January 22, 2016

One Hundred Years of History: Going Digital

A question I'm often asked as an archivist at the National Museum of the American Indian is, “How do I find what I’m looking for, and once I find it, how do I access it?” The Smithsonian is one of the world’s largest repositories of primary sources, with archival holdings measuring somewhere in the area of 137,000 cubic feet, spread across 14 museums and other research centers within the institution. These amazing resources include letters, journals, scrapbooks, photo albums, and sound and video recordings, with subjects ranging from art and culture to science and technology. The scope can make searching for specific information a daunting task. Luckily, Smithsonian archivists have been hard at work making it easier to find the material you are looking for, and making it increasingly possible to view a digital version of the letter, field notebook, or photograph in question.

In October 2015 the Smithsonian launched the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives (SOVA). This online interface provides access to archival finding aids—inventory lists that provide context and detail to the many pieces that can make up a collection. Currently the NMAI Archive Center has 101 archival collection records, including photographic, paper, and media collections, available via the SOVA. Of these 101 records, 28 collections have full finding aids.

You can browse the SOVA by Smithsonian unit, making it easier to focus your search on NMAI’s archival holdings specifically.

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If there is digitized content available within a collection, a symbol will appear in your search results next to the collection name.

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The papers of the journalist Thomas Henry Tibbles (1840–1928)—the husband of Indian rights writer and orator Susette Bright Eyes LaFlesche (Omaha) and a progressive figure in his own right—are one example of a fully digitized collection now available online. You can browse the full collection here.

One of the museum’s largest archival collections is the records of our predecessor institution, the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (MAI) in New York City. The MAI records include collectors' field notebooks, catalog lists, and expedition records, as well as exhibition and organizational files. (For a more in-depth look into what this massive collection holds, take a peek at the earlier blog post Finding Treasure in the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation Records.)

As many of you may know, in 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the MAI. As a part of a year-long anniversary celebration, every month the Archive Center is putting new digitized content from the MAI records up on the SOVA. These records will be accompanied by stories from the 100-year history of the MAI. As our first offering the Archive Center has made available the MAI’s annual reports from 1917 to 1989. These annual reports give a keen insight into the activities of the museum from its earliest days up until it became a part of the Smithsonian Institution.

The MAI annual reports offer an great opportunity to learn about conducting research using the SOVA. For instance, say you want to know what expeditions the museum funded in 1924. You can easily find this information by following the digitized content boxes in the MAI finding aid to the Publications Series: 

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You can then select the annual report folder you're interested in. If you're looking for 1924, you’ll want to click on Folder 2.

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You can then browse through the annual reports until you find 1924.

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The annual reports are just one of the many treasures among the MAI records. Make sure to check back with us every month for new and exciting stories from the archives!

—Rachel Menyuk, archives technician, NMAI Archive Center

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April 24, 2014

Meet Native America: Reno Keoni Franklin, Chairman, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

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Reno Keoni Franklin, chairman, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, at the California State Capitol, Sacramento. Photo by Clayton Franklin. Courtesy of the Franklin family.

Reno Keoni Franklin, chairman of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. I’m also first past chairman of the National Indian Health Board, the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and the California Rural Indian Health Board, and former vice chairman of the Sonoma County Indian Health Project.

Can you give us your Native name and its English translation?

I choose to teach who I am: My name is Reno Keoni Franklin; my family comes from the Kashaya village of Aca sine kawa li. I am the son of Dino Walter Franklin and Pearlann Kuulani Makaiwi, grandson of Adrienne Mae Franklin (Smith), great-grandson of Walter and Sara Smith (Antone), and great-great-grandson of Robert Smith and Minnie Salvador.

Where is your Native nation located?

The Kashia Band of Pomo Indians lives in northwest California, along the coast in Sonoma County. 

Where was the Kashia Band originally from?

We are fortunate to remain in our traditional lands.

What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share?

Our first sustained contact with non-indians was with the Russians in 1812. They landed on the shores of our village Metini and were originally known to us as the “undersea people.” In 1817, the Kashia signed a treaty with the Russians—the Treaty of Hagemeister—and allowed the Russians to build Fort Ross, which quickly became a thriving trade port along the California Coast that brought in natives (and traders) from Hawaii to Alaska. Our relationship was not a perfect one, but it was much better than the experience of our neighboring tribes, who suffered greatly at the hands of the Spanish, Mexicans, and later groups of white settlers.

