The Frank C. and Clara G. Churchill collection includes photographic negatives, photo albums, lantern slides, journals, scrapbooks and other documents created and compiled by the Churchills over the course of Frank's career as a special agent and Indian Inspector for the Department of the Interior between 1899 and 1909. Initially assigned as a revenue collector to the Cherokee Nation and later as an Indian Inspector reviewing boarding schools, Frank's assignments took him all over the United States including Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma), Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Florida, North Carolina and Alaska. During this time the Churchills visited over 80 different Native communities shooting photographs and taking notes.
Scope and Contents:
The Frank C. and Clara G. Churchill collection includes 1430 photographic negatives, 29 photo albums containing 3710 photographic prints, 325 lantern slides, and 3 linear feet of journals, scrapbooks, and other documents created and compiled by the Churchills over the course of Frank's career as a special agent and Indian Inspector for the Department of the Interior between 1899 and 1909.
Series 1: Photographs in Indian Territory (Oklahoma): Muskogee, Tahlequah, Sulphur Springs and Other Assignments, 1899-1903, includes 11 photo albums and 357 negatives from Frank Churchill's original assignment as revenue collector to the Cherokee Nation. Locations include Indian Territory (Oklahoma) [bulk], Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Missouri. The Native communities visited and photographed in this series include— Oklahoma Cherokee, Oklahoma Muskogee (Creek), Quapaw, Osage, Miami, Wyandotte [Oklahoma], Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne), Winnebago [Nebraska], Eastern Shawnee [Quapaw Agency, Oklahoma], Ponca, Chaticks Si Chaticks (Pawnee), Oto, Sioux [Crow Creek], Kaw (Kansa), Chickasaw, Modoc, Kiowa, Choctaw.
Series 2: Photographs in the Southwest and Midwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Califonia, Minnesota and Wisconsin, 1903-1907, includes 9 photo albums and 832 negatives from Frank Churchill's assignment as an Indian Inspector. Because the Churchills visited some of the same locations on multiple occasions, it has been hard to date some of the negatives. For that reason, all the negatives made in the Southwest have been included in this series, though there are two photo albums with Southwest photographs included in Series 4. Locations in this series includes Arizona, New Mexico, California, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Native Communities visited and photographed in this series include—A:shiwi (Zuni), Diné (Navajo), Acoma Pueblo, Akimel O'odham (Pima), Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Cochiti Pueblo, Hopi Pueblo, Isleta Pueblo, K'apovi (Santa Clara Pueblo), Kumeyaay (Diegueño), Laguna Pueblo, Luiseño (Luiseno), Mescalero Apache, Mojave (Mohave), Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), Picuris Pueblo, Piipaash (Maricopa), Puye Pueblo, Quechan (Yuma/Cuchan), San Carlos Apache, Taos Pueblo, Tohono O'odham (Papago).
Series 3: Photographs in Alaska and Oregon, 1905-1910 (bulk 1905), includes four photograph albums and 71 negatives from Frank Churchill's appointment as special agent, by President Roosevelt, to investigate the condition of the school & reindeer service and other affairs in Alaska in the summer and fall of 1905. Two of the albums were not made by the Churchills. The first of these (Box 20) includes photographs by William Hamilton and the second (Box 21) includes photographs by W. T. Lopp. Locations in Alaska include St. Lawrence Island, Nuwukmiut/Point Barrow, Teller, Diomedes Islands, Nome, Kotzebue, Wrangell, Port Clarence Bay, Unalaska Island and Baranof Island. There are a number of photographs aboard the U.S. Cutter "Bear" and aboard the mailboat "Georgia." Native communities photographed include—Yuit (Siberian Yup'ik), Inupiaq (Alaskan Inupiat Eskimo), Bering Strait Inupiaq [Diomedes], Alutiiq (Pacific Eskimo), Tlingit.
