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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).

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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.

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

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