The Kashaya way of life would never be the same, but because of strong traditional leadership and a deeply rooted foundation in culture and religion, we are still here. Our language is still spoken, our ceremonies are still practiced, and we are still a strong people.

While much is said of the good relationship with the Russians, it is important to note that there were groups of Kashia who didn’t like the Russians' prolonged stay and occasionally burned their fields or killed their non-Kashia workers to remind them of whose land they were on. Still, the Russians would not kill a Kashia, and many of our people who committed crimes were instead shipped to a Russian prison on the Farallon Islands. After the Russians left, our tribal members were set free. In one memorable story, two Russian Soldiers were hung for abusing a Kashia woman.

Our history has its dark times, and I encourage our members not to forget that those dark moments existed, but also not to let them define who we are. 

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

First and foremost, my responsibility is to serve my people. Second, it is to work as best as I can with our Tribal Council to better the lives of those we serve. This is the part of the responsibilities where the hard work is done. I think this piece is often forgotten: That our tribal councils will not always see eye to eye on issues, but that the chair needs to make sure we are working together despite our differing opinions and views. My tribal members expect that of me. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

I spent a lot of time around my elders, even as a little boy. I would sit with my grandmother and her brothers and sisters, listening to their stories and sneaking bites of pie or tup tup bread while they spoke. I am blessed to be from a community that has a roundhouse, and in that place I learned a lot. Our sacred places lay the foundation of the path that is chosen for us. For me, our roundhouse has always been a place of clarity and learning.

As I got older, and made the choice to serve my people, my fire-fighting background and emergency medical technician certification played a big part in my wanting to engage aggressively in bettering the health care of my people. I remembered how frustrated I was that we were losing so many elders to diabetes and other preventable chronic health issues. I would spend hours driving elder relatives down the hill to Santa Rosa for dialysis treatment. It was hard to watch them in pain. Those images of my elders stayed in my head for years and eventually were a major part of my decision to chair the National Indian Health Board.

At the same time, the strong cultural upbringing and influence of our traditional people drove me to do all that I could to protect our Kashaya Ama (tribal lands) and sacred sites from destruction, while always looking for new and creative ways to gain access to sites on private lands. I remembered being a boy and going to a family gathering site for raspberries and a white rancher yelling and cussing at my grandmother and her sisters to leave or he would throw them in jail. Years later, I remember of one of our elders crying when they heard of the destruction of one of our roundhouse pits and the village around it to make room for a vineyard. These events and many like them drove me to do all I could, a path that eventually led me to chair the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers and serve for four years on the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.  

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Chairman Franklin with Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), at the HHS Annual Tribal Consultation. March 2010, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the American Indian Health Board.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My uncle Loren Smith, my cousin Walter Antone; Amos Tripp, and my grandmothers, Shirley Makaiwi and Adrienne Franklin.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?

This is a tricky question, I don’t want to be disrespectful to the many leaders who have come from my family, lots of whom have been mentioned in history books and traditional stories. So with all due respect to them, one person would be my great-great-grandfather, Robert Smith, who was the first chairman of our tribe.

He is an inspiration to me because he stepped into a role that deeply contrasted his traditional upbringing and the Kashia view of leadership, but he knew it had to be done and wouldn’t say no to his people.

How is your government set up?

We have a constitution and by-laws that govern the day-to-day activities of the tribe. Our Tribal Council consists of seven members who are elected by the community. The Tribal Council is governed by the tribal citizens (the Community Council), who have the ultimate authority over the tribe.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

There is not one that is in writing. However, our elders have a big say in how we conduct the tribe.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Every two years. Councilmembers are elected to two-year terms.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

At least twice a month. We also see each other during committee meetings. 

Approximately how many members are in the Kashia Band?


What are the criteria to become a member of your tribe?

Lineal descendancy.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

Yes, our language is still spoken. There are around 20 to 30 speakers remaining. We are fortunate to have elders who teach our language in our reservation school and who teach semi-weekly classes for adults. Our elders are amazing. They do so much for our people, it is humbling just to think of it.

What economic enterprises does the Kashia band own?

We have a tribal lending enterprise.

What annual events does your band sponsor?

We do community gatherings and are active participants and organizers in the tribal environmental area.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Visitors to Kashia are usually there for ceremony. It has always been a place for other tribes to come for our ceremonies and to seek refuge. In the 1960s, Wilma Mankiller and Richard Oakes lived on Kashia. Many of the leaders of the political movements of the ’60s and ’70s came to us for protection and to gain perspective.

How does your band deal with the United States as a sovereign nation?

