Québécois) descent. Donald and his twin brother Dana were the youngest of five brothers. He 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. 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.[10]

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. On February 24, 1986, he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Gallup and was consecrated on May 6, 1986. Upon the retirement of Jerome J. Hastrich, then Bishop of Gallup on March 31, 1990, Pelotte became the Third Bishop of Gallup.[10] From 1986 to 2008, Pelotte also served as the Episcopal moderator of the Tekakwitha Conference, an association of Native American and First Nation Catholics.[11]

Later life[edit]

Bishop Pelotte was seriously injured in his Gallup home on July 23, 2007. His injuries included a traumatic brain injury. According to chancery officials and a police report, Pelotte insisted his injuries resulted from a fall down his home staircase; however, his aide speculated that he "looked like he'd been beat up" and that his injuries were more consistent with a brutal assault rather than with a fall down a carpeted stairwell.[12]

On January 3, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Thomas J. Olmsted, 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]

On April 30, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation from the pastoral government of the Diocese of Gallup, presented by Pelotte in accordance with canon 401 § 2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.[14] Bishop Olmsted continued to govern the diocese as Apostolic Administrator until James S. Wall was appointed bishop of Gallup and took canonical possession of the Diocese on 23 April 2009.

On Monday, July 8, 2008, KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque and the Gallup Independent newspaper released the results of their investigation of the Pelotte case. Pictures that had not been previously released to the public suggested that the bishop suffered severe blows to the head and back. The station speculated that the injuries did not indicate a fall, but rather a possible beating. The police investigation was closed, though, having never been recalled.[15]

Pelotte was hospitalized in critical condition, with his relatives at his side, on December 30, 2009. He died on January 7, 2010. The Funeral Mass for Bishop Pelotte was held on Thursday, 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. ^ Cheney, David. "Bishop Donald Edmond Pelotte". Retrieved June 27, 2013.
  2. ^ Biography and Curriculum Vitae of Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., D.D. Archived July 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ "First American Indian prelate, Bishop Donald Pelotte, dies at age 64". Archdiocese of Baltimore. 2012-01-19. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  5. ^ "Waterville's Donald Pelotte, 1st Indian bishop, dies at 64". Bangor Daily News. Associated Press. 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  6. ^ "Bishop remembered for including Indian practices". Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  7. ^ "Donald Pelotte, first Native American bishop". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  8. ^ Clark, Heather (2010-01-11). "Donald Pelotte, 64; was first American Indian bishop". Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  9. ^ "Catholic Indians Try to Reconcile 2 Traditions". The New York Times. 1992-08-17. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  10. ^ a b "Most Rev. Donald E. Pelotte". Diocese of Gallup. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  11. ^ Tekakwitha Conference History Archived 2010-06-10 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  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. ^ 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)
  15. ^ HardinBurrola, Elizabeth (1 August 2008). "Photos of Bishop Donald E. Pelotte/Pelotte Plight compared to Jesus Crucifixion". The Gallup Independent. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  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.