Series 4: Photographs in Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, Florida and Miscellaneous, 1907-1909, includes five photograph albums and 163 negatives from Frank Churchill's assignment at Indian Inspector. Because the Churchills visited some of the same locations in the Southwest (Arizona and Utah) on multiple occasions, it has been hard to date some of the negatives. For that reason, all the negatives made in the Southwest have been included in Series 3. Locations include Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota and Florida. Native communities visited and photographed include-Diné (Navajo), Hopi Pueblo, Kaibab Paiute, Quechan (Yuma/Cuchan), Eastern Band of Cherokee, Pikuni Blackfeet (Piegan), Wahpetonwan Dakota [Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe], Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Seminole. There is restricted material in Box 23 (Album P23380).
Series 5: Non-Native Photographs: Colorado Vacation, Lebanon, New Hampshire, and other Materials, 1898-1913, includes four photograph albums from vacations and other visits made by the Churchills unrelated to Frank's activities as Indian Inspector.
Series 6: Manuscripts: Journals, Documents and Scrapbooks, 1880-1928 (bulk 1899-1909), includes three linear feet of materials arranged in three subseries. Subseries 6.1, Clara Churchill, includes 16 journals, 12 scrapbooks and various other manuscript materials written and accumulated by Clara Churchill during their travels. Many of the journals include personal writings as well as several photographs that are duplicated in the photograph albums. The journals and scrapbooks encompass the full range of the Churchills' travels and include notes from Indian Territory, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, Plains and Alaska. Subseries 6.2, Colonel Frank C. Churchill, includes official documents around Churchill's assignments as well as the reports Frank submitted back to the Secretary of the Interior (Box 41 and 42). Subseries 6.3, Churchill Museum and Miscellaneous, includes catalogs and other notes related to the large collection of Native American objects amassed by Frank and Clara. Clara also collected other items such as shells, minerals, and sand.
Series 7: Lantern Slides for Lectures, 1899-1909, includes 325 hand colored glass lantern slides. These were made by the Churchills from existing negatives and used for lectures. Lantern slides #1-#121 include views photographed in Alaska in 1905. Sldes #122-#325 include an assortment of views from Oklahoma (Indian Territory), Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, California, Arizona and New Mexico photographed between 1900 and 1909.
The Frank C. and Clara G. Churchill collection has been arranged in seven series by material type and then chronologically. The first five series are then divided into subseries by "Photo Albums" and "Negatives." These include--Series 1: Photographs in Indian Territory (Oklahoma): Muskogee, Tahlequah, Sulphur Springs and Other Assignments, 1899-1903; Series 2: Photographs in the Southwest and Midwest: Arizona, New Mexico, California, Minnesota and Wisconsin, 1907-1907; Series 3: Photographs in Alaska and Oregon, 1905-1910 (bulk 1905-1905); Series 4: Photographs in Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, Florida and Miscellaneous, 1907-1909; Series 5: Non-Native Photographs: Colorado Vaction, Lebanon, New Hampshire, and other Materials.
Series 6: Manuscripts: Journals, Documents and Scrapbooks, 1880-1928, is arranged in three subseries. Subseries 6.1: Clara G. Churchill, Subseries 6.2: Frank C. Churchill, and Subseries 6.3: Churchill Museum and Miscellaneous. Series 7: Lantern Slides for Lectures, 1899-1909, is arranged in orginal number order from the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College.
Biographical / Historical:
Frank Carroll Churchill was born August 2, 1850 to Benjamin P. Churchill and Susanna Thompson in West Fairlee, Vermont. Frank was educated at Thetford Academy in Thetford, VT and worked as a clerk for D.C. Churchill & Co. in Lyme, NH between 1869-1870. Between 1870 and 1877, Churchill was employed by H.W. Carter as a wholesale merchant in Lebanon, New Hampshire. During this time, Churchill met Clara Corser Turner and they were married on June 11, 1874.
