Towards a Native-Centered Anthropology

  [Note: this is a draft essay I wrote in 2005 in preparation for the comprehensive exams at U. Oregon.] The position or role of Native people in anthropology has always been an issue of contention. Many Native people, from all areas of Indian Country, and in the academy, believe that Native people should have nothing to do with anthropology and have no business being in such a field. This is a tough socially constructed theory that persists among rural and urban Natives, that anthropology is largely responsible for continuing the colonial and even imperial rule and control of the European and Ex-European powers over the indigenous peoples of the world. That it is anthropology, and its kindred sciences, sociology, political science, etc., that is responsible for not only continuing oppressive relations with Native peoples but for re-inscribing those worldviews onto colonized Native peoples (Smith 1999). We see examples of this when experiencing “Native” cultural events that are more intended

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The Most Respected Anthropologist in Oregon’s history: Dell Hymes

  Dell Hymes is legendary, for his time he was the most respected of anthropologists to have originated in and worked in Oregon. He was born in Oregon and maintained a cabin in ZigZag, Oregon which he visited annually. Hymes had worked extensively on the languages of northwestern Oregon, especially on Clackamas, Wasco, Chinook Jargon and Kalapuya.  I met with Dell Hymes briefly in about 1999 after an introduction beginning with a listserve and some emails. In graduate school I began emailing some of the anthropologists when I was reading their material, and became involved in a set of listserves where discussions of anthropology and Linguistics were occurring. The Linguistlists were the source of many acquaintances from that time period. I joined the discussions about Chinook Jargon. I studied the history of the language and also had some experience with the archives of the language through my work with SWORP. At some point Dell offered to share with me some texts

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King Sugar-ocracy

  Sugar is a huge industry in the United States. The substance is in nearly every processed food we eat. Why is this the case? Sugar is a drug. A legal drug that alters our body chemistry, including mood, psychology, and medical condition. Over a lifetime of eating sugar people develop all sorts of medical conditions, diabetes the most prevalent. This unscientific essay will discuss the history of sugar in the United States in my own biased way. I love sugar. I eat in every day in several foods. I love chocolate, love candy. I don’t eat candy everyday, and avoid buying candy in the store. However, when its around, I will eat it. Over my lifetime I have eaten any number of processed foods full of sugar and liked them. I have also made a habit to not eat too much sugar, and seek sweeteners in as natural a form as I can get them. I do not like

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The Charles Holmes Collection of Chemawa Indian School Documents

Charles Holmes C. 1980.
Charles Holmes C. 1980.

A few years ago, I received a donation from the Charles Holmes estate in Salem, from the wife of Charles Holmes. The collection, are records from the career of Charles Holmes, a former teacher and staff member at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon. There were some 30 boxes of all sorts of documents that had been stored for about 20 years in the family garage. Some were damaged, some were in very good shape. In all, there were about 3000 photos, along with papers, books, maps, correspondence, and other media and objects related to Charles Holmes work from the 1950s to the 1970s at the school.  He served as the journalism instructor for the newspaper, the yearbook editor, had a role in theatrical plays and cultural events, and taught wood and metal shops, along with other classes.

Chemawa Chief Yearbook 1962-63, Charles Holmes Collection, CTGR
Chemawa Chief Yearbook 1962-63, Charles Holmes Collection, CTGR

A fairly large volume collection. The staff of the Cultural Department at the Grand Ronde Tribe  organized the papers initially for further processing. Noting it was an important collection that extended beyond the Grand Ronde tribe, I sought help from local professionals to process the collection. Rebecca Dobkins, Professor of Anthropology from Willamette University contacted me and we worked on a plan for her to use the collection in her anthropology classes. She would teach a class every years where the students processed some of the photos, identified the subjects and people, using the school yearbooks for comparison. Then they would scan their photos and enter the metadata for the collection into the Willamette University library website.  The project was covered in Smoke Signals in 2012.

The project is going very well and about 2500 photos have been processed in this manner. Rebecca has done a great job presenting on the project throughout the state. I helped her at the Salem Library presentation in 2014. This was written up in a Statesman Journal Article. Smoke Signals also covered this project in an update in 2014. Rebecca also made a presentation about the project at the 2nd Grand Ronde History Conference in November of 2014.

Another part of the collection, the bound newspapers of The Chemawa American, from the early part of the 20th century, are also very important. A couple years ago, I became aware of the Oregon Digital Newspaper Project. The project was putting full page digital images of Oregon’s newspaper online through the UO project website. They have a limited scope of paper from the 1840s to the 1920s. As there funding become available they have been adding papers. I approached them about adding the Chemawa Americans that we had, as well as the Smoke Signals Newspapers from the 1970s to the present, and the Klamath Tribune from 1956-1961. These papers have now been all added to the Oregon Digital Newspapers project website. This has been an amazing project that will benefit Oregon heritage for generations to come.

I am happy to have contributed in this way to advancing the development of Tribal heritage in the state.

New Tribal Archival Articles in Journal Publication Online


Here is the link to articles to the new issue of Journal Of Western Archives. This is an online publicly accessible journal where I serve on the Editorial  board. The issue published yesterday is a special issue, the Native American Archives Special Issue, with all articles related to Tribal Archives and collections. This issue brings together the unique conditions, histories, issues, and situations that concern tribes and archivists that manage tribally themed collections. I have contributed to or written three of the articles in this issue. More about this process later, but for now please find the articles using this link.

The project evolved over the course of the last year and a half as an idea advanced at the editorial board meeting in 2013. Aided greatly by Jennifer O’Neal (Grand Ronde), UO University Archivist, and Natalia Fernandez, Oregon Multicultural Librarian at OSU, we developed the themes of the first special Issue around an introduction of the various issues and contexts of Native American archival collections.  We planned a second issue related to case studies of tribal collections or Native American collection in repositories. This project is still only in the planning stage. The present special issue of the Journal brings issues of Tribal and Native American collections to the foreground and establishes them as an important subset to be analyzed and developed further. As tribes grow and develop their resources the issues of archival development and tribes will become more complex and important to the field. With 500+ tribes in the US alone, and hundreds of Native American collections in universities and archival and collections institutions, the issues related to Native American archival collections will become more important in the future.  I hope that this is a good foundation  that publicizes what until now has been mainly a subject of conference discussion, of a few sub-groups and subcommittees within the archival field. This set of papers also comes on the tail of the Oregon Tribal Archives Institution workshop at Oregon State University (2012), which added significant energy to the need for this type of publication, and for it to be publicly accessible.

Thank you to all involved in the various efforts, institutions who have trusted us and valued our efforts through the years, and for all those we will work with in the next era of the discussion and development of Tribal Archives issues and protocols.