Skip to content

It is Time to Check Out The Michiana Potters: Art, Community, and Collaboration in the Midwest

Hi everyone. Some of you already know that The Michiana Potters: Art, Community, and Collaboration in the Midwest by Meredith A. E. McGriff came out recently from Indiana University Press. It’s great. You should read it asap. This is an exciting milestone not only for Meredith and her collaborators, but also for the Material Vernaculars book series that I edit for the IU Press. The Michiana Potters is the sixth title in the series. I am really happy about the work that the series is doing and I really appreciate both the IU Press and everyone who has supported the series as readers, reviewers, authors, and especially purchasers.

Why do a single out purchasers? Well, as I have noted previously, the MV series is an unusual experiment in scholarly publishing. Because those of us involved in the series want to make sure that potential readers are not hindered from reading series titles because of lack of library access or the inability to purchase the book, MV titles are offered for sale in beautiful print editions and also offered in free-to-readers editions online. When you choose to purchase one of those beautiful print books (or a commercial ebook edition), you are helping subsidize the digital free-to-readers edition. The granddaughter of one of the potters profiled in Meredith’s book, for instance, can click here and get access to the book and carry it around on her phone, show it to her art teacher, and use it for a class project. When someone who can afford to buy the book–a pottery collector getting excited about Michiana ceramics or a professor working in material culture studies, to give two obvious examples–buys the book, they are helping fund the production of the book so that others can also read and enjoy and learn from it. In fields such a folklore studies and cultural anthropology, maximizing access, especially for members of those communities from which we learn, is a crucial ethical consideration.

I have basically told this same story every time an MV title has appeared. The good news is that the system seems to be working. I hope that you will keep it working by purchasing Meredith’s fine book if you can.

As I will describe below, things are actually more complicated than I have evoked above. It is not actually the case that a book is either in print form or in the free digital form. There are other versions in the world too. Some of you can help the cause by using those other versions. I will now reveal some of these other ways.

First, the buyers. You can get a handsome paperback or hardback version of The Michiana Potters from a wide range of booksellers. The IU Press links to some of them on its webpage for the book. Pretty much any brick and mortar or online bookseller should be able to get it for you. If you are an ebook reader, you can also get an ebook edition from the usual sources of ebooks. So, book buyers, get busy. Thank you for making the series possible.

If you need or want to check out the free-to-readers edition of The Michiana Potters, it is now posted to the MV section of the IUScholarWorks repository. You can find its repository page here. If you know someone who really needs to read this or another MV title, please help them find this page. The series page with all six books in IUScholarWorks is here.

Now, lets get fancy. If you teach at a university or college and you wanted to assign The Michiana Potters or another MV title to your students, you can probably do this in a way that saves them money while also contributing financially to the work of the IU Press as the series publisher. “How can that be?” you ask. Well, series titles are also published as part of services that are relatively common in college and university libraries. One colleague of mine, for example, is teaching the inaugural series volume Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds this fall. Students in that colleague’s class will be reading the book via a JSTOR, a key service making journal and book content available on in university and college libraries. Other libraries have purchased eBook access using other services. For professors and students, your university library may or may not have purchased any one MV title in this form, but some have and more could. Usually all you need to do is look it up in your college or university library catalog.

So, if you are a university person, you can use a JSTOR or a university library ebook version for yourself or for your students. When you do, you are contributing, just by that use, to supporting the publishing work of IU Press, including the MV series. If you can do so, please use such library provisioned versions. They save your students money but they still help support the press. Doing so is better than pointing your students to the IUScholarWorks version. But, if you cannot arrange other access for your students or yourself, go ahead, of course, and use the Free-to-Readers version. That is what it is there for.

You can find The Michiana Potters in JSTOR here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv14npjxm

One source that I would really like to discourage you from using are the ever growing number of dubious file sharing sites. There really is no justification for getting The Michiana Potter from a Russian hacker when the IU Press and the IU Scholarly Communications Department, both at the IU Libraries, have worked to share a safe and easy version with you.

Happy reading to everyone! Congratulations to Meredith!

9780253049650-2

The IU Press flyer promoting The Michiana Potters.

 

On Taking Credit: Textile Traditions and Fashion Rip-Offs

Below find a guest post by Carrie Hertz, Curator of Dress and Textiles at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. –Jason Baird Jackson

On Taking Credit: Textile Traditions and Fashion Rip-Offs

by Carrie Hertz

On August 13, the mail carrier delivered the most recent catalog for Boden, a British fashion brand. While flipping through its pages that evening, I stopped dead on a spread for a new “limited-edition collection” of clothes featuring very familiar embroidery patterns. In explanation, the copy reads:

Our designers were so inspired by a vintage rug they discovered on their travels, they dreamed up this limited-edition collection of exquisitely embroidered pieces.

Let’s unpack this.

The Boden designers, clearly positioned here as worldly travelers, admit foreign “inspiration” for their ideas without actually revealing any valuable details about the source. The mention of a “vintage rug” not only suggests a possibly singular, idiosyncratic item, it places that rug’s creation far in the past, likely made by an anonymous and untraceable craftsperson now lost to history. As a limited-edition line of clothes, potential customers could be led to believe these designs are rare, exclusive, and fleeting, requiring their urgent action. These designs, however, are not unique. They are rip-offs.

IMG_8683As a folklorist and curator of textiles and dress, I engage and partner with artists around the globe who often struggle against the living legacies of colonial structures and the inequalities endemic to Western cultural imperialism. Western fashion corporations repeatedly claim the rights of “discovery” to the world’s textile traditions, capitalizing on unfair advantages constructed over centuries of imperial exploitation, profiting off the creative work of others, and actively concealing the sources of their theft.