Clara G. (Turner) Churchill was born December 16, 1851, to Colonel Francis H. Corser and Sarah Hook (Perkins) Corser. Colonel Corser and his wife died young, and Clara was adopted by George and Abby H. Turner of Concord, New Hampshire.
In 1877, in association with William S. Carter, Frank Churchill opened the business "Carter & Churchill" which was in this business for 21 years. Churchill held various political offices from 1879-91. He served as chairman of the Republican town committee of Lebanon and of the Republican State committee in 1890 and 1891. He served on the staff of Governor Natt Head in 1879 and 1880, with the rank of Colonel. He was chairman of the New Hampshire delegation at the Republican National Convention which nominated President Harrison and represented the Fourth District in the Executive Council in 1889-1890 during the administration of Governor David. H. Goodell.
In 1899 Frank was appointed revenue inspector for the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory and was later appointed a special agent for the Interior Department to formulate a system of public schools in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and across the Southwest. In 1905, he was appointed special agent, by President Roosevelt, to investigate the condition of the school & reindeer service and other affairs in Alaska and was reappointed Indian Inspector between 1905-1909. In 1909, Churchill resigned due to failing health and died November 5, 1912. Clara accompanied Frank on all his travels between 1899 and 1909 (see below chronology for full details) maintaining journals and writing articles for publication in "WHAT." Clara was also a painter, producing watercolors and hand-painting many of the photographs she and Frank made on their travels. Following Frank's death, Clara maintained their collection of Native artifacts and photographs in their home in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Clara died April 16, 1945, bequeathing the full collection to Dartmouth College.
Frank Churchill's assignments as Special agent and Indian Inspector from 1899-1909 took him all over the United States including Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma), Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Florida, North Carolina and Alaska. During this time the Churchills visited over 80 different Native communities. For more details, see the chronology below.
Travels in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and other assignments, 1899-1903
1899, June 29 -- Churchills arrive in Muskogee, Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
1899, July-October -- Visit to Fort Gibson, Tahlequah, Sallisaw, and Vinita (Indian Territory/Oklahoma). Visit to Noel and South west City, Missouri. Visit to Chelsea and Coffeyville, Kansas. Visit to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
1899, November -- Visit Tahlequah while the Cherokee Nation legislature was in session.
1899, December -- Travel in Colorado.
1900, March -- Return to Muskogee and Fort Gibson.
1900, Sept 17-Oct 5 -- Dawes Commission in Vinita.
1901, Mar-Apr 3 -- Visit to the Quapaw Agency, Wyandotte Reservation and school, Modoc reservation and the town of Miami.
1901, April -- Visit to Denison, Texas. Visit to Checotah, Eufaula, South McAlester (Choctaw nation).
1901, Summer -- Visit to Pawhuska, Osage Nation.
1901, October -- Visit to Tishomingo, seat of government of the Chickasaws.
1902, January -- Trip to the Chickasaw Nation Visit to Anadarko, Indian Agency of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache, Fort Sill, Wichita Mountains, and Lawton.
1902, May -- Frank is dispatched to Sioux City, Iowa.
1902, July -- Visit to St. Paul, Minnesota and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, (Chippewa Falls). Frank is sent to Sulphur Springs, Texas, to author a report.
1902, August -- Churchills return to Muskogee, IT.
1902, September-October -- Trip to White Eagle, Ponca Agency for a month. Visit to Otoe school, Pawnee School, Shawnee, Sac and Fox reservations.
1902, November-December -- Visit to Crow Creek Agency.
1903, January -- Return to Sulpher Springs, Texas.
1903, March -- Visit to Pawhuska, Osage Nation.
1903, April -- Visit to Colorado.
1903, May-October -- Visit to 23 towns in Oklahoma (IT) with the Secretary of the Interior.
Travels in New Mexico, Arizona and California, 1903-1905
1903, November -- Frank receives orders to proceed to Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.
