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Archive for the ‘Native Americans’ Category

Indians of All Tribes 1

November 20 of this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Native takeover and occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Native activists took advantage of a clause in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie that all retired, abandoned or out-of-use federal land should be returned to the Native people who once occupied it. Alcatraz closed as a federal prison in March 1963 and was abandoned by the government by 1964. On November 20, the first boat full of Native activists arrived to take possession of the island; they would remain on Alcatraz until forced out by the federal government on June 11, 1971.

Solidarity Rally

The Archives & Special Collections holds a wide range of materials both from the time of the occupation and retrospectives and other later publications. A selection of these items is on display on Frost Library A-Level through the end of the semester to mark this important anniversary.

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This blog post is a slightly edited version of a talk I gave last Friday to our regional professional organization, New England Archivists. We have a one-day meeting in the fall, and this year it was held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Our theme for the meeting was ethics in archives, and each of the nine presenters discussed collections or events that dealt with ethical challenges. 

Like librarians and doctors, archivists have a code of ethics that guides our work. You can read ours here: Society of American Archivists: Core Values and Code of Ethics for Professional Archivists. Shared discussion and consideration with colleagues is an important way for us to develop and learn as professionals, especially about ethical questions, which are always matters of judgment.


Describing Archival Collections—Ethical Considerations

It’s hard to say no to your boss, especially when it’s your first job as a professional archivist. Reprocessing the

Frederic Brewster Loomis (AC 1896) Papers

took far more of my time and labor than either of us expected. Negotiating this collection and its ethical demands was both personally and professionally challenging. Looking back now, nearly a year later, I find that I can better trust my own ethical judgments and see more vividly the violence inherent in overly “neutral” or “objective” descriptive practices. (more…)

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AlcatrazisnotanIsland picture

Native American poet, activist, and performer John Trudell died earlier this week. Obituaries and tributes can be found online in publications ranging from Indian Country Today to the New York Times. We have several works in the Archives & Special Collections by and about this remarkable man.

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Most of my research into our Native American literature collection has focused on the very earliest publications from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but the majority of our  recent acquisitions have been of newer books. When we state that our goal is to document as comprehensively as possible the full range of publications by Indigenous writers of North America, that includes everything from obscure pamphlets of the nineteenth century to books for children published in the last decade. I was just about to head to the stacks to shelve a handful of freshly cataloged books when I thought I ought to share a handful of these items with the world.

Rabbit's Snow Dance

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Today marks the end of my three month research leave from my daily duties in Frost Library. I have spent some of my time away digging through the holdings of other repositories, including the Library Company of Philadelphia, The American Antiquarian Society, the Rare Books Division of the Library of Congress, New-York Historical Society, and New York Public Library. There are still many other collections on my list — my goal is to personally inspect as many copies of Samson Occom’s Sermon as I possibly can, a project that will take much longer than three months to complete.

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Christmas came early to the Archives & Special Collections when we received two boxes of books by Native American authors from Amherst College alumnus Peter Webb (Class of 1974) just before we closed up shop for our holiday break. There are many exciting items in this very generous gift, including copies of some of Charles Eastman’s books in their original dust jackets, but this item eclipses all the others:

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

Hmmm…a piece of an old newspaper? (more…)

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The last time I wrote about detective work in my job, I mentioned “authority work” and linked to the Library of Congress’ explanation of what it entails. Here’s another example, from earlier this week.

I began to catalog these two recently-purchased pamphlets from the 1940s:

Navajo Life Series: Primer and The Little Turtle, early mimeographed versions from 1942 and 1943.

Navajo Life Series: Primer and The Little Turtle, early mimeographed versions from 1942 and 1943.

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