Perhaps most painful to many of the artists and communities that I work with is the public erasure of their cultural contributions. In this case, Boden didn’t provide proper credit, not even naming the exquisite embroidery tradition it found so inspirational, perhaps because to do so would immediately shatter the illusion of their design team’s innovation, the elite exclusivity of their garments, or even their relative beauty in comparison to much higher quality versions readily available at affordable prices in the global market place.

So, I offer a small piece of this context now.

Suzani (from the Persian word for needle) embroidery has been developed over centuries in Central Asia, traded along the Silk Road, and later survived Communist attempts to suppress it during the Soviet era in places like Uzbekistan. According to Mary Littrell, a textile scholar and research associate for the Museum of International Folk Art:

In the 20th century, Communist rulers in Uzbekistan equated handcrafts with a feudal past. Handcrafts, associated by the Soviets with individual creativity and private production, served no purpose in a unified and mechanized future. Craft production was forbidden or forced underground as the workers turned to mass production. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbek artisans began the long process of reviving their centuries-old craft traditions and transforming them in new directions for domestic, tourist, and international markets. (http://handeyemagazine.com/content/past-and-future-suzani)

Today, you can readily find gorgeous hand-embroidered garments made with naturally-dyed silks and cottons being sold on sites like Etsy and produced by living artists for which this artform represents multigenerational cultural memory and skill. During every non-pandemic year, the International Folk Art Market (IFAM, https://folkartmarket.org/) features numerous Uzbek artists selling handcrafted rugs, bedspreads, pillows, clothing and accessories. For examples:

Check out the beautiful designs at Bibi Hanum (https://bibihanum.com/) founded by Muhayo Aliyeva and her sisters (http://ifamstories.org/artists/muhayo-aliyeva/);

or the stunning work of Sanjar Ravshanovich Nazarov (http://ifamstories.org/artists/sanjar-ravshanovich-nazarov/);

or the truly exquisitely-embroidered coats produced in Madina Kasimbaeva’s workshop (https://www.instagram.com/madina.kasimbaeva_suzani/?hl=en) in Tashkent (http://ifamstories.org/artists/madina-kasimbaeva/).

These are only a few of the talented and dedicated artists “dreaming up” suzani designs today. Uzbek artists and others have fought hard to sustain and revitalize suzani tradition. At the very least, they deserve credit for their efforts.

IMG_8684

Frank G. Speck Visits the Euchee, Stockbridge, and Seneca Students at Haskell in 1939-1940

Among the objects cataloged as Creek in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History is a doll made by Leona Tiger while she was a student at the Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence, Kansas sometime before May 1940. The doll was purchased by Betty J. Meggers in Washington, DC at the “Department of Commerce Indian Store.” Catalogue information identifies Ms. Tiger as Creek (and thus the doll is labeled as Creek. In form it is a doll dressed in the kind kind of beaded two-piece dresses worn by Native American peoples of the Plains region. You can find the doll here and see it pictured below (Figure 1).

canvas

Figure 1. Doll (E424895) by Leona Tiger (Creek and/or Euchee), ca. 1939-1940 from the Betty J. Meggers Collection (374094), Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Anthropology Collections Management. Terms of Use are described here: https://www.si.edu/Termsofuse

Tiger is a common last name among not only the Creek and Seminole people in Oklahoma, but also among the Euchee (Yuchi) and Cherokee there. Trying to learn more about the maker, I found her named in several issues of the Indian Leader, the magazine then published by the Haskell Institute. She was a pianist, part of the Concert Orchestra, a member of the Baptist student group, the Arts and Crafts Club, and was among the Home Economics graduates for 1940. The Indian Leader paints an inspiring picture of Ms. Tiger’s Haskell days. You can search a block of issues of The Indian Leader for this period here.

The Indian Leader also indicates that she was among the Euchee students there in the late 1930s in the following way. This story is at the intersection of Euchee history and the history of anthropology. An unsigned news item on page 7 of Volume 43, Number 9, dated January 12, 1940 is as follows (I have added the links for those interested and bolded the names so that they pop out to readers):

“Noted Anthropologist Visits”

“Dr. Loren C. Eiseley, Professor of Anthropology at K.U., brought to our campus last week Dr. Frank Speck, head of the department of anthropology and archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, to meet some of our students and interview them on some of the language and folk ways that are of interest to their departments. Doctor Speck is the author of the outstanding work on the Euchee Indian and he spent some time interviewing Leona Tiger, Cilla Brown, and Ann Rolland [Holder] for additional material. He also had a conference with the seven Stockbridge young people on our campus and with Wesley Tallchief and David Whitetree, Senecas. Dr. Speck was disappointed not to find any Delaware here who spoke their dialect, as his plan was to make a comparative study of the eastern and western members of the original eastern seaboard tribes.”

Eiseley and Speck are both well-known figures in the history of anthropology. The author of this story is referring to Speck’s book The Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians, which is based on visits he made to the Euchee people of Sand Creek town near Bristow, Indian Territory in 1904, 1905, and 1908. This story helps show that Speck remained interested in the Euchee people during the final decade of his life. It also highlights the lives of Euchee women who pursued advanced studies at Haskell, more than 230 miles from home, in the late 1930s.

Screen Shot 2020-07-02 at 11.07.47 AM

A screenshot of the story about Frank Speck’s Haskell visit with Leona Tiger, Cilia Brown, Ann Roland and other Native students.