1903, December 9 -- Visit to Zuni, followed by Canyon de Chelly, Hubbell's Ranch, Keams Canyon.
1903, December 21 -- Visit to Hopi Pueblo. Walpi, Polacca Day School, Oraibi, Shumopavi (Shungopavi/Songoopavi), Shipaulovi (Supawlavi) and Mishongnovi (Musungnuvi).
1903, December 28 -- Visit to Fort Defiance.
1904, January -- Travel in New Mexico. Visit to Gallup, Laguna Pueblo, Acomita, Paraje, Acoma, Albuquerque, Isleta Pueblo, Santa Fe, Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), K'apovi (Santa Clara Pueblo).
1904, February -- Visit to Sacaton, Akimel O'odham (Pima) Reservation and Casa Grande ruins in Arizona.
1904, March -- Visit to Lehi Day School, Salt River Day School, Phoenix Indian School, Gila River Crossing Day School and Maricopa Day School, Arizona.
1904, March 10-26 -- Visit to Fort Mojave and Chemehuevi.
1904, March 30-April -- Visit to Riverside, California, Sherman Institute and Perris School. Side trip to Yuma, Arizona.
1905, January-February -- Visit to Sulphur, IT.
1905, March -- Visit to Mescalero Apache Agency, San Carlos Apache Agency, Geronimo Settlement, Rice Station School at Talkalai.
1905, April 10-20 -- Return to Sherman Institute in Riverside, California. Visit to San Jacinto, Perris, Saboba, Cahuilla, San Manuella (Band of Mission Indians), Coachella, Torres Reservation, Martinez Reservation Day School, Cabazon Reservation, Protrero Reservation and Day School.
1905, April 22-May -- Visit to Temecula, Pechanga Day School, Pala Mission, Campo Reservation, Mission of San Luis Rey, Rincon Day School, Mesa Grande School, Santa Ysabel (Diegueno), Volcan Mountain Day School.
Travels in Alaska, 1905
1905, June -- Frank receives an assignment in Alaska.
1905, July -- Board the U.S. Revenue Cutter "Bear" in Nome. Visit to Reindeer Station in Teller, Cape Prince of Wales, Kotzebue Sound, Cape Thompson, Point Hope and Point Barrow.
1905, August -- Visit to Wainwright Inlet, return to Nome. Visit to Anvil Creek, Gologin (Golovin) Bay, St. Lawrence Island, Pribilof Islands (Seal Islands), St. George, Dutch Harbor and Unalaska.
1905, September -- Board the "Dora" anchored near Belkofski, Cold Bay, Karluk, Afgonak, and Kodiak. Stop in Homer, Seldovia and Seward. Visit to Sitka.
1905, September 28 -- Board the steamer "Georgia" to Juneau and Skagway via Hoonah.
1905, October -- Return to Lebanon, NH.
Travels in Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and Utah, 1906-1907
1906, March-April -- Re-assigned to Southwest and arrive in Tucson, Arizona. Visit to San Xavier Mission, Tohono O'odham (Papago) reservation, Casa Grande, Sacaton, Maricopa, Gila Crossing, Salt River and Phoenix schools.
1906, May -- Return to New Mexico to visit Gallup and Zuni Day School.
1906, June -- Visit to St, Paul, Minnesota and the White Earth (Ojibwe) reservation and Wild Rice River School in Boliere.
1906, July -- Visit to Ashland, Wisconsin, Lac Courte Oreilles, Hayward, and Lac de Flambeau (La Pointe Agency.
1906, July-September -- Return to Lebanon, New Hampshire.
1906, September -- Visit to Fond du Lac (Winnebago Lake), Wabeno, and Carter, Wisconsin.
1906, October -- Visit to Phlox, Wausau, Minocqua, Star Lake, Bark River and Wausaukee, Wisconsin.
1906, November-December -- Visit to Keshena (Green Bay Indian School), Menominee Reservation and Ashland, Wisconsin.
