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Posts from the ‘Native American and Indigenous Studies’ Category

Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era

There has been a real posting drought lately here at Shreds and Patches. In part this is due to a hyper abundance of matters worthy of posting about. So much has been going on that there has not been time to write about it all. With this note, I want to announce just one of these current events.

This month the University of Nebraska Press has published Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. I am the editor of this book, but the real stars are (1) the remarkable Euchee/Yuchi people whose stories the book begins to uncover and (2) the nine talented, generous scholars who joined me in this undertaking. I want to thank them, the University of Nebraska Press, and the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for supporting this project and for being patient with me as I pushed it slowly along to publication. I have hope that the book will be useful scholars and students and, especially, to the Euchee/Yuchi community whose interests and goals prompted us to try to put it together.

One nice thing is that the press issued the book in paperback rather than in hardback, thus the price is more modest than is often the case with scholarly books. The book is also available from Amazon in a Kindle-friendly edition. (I have not checked this out myself yet.) If the book generates any royalties, all of these will be paid by the press directly to the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for its use in historical and cultural preservation work.

Thanks again to all of the participants in this project.

Museum Anthropologists are Award Winners

I am presently batting my email box. One of the small rewards in this situation is discovering great news emails that slipped by. From the excellent news rediscovered department, I am happy to note two recent awards bestowed on friends from the museum anthropology community.

Dr. Nancy Parezo was awarded the 2011-2012 Graduate College Graduate and Professional Education Teaching and Mentoring Award at her home institution, the University of Arizona. Nancy is a member of the Department of American Indian Studies at UA and is a lead faculty member for the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology held each year at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. (I will be joining Nancy for part of this year’s SIMA).

The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) recently bestowed its 2012 Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Awards. Winning for “Outstanding Project” was the
Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, “an interactive, online digital archive that provides access to Plateau peoples’ cultural materials at Washington State University through tribal curation. The Portal provides a way for tribal communities to include their own knowledge and memories of digital materials for various collections.  This project is an inspiring model of how university repositories can successfully collaborate with tribal communities to curate and enhance collections with tribal voices and histories.” The project director for this effort is my friend and collaborator Kimberly Christen of Washington State University.

Belated congratulations to Nancy, Kim, and to the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal team on these well deserved awards.

Smithsonian Thanks

I have recently returned from my research work at the Museum Support Center of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. My work with William C. Sturtevant collection was very fruitful and I want to thank he many people who helped make it happen.

A Very Small Pot by Maude Welch, Eastern Cherokee Potter

A very small “wedding jug” by Eastern Cherokee potter Maude Welch (1894-1953). William C. Sturtevant collected this piece from Ms. Welch on September 15, 1951, about two years before her death. Drawing upon her experience visiting Catawba potters, Mrs. Welch was central to the revitalization of pottery making among the Eastern Cherokee.  A rich profile of her and her work is available online from the Western Carolina University library. It was authored by M. Anna Fariello.

This piece (which is only about 2″ in all dimensions) is in the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. For those who are interested in such things, Sturtevant paid Mrs. Welch’s asking price of 50 cents. (Fifty cents is about $4.00 today, if adjusted for inflation.)

Coconut Rattles in Florida and Oklahoma

The diversity of materials used by Native peoples in the Americas to make hand rattles is pretty staggering. Among the farming peoples of the Southwest, Plains, Northeast and Southeast, gourds are one important material used for this purpose. Having the same basic form as gourd rattles, but unique to some Southeastern Indian peoples, are rattles, such as this Florida Seminole example, made from coconuts. William C. Sturtevant provided the coconut used here to Jack Motlow, from whom he commissioned it for $2.00 in 1951. This Florida Seminole example is made exactly like those used among the Southeastern peoples in Oklahoma, including among the Yuchi. (I commissioned Yuchi examples for the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa during the later 1990s.) Such rattles are called “gourds” in English in Oklahoma and are particularly suited to the outdoor dances of the region. Such rattles are loud and thus sound great when used, as they most often are, outside, in open spaces. (The holes drilled in the coconut amplify the rattle’s sound.)

This example is #301 in the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

(The Seminole Tribune has published biographical profiles of two of Jack and Lena Motlow’s daughters. These profiles are of Louise Motlow and Mary Motlow Sanchez and are online.)

A Chitimacha Basket

Here is an image of a double woven river cane basket with lid from the Chitimacha people of Louisiana. It was purchased at auction in 1972 by William C. Sturtevant and is now in the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (T070).

Baskets from Choctaw Fair, 1961

William C. Sturtevant’s collection includes a group of baskets purchased in 1961 at the Choctaw Indian Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi. This example (above) is part of this group. It is number 580 and I have not yet learned who the artist who made it is. This basket is made from rivercane, a plant related to bamboo that is indigenous to the Southeast of North America.

To gain a sense of native basket making in the South as a dynamic cultural activity, check out these photographs from the 1st Gathering of Southeastern Indian Basketweavers in 2002. This was an event organized by the Louisiana Regional Folklife Program and the Williamson Museum.

Here is another basket from this group. A rivercane tray, it is number 576. Both are in the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Pot Holders, Or William C. Sturtevant Collections Research, Day 1

I am in Washington at the start of a period of research studying the collection of objects gathered over much of the career of Smithsonian anthropologist William C. Sturtevant (1927-2007). (For background on W.C.S., see this biographical sketch that I posted to the Museum Anthropology weblog and this Washington Post obituary by WP staff writer Louie Estrada.)

While Dr. Sturtevant was long associated with the Smithsonian, his individual research collection grew and grew over the course of his career and was not accessioned into the holdings of the National Museum of Natural History until after his death in 2007. My work with the objects is an extension of the Southeastern Native American Collections Project (SNACP), but it also aims to assist the museum in the work of organizing and cataloging the Sturtevant Collection.

Today was mainly a get organized day, but I can share a glimpse of the objects that was looking at.

Dr. Sturteveant worked throughout his career on issues in Florida Seminole ethnography, linguistics, ethnology, and ethnohistory. He was always particularly interested in material culture and he went to considerable lengths to document the rich visual and material culture of the Seminole people living in my home state. (I first met Dr. Sturtevant while still an undergraduate when he attended a conference on Seminole folk art not far from my family home.)

It will take a very long time to sort out the details, but I began (metaphorically) unraveling the threads of his collection and its history with initial study of eight relatively simple objects–patchwork decorated pot holders made for sale to non-Seminole tourists by Seminole women during in the 1980s. In addition to their aesthetic richness and visual interest, such objects speak to the complex ways that the Seminole people have adapted to life in one of the most complex corners of North America. The Seminole engagement with tourism began in the early 20th century, it continued through the period represented by these pot holders, and it continues up to the present-era, in which the Seminole Tribe of Florida is the force behind a myriad of tourist destinations, including the global Hard Rock cafe and casino enterprise.

For four of the eight pot holders that I looked at today, I already know the name of the artist. A few of the as-yet artist-unidentified objects are pictured below. All objects are from the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History. I especially thank the department’s staff for hosting my research visit. Photographs shown here are my own quick and simple iPhone snapshots. (Better photographs can come later.)

Sturtevant Collection T162

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T162, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111A, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111B, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111C, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

I have a lot of data management work to accomplish before tomorrow, but I could not resist sharing this glimpse.

@Mukurtu Project Wins Major IMLS Grant

Congratulations to Kim Christen and everyone working on the Mukurtu project on news that the effort has received a major grant from the (U.S.) Institute for Museum and Library Services (announced here). This is a major development for a major project.

As noted on the Mukurtu project site, Mukurtu is “A free and open source community content management system that provides international standards-based tools adaptable to the local cultural protocols and intellectual property systems of Indigenous communities, libraries, archives, and museums.” It is “a flexible archival tool that allows users to protect, preserve and share digital cultural heritage through Mukurtu Core steps and unique Traditional Knowledge licenses.”

Check Out Roy Boney’s Awesome Graphic Feature on Cherokee Language and Literacy

Indian Country Today has just published an awesome graphic feature by Roy Boney on the history of Cherokee literacy from the time of Sequoyah to the time of unicode. I do not need to go on and on and on about it. Its really great and you need to check it out.

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