Daniel C. Swan, Museum Leader

Below find the ninth in a series of posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Here I take a turn reflecting on an an aspect of Dan’s work and his personal impact. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson

Daniel C. Swan, Museum Leader

by Jason Baird Jackson

Earlier posts in this series in celebration of Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the Sam Noble Museum, and from the University of Oklahoma where it is based, have emphasized mentoring. To impact a more junior colleague positively and to help launch them, or to advance them, in their career is particularly noble work. Since we met one another in the spring of 1994, Dan has been an extraordinary mentor to me and an energetic advocate for me and my work. My career has followed the particular—and wonderful—pathways that it has because of Dan’s deep influence on me and on my lifecourse. This observation could easily be the stepping off point for an essay on Dan’s outsized role as a mentor and supporter to me and to many others. I would love to write that essay.

For others, as for myself, a key part of Dan’s influence as a mentor relates to his providing an observable, emulatable model for collaborations that link communities and cultural organizations for work that addresses the needs or goals of the partner community and that serves society more broadly, while also advancing collaborative scholarly research. While Dan’s involvement in a wide range of such projects in Indian Country are perhaps best known, he has been involved in partnerships and initiatives connecting to, and serving, a still wider range of constituencies and communities. This was true, for instance, in his work as a curator in a an extremely diverse city, while at the Science Museum of Minnesota and I saw it first hand in his work as Senior Curator at the Gilcrease Museum.

In 1999, for instance, we worked together to raise funds for an “Oklahoma African American Folk Arts Survey” aimed at addressing the Gilcrease Museum’s historic neglect of African American cultural life in the state and in the Americas. We brought the Smithsonian exhibition Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas to the Gilcrease the following year for the same reason. At a much larger scale, one of his most ambitious and far reaching Gilcrease projects was the major permanent exhibition Las Artes de Mexico. Opened in 1996 and co-curated with Kevin Smith, that project shook things up for Gilcrease and leavened an excellent but little-known collection of Mexican art and documents with contemporary collections and contemporary voices—including Indigenous ones. It was perhaps the first time that a major Gilcrease Museum exhibition was informed by new, project-based ethnographic field research. It was also innovative not just for the museum but for the field in the way that it snuck in a wide range of then emerging best practices and subverted, in a fruitful and innovative way, the then-standard conventions of art-museum-based exhibition presentation and planning. Even the staid Tulsa World captured the sense of what I am getting at here in this June 9, 1996 report by arts reporter James D. Watts, Jr.

I could keep reflecting on Dan’s exhibition projects in this way. Symbols of Faith and Belief: The Art of the Native American Church (a partnered project of the Native American Church of Oklahoma and the Gilcrease Museum), A Gathering of Traditions: A Centennial Celebration of Dr. Charles Marius Barbeau in Oklahoma (a partnership of the Wyandotte Nation, the Seneca-Cayuga Nation, and the Sam Noble Museum) and A Giving Heritage: Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community  (a partnered project of the Sam Noble Museum and the Osage Nation Museum) in particular deserve detailed discussion. I hope to write, or to help someone write, that essay. Dan has been involved in a huge number and range of exhibitions and an even larger number of public-facing and community facing programs. These are not well-enough known.

Mentoring. Museum collaboration. Exhibitions. Dan’s accomplishments in these areas warrant extensive discussion. So too with his own research and writing. If you have not read Peyote Religious Art: Symbols of Faith and Belief (University Press of Mississippi, 1999) or Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community (co-authored with Jim Cooley) (Indiana University Press, 2019) yet, I really urge you to do so. On the article side, my favorites include “Early Osage Peyotism” (Plains Anthropologist, 1998), “The North American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea (Wild.) Pers.) – Sacred Food of the Osage (Ethnobotany Research and Applications, 2010), and (with Michael Paul Jordan) “Contingent Collaborations: Patterns of Reciprocity in Museum–Community Partnerships” (Journal of Folklore Research, 2015). It is hard to fathom how Dan found time for so much writing when his administrative, curatorial, teaching, and collaboration duties were so extensive across so many years. His larger oeuvre is remarkable and really warrants separate discussion. I hope to help with that and with helping surface the ways that all of these activities intersected with his teaching work at the universities of Tulsa, Memphis, and Oklahoma.

­­I am cheating by evoking those other areas here in brief as I do not want them to go unmentioned in the series. But the focus of my thinking today is in museum leadership. Between 2013 and 2019, I served as Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC). Almost daily during those years, I thought about Dan and about all of the things that I learned from him about leading teams of colleagues within museums. I was really fortunate to have been hired by Dan to work as his understudy and assistant at the Gilcrease Museum during his tenure there as Senior Curator. Dan had begun his own museum career at the Oklahoma Historical Society’s main facility in Oklahoma City and then at the White Hair Memorial, an OHS state historic site and community learning center in the Osage Nation. Before returning to Oklahoma to work at Gilcrease Museum as Senior Cuator, Dan was Curator of Ethnology at the Science Museum of Minnesota. After Gilcrease he served as Director of the University of Memphis’ Chucalissa Museum and finally returned again to Oklahoma to follow me as the Sam Noble Museum’s Curator of Ethnology. Yesterday was his last day in that role and as the museum’s Interim Director. I write this reflection on his first day of retirement.

