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Posts from the ‘Folklore Studies’ Category

Native North American Studies at the AFS Annual Meetings of the 1980s

Less than 100 papers were presented at the American Folklore Society meetings in the decade of 1900-1909. More than 3500 papers and films were presented during the decade of 1980-1989. This huge number does not include forums and other discussion events where named participants were not identified with a titled presentation. That fact means that the programs for the meetings of the 1980s are still larger than the papers + films count suggests. And it is clear that attendance, as in earlier periods, was greater that the count of members and non-members on the program. This pattern will continue in the decades to come in this survey–the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010. What this means practically is that it is now taking me a long time to slog through each program for each year of each decade remaining to survey.

This post is the next in a series examining the presence and absence of Native North American/First Nations topics and scholars within the work of the American Folklore Society across its history since 1888. Anyone finding this post who might want more context can work their way backwards through the series. A partial index to the relevant posts is available here: One post fits in between that overview and this post, a combined treatment of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) and the annual meeting for the decade of 1900-1909. Remaining to be done are the annual meetings for the most recent period in AFS history.

The amazing growth in involvement evoked in the prelude here should encourage anyone interested in the dynamic expansion of the field of folklore studies. Having just finished reading the titles for 3563 conference papers I can testify that the expansion of the society ran alongside an expansion of topical interests being pursued by folklorists. Exploring that in depth is off topic, but the bigger disciplinary picture is there to be seen. In discussing the 1970s I described that decade as the one where AFS got big. The big 1970s were basically doubled in the bigger 1980s. The number of papers and films nearly doubled between the 1980s. With an increase in forums, I think that it is safe to estimate that the 1980s simply doubled the 1970s in meeting participation. In discussing the 1970s, I highlighted the special impact of the bicentennial (1776-1976) of the present-day United States as a key historical factor for that decade. Here in the 1980s, the big story was the centennial of the AFS celebrated in 1988 and 1989. The table shows how those were big years.

All of that is good for an AFS and folklore studies partisan. It is somewhat beside the point for my topic. For the decade, a small overall increase (N=8) in papers related to Native North American/First Nations can be seen when comparing the 1980s (N=85) to the 1970s (N=77). But the great increase in overall participation means that as a percentage of program participation, Native North American studies work falls from 4% to 2% for the decade. Study of the table shows that the variation across the decade is very small, with the percentage ranging from 1% to 4%.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1980s.

The 1987 meetings were held in Albuquerque, thus close to a number of federally-recognized Native American nations. That fact did not register in a broad way on the program, but there were a noticeable number of presenters who are not regular AFS attendees and there were a several papers dealing specifically with issues relevant to the Pueblo of Zuni. Among the presenters was Calbert Seciwa (Zuni), a Zuni scholar and the Director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals at Northern Arizona University at the time of his passing in 2009. He had previously served as he served as the Director of the American Indian Institute at Arizona State University from 1989 to 2007. (I am unaware of any other members of Federally recognized Native North American nations or First Nations participating in the annual meetings of the 1980s, but it would be easy for me not to catch some, particularly if they presented on topics outside Native North American/First Nations studies. I welcome information on this point.)

One final note. The overall numbers of presentations on Native North American/First Nations topics would be lower if papers in history of the field were excluded from the totals. The AFS centennial prompted historical research on the field and that led to scholars who are not themselves scholars of Native North American studies taking time to consider figures in the field whose focus was in this field. The paper most relevant to the project in these posts is a paper given by Claire Farrer at the centennial meetings in 1888. Her topic was “Reflections of Ourselves: Native American Folklore Scholarship 1888-1988.”

Bamboo Basket Hampers Used by Tobacco Farmers in Nanhua County, Yunnan, China

While doing background work on FEI Xiaotong and ZHANG Zhiyi’s studies of the basketry industry(*) in Yunnan, China, my colleague W. discovered this webpage with a pair of images and a little bit of information on the production, sale, and use of large, oval-bottomed, oval-mouthed, open work bamboo tobacco hampers used by tobacco farmers to gather and transport mature tobacco leaves.

I will take down the screenshot below if called upon by the publisher to do so. Hopefully it is ok to share the page in its Google Translate version. The original Chinese text is available on the actual website, which is here: The place pictured is Wudingshan town in Nanhua County, which is part of Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, in Yunnan, China. During our team‘s travels in Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi, we have not visited any tobacco producing regions and we have not ourselves documented this basket type, either in museum collections or in town or village settings.

*Fei, Hsiao-tung, and Tse-i Chang. Earthbound China: A Study of Rural Economy in Yunnan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945.

Native North American Studies in the Work of the American Folklore Society during the First Decade of the 20th Century (1900-1909)

This is another post in a series devoted to better understanding the place of Native North American and First Nations studies within the field of folklore studies as represented in the present-day United States by the work of the American Folklore Society (AFS). In a post published here, I itemize the posts in the series so far.

From at least one perspective, 1900-1909 was a kind of high water mark for Native North American work within the American Folklore Society. In the early 20th century, the AFS had a lot of members (in my view), although its leaders constantly stressed the smallness of the membership and stressed the need to grow both members and the number of state and local chapters within which, in those days, most members engaged with the field. There was a relatively small elite of members, both literary and anthropological in orientation, that attended annual meetings and that published substantive articles in the pages of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF). During the 1900-1909 decade, two such elite members were Native North American men–William Jones (Sauk) and Frances La Flesche (Omaha).