Our tribe stands firm on the foundation of tribal sovereignty. As a tribal council, we are not allowed to sign any document that waives our tribal sovereignty; that can only be done by a vote of our tribal community. We revised our tribal constitution to remove any authority of the BIA or Department of Interior. We are adamant that in issues pertaining to our tribes sovereign rights, only a Kashia can speak for us, we do not use attorneys or lobbyists on those types of issues.

This statement from Otis Parrish, one of our elders and cultural authorities, sums this question up: "No one, no other culture, no federal or state agency, will interpret for the Kashaya, how we should define our sacred."

What message would you like to share with the youth of your community?

The traditional teachings and rich history of our tribe reside with our elders, but our youth are the heart of it. They are always watching, learning what we teach them and how we teach them; the good and the bad. It is the responsibility of every Kashia man or woman to support our youth, to build them up and prepare them for their life path. I take that very seriously.

For our Kashia youth, I have always heard our elders say this: “I wish I had listened when the old ones spoke.” I used to think this meant the person saying it didn't remember or didn't listen to their elders. But they did, and they knew what to say and how to teach. It was a reminder to always listen and to always respect our Kashia elders.

Respect the rules of being Kashaya, seek out knowledge and remember to give for each thing taken because that is Kashaya way. Ask our elders what you can do for them, bless them with a small gift your time and attention, and you will reap the rewards of their teaching for your entire life.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am often asked what I think the legacy of our generation will be. There are many tribal leaders my age—40—who have been in leadership for a number of years, and while we are getting much done, the question remains, what is this generation going to leave behind for the ones that follow? How are we preparing our children to thrive after the effects of an era that has brought massive disenrollments, Supreme Court–sanctioned attacks on tribal sovereignty, the weakening of the very laws that were meant to protect us, and a deepening of the disparities in financial prosperity amongst tribal nations? Are we once again teaching our youth just to survive?

The 1970s gave us the foundation to build stronger tribes, and Indian Country has responded by building stronger and healthier communities. But the work is never over, and we cannot rest or become complacent with what we have built up.

Because if the Baby Veronica story taught us anything, it was this: They will continue to attack who we are and what defines us as an Indian people. We must remain prepared and always at the ready to protect our sovereignty. And only we can determine who we are.

Thank you.

Thank you. 

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below.

From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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September 30, 2013

October is American Archives Month. Otoe–Missouria Language Director Sky Campbell shares his experience at the NMAI Archive Center

Throughout October—American Archives Month—we celebrate the exceptional collections that can be found in archives throughout the United States. As an archivist at NMAI, I am privileged to work with unique primary sources that document the cultural heritage of the Native peoples of the Americas. These source records often contextualize the lives and work of individuals, families, or organizations, and can include original documents like letters, notebook, and essays, as well as photographs, films, and sound recordings. The job of an archivist is to organize, describe, and provide access to these materials. The job of an NMAI archivist also includes reaching out to members of Native communities to build relationships of reciprocity and mutual respect. 

This past June over 50 Native scholars and linguists participated in the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages. As a kick-off to American Archives Month, I asked Breath of Life participant Sky Campbell (Otoe–Missouria) if he would share some of his experiences working with the museum’s archival materials, which he happily agreed to do. 

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Sky Campbell doing research in the M. R. Harrington papers in the NMAI Archive Center, 2013. Throughout the early 1900s, Harrington collected objects, took photographs, and made notes among Native tribes for NMAI’s predecessor institution. Harrington’s papers are a part of the Museum of the America Indian, Heye Foundation records. Photo by Rachel Menyuk, NMAI.

Over the past few years, we have gathered a wealth of language information from historical documents, various recordings, and tribal members. It is exciting to find a new source of language information because it means we can potentially find terminology that we currently do not have, or maybe find a precedent for a sentence structure that we need. Sometimes new sources do not give us any new information, sometimes new sources answer questions that we have, and sometimes new sources create new questions. 

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A page from M. R. Harrington’s notes on Otoe bundles in the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records, box 241, folder 3. National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution. Photo by NMAI Photo Services.

The results were astounding! After spending a few years researching the Otoe–Missouria language, I figured that I knew about most, if not all, of the locations where Otoe-Missouria language information was kept. And if I did not have the actual information from a location, at least I knew of the location. Or so I thought. I was pleasantly surprised to find Otoe–Missouria language information at the CRC. My excitement grew as we continued to find more and more information. I reluctantly had to leave the CRC that first day without having gone through all that I wanted to and immediately set up another visit before the end of Breath of Life. After the next, more thorough visit, I left with what I went there for, but even then I could not shake the feeling that there was more to be found. 