Museum leadership is often hard, especially in moments such as the current one. In each of his museum leadership roles, Dan made difficult choices with his eyes focused on how to advance the community-service mission of these museums. When I became Director at MMWC, I thought often about how I so regularly watched Dan turn bad news into good news and how he stayed positive and good humored even when this could not be done. There was almost always another day to try again. Every problem could be approached from a new angle. New friends, new funds, new relationships, new ways of organizing the team, new ways of organizing the day, new ways of organizing the collections, could almost always be found and, with them, new progress could eventually be made. The time that I spent at Gilcrease working with Dan and with our colleagues of that period was the most formative in my career. Despite all of the good things that have happened to me since, it remains my own personal golden age. I was shown how to do the work of a curator and given ever more expansive opportunities to do it. I had so much fun to work with Dan and with my other Gilcrease colleagues of that time.

But, I was also watching how the museum’s senior staff, its directors (there were several in a brief period) and especially how Dan, as Senior Curator, did their work. How did museum leaders interact with the board and with funders? Where did the funding come from? How did the leadership group work with the media? With city officials? How were staffing problems dealt with? Controversies? Mistakes? The usual physical plant crises? How did the museum present itself to its audiences and was it diversifying those? With respect to Dan in particular, how did he pull off major projects (the Thomas Moran exhibition, for instance) that went beyond the skills and experiences that the museum’s staff already had? How did he help the teams that he led innovate? I learned so much from watching him and from being involved in the group work that he led the Gilcrease Museum’s curatorial, registration, education, conservation, and programs staff in.

There are many lessons, but one that I thought about most often in my own directorship was the balance that a museum leader has to try to strike between firmness and flexibility, seriousness and fun, expectations (of growth, of productivity, of commitment, of progress) and acceptance (of personality differences, of relative skills, of career investment, of hard realities). In striking this balance, Dan always displayed an equanimity that I never came close to. With the staff, he knew just when the best course of action was to lighten the mood with appropriate humor. Inversely, he knew when frank words were necessary and how to convey them constructively. From my perspective, he knew just when he needed to roll up his own sleeves and join in the physical work of lifting a crate or painting a wall and when he needed to straighten his tie and leave such work to those for whom it was an assigned duty. I wish I had words adequate to describe what I am getting at, but the key thing is that Dan was a model museum leader not just in the sense that he was an excellent one, but in the sense that he literally provided the model by which I and others learned how to also be museum leaders ourselves through his example and influence.

While my time as a museum director is concluded, for now at least, I still use the lessons that I gained form Dan daily. They appear in my courses about museums and curatorship, certainly. They appear in my own mentoring of students and colleagues. But they also permeate my day-to-day work. At present, I am returning to my own research and my own collaborations. In doing so, I am trying to build a new team of collaborators and to revitalize relationships with partners for a post-MMWC period. I am trying to keep existing efforts going while looking ahead to new ones. Doing just this is fundamental to the work that I have watched Dan do for all of the twenty-six years that I have known him.

I am thrilled at the prospect of Dan having, at last, the freedom to take up his projects and pursue his collaborations out of pure interest and commitment without the burden of having to feed a museum’s insatiable demand for new exhibitions, new grants, new reports, new budgets, new donations, and all of the rest.

Dan—thank you for all that you have given and all that you have done. Congratulations!

NAL15_OsageWeddingFlier_Color

During the Osage Weddings Project, which led to the exhibition “A Giving Heritage: Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community” and to the book Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community, project participants, including Dan Swan, held consultative events in the Osage community, such as this discussion in May 2015 at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center in Pawhuska.

Thank You, Dan, For All The Keys

Below find the eighth in a series of guest posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Reflecting here on an aspect of Dan’s work and his personal impact is Abby Wightman, who is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Mary Baldwin College. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson

Thank You, Dan, For All The Keys

by Abby Wightman

When my friends Michael Jordan and Jason Jackson asked me to write this piece in honor of Dan Swan, I was surprised – honored and pleased, but still surprised. Dan did not serve on my dissertation committee. We have never been work colleagues. I am not a museum anthropologist, and we have never co-authored a publication. In anthropological terms, we did not have formally-defined roles with assigned duties and reciprocal obligations. Yet it is precisely this list of “nots” – of all the ways Dan and I are not connected – that is so important here.

When Dan arrived at the University of Oklahoma in 2007, I was nearing the end of my doctoral studies in cultural anthropology, so he did not serve on my dissertation committee. Despite this, Dan reached out to me twice in later years – first, to ask me to participate on a conference panel and then several years later to work with him on a bigger, but also more complex and delicate project.

At the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Dan had inherited a binder full of photographs of the Plains Apache community of Oklahoma, taken by anthropologist J. Gilbert McAllister in 1933. McAllister spent one year collecting kinship data among the Plains Apache, and this fieldwork became the basis for an important chapter in the well-known volume Social Organization of North American Tribes, edited by Fred Eggan (1937). As part of his research, McAllister also took many photographs of the Apache people and families he came to know. These photographs, through a rather circuitous route, came to the Sam Noble Museum and eventually to Dan’s care.

Together, Dan and I developed a modest pilot project with three goals: to learn more about the context and people featured in McAllister’s photographs, to ascertain community interest in the collection, and to find a place to archive the collection.  In the summer of 2013, with the support of the Sam Noble Museum and a small grant, I spent a summer of fieldwork in Anadarko and Caddo County, visiting with Apache friends. Apache folks patiently went through each photograph to provide the context missing from McAllister’s sparse annotations. The majority of unknown individuals were identified, as were location and context. The results were pretty astonishing, considering the age of the collection and the poor quality of some photographs.