Jones was the first Native American to earn a PhD in Anthropology and one of the first to earn this degree at all in the United States. He undertook extensive research among his own people–the Sauk and closely related Meskwaki (Fox)–but also other groups speaking related Central Algonquian languages. He published widely and during his lifetime he published two papers in the JAF. Two additional JAF papers were published posthumously. His first JAF paper is “Episodes in the Culture-Hero Muth of the Sauks and Foxes in JAF #55 (1901). His second paper, “The Algonkin Manitou” appeared in JAF #70 in 1905. He also published reviews in JAF during his lifetime. Sadly, in an episode that has been widely considered in the history of anthropology, he was killed in 1908 while conducting research as a Field Museum curator among the Ilongot people in the Philippines. An unsigned obituary, likely written by his mentor Franz Boas, appears at the end of the decade in JAF #84 (1909). Despite the racism of his day, I do not have any difficulty imagining William Jones having been the President of the American Folklore Society. Many of Boas’ former students, both male and female, came in time to fill this role. Among them Jones was particularly engaged in folk narrative research and he was widely admired. His death remains a vividly felt loss. When I position Jones as an leading member of the AFS in this decade, I include the fact that he was one of a very small number of members to actually present a paper at an annual meeting during this period. He delivered a paper titled “Customs and Rites Concerning the Dean Among the Sauks and Foxes” at the 1901 (13th) annual meeting in Chicago, one of sixteen given at that meeting.

Similarly prominent in this time as a working anthropologist and folklorist, although trained formally in law, is Francis La Flesche. Like Jones, he also undertook ethnographic field work among his own people (the Omaha) and among closely related peoples (the Osage and other peoples speaking Degihan langauges). The JAF volume for 1905 featured Jones’ Manitou paper and, in the next issue, La Flesche’s “Who was the Medicine Man?”. With his research collaborator (and soon-to-be AFS’s first female president) Alice C. Fletcher, he also presented a paper on “Military Insignia of the Omaha” at the 14th Annual Meeting of the AFS, held jointly with the American Anthropological Association and the anthropological section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC at the end of 2002 and the beginning days of 2003. While La Flesche did not become an AFS officer, he clearly could have as reflected in his Presidency of the Anthropological Society of Washington (1922-1923) and his 1922 election to National Academy of Sciences (a high honor then, as now).

A reoccurring theme in these posts, I will address the tiny group of prominent Native North American folklorists in a separate concluding post. Here, I just wish to underline that the 1900s (111 to 120 years ago was the apparent peak moment for such involvement in the society, as represented by the participation in both meetings and the JAF of both Jones and La Flesche during the decade. Ella Deloria (Dakota) would publish in JAF in the 1920s and Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan) would present at the meetings once in that decade, but as measured by total involvement including three full JAF articles published by La Flesche during his career and four full JAF articles published during (and after) his lifetime by Jones, they, and this decade, really stand out. I hope it is clear that I admire them and that I am frustrating that the best moment in terms of Native American scholars being near the center of the field would be in the first decade of the 20th century. As in previous posts when I touched on the question of Native American participation in the society, I welcome information on Native scholars involved in AFS that I many not be recognizing.

During the 1900s decade, meetings remained small and centered mostly in the Northeastern US. It was common, not just for the AFS, but for scholarly societies in general, to systematically meet in what one annual report refers to as a convocation, in which a significant number of scholarly societies are jointly hosted by a university. The AFS met in such situations multiple times in the 1900s decade. Such meetings often included an overarching welcome by the host university president, break-out meetings for the participating societies, and keynote lectures and receptions held again jointly.

It is important to recall that the AFS was founded fourteen years prior to the founding of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Prior to the founding of the AAA, the Anthropological Society of Washington (ASW) (of which La Flesche would eventually be President) and the anthropology section within the AAAS were the key anthropology organizations. AFS met regularly with the ASW and with AAAS throughout its early history and after the AAA formed, it was added to this mix of regular meeting partners. Once the AAA was in the mix, it became common for there to be an AFS focused day within a multi-day meeting. This would have probably been adaptive for the non-anthropologists who may have wished to take in the AFS portion of the meeting but perhaps not the AAA (etc.) parts. I am guessing about this. With respect to the balance between scholars of Native North American and non-Native North American topics–a distinction that in this decade does map rather closely onto the anthropology/literature distinction–Native American-focused presentations at the annual meetings across the decade were somewhat dominant, but as shown in the first table, there was much variability. The most imbalanced meeting, in 1907, was one of those held jointly with the AAA and AAAS. It was held in Chicago (an emerging hub for anthropology due to the Field Museum), a new development that may have made the meeting more difficult for the New England-centric literary folklorists and appealing to the anthropologists who were in this time increasingly fanning out across the country. The meeting in 1904, where only a small number of papers were given and where the Native studies percentage is at its lowest for the decade, was in Philadelphia during one of the joint meetings that included the still new AAA and AAAS. It is likely that AFS members appeared on the AAA’s program in this context, impacting the figures. How AFS papers are reported in the annual report varies year to year in response to different meeting configurations and other factors.

