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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
188911215%
Total11215%
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
189012737%
189141173%
18927956%
18931019%
189411635%
189581158%
18969431%
189717419%
18987542%
18997542%
Totals926341%
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
1888243156%
1889474045%
Totals717150%
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
1890502231%
1891492231%
1892542128%
1893461828%
1894421019%
1895451120%
1896321126%
1897331125%
189832922%
189953915%
Totals43614425%
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
20002214%
20012100%
20022214%
20032115%
20042813%
20052514%
20062029%
20071218%
20081915%
20091800%
Totals20894%
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
20101800%
20112214%
20122100%
201314422%
20142000%
20152300%
20162200%
20172214%
20183400%
20192800%
Totals22463%
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
20202400%
Totals2400%
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
19802627%
19812300%
19821600%
19831815%
198420313%
198517211%
19862000%
198728413%
19881915%
19892000%
Totals207136%
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
19901815%
19911700%
199219210%
19931200%
19942115%
19952115%
19961915%
19971616%
19982115%
199926310%
Totals190115%
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
19709599%
19719166%
197212875%
197312465%
19741311711%
197519563%
197631993%
197719042%
197819463%
197929472%
Total1761774%
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
19704812%
19713937%
19723613%
19734700%
19743613%
19753538%
19762428%
197724311%
19782527%
19792727%
Total341185%
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 1960s from the Perspective of the Journal of American Folklore

Here again is a post from my series considering the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations studies work within the intellectual life of the field of folklore studies as represented in the United States by the American Folklore Society (AFS). This account of the 1960s focuses on work published in the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) in that decade. It is a companion to the fourth post in the series (on Native American and First Nations studies at the AFS annual meetings of the 1960s) and it extends the preceding post on JAF in the 1950s. The decade being considered here, as noted in the third post, began with the birth of the AFS Fellows in 1960.

For JAF in the 1960s, there really is not anything new to say that has not already been said. William Fenton published his presidential address (on Haudenosaunee cosmology,) already mentioned, in 1962. There are odds and ends but the field and the journal was growing decreasingly relevant to scholars of Native North America as both cultural anthropology and folklore studies diversified in terms of interest and as folklore studies began to shift more quickly away from the anthropology/literature binary towards something more muddled and complicated. A careful scholar of Native American studies who was tracking down works of significance for their own projects would need to go and retrieve X or Y article from JAF, but I think it is safe to say that, by the 1960s, it is not essential reading for such a scholar and also that it was no longer essential reading for cultural anthropologists in general, even as key scholars in the field continued to publish significant works in its pages. In a way, these trends can be seen as generic across post-WWII scholarly activity, reflecting the dramatic growth and diversification of scholarship in Anglophone North America–more journals, more topics, more specialization…

Study of the right column in the table shows that the situation in the second half of the decade was worse than at the start and that the initial years are thus propping up the later ones. Especially when it comes to journal publication, content moves slowly through the pipeline and disciplines do not turn on dimes. Scholarly habits and loyalties change slowly, but the 1960s really mark the end of an old order and the start of a new one. I see Fenton’s presidency and address as one of the last key moments of the older era and the 1968 AFS meetings as a dramatic start to the new era. Paradoxically, Dell Hymes is the figure who both embodies a continuity from, and a transformation of, the era that functionally ends in the 1960s.

Once again, it is my sad task to report that none of the authors of the seventeen articles and notes related, I deem, to Native North American or First Nations studies in the JAF numbers of the 1960s are known to me to have been citizens of Native North American nations. Please correct me if you know me to be in error. I can say that the 1970s brings one happy story on this front. Stay tuned.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
19603338%
19614324%
19623338%
19633039%
196428413%
19653700%
19663525%
19673200%
19682800%
19692900%
Total328175%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1960s.

The 1950s from the Perspective of the Journal of American Folklore

In this post, I continue the work of assessing the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations studies in the work of the American Folklore Society. In this series of post I have also been tracking the (near) absence of Native North American and First Nations scholars in the field as represented by the society. In this post, my focus is the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) during the 1950s. In this focus, the post is a companion to the first in the series, wherein I considered the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations work at the annual meetings of the 1950s.

The JAF in the 1950s did not call many specific stories to my attention. The total number of papers getting published increased relative to the 1940s. The number of papers on Native American topics remained roughly the same in this context, resulting in a smaller percentage.

Study of the percentages in the right column may strike readers as particularly variable. Particularly instructive is the case of 1958 and 1959. In 1959, the editors of JAF seemingly intervened in the general trend, producing a special theme issue (#284) focused on Native North American and First Nations folklore studies. From the perspective of an editor’s desk, the particularly thin situation in 1958 may have been born out of plans to produce the issue in 1959. Alternatively, 1958 may have set off an alarm relative the decline of this historic area of strength, motivating a special effort in 1959. More study would be required to figure this out. (If this special issue were subtracted from the decade, the picture overall would be even more dramatically impacted.)