The information we found at the CRC has allowed us to give names to various historic and/or sacred items. We originally thought that we might have to invent our own terms for these items. These new inventions would have been sufficient; however, we very much prefer to have the terms that were actually used. That is what makes finds like this so exciting. Anything that is found helps us with our goals. With that thought in mind, we are extremely grateful to the CRC staff for their help in making this material available to us.

This experience has given us new hope that there are more as-yet-undiscovered treasures to be found. The hard part is knowing where to look. So if you haven’t already, look into the archives in Washington, D. C. Places like the Cultural Resources Center may take your language revitalization efforts to a whole new level. 

—Sky Campbell, language director, Otoe–Missouria Tribe 

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“My Oto interpreter and his family,” photograph by M. R. Harrington, circa 1910. Sky Campbell identiified the adults as Grant Cleghorn (Otoe) and Madeline Cleghorn (Sac and Fox), and the children as Jimmy and Mary Cleghorn. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P23435).

One goal for American Archives Month is to promote the importance of unique materials that document someone’s life or work. Sky is right about undiscovered treasures. Often these types of primary sources are forgotten about or remain hidden to everyday researchers. Technology is changing that. Now, with online finding aids and digitization technology, archival collections can become more available to community members who may not be able to travel to Washington, D.C., or another archival center.

It's also true that these materials aren’t necessarily stored in a museum, at a university library, or in a local historical society or tribal archive. They may also be in your family home, tucked away in an attic or file cabinet, or on a shelf somewhere. They could be letters from grandparents or photographs of birthday parties that contextualize something in your family’s history.

Is there a time you found something in an archive—either doing formal research (at the NMAI Archive Center, for example!) or by happening upon documents, photos, or audio-cassettes at home—that really impacted you?

We would love to hear your story about a time you found something exciting in the archives. Send your stories to NMAIArchives@si.edu and periodically throughout October we will be highlighting how archives are important to you.

—Rachel Menyuk, NMAI

Rachel Menyuk works in the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution. 

To read more:

The Otoe–Missouria Tribe and the Otoe Language Program 

Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages 

The Society of American Archivists on American Archives Month

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Archive Center

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September 26, 2013

In the Archives: A Poignant Drawing of a Selk’nam Man by Charles W. Furlong

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Drawing of a Selk’nam (Ona) man wearing a guanaco robe and headdress made by Charles W. Furlong in the Heye Museum visitors’ sign-in book, April 25, 1914. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation Records, box 595, folder 11. National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.

In the Archive Center of the National Museum of the American Indian, I recently came across a pen-and-ink drawing of a Selk’nam (Ona) man—perhaps the portrait of a specific individual—created by Charles W. Furlong (1874–1967). It was drawn from memory and on the spot in a sign-in book when Furlong visited the Heye collection on April 25, 1914.

Though neither chartered nor open to the public, what had become known informally as the Heye Museum was the forerunner of the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation, itself the forerunner of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The “museum,” located at 10 East 33rd Street in New York City, was several floors in a loft building. There George G. Heye stored his private collection and showed it to, among others, prominent people in the field of anthropology, including Adolf Bandolier, Samuel A. Barrett, Franz Boas, J. Walter Fewkes, Walter Hough, Alfred Kidder, Alfred Kroeber, Carl Lumholtz, George Pepper, Zellia Nutall, Frederick Ward Putman, Marshall Saville, Charles C. Willoughby, and Clark Wissler. And from there Heye (and his mother) funded more than 30 archaeological and ethnographic collecting expeditions that literally spanned the Western Hemisphere.

Between 1904, when he began to collect systematically, and 1916, when he founded the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation, Heye amassed well over 50,000 objects representing the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Included among them were Selk’nam and Yámana objects from the southernmost tip of South America collected by Furlong in 1907, 1908, and 1910. 

Well educated, keenly intelligent, adventurous, an artist and a writer, Furlong had a remarkable career. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I. Afterward, he was the special military aide to President Woodrow Wilson, then a military intelligence officer in the Balkans, Near East, and Middle East. Before his military service, however, Furlong became interested in studying worlds “not yet documented,” beginning with a significant stretch of the Sahara Desert. Like Heye, he was a member of the Explorers Club. Founded in New York City in 1904, the Explorers Club was made up of men who “traveled the earth, the seas, and the skies,” and who gathered at lectures and annual dinners to share stories of their expeditions. It is quite possible, even likely, that Heye first met Furlong at this illustrious club.