The 1900s decade is when Boas’ students (both formal and informal) begin to show up in growing numbers and assume leadership roles. Jones has been mentioned here and in previous posts. In the previous decade A. L. Kroeber was present as a student, now he is present as an established figure. He is not only a presenter at meetings and a regular JAF author, but he and colleagues begin the California chapter in this time and it becomes a force within the field. In this period, there is often a dedicated section of the journal presenting papers and notes under this California branch’s auspices. Kroeber followed Alice Fletcher as AFS President, serving in 1906. John Swanton, active starting in this decade, would serve as President in 1909. Other Boas students such as Frank Speck, Robert Lowie, and Edward Sapir–all scholars of Native American topics–entered into the life of the AFS and rose to prominence in it, eventually service as Presidents.

As noted previously, the membership size and the number of presentations at AFS annual meetings are very different things. Most members articulated with the society as journal readers and as members of local branches, not via the annual meetings. There continued in this period to be elite AFS participants from both the anthropology community (ex: Alice Fletcher, James Mooney, Franz Boas and others) and the literary and historical side (inclusive of such topics as ballad studies, Black vernacular culture, children’s folklore, etc) (ex: George Lyman Kittredge, Alcée Fortier, Phillips Barry and others) as reflected in meeting attendance and service as an officer of the society. The politics of the AFS seems to have mainly taken place at the annual meetings, thus centering leadership and decision making among a small group (nearly all white, mostly men, weighted towards the northeast, but less exclusively so) able to both attend annual meetings and engage in the work on a national basis. The Annual Meeting table follows.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1900s.

As in earlier decades, the JAF picture is distorted by my initial choice (probably a mistaken one) to code notes and articles rather than limiting attention just to full articles. In this period, the JAF often (but not always) published notes that ranged from substantive contributions with a byline to very short items (as short as a couple sentences). As I have noted elsewhere, my inclusion of notes serves to supress the percentages for Native North American topical works, because the smaller notes are weighted towards items related to Non-Native North American folklore topics. I am just guessing, but it seems likely that in the decade of the 1900s, the ratio for sunstantive Native and Non-Native North American content in the journal might have been about 50/50 rather than the decade-based 39% presented in the table below.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American and Native North American-Related Topics During 1900s.

Early volumes of the JAF are available without a paywall from JSTOR, thus I end by suggesting that anyone who has made it this far read the brief obituary published for William Jones in #84. Find it here. It is unsigned but his mentor Franz Boas was the editor of JAF at the time and knew him well, suggesting to me that he is the likely author of the obituary.

In the Beginning: Native North American Studies in the American Folklore Society to 1899

The two most recent posts in this series considered the state of Native North American and First Nations studies within the American Folklore Society (AFS) through the lens of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) for the 1980s and 1990s and then the 2000s and 2010s. While the meetings for those years still need attention, I here jump back to the first years of the society to consider both the annual meetings of the AFS and the JAF from the society’s founding in 1888 to 1899. To preserve the decade by decade approach taken in the series, I will tackle 1888 and 1889 first and then 1890 to 1899. In these early years, meetings were small and they were reported on directly within a comprehensive annual report of the AFS published right in the pagers of the journal, making it very easy to tackle the meetings while surveying the JAF.

Readers of these posts will have noted the two story lines–the story of presence and absence of Native North American folklore studies content within the meetings and journal on the one hand and the presence and (mostly) absence of Native North American scholars present within these two AFS domains. Before getting to the meetings and journal overall, I can note that one Native American scholar, Francis La Flesche of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa, appears prominently in this period, authoring major articles for the JAF in 1889 and in 1890. While a large proportion of the papers appear in JAF during this time period were also presented at the annual meetings, this is not the case for Frances La Flesche. If he attended any AFS meetings in this period, it is not evident from the annual reports. It is important to note that in this period the membership was surprisingly large and attendance at the meetings was not. There were many regional societies and La Flesche could have attended meetings of these at various points. I am unaware of other Native North American JAF authors or annual meeting presenters for these years. I welcome additional information on this point.

Because in this time period, meetings presentations often went quickly into the journal, I will present meeting data first and the JAF data. Founded in 1888, the first AFS meeting happened in 1889.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1880s.

Here is the meeting data for the 1890s.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1890s.

Late in the meetings of the 1890s, we see the person whom I think is the first true folklore graduate student enter the scene. If one attends an AFS meeting today, one will encounter a lot of graduate students and many of them will be presenting on the conference program. One might wonder if students always did this. I cannot answer that question here beyond noting that in 1998 and again in 1899, we see precedent in the person of A. L. (Alfred) Kroeber. Then a doctoral student working with Franz Boas at Columbia University, Kroeber presented on Inuit tales in 1898 and on his own studies among the Arapaho in 1899. He earned his PhD at Columbia in 1901, the first granted in anthropology from that university. He would go on to publish many items in JAF over the years and that first paper would be his first published in JAF, a year later in 1899 (#44) Just eight years later, in 1906 (five years past his PhD) he would serve as AFS President.

In later years, the issue of joint meetings and the ways that they would serve different parts of the society more or less well would become an issue. For the initial years, this does not seem to have been an issue. Most meetings seemed to happen independently, but in 1891 the AFS met in Washington in partnership with the Anthropological Society of Washington and the Women’s Anthropological Society. AFS returned to Washington with similar partners in 1894. In 1893, the branch of AFS in Montreal hosted. In 1899 AFS met at Yale at the same time as a large group of scientific societies. As in other early decades of the AFS, meetings were frequently rotated between a small number of cities in the Northeast.