Another noteworthy year is 1951. In a way, my count for 1951 is very misleading and the picture is worse than it seems, from a Native North American studies focus. I coded two items in 1951. One is a single page note in Native North American studies. The other is an obituary for a scholar and AFS leader–Frank G. Speck–who devoted his life to work in Native North American studies.

When we look at the papers that were published in JAF during the 1950s related to Native North American studies, it is important to note that such works continued then to be authored by anthropological folklorists trained in, and based in, anthropology. Related is the pattern, continuing in the 1950s, of anthropological folklorists working in other parts of the work (in an ever growing range of settings) publishing in JAF. The 1950s represents a time still preceding autonomous the rise of folkloristics in the United States, although the seeds of that transition were then being planted.

The final point that I will make, in parallel with other posts in the series, is that none of the authors appearing in the JAF in the 1950s are known to me to be citizens of Native North American/First Nations nations. If you know me to be in error on this point, please correct me.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
195031821%
19515024%
195242613%
195325722%
195430923%
195539919%
195633718%
195737512%
19584512%
1959191341%
Totals351679%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1950s.

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: https://publish.iupress.indiana.edu/projects/american-folklore-scholarship. 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: https://www.jstor.org/stable/535805.)

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
19409110%
194118522%
194217211%
194323928%
194424927%
194529617%
1946431120%
1947281839%
194832514%
19494337%
Total2666921%
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.

Native American and First Nations Studies in the Work of the American Folklore Society During the 1910s

Here we go again, this time looking at the 1910s. This post is the eighth in a series considering the absence and presence of Native North American and First Nations studies work (and individuals) within the life of the American Folklore Society (AFS). For a summary of the previous posts, check out the opening passages in the seventh post. As with that post, I will be combining a survey of the annual meetings for the 1910s with a review of articles and notes published in the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) for the same decade. For the present-day United States, the AFS is the main organization for the discipline of folklore studies.

As in other early decades, knowledge of what happened at the annual meetings of the AFS, including the titles and speakers for presentations given, is derived from annual reports of the society published in JAF. These can be consulted in JAF today and they have also been made available in an open access way by the AFS in IUScholarWorks. While the AFS annual reports do not seem strikingly different between the two decades, comparison of meeting presentations of the 1910s and the 1920s reveals a key pattern. In the 1910s, presentations on non-Native topics (N=45) outnumbered presentations on Native North American studies topics (N=27), as is shown in the table below (compare with the first table in the preceding post). For the 1920s, this pattern was reversed, with fewer papers on non-Native North American topics (N=28) than for Native North American studies topics (N=40).

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
19108111%
19116333%
1912500%
19136650%
19144343%
19154233%
19163563%
19175550%
1918000%
19194233%
Totals452738%
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1910s

When considering this, keep in mind that the nature of the presentations on non-Native North American topics is heterogeneous. That group usually includes literary folklorists working on topics such as ballads and tales from European settler, Black, “Hispanic” (Latinx), etc. communities in the US and the Americas, but also anthropological folklore studies works related to peoples outside the settler states of the United States and Canada. Finally, this grouping sometimes includes work of a theoretical or comparative character that by scholars who were otherwise deeply involved in Native North American studies.

We still need to get back to 1888, but from the vantage point of the meetings of the 1910s, it would appear that Native American studies work within folklore studies, as represented by meeting participation, is working towards a peak that is still to come in the 1920s. (As discussed in the earlier post on the meetings of the 1930s, that decade presents a muddled picture, but it seems clear that the 1920s were the high water mark for Native North American studies work within the society’s meetings as distinct undertakings. In the 1910s, like the 1920s, but not like the muddled 1930s, there was generally a distinct AFS meeting program, even though the society was meeting in partnership with the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and other organizations. This fact helps this inquiry greatly.

Unlike the 1920s, there is no recorded moment of participation in the meetings of the 1910s by a Native North American/First Nations scholars. If I am mistaken about this, please alert me.

What about the view from JAF? The table below reflects my quick coding of articles and notes in JAF during the 1910s. As in later decades, the journal presents a more moderate picture than the meetings relative to balance. Things said about the journal in the 1920s and 1930s generally hold true for the 1910s. These decades fall into the long period of (first) Franz Boas’ and then (second) Ruth Benedict’s editorships. The stability of norms and practices in this period is very noteworthy. Throughout, there was a significant group of associate editors mapping onto the major interest groups within the society and published content reflected these interests and their constituencies.