Unsurprisingly, McAllister’s photographs strongly appealed to many Apache people. Unlike anthropologists, who might value historic images for their ethnographic value, Apache people primarily valued McAllister’s photographs for their social value. Although some of McAllister’s photos feature examples of material or expressive culture, the majority of the collection, over 60 photographs, are portraits. These photographs emphasize individuals and families in everyday dress, posed in front of homes, camps, cars, or – rarely – tipis. For many Apache people, McAllister’s photographs were valuable because of these portraits and their kinship ties to people in the present. While the photographs were visual representations of beloved relatives, they also had a material value and use beyond the image, as evidence of kinship claims and connections.

Like most fieldwork, however, this project wasn’t wrapped up tidily in one summer. While we made both hard and digital copies of photographs available to participants, I knew the entire collection should be stored in the community. In 2013, however, that was not possible. For six years, the binder with copies of the collection sat in my office, a constant reminder of my unfinished obligations to the Apache community. Last year, after checking with Dan, I was able to deposit hard and digital copies of the McAllister collection to the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma Cultural Preservation Office. The negatives will be archived, and accessible to the community and scholars, at the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma.

As the latest in a line of University of Oklahoma graduate students working with the Plains Apache, it made sense, perhaps, that Dan would ask me to help with McAllister’s photographs. But in a very real way, it also didn’t make sense. At my small university, requirements for tenure and promotion prioritize teaching and advising undergraduates. Dan knew that I could not reciprocate his offer of research support with support from my own institution – yet he offered me opportunities anyway, even without a formal student-advisor relationship. He became an invaluable connection back to Southern Plains scholarship and to the institution where I received my doctorate when I had few other links to this world.

Writing one of the later pieces in this blog series, I have had the opportunity to read previous posts that celebrated Dan as a dissertation advisor, mentor, confidant, father figure, and colleague. Like others, I have benefited and learned from Dan’s expansive knowledge, inclusivity, and respectful collaboration with the communities in which he works. To me, though, Dan’s lasting impact was as a generous provider of opportunities, opening doors to new possibilities without expectation of return. Perhaps a better analogy is that Dan handed you the key and trusted you to unlock the door yourself. It is an advising model based on mutual respect, and it has inspired how I advise undergraduates – providing students with the keys to opportunities and experiences, trusting their judgement and abilities.

Thank you, Dan, for all those keys. Best wishes on all your future adventures!

Wightman

Photograph by the author. Anadarko, Oklahoma. 2013.

 

Pílla toksali ishaaissacha’chika hánglolihmat chokma amahoobatok…

The normal headnote follows here instead as a footnote.*

Dan –

Pílla toksali ishaaissacha’chika hánglolihmat chokma amahoobatok. Chokmat ishtoksaháli bíyyi’kattooka ithánali. Chimittibaatoksali’, chiholisso pisa’, chinkana’ iicho’ma’at chinchokma’chihookmano ilanhi. Chokmat isháa’shki.

Yammak ílla.

Yakkookay chimanhili

Lokosh (Joshua D Hinson, PhD)

Chickasaw_cultural_center_3

The Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma via WikiMedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Dan –

So when I heard that you were going to retire it seemed good to me. I know you’ve worked tirelessly, and that you’ve done your work well. Your coworkers, your students, your friends – we all wish you well. Be good as you’re going along.

That’s it.

Sincerest thanks

Lokosh (Joshua D Hinson, PhD)

*Above find the seventh in a series of guest posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Lokosh (Dr. Joshua D Hinson), Director of the Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program, does the important work of reminding us of the importance of keeping Turtle Island’s first languages in use. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson

Attention Drivers: Extremely Rough Road Ahead

Below find the sixth in a series of guest posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Reflecting here on an aspect of Dan’s work and his personal impact is Kimberly J. Marshall, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson

Attention Drivers: Extremely Rough Road Ahead

by Kimberly J. Marshall

About the same time I landed a tenure-track job at the University of Oklahoma, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley published an important book called Do Babies Matter: Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower (Rutgers University Press, 2013). In this book, the authors draw upon a very large body of data to conclude that, more often than not, women’s academic careers are harmed by family formation.  Although women and men enter PhD programs at relatively equal rates, women are far less likely to achieve tenure in their fields. The researchers found that a critical juncture in determining a female faculty member’s career trajectory happens during the pre-tenure probationary period, a 5-7 year pressure cooker when the expectations for performance at the highest academic levels often collide (for women) with the intense pressures of mothering babies and toddlers.

I never read that book, because I was just starting a tenure-track job with a 2-year old at home (see: pressure cooker, above). But this is the precise juncture in my life when I met Dan Swan, who was assigned as my “tenure mentor.” I don’t know if Dan Swan ever read that book either, but I suspect that he was keenly aware of the kinds of challenges I was likely to face. I do know that without Dan’s mentorship, my road to tenure would have been extremely bumpy. During my first year at OU, Dan simply let me get a feel for the wheel. But at the end of that year, he asked me one of the most important questions I have ever been asked, and one that would prove to have a major influence in determining my tenure trajectory.

Midway through that first summer, after I had a chance to catch my breath, I started to think about the upper-division class I was finally getting to teach, and emailed Dan to get a sense of departmental reading expectations for such a class.  He wrote back to me with some general guidance (the specifics of which I can’t recall), but he ended the email with explicit instructions to stop focusing on my teaching. Instead, he challenged me with this question: “What have you been writing lately?”