When Furlong made his trip to the archipelago off the southernmost tip of South America, the Yámana and Selk’nam lived on the large string of islands called Tierra del Fuego (“land of fire”). The Selk’nam lived on the largest of these islands, Isla Grande, while the Yámana lived on the smaller islands to the south and west. These two peoples had surprisingly frequent, though extremely sporadic, contact with Europeans from the time of Ferdinand Magellan’s historic circumnavigation of the Earth. Magellan explored the coast of the tip of South America in 1520 when he sailed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific through what is now known as the Strait of Magellan. Magellan is credited with being the first European to make that passage, but, of course, Yámana (and perhaps Selk’nam as well) boats were navigating those very waters long before his arrival. Yámana, in particular, were maritime hunters who harvested the rich marine life around Tierra del Fuego. The Selk’nam and Yámana were also the people whom Charles Darwin encountered on the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle during the winter of 1832–33. 

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Two Selk’nam (Ona) families, 1908. North of the eastern end of Lake Cami, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Photo by Charles W. Furlong. Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library. Used with permission. 

The Selk’nam and Yámana were less impacted by European contact than many Native peoples. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, their populations virtually collapsed under the sudden and overwhelming increase of European settlers. Furlong wrote about his trip to “the southernmost habitat of man” with sympathy and intelligence in the February and June 1909 issues of Harper’s Monthly Magazine, which funded his expedition. He later wrote about the Selk’nam and Yámana, and other indigenous Fuegian peoples, in far greater depth in the January and March 1917 issues of The Geographical Review and in the March 1933 issue of The Geographical Journal.

Furlong was fully cognizant of the fact that the populations of the local indigenous peoples had recently and dramatically declined. Immediately after his first trip, he wrote in Harper’s Monthly that the “advance agents of civilization—bullets, drink and disease—have not only done their work, but have done it quickly.” Though he spoke in his articles of “the rotten rum and more rotten morals” of “civilization”—the ironic quotations marks around civilization are his—Furlong did not mention the fact that that gold had been discovered in Tierra del Fuego in 1879, leading to massive immigration and the burgeoning of settlements. And while he wrote of the Selk’nam that the “closest analysis of this splendid tribe was too often along the sights of a Winchester or Remington,” he did not write that Selk’nam were literally hunted down for money by European sheep ranchers who wanted their land. Despite the efforts of the few Church of England and Silesian (Roman Catholic) missionaries—seemingly the only outsiders who cared about their wellbeing—the Selk’nam and Yánama were all but annihilated during a 50-year period. Today, very few people identify themselves as Yámana or Selk'nam descendants, let alone as Yámana or Selk'nam.

In the 19th century, the 1882­–83 French scientific mission to Cape Horn produced a number of striking albumen prints of Yámana. These photographs are housed in the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris. According to the Dartmouth College Library in Hanover, New Hampshire, where Furlong’s papers are archived, Furlong left behind phonograph records of speech and song of the Fuegian tribes, notes, correspondence, and hundreds of photographs, negatives, and lantern slides. The Selk’nam and Yámana objects Furlong collected are housed in several American museums, including the American Museum of Natural History, New York; Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; and what is now the National Museum of the American Indian.

Between 1918 and 1924, Martin Gusinde (1886–1969), a German priest and respected ethnologist, lived among the remaining Selk’nam and Yámana. Gusinde made audio recordings and published several important ethnographic works. Anthropologist, Samuel K. Lothrop collected objects among both the Selk’man and Yánama for the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation in 1925. In recent years, a small number of documentaries have been made incorporating remarkable vintage film footage of Selk’nam and Yámana. These are available from Documentary Educational Resources. A short, but extraordinary film clip was made in 1928  by the Italian missionary and explorer Father Alberto María d'Agostini; footage of the Selk’nam and Yámana begins a minute or so into the film.

Tragically, these materials together constitute what are among the few glimpses that remain today into the lives of the Selk’nam and Yámana, memory of whom—that they existed and in specific ways—Furlong inscribed in ink on paper when he signed into the Heye Museum on April 25, 1914—seven years after the Selk’nam and Yámana inscribed their lives, their presence, their reality on to his consciousness. 

