The John Canfield Ewers Papers document his wide ranging anthropological interests from early White depictions of Native Americans to the material culture of the Plains tribes through correspondence, exhibit catalogs, field notes, illustrations, lectures, maps, photocopies of archival materials, photographs, and writings. The collection includes materials relating to his numerous research projects and publications such as his books on plains sculpture and Jean Louis Berlandier as well as his field research among the Assiniboin and Blackfoot tribes. Ewers' career as an ethnologist based in a museum is amply documented through correspondence, exhibit plans and scripts, notes, and reports showcasing his work for the National Park Service and his fifty plus years at the Smithsonian. The voluminous correspondence file highlights his close collaboration with individuals such as Stu Conner, Hugh Dempsey, Claude Schaeffer, and Colin Taylor. Ewers' graduate studies and his family are featured in Series XI. One special category of materials in this collection is Series XIV, the card files. Ewers pulled information from his field notes and other sources, classified them, and typed or wrote them up on 3x5 or 5x7 inch index cards. He then organized these files alphabetically by subject within large categories such as "Collecting Alpha by Collectors Name" or "Fur Trade and Trade Goods." The card files include correspondence and photographs and closely relate to materials throughout the rest of the collection. Though Ewers' papers are primarily textual in nature, there are graphic materials throughout his files. Series XIII features the graphic materials that Ewers kept separate from his files such as the contents of his slide cabinets. There is overlap within this series as Ewers kept multiple copies of his slides in various locations. This series also includes audiotapes of conferences and symposia at which Ewers spoke and three scrapbooks. Of note are original pencil and ink drawings from his book, The Horse in Blackfoot Culture, in Series XV. Transcripts of oral history interviews with John Canfield Ewers are also available at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
This collection was organized into 15 series - Correspondence, Research & Subject Files, Research Projects, Trips and Presentations, Artists of the Old West, North American Indian Art, Plains Sculpture Book, Berlandier Project, Smithsonian Institution, National Park Service, Personal, Writings by Ewers, Audiovisual Materials, Card Files, and Art Work.
John Canfield Ewers (1909-1997) earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1931 and an M.A. in Anthropology from Yale University in 1934. Ewers began his career in museums as a Field Curator for the National Park Service. He helped design exhibits at Vicksburg National Battlefield and Ocmulgee National Monument among others. In 1941, the Bureau of Indian Affairs hired Ewers to design and establish the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, Montana. After a short stint in the Navy during World War II, Ewers joined the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution. He worked at the Smithsonian for over fifty years in numerous capacities including Director of the National Museum of History and Technology (now called the National Museum of American History). Ewers' research dealt with the Plains Indians and the Blackfoot tribe in particular. Ewers wrote several books on a wide variety of topics including White artists depictions of Native Americans, Plains Indian sculpture, and the horse in Blackfoot Indian culture.
The John Canfield Ewers papers are open for research.
These are the original drawings that accompanied Edwin Thompson Denig's 451 page manuscript, entitled "Report to Hon. Isaac I. Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory, on the Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri, by Edwin Thompson Denig." The drawings depict utensils, tools, game pieces, plants, warfare, hunting, a tipi, a scalp dance, and a map. Five of the drawings are attributed to anonymous Assiniboine artists. The drawings that are not attributed to the Assiniboine may have been drawn by Edwin T. Denig. All of the drawings were likely created between 1853 and 1854, while Denig was working on the report. Records indicate that his original manuscript included 15 pages ink drawings. The manuscript was published in 1930, in the Forty-sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Prior to being photographed for the publication, the 15 pages of drawings were trimmed into 39 smaller drawings, which were subsequently arranged and pasted onto 19 mounts. Included with the drawings is typed page identifying the drawings as "Original sketches for Plates 64-80 and Figs. 30-35 of Denig's "Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri," edited by J.N.B. Hewitt, BAE-AR 46, Washington, D.C., 1930. " The page also contains a list of negative numbers.
Biographical / Historical:
Edwin T. Denig was born on March 10, 1812 in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He entered the fur trade in 1833 as an employee of the American Fur Company. He would be employeed in the fur trade for the next 23 years. During this period he worked at Fort Pierre and Fort Union, eventually rising to the position of bourgeois at the latter post. In 1854 he authored a 451 page manuscript, entitled "Report to Hon. Isaac I. Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory, on the Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri, by Edwin Thompson Denig." Denig left Fort Union in 1856. He died on September 4, 1858 near the city of Winnipeg, Canada. For further biographic information, see Edwin Thompson Denig, Five Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri: Sioux, Arickaras, Assiniboines, Crees, and Crows (edited and with an introduction by John C. Ewers), University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.
Fort Union trading post was constructed by the American Fur Company in 1828 and was located near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. It was established to open trade with the Assiniboine, yet it served a variety of tribes, including the Crow, Arikara, Mandan, Hidatsa, Plains Cree, Chippewa, Blackfeet, and Sioux. These tribes exchanged beaver pelts and buffalo robes for trade goods at Fort Union. In 1866, the trading post was sold to the Northwestern Fur Company. A year later, the United States Army purchased the facility, which it subsequently dismantled. For further information, see: National Park Service, Fort Union Trading Post: Grandest Fort on the Missouri http://www.nps.gov/fous/history.htm Edwin Thompson Denig, Five Indian Tribes of the Upper Missouri: Sioux, Arickaras, Assiniboines, Crees, and Crows (edited and with an introduction by John C. Ewers), University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.
Inscriptions read: "Door", "Kettles", "Pans", "Meat", "Grandmother", "Man of the Lodge", "His Eldest wife", "Their children", "Visitors and Strangers", "Brothers-in-law and other relatives", "Female relatives and visitors", "The other wives of the master", "Gun", "Baggage", "Grandfather or uncle", "Dressed skins, etc", "Meat and other baggage", "water", "Medicine Sack and Shield outside", "Dogs outside though each side the door against the lodge.", "Large quantities of fresh meat on scaffold outside covered with raw hides", "wood outside near the door".
Inscriptions read: "Map of the north side of the Missouri river from Fort Union, mouth of the Yellow Stone, to Fort Benton, mouth of the Maria, drawn by an Assiniboine warrior at Fort Union Dec. 27.1853. The artist was not acquainted with the country on the south side of the Mo. The dotted line is their usual war path to the Blackfeet. Names of rivers & c. written under his direction and explanation." Features on the map are inscribed "Fort Union", "Creek", "Trade Houses", "Bourbeuse R.", "Road to War", "Quaking Asp R.", "Milk River", "North Fork", "Pine Mts.", "War Path", "Bear Paw M.", "Sweet smeling Grass Mounts", "Maria River", "Rocky Mountains", "Fort Benton", "Maria R.", "Teton River", "Missouri River", and "Perpetual Snow Mountains.".
Inscriptions read: "A The park below the bluffs", "BB A high range of hills", "C Gaps or opening thru the hills & descend to the park", "D A person on horseback leading in the buffaloe", "E Buffaloe on the level prairie behind the bluffs, and enclosed within the lines", "F Dirt and stones thrown up about 3 ft high and men lying down concealed behind them", "G The buffalo having passed the stations of these, they close in behind them", " Indian camp in the valley below the bluffs".