Honestly, I was irritated. He was implying I didn’t know that publications (not good teaching) are required for tenure. He was suggesting that I didn’t know how to prioritize my time. I was so irritated, in fact, that I sat down right then and there and banged out my first article in three days. After that, writing became less hard. In 2016, my book was published. And in 2018, I earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor.

Being a mentor isn’t always about dispensing pearls of wisdom (although faced with persistent university politicking I have repeated Dan’s prescient motto for me “keep your head down, and do your work” more times than I care to repeat). Sometimes being a good mentor is knowing the potholes in the road ahead and helping people be prepared to steer around them. Dan is well aware of the statistics about female junior faculty and was the kind of mentor who cared enough to see that I was going to have a hard time navigating the road. He knew that as a mother of a young child, as someone who cared deeply about student learning and service to the department that I was at high risk for falling into one of those potholes and subsequently falling short of tenure. And with some good-humored prodding, he persisted in helping me keep my nose pointed in the right direction.

I will always be thankful that he remembered to ask me that question. And now it is my turn. Hey Dan, what have you been writing lately?

I can’t wait to see what he will.

Signs and wildflowers

“Signs and wildflowers” by The Greater Southwestern Exploration Company via Flickr under the terms of a CC BY 2.0 license.

Thanks, Dad.

Below find the fifth in a series of guest posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Reflecting here on an aspect of Dan’s work and his personal impact is John Lukavic, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum. This series of guest posts has been organized in partnership with Michael Paul Jordan. –Jason Baird Jackson

Thanks, Dad.

By John Lukavic

Each year in mid-June I send two Father’s Day messages: one to my own father and one to Dan Swan. Even before Dan and I met professionally, he and I shared a bond through common friends and relations back in New York where we both were raised. While I was a graduate student just a few years into my doctoral program in the mid-2000s, Dan arrived at (or rather, returned to) the University of Oklahoma as curator of ethnology and professor of anthropology and immediately agreed to serve as chair of my graduate committee. It seemed that fate finally brought us together.

Dan loves to tell stories like any father does (ask him about his old friend, a machine gun, and a bar somewhere in Mexico). I cannot count how many times he told Mike Jordan and me about the tasks his own advisor, John Moore, assigned to him while in graduate school: he had to babysit Moore’s kids while Moore was duck hunting; he had to help carry loads of wood so Moore could calculate how much labor was required to do certain tasks—as anthropologists do. But these were just great stories to me—myths and legends of adversity and triumph. My experiences as a graduate student were very different from Dan’s experience because Dan was there to support ME. He babysat MY kids. He read them books and took the time to be part of their lives. He was there through challenging times always to lend support and compassion.

“Doing” is central to Dan’s way of teaching. He understands that experience comes from opportunities and he is always generous with sharing his own opportunities with others. During our time together at OU Dan invited me to co-curate an exhibition of pottery and baskets at the Sam Nobel Museum. He guided me through the entire process from beginning to end. He helped me learn by doing. Way too often new curators are thrown into the fire and asked to navigate such a process without help or mentorship. I cannot express how valuable this was as a young professional. He shared his experiences and opportunities with me which provided a foundation on which I have built my career.

In terms of exhibitions and museum work, I learned from Dan the importance of relationships, responsibility, and respect. He instilled in me a strong belief that my first responsibility is to the artists and communities with whom I work, and the work I do in communities requires building strong relationships and trust. As a non-Indigenous curator who works with Indigenous arts, artists, and communities I embrace this responsibility—the feeling of “walking on egg shells” in everything I do—because I want individuals and communities to hold me responsible. Trust is earned by actions taken and must be renewed and maintained constantly. There is no taking a day off or doing what is easy because no one is looking. Dan instilled in me integrity in both my professional and personal life and, like any good son, I don’t want to let dad down.

All students love a pop quiz, do they not? Well as one of Dan’s students, I can tell you quizzes are frequent and not ever when you expect them. Years ago Dan invited Mike Jordan and me to accompany him to the Ilonska dance in Hominy, OK. We were going to see Osage people he has spent a lifetime getting to know and working with. A lot was on the line for him because he was bringing two students into a part of his life, and his reputation was on the line. Mike and I showed up to Dan’s house, grabbed our chairs out of the car and Dan just smiled. “You two pass,” he said. Bringing your own chair to a dance is like wearing pants and shoes. It is just something you do. Dan was testing us on such a basic thing before he let us get in his car to head up to Hominy. We had to earn his trust by our actions—something that I remind myself of constantly. Once he trusted us we learned so much—important things, such as where to get the best cream pie in Oklahoma and the Okie ritual of standing outside to watch a tornado approach. Typical things a dad teaches his sons.

In 2018 Dan flew to Denver, Colorado to attend an exhibition opening of a show I curated. Hundreds of people came to that opening and dozens of journalists came from all over to cover it. But, it was Dan’s words “I’m so proud of you” that will stay with me always. Professors teach, mentors guide, and fathers care. I mean really care. Fathers also give their kids a hard time every now and then—but it’s done with love. They teach life lessons as much as anything else because, at the end of the day, we are all just humans trying to navigate this path we call life.

Congratulations, Dan, on your retirement, successful career, all the scholarship you have put out into the world, all the lives you have touched, and all the relationships you have developed and maintained. You have given me so much and touched my life in so many ways. My family will always have an extra bed, hot pot of coffee, and cream pie waiting for you when you come to visit.

Thanks, Dad.