Reporting on the JAF in the early years is difficult because in those days regular papers were published but so were very short notes, questions, and ephemeral observations, including sometimes items noticed in the popular press. I have not carefully studied every item, leaving room for mis-codeing. For most of this period, AFS is in a pre-professional or proto-professional state, with some professionals (like Boas) holding advanced degrees and some not doing so. Some folklorists were professionals in other fields, such as medicine. There is variability that would diminish after 1900. The anthropologists/literature scholar division is present in a more nebulous form and the interests of the early 20th century are all present, with an anthropological approach underpinning the extensive amount of work on Native American topics being addressed, with missionaries and travelers reporting on other parts of the world, and literary-minded scholars and antiquarians mainly working on the traditions of other peoples within the present-day United States. The anthropological scholars did also do work on non-Native cultural traditions, as when James Mooney published on the European settlers of Western North Carolina as an adjunct to his work among the Cherokee there. The numbers below reflect the presence of all of those small items in the journal. Such small bits tended to relate to non-Native peoples more than Native ones and Native studies work tended to appear in more fully formed papers.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American and Native North American-Related Topics During 1880s.

The 1890s for JAF follow.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American and Native North American-Related Topics During 1890s.

Native North American Studies in the Journal of American Folklore During the 2000s and 2010s

Carrying forward from the previous post on the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) during the 1980s and 1990s, my focus here is the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations scholarship (and scholars) in JAF during the 2000s and 2010s. Later posts will circle bask to look at the annual meetings of the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.

I have no special interest stories for the 2000s. The first table here presents the data for this decade. Keep in mind what I have noted previously for the post-1940s world. A significant proportion of the (now) small number of the Native North American studies items published in JAF during this period are smaller notes and not full articles. Also in this broader period, I am counting obituaries, including them in the Native North American count when the scholar remembered was wholly or mainly a scholar of Native North American matters. These factors inflate a count that here, in the 2010s, reaches a new low-water mark of 4% of JAF content. No JAF authors for the 2000s are known to me to have been enrolled citizens of federally recognized Native North American/First Nations nations. I welcome corrections if this understanding is in error.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics During the 2000s.

The 2010s are presented in the next table, below. Here we see, as began to happen occasionally in the 1960s, runs of multiple years of JAF without publication of Native North American studies works occur. The most notable thing to happen in this decades, related to my topic, is the publication in 2013 of a special issue of JAF focused on Native North American studies. That is how the out of the ordinary count of four items and 22% came about. I happen to be one of those four authors. In the year in which the 500th number of the journal would be published, the editors recruited authors for a series of theme issues. In recognition of the historical importance of Native North American studies within the society and in the journal and, I think, recognizing the decline that my posts are tracking, they cultivated this special issue. I was honored to participate in it. It created a retro moment and provided a historical reminder of how things once were, but you will note that the three following years saw no cognate content, thus the four items in 2013 could have been spread out between 2013 and 2016 to produce a very typical looking table for the recent period. From 4% in the 2000s we move to 3% in the 2010s, despite the publication of a dedicated issue on Native North American folklore studies.

To the best of my current knowledge, no JAF author publishing in the 2010s is a member of a federally recognized Native North American nation. I welcome correction on this point.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics During the 2010s.

Just to round out the available data, here is a final table for the first year of the 2020s, our own dreaded present moment. In the 2010s, it was more common for a year to feature no Native North American studies content than to include such content. This default setting zero pattern has occurred again this year, as shown below.

YearsPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics During 2020.

Native North American Studies in the Journal of American Folklore During the 1980s and 1990s

In this post I continue considering the absence and presence of Native North American and First Nations studies within the work of the American Folklore Society. Please look at earlier (and future) posts in the series to gain context for what is being examined here. In the earlier years of the society, the journal contained more content than the annual meeting and thus was the harder of the two venues to scan and assess. Over time, this dynamic reversed and by the later 20th century, AFS meetings were huge relative to the journal. With help from JSTOR, studying the journal is a relatively simple and quick task (setting aside the coding questions that I have mentioned previously). It will take more time to work through the more recent meetings. In this context, I polish off the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) through 2020 in this post and one that will follow it for the 2000s and 2010s.

The JAF data for the 1980s (6%) and 1990s (5%) is not radically different from the JAF data for the 1960s (5%) and 1970s (5%). The plateau continues. Here first is the JAF table for the 1980s. As you consider the 1950s-1990s plateau, recall that the JAF percentage for Native North American studies content in the 1920s was 31%.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1980s.

In this series I have been trying to track not only the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations studies scholarship within the field of folklore studies as practiced in the United States and as represented by the work of the American Folklore Society, I have also been considering the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations scholars within, and intersectional to, this field. As the field of Native American and Indigenous studies is presently constituted in the United States and as laws such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 and the Native Programs Act of 1974, as amended, work, Native Hawaiian people have a standing like but not the same as federally recognized Native North American nations within the present-day US. I mention these contexts because, to the best of my knowledge, ethnomusicologist and hula scholar Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman is a Native Hawaiian person and a JAF author in this study period (issue 434, 1996). I hope that Professor Ku’uleialoha Stillman will forgive me and correct me if I have misperceived and misrepresented this delicate matter. I am thrilled that she chose to share her work with the JAF readership and I hope that she contributes to the journal again. The larger point is that Native North American, First Nations, and Native Hawaiian colleagues continued to be virtually non-existent in the work of the AFS as reflected in the JAF during the decades that have been reviewed.

The table for the 1990s follows below.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1990s.

And Now for the 1970s: Native North American and First Nations Folklore Studies After the Field Gets Big

Here is the next in my series on the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations studies in the work of the American Folklore Society, as a representative of the field of folklore studies in the present-day United States.

In the first table here, I present (using the same format as in earlier posts) data from the annual meetings of the AFS during the 1970s. (At the end of this post, I note some methodological issues to keep in mind when considering my gathering of meeting and Journal of American Folklore (JAF) data.) I want to call attention to two meetings specifically. From a Native American studies perspective, 1974 is the noteworthy meeting. What was going on then? I do not want to give all of the credit to Dell Hymes, but this can be seen as a very Hymes-inflected meeting. He was AFS president and he gave his presidential address at this meeting, which was held in his beloved home town of Portland and in the state where his studies among Native American peoples were centered. His address took account of these matters and emphasized the study of Native American verbal art of the region. Adding to the synergy was the fact that Barre Toelken, the other senior folklorist of that era focused (in large part, but not completely) on Native North American studies, was central to the organization of this meeting.

In addition to Hymes’ lecture and his influence on the meeting, there are some other distinctive features of the 1974 gathering. It included individuals and events that were not typical of AFS gatherings. Hymes chaired a session on “The Use of Folklore in the Education of Indian Students.” Panel discussions are not included in my meeting data unless each participant was given a title-like discussion topic. That is not the case for this session (thus it is not counted in the first table below), but the event is noteworthy and needs to be surfaced. Participating in the event were Barre Toelken, Jarrold Ramsey, Larry George, Deni Leonard, Bruce Rigsby, Rayna Green, and Alfonso Ortiz. On this panel, businessman Deni Leonard is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservations of Oregon and anthropologist Alfonso Ortiz was a member of the Indigenous nation of Northern (present-day) New Mexico now known as Ohkay Owingeh. I believe the Larry George participating was a Yakama Nation artist. I mention the panel for the obvious reason that it platformed these Native (and non-Native) people to explore a significant social issue of relevance to the field and to communities.

The 1974 meeting also included a panel related to the federally recognized Nez Perce Tribe (of present-day North Central Idaho) and among those presenting Native studies oriented papers was Richard Dauenhauer, who devoted his life to work on Tlingit language revitalization, history, and literature. Not Tlingit by birth, he was married to Tlingit poet and scholar Nora Marks Dauenhauer and clearly, over his lifetime, became extraordinarily involved in Tlingit national life.

The other meeting that will stick out when scanning the table is 1976. Participation on the program for that meeting in Philadelphia was very large. I do not have a fully developed account for this, but I note that this was the bicentennial year for the US and it is generally understood within the field that that year was one of special intensity for this reason, with a huge amount of disciplinary activity. In addition to being held in a city relevant to the bicentennial theme, it was a meeting held in a folklorist-dense region in a folklorist-dense city. The meeting was held in coordination with the Society for Ethnomusicology, but the impact of that is not particularly evident from the AFS meeting program. The meeting was not particularly strong on Native American studies work, but like most meetings in the 1970s, it had a dedicated panel gathering together work in this area, with a few more papers appearing elsewhere on the program.

Films (later also videos) were a prominent part of the meetings during the 1970s and 1971 is of special relevance to this project in this aspect. In that year, two films on Navajo subjects appeared on the program. Both were by Navajo film makers. I cannot tell if they were in attendance (This source suggests that this is unlikely). The films were A Navajo Weaver by Susie Bennally and Intrepid Shadows by Alfred Chah. The context for these films is pretty well known and the connection is obvious on the program, as Sol Worth was present and listed as a discussant. These two films belong to a group of films arising from the visual anthropology project reported in the book Through Navajo Eyes and various articles by Worth and John Adair.

In general, the pattern for the 1970s was for there to be one, sometimes two, omnibus panels of 4-5 talks under a heading such as American Indian Folklore (later becoming Native American Folklore). A few of the scholars participating in such panels are widely known (in addition to Toelken, I highlight Claire Farrer and Margaret Brady), but most are not or, if they are well-known, it is for other work on non-Native topics. In this period, we also see a new dynamic emerge in which broad-focus, community-based public folklorists can be seen working across a diverse communities in their home regions and, along the way, making connections and gaining understandings of Native American traditional and expressive culture in a way that is not superficial but that is also not the same being solely focused. A clear example of this during the 1970s is James Griffith’s growing connection to Arizona Native communities. (ex: 1976).

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1970s.

The pages of the JAF contain one special story alongside more evidence of the general trend. In Toelken’s first issue as editor (#343 for 1974), he published a paper titled “Coyote Tales: A Paiute Commentary” by Judy Trejo. Ms Trejo was then a student at the College of Idaho and she would go on to become noted for her recordings of, and her performances of, Paiute ancestral music and for service as a teacher among her people. I recommend her article to you. By way of context, Toelken wrote:

This paper inaugurates a new policy of encouraging the bearers of tradition to add their own critical comments to the ongoing study of folklore. Especially to the members of those ethnic minority groups who have been scrutinized and dissected exoterically do we extend a standing invitation to provide our profession with their perspectives.

An LA Times obituary for Ms. Trejo reports that she was enrolled in the Walker River Paiute Tribe but it may be that she was enrolled at the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe. The near complete and very regrettable absence of Native American people from the twentieth century work of the society and field make episodes such as this one particularly instructive. Toelken’s intervention at the level of the journal should be studied more and considered in light of present work aimed at diversifying both the society and the journal, a theme to which I hope to return at the end of this series.

At 5% for the 1970s, the rough count for the decade roughly matches that for the 1960s. For the time being then, the decline for the journal has plateaued while, for the meetings, the larger population of attendees (and thus the size of the active field) seems to have contributed to a modest increase (2% to 4%) in presentations related to Native North American studies. The table for the JAF follows.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics During the 1970s.

Caveats–Keep in mind that the scratch paper counting that I am doing is imperfect–more imperfect than it would be in a formal inquiry based on a rigorous approach to coding. I am doing this fast and questions can arise that I not attending to except in on the fly deciding. The whole effort would need to be redone on the basis of experience to reduce this aspect. Here are a couple of examples to stand as a warning. During the 1970s, the AFS annual meetings programs gained abstracts. These can help clarify the nature of an ambiguous title or to determine if a scholar known for work in Native American studies was, in a particular instance, actually speaking about this topic. An example of ambiguity can be found in 1970, where Roger Welch spoke at the annual meeting about Omaha foodways. Given his career, this could equally have been a discussion of the foodways found in the city of Omaha or among the people of the federally recognized Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa. I counted this talk in the “Native Studies” column, but deeper research could prove this to have been the wrong choice. It is an example. Were I to start over again, I would categorically exclude obituaries from consideration, but I decided early on to include them in the Native studies column if the scholar being remembered was fully or primarily focused in Native North American/First Nations studies. My thinking then was that a person working in this field would likely be as interested to read such an item as one by the scholar being remembered. Obituaries by scholars not working in Native Studies or working in it only marginally (as with minor work by European tales scholars on Native American borrowings of European tales) were included in the non-Native group. Colleagues following behind me would surely take a somewhat different approach and get somewhat different numbers. I think that the trends would remain the same.

The 1940s: JAF and Zumwalt’s American Folklore Scholarship

This series of posts are not attempting to achieve the rigor of a formal article or book. I am working in incremental bits for myself looking at some of the easier-to-see data so as to better understand the changing state of Native North American studies within folklore studies in North America as reflected in the work of the American Folklore Society. The basic dichotomy at issue is Native North American Studies vis-a-vis studies of other peoples and topics. Because at the founding of the AFS in 1888 and throughout much of its history, there was a disciplinary division of labor and an internal bifurcation of the society between “anthropological” and “literary” folklorists, with most (but not all) students of Native North American topics within folklore studies coming from the anthropological side, it may seem as if I am emphasizing this aspect of the story. To a degree this is unavoidable, but it is not my purpose. When Aurelio Espinosa or Stith Thompson, for instance, spoke or wrote about Native North American topics, they produce hash marks in the Native North American studies column just as Frank Speck or Edward Sapir do and when Paul Radin wrote about Mexico, Elsie Clews Parsons wrote about the Bahamas, or Berthold Laufer spoke about China, they added hash marks to the non-Native North American studies column. But, the two issues (1) anthropological/literary and (2) non-Native North American studies/Native North American studies are closely linked.

I note this at the start because I am overdue pointing to Rosemary Levy Zumwalt’s 1988 book American Folklore Scholarship: A Dialogue of Dissent. Happily for me, the Indiana University Press has just released a beautifully produced open access edition of this key text. You can find it online here: The book blurb for her book fits in here, with this post. I quote it here to both motivate you to consider the book and as a set up for this post, which is about the Journal of American Folklore in the 1940s. I will get into the details after the blurb.

Rosemary Zumwalt examines the split between the literary folklorists and the anthropological folklorists during the period from 1888, when the American Folklore Society was founded, to the early 1940s, when control of the Journal of American Folklore by the anthropologists was ended. At the center of the conflict were concerns of professionalism, science, and academic discipline.

For the literary folklorists, the orientation was toward literary works and the unwritten tradition from which they derived. Folklorists also focused on the study of literary types or genres. Child and Kittredge studied the ballad; Thompson, the folktale; Taylor, the riddle and the proverb. In anthropology, study was directed toward cultures without writing, and the emphasis was on fieldwork. Boas in his own writings, and in training his students, stressed collection of every aspect of the life of a people. And part of that material collected was folklore. The literary folklorists looked at literary forms for folklore while the anthropological folklorists looked at the life of the people and saw folklore only as part of it. Although this discipline-bound focus of the two factions created friction and led the two groups in different directions, it helped shape the development of the discipline in the United States.

I hope that the connection to the issues examined by Zumwalt are clearer, even on the basis of just this blurb. I certainly urge you to read the book. For my scrap paper project, this post on JAF in the 1940s is a companion to the earlier post on AFS meetings in the 1940s. In that post, I flagged the “Report on the Committee on Policy” that was “approved by the Council of the Society, 20 December 1940” and published as the first section of the report on the “Fifty-Second Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society” in JAF volume 54, number 211/212, the double issue covering January to June 1941. As reflected in the blurb for Zumwalt’s book, this was the watershed moment for AFS. The JAF volume for 1940 (53) was edited by anthropological folklorist Ruth Benedict, who was, in a great many ways, Franz Boas’ successor. This was her final volume as JAF editor. Volume 54, for 1941, not only published the “Report on the Committee on Policy,” it reflected the re-ballancing that that report called for. Archer Taylor (a literary folklorist working outside Native North American studies) was the new editor and older practices that Boas had emphasized, such as using JAF to publish large text collections (both Native North American and non-Native North American) were now officially off of the agenda, replaced by a formal mandate to publish shorter and more general-purpose works (theory, method, etc.).

It is easy to see (as Alan Dundes does in his Foreword to Zumwalt’s book), this shift as a positive advancement for folklore studies–particularly for his goal of an autonomous (from other disciplines) folklore studies. I am not going to argue the opposite perspective here, but I am going to keep assessing its consequences for the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations studies within folklore studies and especially for the (virtual) absence of Native North American individuals in the AFS scholarly community. (If you have never read the report of the Committee on Policy, find it in JSTOR here:

With all that windup, it may be surprising that I do not have a ton to say about the content analysis presented in the JAF table for 1940. The sky did not fall in 1941. Native North American-relevant content retained a place in the journal during this decade. As a matter of raw counts (which can still be deceiving, even in a era in which gigantic text collections and long dissertations are now longer being published), the 1940s are not that different from the 1930s in terms of numbers. Hiding here though is the fact that the Native North American studies works in the 1940s were smaller and, in my view, more minor works than what would have been seen earlier. Such works are more likely to be weighted towards short notes and to less prominent authors. I think that there really is a trend setting in in the 1940s. It can be seen if one looks more closely at 1949. Notice the big jump in published works overall and the new low water mark for Native North American studies in JAF (7%). I could think differently later, after more study, but I think that this is emblematic of the new normal that the 1940s initiated.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1940s

On the subject of Native American folklorists in the 1940s, the only data point to flag from the tables of contents of JAF in 1940 is that Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan) was back in the pages of JAF with a small note titled “How the Summer Season was Brought North.” This less than two page note summarized a Montagnais tale that she collected from Joseph Kurtness of the Lake St. John Band of Montagnais. I believe that she was the only Native American folklorist published in the pages of JAF during the 1940s. Please correct me if you know me to be in error on this point.

The 1930s from the Perspective of the Journal of American Folklore

This is the sixth post in the series looking at the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations scholars and scholarship from the work and life of the American Folklore Society (AFS). To get a recent recap of the series, look at the start of the post preceding this one.

If the annual meetings of the 1930s presented a picture of anthropological hegemony within the American Folklore Society, the published issues of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) present a somewhat less stark picture. As the focus of this series is on the presence and absence of Native (North) American and First Nations studies within the work of the AFS as a community of scholars, the notes and articles published within the JAF, as the journal of the AFS, present a more harmonious picture with studies of diverse peoples of the Americas and of the wider world appearing in its pages. JAF also represents a less-skewed disciplinary balance between anthropological folklorists (working not only in Native North American but around the world and with other non-Native peoples of North America) and of non-anthropological (primarily literary) folklorists

As the question of Native American and First Nations scholars active within the American Folklore Society community is not disconnected from the openness of the society to BIPOC scholars in general, I note that the 1930s is the decade in which Zora Hurston published her two JAF papers. (“Dance Songs and Tales from the Bahamas” in 1930 and “Hoodoo in America in 1931”. (Writing from Honduras in 1947, she would later publish one of the most awesomely vehement negative reviews that I have ever read. You should go find it in JAF #238).

As noted previously, Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan) published two articles in JAF, the first appearing in 1932 (“Notes on the Origins and Uses of Plants of the Lake St. John Montagnais”) and a second one to appear later, in 1941.

I am going to share the raw counts for JAF publications dealing with non-Native and Native topics, but a few points should be kept in mind. This count combines shorter notes with full articles. I do not think that the two genres were used equally across these two areas of interests, which skews the overall count in a way that increases the proportion of non-Native North American content. The counts also do not take into account page counts. During this period, articles could be very brief or they could be huge text collections that occupy full numbers. Thus an assessment by page count might lead to very different results. While the Boasian scholars (in this period still working under Boas’ leadership) used the JAF in this way actively, text collections for varied peoples produced by scholars with different orientations did so also. More likely imballanced though in this period (and earlier) was the publication of full theses as articles in JAF. This is another kind of long-form work that impacted distribution of topics vis-a-vis page counts. Anthropological folklorists in the Boasian circle were more likely to see their theses and dissertations published in this way. This is no small matter, as in this era, publication of the dissertation was a requirement for the bestowal of the degree. The rise later of University Microfilms as a means of publication aimed to solve the problem that scholars of this earlier era faced around dissertation publication. Boas and his students used JAF towards this end in cases where the topics could make sense within its pages within an anthropological definition of folklore studies.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1930s

To illustrate the way that page counts rather than presence/absence can offer a richer view, consider 1934, as presented above. This could seems like a bad year for a partisan whose interests were solely in anthropological folklore studies work related to Native North America. But the single item shown there, accounting for the 4% figure, is Diamond Jenness’ “Myths of the Carrier Indians of British Columbia” in JAF #184-185. At 160 pages, it represents 40% of the total pages published in JAF in 1934.

What is the take away? Native North American and First Nations studies was a vital part of the work of the American Folklore Society during the 1930s. The previous post suggested that the topic was a dominant factor when it came to AFS meetings and this one shows that the area of concern was prominent, but not hegemonic from the perspective of the society’s journal during this decade.

A very large group of scholars published on Native North American and First Nations topics in JAF during the 1930s. At least one of them–Gladys Tantaquidgeon–was member of a Native North American society that had then, or would later have, government-to-government relations with the United States. If readers know of other Native North American scholars present in JAF during the 1930s, please point this out to me.

Native American and First Nations Studies at the American Folklore Society Meetings During the 1930s

This is a fifth post in a series on the presence and absence of Native American and First Nations studies within the life of the American Folklore Society (AFS). So far, the series is as follows.

First, a post considered the presence and absence of Native American and First Nations studies within the AFS conference programs of the 1950s.

Second, I moved back a to the AFS conference reports for the 1940s.

Third, I considered the distribution of interest and work among the original group of AFS Fellows at the moment of the Fellows beginning in 1960, a moment that represented a kind of capstone for the state of things at the end of the 1950s.

Fourth, I moved forward to consider the annual meetings of the 1960s.

In this post, I go back and consider the 1930s. In the post on the 1940s, I noted how that decade began with a report and recommendations aimed at re-balancing emphasis between literary and anthropological folklorists in a situation in which the AFS had, the report suggested, marginalized literary folklorists and become dominated by anthropological ones. Looking at the 1930s helps make this clearer while also speaking to the focus of this series on the place of Native American and First Nations studies within the society.

In the first, second, and fourth posts, I presented a table showing the numbers of conference papers devoted to Native North American and non-Native North American topics. That is not really possible for the 1930s for reasons that are related to the resolution to change AFS processes reported on in 1940. It would be possible to study the conference programs and archival materials related to the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and the AFS to sort out the details at issue, but the annual reports of the AFS do not alone provide all of the information that would be required.

As implied in the 1940 report, the meetings of the AFS seem to mainly have happened on the sidelines of the meetings of the AAA. While the AFS reports are full of rich details on budgets and (extensive) publication activities and while they contain much that is of human interest, including the birth of the Hoosier Folklore Society, the death of specific members, and the strains caused by the Great Depression and the war in Europe, they usually do not present an AFS meeting program in the way that was true for the reports of the 1940s. Readers of the 1936 AFS report were, for example, sent to the pages of the American Anthropologist where they could find a listing of the AAA conference program, with the AFS report treating that AAA program as equal to the AFS one. There were leading non-anthropological folklorists (Archer Taylor, Stith Thompson, Aurelio Espinosa, etc.) involved actively in this period, including as officers. It is easy to see where this dynamic, unfolding in the final decade of Franz Boas’ life, would have been, to a greater or lesser degree, irritating to them.

In this period, it is particularly clear that AFS membership, JAF authors and readers, and AFS meeting attendees represented quite different communities. The AFS in this period had a membership in the lower hundreds and a very active publishing program that included both the Journal of American Folklore and many monographs. A all-star cast was involved in a large range of leadership roles. There were key roles filled by the leading literary folklorists of this era, but they were outnumbered by Boasian anthropologists for whom the AFS was a key node in a larger network of organizations. Even if I had fuller information on papers presenting, the information that I have would have been hard to parse because the main differences that show up in the 1940s and 1950s are not as relevant here. Because of anthropology-centrism, AFS meetings, such as they were, might parse more easily into anthropological folklore work with Native North American peoples and anthropological folklore work with other non-European peoples of the world. The journal will surely show the presence of the literary folklorists concerned with other peoples of the United States and Canada (and the world, especially Europe)–the business of the society shows their importance–but the AAA-meeting-centrism problem makes the meeting program-as-data a different kind of thing.

For my inquiry, the following points can be made about the meetings of the 1930s. A scholar interested in Native American expressive culture would have found plenty of (non-Native) scholars of the topic to talk to at an AFS (business) meeting. With the exception of Stith Thompson, they would be anthropologists and they would be numerous and they would be European and European American settlers.

Ella Delora (Yankton Dakota) published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1929 and I took up study of the 1930 AFS reports hoping to find evidence of her attending meetings in the 1930s. She very well may have attended AFS meetings in this time, but I did not see her named (even though many of her close associates within anthropology are named) in the reports for the decade. She published in the International Journal of American Linguistics (with Boas) in 1933, and in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society in 1944, and again in the International Journal of American Linguistics in 1954. I note this to suggest that she COULD have published again in JAF during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. I certainly wish that she had and I wish that there was more easy-to-access data to suggest that she attended AFS meetings. That is a mater for deeper study than is underpinning these blog posts.

As with Ella Deloria’s paper in 1929, study of the pages of JAF for each of the decades will complexify the picture provided by the meetings. Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan), for instance, published in JAF in 1932 and again in 1941. Full consideration of this matter will have to wait, but it is foreshadowed here. Anthropological folklorists who were members of Native American Nations that were, or would become Federally recognized, were part of the community of folklorists in the first half of the 20th century. When the time comes, the story of William Jones (Sauk) will push this story back to the turn of the 20th century. The presence and then the absence of Native Americans individuals who were (anthropological) folklorists is the fundamental tragedy of the story that I am working out bit by bit in these posts.

(Note: I should have been clear in my earlier posts that I was limiting inclusion to the Indigenous peoples of the colonized United States and Canada when parsing earlier meeting programs. Thus the occasional paper presented on Indigenous peoples in so-called Latin America were categorized, artificially for sure, with those dealing with Non-Native American peoples. This mechanical step was only done to allow for a focus on scholarship related to Indigenous peoples in the settler states of Canada and the United States. My reasoning for this relates to the underlying purpose of this series, which is to sort out what happened to both Native North American studies and Native North American folklorists within the AFS and the field. The presence of Native American and Indigenous scholars and scholarship on a hemispheric basis is a very important consideration and deserves careful study.)

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