Native Anthro Q and A-Grandpa Pete and Franz Boas

How does a Native handle working in Anthropology?

Since my first class, I have been hooked.  I have always been fascinated by humans.  From language to human anatomy to lithic technology to human geography, humans have been my main focus of study since 2000.  My main motivation for pursuing this field is based on an overall fascination with humanity.  I think it stems from my grandfather, who loved people.  He loved visiting with them, watching them, studying them and learning from them.  He had an incredibly open mind and was the most patient person I’ve known.  One of his favorite things to do was people watch.  He made little comments here and there.  It was his entertainment.  He saw the world in wonder and that isn’t as common a trait anymore.  I try to approach every topic in the same way but it isn’t always easy. 

My grandfather and I when I was 12 years old dancing at the Gathering of Nations Alb. NM

My grandfather and I in 1993.  I was 12 years old dancing in Alb. NM.

What would be one thing you would change about Anthropology?

More Natives.  This is a field of study that was built on a foundation of Native culture, human remains, cultural remains and language.  There is a lot of publications and discourse about Natives, with no involvement of Natives.  For the most part, we are still specimens.  There is still a lot of colonial paradigms that we will have to combat, but it doesn’t start until more are involved.  I don’t see Anthropology going away, so it is time to get to work.  In the end, the field will be that much stronger.  The same could be said for having more women in the sub-field of Archaeology.  Diversity is always a good thing to get more ideas floating around the collective.    

Who is your favorite Anthropologist?

Easy.  Franz Boas.  He is known as the Father of American Anthropology.  There is a lot to criticize about his methodology but he introduced four-field Anthropology (Cultural, Linguistics, Archaeology, Biological) and there was literally nothing this guy didn’t study about Natives.  He didn’t get into the theoretical side of Anthropology (much) and produced an unprecedented body of work.  He was just dedicated to collecting data. Almost all of his publications about Natives is in two languages.  Each page is split between the Native language and the English language.  He was a German Jew, so I couldn’t imagine being that diligent and committed to the field that I produced in two languages.  You don’t ever see that in American Anthropology.  The contribution to Native people has been huge because we now have direct translations of cultural customs that were nearly eradicated as a result of government policies and boarding schools.  I won’t say much more because he hated having his work and words interpreted by others.  He denounced those who did it publicly. 

Franz Boas performing a Kwakwakw'wakw dance

1 comment

  • I enjoyed your article. You write well. Congrats on this site, looks like it has a lot of potential & gives you a place to discuss your thoughts. When I was young I used to say I wanted to be an archeologist for the same idea you discussed, that Natives are the primary focus & there weren’t many in the field. But my life went in a different direction & needless to say I’m not an Archeologist, but a Program Manager for the Yakama Nation. I’m looking forward to your articles/blogs in the future JD, klowkush nye…

    Denise Hill

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