IMG_4566 (JL and DCS at DAM)

John Lukavic (left) and Dan C. Swan (right) at the opening of the exhibition “Jeffrey Gibson: Like A Hammer” at the Denver Art Museum in May 2018.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Bustling All-Black Towns of Oklahoma

Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma are the center of my personal universe. That place is where my heart resides. Normally, I would be there right now contributing to the annual work undertaken by the people of the Duck Creek community. Now, I am at home in Bloomington cycling between anger and despair as new disasters befall there. As part of an effort at counter-programming, my colleague and friend Jessica Walker Blanchard agreed to share some photographs from her scrapbooks in a guest post. The images come from the period of 2005-2010. Collaborating on research with members of some of the members of Oklahoma’s important All-Black towns is among the many worthy things Jessica has done in her life and career.–Jason

Celebrating the Bustling All-Black Towns of Oklahoma

by Jessica Walker Blanchard

On this Juneteenth weekend, let us proudly remember the day that the end of slavery was finally announced in the western most corners of the Confederacy in Texas (some two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation). I only came to know of Juneteenth celebrations after I had moved from Alabama to Oklahoma, and had the great fortune of working and spending years in many of the All-Black Towns throughout eastern Oklahoma. I began working in the All-Black Towns as a graduate researcher, and have been fortunate to maintain friendships in many of these towns almost two decades later. Residents in these towns, many of them descendant from the original founders of the towns from the turn of the 20th century, have been generous beyond words to share so many proud and vibrant stories about a time gone by when these now rural communities were once the center of prosperous growth in the state.

This weekend, Oklahomans are paying homage to the tragedy that occurred in the Greenwood District in Tulsa (aka Black Wall Street) nearly 100 years ago. Juneteenth celebrations cultivate triumphant spaces for us all to remember the tragedies, revitalizations, and reclamations of Black contributions to this country. In that spirit, I would like to also acknowledge and celebrate the resilient and beautiful legacies of so many other Black communities across Oklahoma. My time in the All-Black Towns (especially Boley, Taft, Clearview, Lima, Rentiesville, Grayson, and others) has created some of the best memories I have of living in Oklahoma, and these places are certainly home to some of the best people I have known anywhere. I hope some of these images capture the bountiful spirit that exists across these communities still today.

Picture1

A young horse rider at the Annual Boley Memorial Day Rodeo Parade, Boley, Oklahoma.

Picture2

A crowd gathers for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at Boley High School, Boley, Oklahoma.

Picture3

Parade attendees at the Annual Memorial Day Rodeo Parade, Boley, Oklahoma.

Picture4

Boley youth lead a march in celebration of Martin Luther Ling, Jr. Day, Boley, Oklahoma.

Picture5

Town residents gather for a Memorial Day Celebration, Taft, Oklahoma.

Picture6

Marching bands perform during the Annual Boley Memorial Day Rodeo Parade, Boley, Oklahoma.

Picture7

Valentine’s Day Dance, Lima, Oklahoma.

Picture8

Street scene looking south on Pecan Street during the Annual Memorial Day Rodeo Parade, Boley, Oklahoma.

Picture9

A Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March, Boley, Oklahoma.

My Apprenticeship with Dan

Below find the fourth of a series of guest posts offered in celebration on the occasion of our colleague and friend Daniel C. Swan’s retirement from the University of Oklahoma, where he has served with distinction as a Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Ethnology, and Interim Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Reflecting here on an aspect of Dan’s work and his personal impact is Michael Paul Jordan, Associate Professor of Ethnology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at Texas Tech University. With me, he has co-organizied this series of guest posts. –Jason Baird Jackson

My Apprenticeship with Dan

by Michael Paul Jordan

I must admit that I approached the writing of this blog post with a great deal of trepidation. How does one distill a relationship into a piece of prose? You see, as an anthropologist, I have accrued debts, which I will never be able to fully repay. I owe a debt to the individuals, especially the many elders, who have shared their knowledge with me. I owe a debt to the communities that have welcomed me into their midst. And, I owe a tremendous debt to Daniel C. Swan. Understanding that whatever I wrote would fall short of capturing not only the profound influence Dan has had on my life, but also how much his mentorship and friendship mean to me, I decided to press on.

As a scholar who has devoted my career to studying expressive culture, I have an affinity for the master-apprentice model. I marvel at the Traditional Arts Indiana Apprenticeship Program, which pairs accomplished folk artists with eager students, facilitating the transmission of knowledge and skills to the next generation. If you look at the biographies of the artists, including the many Native American artists, who have been recognized as Heritage Fellows by the National Endowment for the Arts, you will see that many have been honored not only for their mastery of the mediums and genres in which they work but also for their efforts in perpetuating these artistic traditions. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have learned my craft from Dan Swan. At its best, graduate education resembles the master-apprentice model and I believe this is especially true when it comes to learning how to conduct ethnographic fieldwork.

I want to describe my own apprenticeship as a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma and the lessons Dan taught me. Dan served as the chair of my dissertation committee. However, that official title cannot fully convey the influence and impact that he has had on my life. Over the past thirteen years, Dan has served as an incredible mentor and has become a dear friend.

Looking back, we can sometimes pinpoint the precise moment when a new chapter in our lives unfolded. A conversation with Dan in his office at the Sam Noble Museum marks such a moment in my own life. It was 2007 and Dan had just arrived at the University of Oklahoma. He had offered me a position as graduate research assistant, working with the museum’s ethnology department. He had also agreed to oversee an independent study course focusing on material culture studies. We were meeting to discuss the position and to hammer out a reading list. Much to my surprise, Dan didn’t usher me out of his office after thirty minutes. Hours passed and we kept talking. Dan’s enthusiasm was contagious. Here was someone who shared my interests. It was long after 5pm when we finally wrapped up. I left excited about the projects that I would be assisting with at the museum and eager to dive into the literature that we had discussed. This was exactly how I had hoped graduate school would be. I could hardly contain myself.