For anyone who was very committed to Native North American and First Nations studies (particularly studies of verbal art/narrative), JAF would have been essential reading in the 1910s. For such a scholar, there would be people to talk to if one made it to the annual meetings, but it is clear that one could be active in the AFS via the journal and an associated state and local society “branches” and never make it to one of the anthropology-inflected national meetings (often held in association with the AAA and related organizations). An elite of literary folklorists working on non-Native American materials found their way to the meetings in order to engage with and shape the organization, but such scholars really shone in the pages of JAF, where their works constituted a majority of what was published in the 1910s. Consider folk song scholar Phillips Barry, for whom the Phillips Barry Lecture*, given each year at the AFS meetings is named. There are stretches in the 1910s where he seems to be present in every issue of JAF, sometimes more than once in the same issue.

(*Wasn’t Dom Flemons an incredible Phillips Barry presenter at this year’s [2020] meeting!)

Below the table, I offer a few more observations, but for Native North American studies in folklore, I want to record here that the 1910s saw JAF publish two papers by William Jones (Sauk). I cannot do justice to Jones’ amazing story here, but I note that the two papers from the 1910s were published posthumously after his tragic murder in the Philippines. Many others have written of the terrible, sad story of his death while doing fieldwork in Luzon. It is likely that Jones, if one were to do the archival work carefully, would turn out to be the first Native North American member of the AFS. I may discover new things when I look at the remainder of the meeting reports and journal issues, but for now, this is a reasonable proposition. (I will make a correction here if I discover something different. Having published many books and articles while still young and having earned one of the first PhDs in anthropology (the first Native American do to so), it is overwhelming to think what he might have accomplished had he not died so young (at age 38). (See his “Ojibwa Tales from the North Shore of Lake Superior in JAF #113 (1916) and his “Notes on the Fox Indians” in JAF #92 (1911).

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
191013941%
191112529%
191220829%
191316936%
191419932%
191519932%
191613424%
191722929%
191827516%
191922621%
Total1837329%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1910s

While Native North American studies were not dominant in the journal, it was (like the 1920s and 1930s) an era in which Boas’ students published often in the journal on both Native North American and theoretical topics. A few dissertations were published as long articles and there were many text collections from both anthropological folklorists and literary folklorists concerned with non-Native North American peoples, particularly from the western hemisphere. Boas’ editorial system of making sure that every volume, for the most part, included materials related to English-speaking European settler, Spanish-speaking settler, French-speaking settler, Black diaspora, and Native American/First Nations (here including the Indigenous peoples of the Americas as a whole) was evident as was his efforts to balance short items with the very long ones that he also was keen to publish.

Native American and First Nations Studies in the Work of the American Folklore Society During the 1920s

This is a seventh 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.

Fifth, I went back and assessed Native American and First Nations Studies at the American Folklore Society Meetings During the 1930s

Sixth, I dug deeper for the 1930s, looking at the content of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) for that decade.

Here in a combined post, I look at Annual Meetings and the JAF for the 1920s.

While the published AFS Annual Reports for the 1920s have the same format and style as those crated and published in the 1930s, for the 1920s there is, for each year, an accounting of the papers presented at the Society’s annual meeting. There are indicators that the AFS was then meeting with the AAA and other organizations, but the picture in the 1920s is one of autonomy and in each instance there are is a small but clear and substantive group of papers presented at the annual meeting. The data on these presentations is given below. For the tracking of presentations relative to Native North American and First Nations topics, 1924 will look a anomalous, especially in the context of the decade. In addition to two papers presented on other topics, there was that year a round table event on European tales taken up by Native North American peoples. Below the table I touch on a highlight and assess the data.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
19201686%
19211686%
19226225%
19232467%
192420* (Roundtable)0%
19254450%
19264969%
19272360%
19285229%
19291480%
Total284059%
Presentations on Non-Native American- and Native American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1920s

For me the highlight is seeing, in the program for the 1926 meeting held at the University of Pennsylvania, Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan). Born in 1899, she would have been 27 years old at the time of the AFS meetings. The annual reporting tells us that her presentation was “Notes on Mohegan Folklore.” Based on my knowledge of the people involved, she was the only Native North American person presenting during the 1920s. If you know me to be in error on this point, please correct me.

Before turning to the JAF in the 1920s, I can say that the picture that the 1920s presents is pretty consistent. Editorial matters are a dominant concern of the society. To achieve its publishing goals, financial and membership issues were very prominent. Franz Boas was a very active presence in the life of the society in the 1920s and his students were central to its work, but well-known literary folklorists maintain their place in the society and Stith Thompson in particular can be seen rising through the ranks throughout the 1920s. The other key leaders among the non-anthropologists included Louise Pound, Phillips Barry, Frank Doby, Aurelio Espinosa. I tend not to enumerate them, but nearly everyone in ethnology/anthropological folklore studies generally associated with Franz Boas is present among the anthropological folklorists of AFS, with Ruth Benedict, Gladys A. Reichard, and Ruth L. Bunzel consistently playing key roles. I should have mentioned this previously, but throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Elsie Clews Parsons (herself a student of Native American topics) really was the patron saint of the AFS, consistently providing major donations to advance large projects and to patch holes in the society’s finances during difficult moments.

The meetings were small but those who gathered at them and served as officers, including as councilors, were major figures in the field. As I discuss below, the picture from JAF is much larger. Here is the basic count for the 1920s.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
19202214%
1921211032%
19221317%
1923151448%
19242250%
192511945%
192611842%
1927900%
192891155%
192914318%
Total1275931%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1920s

As in the 1930s, review of the content published in the JAF during the 1920s presents a more balanced perspective on the field, both in terms of literary vis-a-vis anthropological folklore studies and in terms of Native North American and First Nations studies vis-a-vis the study of other peoples and traditions.

Key to contextualizing the JAF data is remembering, as in the 1930s, that the journal regularly published huge text collections from various peoples of the world (particularly of the Western hemisphere). While these were sometimes collections related to Native North American and First Nations peoples, there were also frequently devoted to other groups that were prominent in the concerns of the broader membership–European American settler populations in rural North America, European immigrant populations in cities, African American populations in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Americas, French Canadian groups. As in the 1930s, a there is non-trivial amounts of work published related to Africa and Asia (particularly Chinese) and a significant amount of material related to both Indigenous groups and settler populations in the Spanish-speaking Americas. (A lot of work on the Spanish-speaking Americas is present in JAF during the 1920s. Put another way, the diversity of the field is much clearer in the pages of JAF than it is in the meeting halls where AFS leaders gathered for a business meeting and a small group of papers.

[Before moving on, a comment here on the studies of the Spanish-speaking Americas. Many people contributed to this work, including even Boas himself. But the central figure is Aurelio Macedonio Espinosa, Sr. He is clearly the star figure in this corner of the field and it is evident that he was greatly respected overall. He served as AFS President in 1924 and was reelected for 1925. His role, and that of other folklorists who might be identified as Latinx today is important in its own terms, but it is also important to keep this other thread in mind as we search the annals of the society for Indigenous and Black scholars.]

As noted previously, an assessment by pages published rather than by itemized articles and notes would generate a different picture. While very large articles are devoted to all groups (and the 1920s saw a huge amount of text material published on Puerto Rico), a page approach would shift perceptions of Native American studies in the AFS. As in the 1930s, JAF as a key location for the publication of Native North American text collections. 1929, for instance, looks different on the table above than it does on the tables of contents in JAF. Among the three Native North America-related publications for that year is a huge Hopi text collection.

Noting Gladys Tantaquidgeon, above, at the 1926 meeting was a relief in the face of the absence of Indigenous scholars at the decades and decades of meetings already surveyed. As noted in an earlier post, the 1920s also feature a paper in the JAF by Ella Deloria (Yankton Dakota), her “The Sun Dance of the Oglala Sioux” published in number 166 in 1929. (She was age 40 at the time.) While both Tantaquidgeon and Deloria did research with other Indigenous peoples it is perhaps relevant to note that their 1920s AFS contributions were reflections on studies undertaken among their own peoples.

What provisional patterns stick out from the 1920s survey, here combining JAF and the annual meeting in one post? If a scholar were interested in Native American expressive culture, particularly verbal art, in the 1920s, JAF would be essential reading. If such a scholar had the means and ability to travel to the (usually Northeast US) cities where the AFS met during this decade, they would find fellow scholars with which to converse and from which to learn. But the AFS was not at all reducible to the annual meeting. The journal represented and presented a bigger and more complicated scholarly world. Separate from Native North American studies concerns, it is strange to note that the difference between the 1920s and the 2020 on this point is basically an inversion. In 1920, the JAF involved more people and a more diverse set of concerns. In 2019 and even in virtual COVID-19 reshaped 2020, the annual meetings are simply bigger and more diverse than the content of the JAF. It has been thus for a long time. JAF is great, but it is a a very partial slice of the AFS today, whereas in 1920, the annual meeting was a tiny slice of the membership and of the journal as a community.

It is painful to contemplate that the 1920s might have been more inclusive than many later decades in terms of the involvement of women scholars and also of BIPOC scholars. I am not combing through this data just for kicks, although it is good to learn more about my fields. I am trying to get a better handle on just such painful questions as this one. I have not surveyed all of the data yet. There are later decades (ex: 1970s, 1980s, etc.) to consider as well as earlier ones (ex: 1900s, 1910s, etc.) to look at. But the patterns are starting to emerge more sharply.

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
193012529%
193118728%
19326440%
193314526%
19342614%
193515421%
19369640%
19373350%
193814318%
193914422%
Totals1314224%
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.

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