Cécile R. Ganteaume, NMAI 

144NEF_Cecile smCécile R. Ganteaume is the curator, most recently, of the Circle of Dance exhibition on view at NMAI-New York. She is also the curator of the exhibition An Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian also on view in New York, and is the editor of its accompanying book. She is a recipient of a 2011 Smithsonian Secretary’s Excellence in Research Award. She joined the National Museum of the American Indian in when it was established as part of the Smithsonian. Photo by R.A.Whiteside, NMAI. 



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Kinda neat knowing that Darwin communicated with these people.

Cécile Ganteaume is a better curator than I could ever hope to be.

Indigenous peoples is a legacy that we have a duty to protect them and above all respect, very interesting document, congratulations.

April 17, 2013

The Youngest Prisoners: General Nelson A. Miles’s Photographs of Apache Children


John Choate, Chiricahua Apache children upon arrival at Carlisle Indian School from Fort Marion, Florida, November 4, 1886. Formerly owned by General Nelson Miles. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P06848). Front row (L to R): Clement Seanilzay, Beatrice Kiahtel, Janette Pahgostatum (Pahgostatun), Margaret Y. Nadasthilah, Frederick Eskelsejah (Fred' k Eskelsijah). Middle row (L to R): Humphrey Eseharzay (Escharzay), Samson Noran, Basil Ekarden. Back row (L to R): Hugh Chee, Bishop Eatennah, Ernest Hogee. 

In the May 2013 issue of True West magazine, Fort Sill Apache Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous gives a compelling account of the Apache Wars (1849­–1886) from an Apache perspective. To illustrate his article, “The Apache Wars in Apache Words,” Mr. Haozous selected two photographs from the museum’s Photo Archives collection. Significantly, General Nelson A. Miles owned these and other Apache War photographs in the collection. Written in collaboration with Mr. Haozous, within the context of his True West article, this post explores a few additional Apache War photographs that belonged to Miles.

In September 1886, Geronimo, Naiche, and other Chiricahua Apache men, women, and children surrendered to Miles in Mexico. In breach of the terms of surrender, the U.S. government separated their prisoners—the men were sent to Fort Pickens and the women and children to Fort Marion. Soon after their arrival in Florida the children were removed to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Mr. Haozous explains that many of these children died at Carlisle. To protect its reputation, the school began to send sick children back to their mothers in Florida.

John Choate, Chiricahua Apache children four months after arrival at Carlisle Indian School from Fort Marion, Florida, March 1887. Formerly owned by General Nelson Miles. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P06847). Back row (L to R): Hugh Chee, Frederick Eskelsejah (Fred' k Eskelsijah), Clement Seanilzay, Samson Noran, Ernest Hogee. Middle row: Margaret Y. Nadasthilah. Front row (L to R): Humphrey Escharzay, Beatrice Kiahtel, Janette Pahgostatum, Bishop Eatennah, Basil Ekarden.

How does the fraught history recounted by Mr. Haozous influence the interpretation of the “before-and-after” portraits made of the young Apache prisoners in Pennsylvania? And what associated significance does General Miles’s ownership of two sets of these same photographs have? It is likely that Miles either received as a gift or acquired the photographs as a congratulatory testament to his pivotal role in “civilizing” these Apache children. Mr. Haozous’s history, however, particularly challenges the civilizing narrative intended in the “after” photograph. In this photograph, the coifed hair, full cheeks, noticeably whitened skin (a common photographer’s trick, but put to frightful ideological use in this context), and meticulous uniforms flawlessly conceal the bodily trauma—removal, illness, death—recently experienced by these young people.

                                                                        — Heather A. Shannon (Photo Archivist, NMAI)                                                                         & Jeff Haozous (Fort Sill Apache Tribal Chairman)

Comments (4)

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Many ancestors of my tribal family were at the Carlisle Indian school. Many ran away and made their way back to Massachusetts. So, sad that the true history of this school has been hidden for so long.

Wow; a picture really is worth 1,000 words. Hopefully we can eventually learn from these past mistakes and learn to all live in peace.

This second picture looks fake, "civilized" like article writer noticed.

John Nicholas Choate is my ancester. His photography just came to my attention as I was working on my ancestry page and discovered his career. I sense he was showing how the Indians came to the school in their native attire and native awareness but somehow after only a few months at the school they were changed to become "more civilized" looking which in my opinion was not a choice of theirs. I look at these photos and see so much in their faces and their eyes and am happy that John captured them in photographs before they had to adapt to what people felt they should look like. I hope as I delve deeper into John's life I will find he felt the same way. I am just beginning this search and hope to find more on his life and his photography passion.