When I arrived home, hours later than my wife had expected, she could immediately see the change in my demeanor. My conversation with Dan had left me energized. This would not be the last time that Dan and I got carried away talking and lost track of time. In fact, that has become something of a running joke between my wife and I. It also would not be the last time that I emerged from a conversation with Dan feeling more optimistic, more confident, and more enthused than beforehand. There would be many such conversations. They occurred over lunch at places like Jump’s in Fairfax, Oklahoma or in the car driving to events in southwest Oklahoma. Such conversations have shaped who I am.

Shortly after Dan had agreed to chair my dissertation committee, we embarked on a series of projects that would have a profound effect on my understanding of what it means to be an ethnographer. The Brooklyn Museum had asked Dan to write a chapter on tipis and the warrior tradition for the catalog that would accompany the exhibit Tipis: Heritage of the Great Plains. He was kind enough to offer me a chance to coauthor the essay. We decided that we wanted to discuss the Kiowa Black Leggings Society’s (KBLWS) tipi, which had been painted by Dixon Palmer, a Kiowa WWII veteran. The tipi was inspired by the nineteenth century Kiowa chief Dohasan’s distinctive Tipi with Battle Pictures, which featured depictions of Kiowa warriors’ martial accomplishments. When Dixon painted the society’s tipi in 1974, he included battle scenes inspired by Kiowa veterans’ service in WWII, including paratroopers, Sherman tanks, and bombers.

During our interview with Dixon Palmer and his nephew Lyndreth Palmer, Commander of the KBLWS, we learned that the society had commissioned the painting of a new tipi to mark the 50th anniversary of the society’s revival. Subsequently, we received permission to film and document the painting of the new tipi.

At that time, the Sam Noble Museum was developing the exhibit One Hundred Summers: A Kiowa Calendar Record, which focused on a recently restored set of drawings created by the Kiowa artist Silver Horn to record 100 years of Kiowa history. Dan envisioned incorporating a series of short videos into the exhibit to highlight contemporary tribal members efforts to preserve their history. Footage of the painting of the new KBLWS tipi, which would depict Kiowa veterans’ service from the nineteenth century to the present, would enable us to discuss the ongoing relationship between art and historical memory in the Kiowa community.

Over the course of the project, we made multiple visits to Anadarko to document the progress of the painting. Dan and I interviewed the artists, Sherman Chaddlesone and Jeff Yellowhair, as well as Commander Lyndreth Palmer. On one of our visits, Commander Palmer asked Dan if the museum would be willing to film the society’s upcoming ceremonial. The Society does not allow filming of its ceremonies, so this request reflected the trust that had been established as we worked on the tipi documentary. Commander Palmer made it clear that the KBLWS would retain control of the footage and hold the copyright of the finished film.

Dan agreed and, in the process, he taught me an important lesson about relinquishing control and sharing ethnographic authority. At its core, Dan’s decision was about reciprocity and about honoring relationships. Commander Palmer and the KBLWS had supported our efforts, permitting us to document the painting of the Battle Tipi. Now, they were asking for Dan’s help. Would the museum support a community led initiative? Would it allocate resources for a project that was not tied directly to its own programming and exhibition goals? Dan, Mike McCarty, and I spent October 10 and 11, 2008 filming the society’s ceremonial. The museum would go on to produce a six-DVD box set for the KBLWS, featuring nine hours of footage.

Working on the exhibit, I also learned an important lesson about integrity and honoring one’s commitments to community members. As I noted, when we started working on the One Hundred Summers exhibit, we intended to create a series of videos highlighting community members’ grassroot efforts to preserve Kiowa history. Early on, Kiowa elder Florene Whitehorse-Taylor expressed her interest in documenting information regarding her ancestor, Chief Dohasan, who had led the tribe from 1833-1866. This seemed like the perfect fit, as Dohasan featured prominently in several events documented in the Silver Horn calendar.

As the opening of the exhibit grew closer, the curatorial team decided to focus exclusively on the painting of the Battle Tipi. While the museum’s plans had changed, Dan was adamant that we would make good on our commitment to Florene Whitehorse-Taylor and her family. Consequently, the museum produced Dohasan’s Legacy, a two DVD compilation of oral history interviews created exclusively for the descendants.

During these projects, Dan imparted lessons that continue to inform and guide my own work with Native American communities. These include lessons about the importance of relationships and of reciprocity. The project also taught me much about collaboration. In the years since the exhibit, Dan and I have spent time reflecting on the project and the lessons that we learned. We have even written about those lessons in the hopes that they might inform broader debates regarding museum-community collaborations.

Dan has done more than anyone else to shape my view of anthropology and my understanding of my role and ethical responsibilities as an ethnographer. By his example, he has challenged me to look for ways in which I can address the needs of the Indigenous communities in my own work. While Dan is retiring, I am confident that he is note done teaching. He still has lessons to impart and many of us, myself included, still have much to learn from him.

IMG_3209

Dan and I standing outside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. In 2019, Dan and I participated in the Seventh Forum on China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage, co-sponsored by the American Folklore Society and China Folklore Society. The conference theme was “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” and Dan’s presentation focused, in part, on the museum-community collaborations discussed in this post. Photograph by Dr. Kristin Otto

%d bloggers like this: