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Posts from the ‘Oklahoma’ Category

New Jobs: Kimberly Marshall Edition

I am super pleased to learn that Kimberly Marshall, an excellent anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, folklorist and Native studies scholar with whom I work at Indiana University Bloomington has just accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. Kimberly is presently finalizing a dissertation for the IU Departments of Anthropology and of Folklore and Ethnomusicology that focuses on music and cultural performance in the context of contemporary Navajo Christian communities. She is a great fit for Oklahoma and she is joining a vital anthropology department with great students and colleagues, as well as a deep history of important work across her many fields. Congratulations Kim!  Congratulations Oklahoma!

Daniel Swan on Osage Uses of the North American Lotus

Ethnobotany Research and Applications is an important gold open access journal in the field of ethnobotany. It is now in the midst of publishing its 8th volume. I am pleased to note that my friend and collaborator Daniel C. Swan has just published a paper in this journal. “The North American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea Willd Pers.) – Sacred Food of the Osage People” draws upon his long-term research with Osage people in present-day Oklahoma and grows out of his studies of both Osage cultural performance and expressive culture and his interest in plant use in Native North America. The paper also reflects Dan’s commitment to open access publishing. It has been a good month for him in this connection, as earlier this month another paper of his appeared in Museum Anthropology Review, this one on the decorated boxes made and used by members of the Native American Church.

Congratulations Dan!  Congratulations too to all those countless folks who would like to read such papers but who usually cannot afford to access them.

Read Frank Speck’s Oklahoma Essays on your Phone, Free (Connexions)

The Connexions project headquartered at Rice University is great. I tried it out as a book publishing platform last year by editing into existence a book composed of Frank G. Speck’s essays on Oklahoma and Indian Territories originally published in The Southern Workman. Speck was a anthropologist and folklorist who visited the twin territories just before statehood.  The essays are really interesting for a lot of reasons that I try to describe in my introduction to the volume.  Today I am just noting that Connexions has added EPUB format to the range of ways that you can freely read and use (and remix) Connexions content.  This means that the little Speck book can be read using a e-reader on fancy phones and other mobile devices.  Connexions also serves up content in free PDF files and free dynamic webpages.  Any work can be purchased as a print on demand book too. If you do not know about Connexions, you really should check it out.

Fall Conference #2: Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium

At the beginning of October (8-9), I participated in the first even Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium, an event organized by the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians and held in conjunction with the tribe’s annual Heritage Days Festival. The event took place near Kellyville, Oklahoma at the Creek County Fairgrounds, the place where the first Euchee Heritage Days Festival took place 14 years ago. (I am starting to feel really old!)

The inaugural history symposium is an outgrowth of the tribe’s current ANA-funded history project. The format for the event featured presentations by historians and historical anthropologists with broad knowledge of native (and non-native) history in the American South that is relevant to the specific question of Euchee tribal history. Presenters included Robbie Ethridge, David Chang, Steve Warren, Steve Martin, Joshua Piker, Mary Linn, Cindy Tiger (Euchee) and Tamara Wilson (Euchee). Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians Chairman Andrew Skeeter hosted the event and I had the honor of serving as a sort of facilitator and master of ceremonies. The symposium and the festival as a whole was very expertly organized and staffed by a very large and effective group of volunteers from the Euchee community.

The symposium program was organized chronologically and spanned the period from first contact with Europeans through to the present. Each of the presenters brought valuable knowledge to the table and there was much fruitful discussion among everyone assembled.  I think that there were eye opening moments too for all involved.  Those who were visiting Euchee country for the first time were, I know, impressed with the vitality of Euchee community life and the seriousness with which Euchee people pursue their language, culture and history work.  For Euchee community members, I think that there was a deepening of understanding of how complicated, and often troubling, the historical narrative of the past 500 years of Euchee history is. (The story of native involvement in the colonial slave trade was a source of much discussion.) For everyone, there was renewed hope that the complexities of this story can be sorted out and presented in ways that will be valuable to both the community and to scholars who have so often misunderstood the place of the Euchee in the larger history of North America.

The symposium was an all-day event on Friday (10/8/10) and then a briefer recap of the Friday discussions was held on Saturday morning as the first of the day’s festival events.

The festival itself is always fun and this year it was particularly excellent. In addition to the symposium there were a number of other firsts, including much involvement from the Euchee language classes.  Some hilarious skits and plays were staged in the Euchee language throughout the event. For the first time ever, the tribe selected its first tribal princess.  All of the participants (and organizers) did a wonderful job and Miss Julia Wakeford was crowned the first Miss Euchee Princess. The festival also featured the first all-Euchee Color Guard and, for the first time, an old fashioned Corn Stalk Shoot with old style bows and arrows.

As a scholarly conference that included amazing food, a stomp dance, a horseshoe tournament, hilarious Euchee comedy, lots of raffles and prizes, a bingo night, oodles of arts and crafts, cultural demonstrations, and socializing with lots of nice people from all over Eastern Oklahoma, the first Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium set a standard for work and play that no regular academic conference can ever meet.  The Euchee people have every reason to be proud of this very successful event. I am very thankful that I was able to participate.

Mediterranean Treasures: Selections from the Classics Collection [at SNOMNH]

I am excited to share news of an upcoming exhibition at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Opening October 2 and continuing through January 2, 2011 is Mediterranean Treasures: Selections from the Classics Collection.  At SNOMNH, the museum’s significant Classical Archaeology collections are steward by the Division of Ethnology (led by my friend and collaborator Daniel C. Swan). This new show has been curated by the division’s talented collections manager (and old world archaeology specialist) Kathryn Barr. Describing the exhibition’s orienting framework, the exhibition release quotes her noting:

“In developing this exhibit we faced a challenge on how to incorporate a number of different cultures and time periods,” explained Kathryn Barr, exhibit curator and manager of the ethnology collection at the museum. “Ultimately we decided that rather than focusing on the differences between these groups we would highlight their shared technologies. The Mediterranean Sea provided the perfect stage for this exhibit, as it was truly a focal point for the cultures we wanted to highlight. For centuries the region surrounding this body of water has been an area of great diversity, but it has also been an important melting pot as well. Many of the great civilizations of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East developed along its shores and each one influenced the others.”

As discussed in the full release (available here), this will be the museum’s most ambitious exhibition from the Classics Collection and the first major exhibition of the collection staged in the museum’s impressive new facility.

While we are thinking about the SNOMNH Classics collections, I can also note the small digital exhibition that then-graduate assistant Rhonda S. Fair built during my time as SNOMNH Assistant Curator of Ethnology. Found here, it presents the museum’s Mark Allen Everett Collection of Ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Pottery.

SNOMNH C-2001-1-7

Oklahoma’s Drinking Water Problems, Then and Now

This is not a good news post. Last year I experimented with Connexions publishing a collection of essays by Frank G. Speck on life in Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory (=Oklahoma before statehood). Among these essays was a piece titled “Observations in Oklahoma and Indian Territory.” Like me, I think Speck loved Oklahoma but also understood that the state’s problems, both their causes and their potential solutions, would need to be spoken of honestly. Describing the region at a time in which almost no Americans knew anything about it, he spoke about the problem of clean drinking water. He wrote:

In most parts of the territories a fairly healthy atmosphere prevails, except in the timbered and swampy tracts. Noxious insects are everywhere more abundant than welcome, and venomous snakes are not unknown. The chief hygienic drawbacks are, however, the poor water and the lack of town drainage. It is a fact, although hotly disputed by those who have interests at stake, that the water of at least three-fourths of the entire region is totally unfit for human consumption. Most of it is offensive to both nose and mouth, the physical attestation of which fact is the appearance of those who use it. As to town drainage, I will only state that in the western section of Indian Territory the shallowness of the surface soil makes it impossible to have refuse pits of sufficient depth for decency, and even where this does not hold true the consistency of the turf impedes the drainage of fluids to such an extent that in places a pit will hold water about as well as a vessel. The difficulty is increased by the levelness of the land. See: http://cnx.org/content/m22434/latest/

I was reminded of Speck’s observation when reading the following news report from today (September 7, 2010). This report describes the health consequences of drinking the water in exactly the same part of the state (the Cross-Timbers region) about which Speck was writing in particular. Here are two excerpts from the whole story. Such stories have long been common news items in Oklahoma.

Nearly 140 public water supplies are operating in consistent violation of state and federal drinking water codes, pumping water containing chemicals linked to cancer, infant illness, and damage to the liver and nervous system.
Arthur Platt with Logan County Rural Water District No. 2 said he knew something had to change when his customers started coming to the water district office for bottled water. “The things in the water weren’t good for you,” said Platt, who’s worked for the water district since 1986. The district pumps water to areas in and around Cashion and Crescent. Platt said the water started testing high for nitrates in 2001. The compound is naturally occurring and leaches into the water supply from manures and fertilizers. “They can hurt pre-born babies, older people, and result in blue babies,” Platt said. “So we had to start giving people bottled water if they wanted it.” Blue baby syndrome is the result of a baby’s blood not being able to carry enough oxygen. Excessive nitrates in drinking water can even kill infants. Read the full story here: http://www.newsok.com/many-oklahoma-water-providers-told-to-clean-up-their-supply/article/3492219#ixzz0yqYSTrgO
Oklahoma is a beautiful place. While its history is more tragic than it should have been, it is a place rich in cultural heritage and cultural diversity. People there deserve for life to be better than it is. There are many great people working to make the state a better place, but deep problems persist, in part, because some of the state’s leaders would rather deny the existence of long-term structural problems rather than acknowledge and address them. The state’s congressional delegation and senators exemplify the problem, but it is characteristic of all levels of government, as well as in civil society.

Congratulations Dr. Jessica W. Blanchard

Another successful dissertation defense to report and celebrate. Jessica Walker Blanchard (a.k.a. Dr. Blanchard) is a wonderful person and scholar whom I have known and respected for many years. She has just completed her Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Oklahoma (where I was proud to be one of her teachers). I am little behind in reading her dissertation (about a chapter short of finished) but I can say that it is a important contribution to anthropology and Native American studies.  Jessica’s focus in her study are the activities of Southern Baptist missionaries (church “planters”) of diverse Native American backgrounds who establish mission congregations in (i.e. “targeting”) particular and specific local Native American communities. Her work was undertaken in congregations in Central Oklahoma, near the communities of Little Axe, Shawnee, and Earlboro. When she is not dissertating, Dr. Blanchard is a researcher at the Center for Applied Social Research at OU. She has been involved in a wide range of complex and important research projects, mainly focusing on the sociocultural aspects of health and wellness in Oklahoma and in general. Congratulations Jessica!

Delaware Tribe Historic Preservation Office Seeks Archaeologist

The Delaware Tribe Historic Preservation Office is seeking to hire an archaeologist. The AAA job page has the ad, which can be found here.

My friend and former doctoral advisee, Dr. Brice Obermeter coordinates the tribe’s historical preservation work from Emporia State University, where he is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology.

Delaware Tribe in a Cherokee Nation

With this note, I want to congratulate Brice Obermeyer on the publication of his new book Delaware Tribe in a Cherokee Nation (University of Nebraska Press, 2009). Brice is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Emporia State University. His book began as his dissertation research at the University of Oklahoma, where I had the privilege of serving on his doctoral committee. Of the Ph.D. students with whom I have worked, Brice has the distinction of being the first to accomplish the difficult additional task of seeing his doctoral dissertation transformed into a published book. This major effort entails not only additional research, writing and revision, but the practical matters of securing a publisher, further revision on the basis of peer-review, and going through the multitude of steps the follow in the production process. Congratulations to Brice on his negotiating these many steps successfully.

An important study of a complex and contentious topic, Brice’s book has been published by the University of Nebraska Press, an important publisher of books in anthropology and Indigenous studies. His study is a crucial examination of the political and historical complexities that have led to the entanglement of the Delaware people with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and of the Delaware struggle for self-determination in a context in which they are doubly encompassed by both the United States and the Cherokee Nation, two powerful governments whose interests have often been hostile to Delaware ones. To explore the complicated ways in which the exercise of Cherokee national sovereignty has resulted in the disenfranchisement and subjugation of another American Indian people is a difficult and painful undertaking, one that Brice pursues with care. Brice succeeds in accounting for the complexities of the Delaware situation, respecting the diversity of views found among Delaware people, and contextualizing the historical events and social and culture processes that make sense of the political paradoxes that Delaware and Cherokee people must negotiate. A excerpt is available on the University of Nebraska Press website.

Congratulations to Brice and to his Delaware collaborators.

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