1906, December-January -- Stay in Washington, DC.
1907, February -- Return to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1907, March -- Visit to Santa Fe and various Pueblos (Cochiti, Tesuque, San Ildefonso, Ohkay Owingeh [San Juan], Toas and Picuris).
1907, April -- Return to Albuquerque, visit to Pueblos (Isleta, Laguna, Mesita, Acomita, Paraje, Acoma, Seama).
1907, April -- Visit to Phoenix, Arizona (Phoenix Indian School), Fort McDowell and Salt River Day School.
1907, May -- Visit to Sacaton, Maricopa, Casa Grande, and Yuma, Arizona.
1907, June -- Visit to Riverside (Sherman Institute), and Pomona, California.
1907, June-July -- Travel to Salt Lake City, Utah. Visit Panguitch, Orton, Kanab, Escalante and Marysvale, Utah.
1907, July-August -- Return to Arizona. Visit Flagstaff, Tuba Indian School, as well as Hopi Pueblo (Walpi, Moencopi, and Oraibi).
1907, September-October -- Return to Lebanon, NH.
Travels in North Carolina, Montana and Florida, 1907-1909
1907, October 22 -- Assigned to Cherokee, North Carolina, to make a new roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
1907, November -- Arrive in Cherokee, North Caolina.
1908, February -- Visit to Robbinsville and Big Cove
1908, April -- Cherokee council meeting regarding Churchill's new roll.
1908, May -- Completes assignment in North Carolina.
1908, June-September -- Return to Washington, DC and Lebanon, New Hampshire.
1908, September-October -- Trip to Montana. Visit to Browning, Blackfeet Reservation, Harlem, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck.
1908, November -- Visit to Spirit Lake (Devil's Lake) and Wahpeton, and Fort Totten, North Dakota.
1908, December -- Visit to Morris, Minnesota.
1909, January -- Trip to Washington, DC for the inauguration of President Taft.
1909, February -- Visit to Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
1909, March-April -- Trip to Florida. Visit to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Gainesville, and St. Augustine.
1909, May -- Visit to Soco Creek and Cherokee, North Carolina.
1909, July -- Return to Lebanon, New Hampshire.
1909, August -- Resignation as Indian Inspector.
A large collection of Native American cultural objects and archaeology bequeathed by Clara Churchill can still be found at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College.
Frederick Dockstader, former director of the Museum of the American Indian (MAI), Heye Foundation, illegally removed the majority of the photographs (photo albums, negatives) and manuscript material (journals, reports) from the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in 1955, before depositing them at the MAI. Those materials were officially gifted to NMAI in 2018 by the Hood Museum. Additional materials from the Churchill collection that remained at the Hood Museum (lantern slides, photographs, scrapbooks, journals) were donated in 2020. These materials have been noted in the finding aid.
Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadbast materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center. Please submit a written request to email@example.com.
These papers reflect the professional and personal life of Frederica de Laguna. The collection contains correspondence, field notes, writings, newspaper clippings, writings by others, subject files, sound recordings, photographs, and maps. A significant portion of the collection consists of de Laguna's correspondence with family, friends, colleagues, and students, as well as her informants from the field. Her correspondence covers a wide range of subjects such as family, health, preparations for field work, her publications and projects, the Northwest Coast, her opinions on the state of anthropology, and politics. The field notes in the collection mainly represent de Laguna and her assistants' work in the Northern Tlingit region of Alaska from 1949 to 1954. In addition, the collection contains materials related to her work in the St. Lawrence River Valley in Ontario in 1947 and Catherine McClellan's field journal for her research in Aishihik, Yukon Territory in 1968. Most of the audio reels in the collection are field recordings made by de Laguna, McClellan, and Marie-Françoise Guédon of vocabulary and songs and speeches at potlatches and other ceremonies from 1952 to 1969. Tlingit and several Athabaskan languages including Atna, Tutchone, Upper Tanana, and Tanacross are represented in the recordings. Also in the collection are copies of John R. Swanton's Tlingit recordings and Hiroko Hara Sue's recordings among the Hare Indians. Additional materials related to de Laguna's research on the Northwest Coast include her notes on clans and tribes in Series VI: Subject Files and her notes on Tlingit vocabulary and Yakutat names specimens in Series X: Card Files. Drafts and notes for Voyage to Greenland, Travels Among the Dena, and The Tlingit Indians can be found in the collection as well as her drawings for her dissertation and materials related to her work for the Handbook of North American Indians and other publications. There is little material related to Under Mount Saint Elias except for correspondence, photocopies and negatives of plates, and grant applications for the monograph. Of special interest among de Laguna's writings is a photocopy of her historical fiction novel, The Thousand March. Other materials of special interest are copies of her talks, including her AAA presidential address, and the dissertation of Regna Darnell, a former student of de Laguna's. In addition, materials on the history of anthropology are in the collection, most of which can found with her teaching materials. Although the bulk of the collection documents de Laguna's professional years, the collection also contains newspaper articles and letters regarding her exceptional performance as a student at Bryn Mawr College and her undergraduate and graduate report cards. Only a few photographs of de Laguna can be found in the collection along with photographs of her 1929 and 1979 trips to Greenland.
Scope and Contents:
These papers reflect the professional and personal life of Frederica de Laguna. The collection contains correspondence, field notes, writings, newspaper clippings, writings by others, subject files, sound recordings, photographs, and maps.
A significant portion of the collection consists of de Laguna's correspondence with family, friends, colleagues, and students, as well as her informants from the field. Her correspondence covers a wide range of subjects such as family, health, preparations for field work, her publications and projects, the Northwest Coast, her opinions on the state of anthropology, and politics. Among her notable correspondents are Kaj Birket-Smith, J. Desmond Clark, Henry Collins, George Foster, Viola Garfield, Marie-Françoise Guédon, Diamond Jenness, Michael Krauss, Therkel Mathiassen, Catharine McClellan, and Wallace Olson. She also corresponded with several eminent anthropologists including Franz Boas, William Fitzhugh, J. Louis Giddings, Emil Haury, June Helm, Melville Herskovitz, Alfred Kroeber, Helge Larsen, Alan Lomax, Margaret Mead, Froelich Rainey, Leslie Spier, Ruth Underhill, James VanStone, Annette Weiner, and Leslie White.
The field notes in the collection mainly represent de Laguna and her assistants' work in the Northern Tlingit region of Alaska from 1949 to 1954. In addition, the collection contains materials related to her work in the St. Lawrence River Valley in Ontario in 1947 and Catharine McClellan's field journal for her research in Aishihik, Yukon Territory in 1968. Most of the audio reels in the collection are field recordings made by de Laguna, McClellan, and Marie-Françoise Guédon of vocabulary and songs and speeches at potlatches and other ceremonies from 1952 to 1969. Tlingit and several Athapaskan languages including Atna, Tutochone, Upper Tanana, and Tanacross are represented in the recordings. Also in the collection are copies of John R. Swanton's Tlingit recordings and Hiroko Hara's recordings among the Hare Indians. Additional materials related to de Laguna's research on the Northwest Coast include her notes on clans and tribes in Series VI: Subject Files and her notes on Tlingit vocabulary and Yakutat names specimens in Series 10: Card Files.
Drafts and notes for Voyage to Greenland, Travels Among the Dena, and The Tlingit Indians can be found in the collection as well as her drawings for her dissertation and materials related to her work for the Handbook of North American Indians and other publications. There is little material related to Under Mount Saint Elias except for correspondence, photocopies and negatives of plates, and grant applications for the monograph. Of special interest among de Laguna's writings is a photocopy of her historical fiction novel, The Thousand March.
Other materials of special interest are copies of her talks, including her AAA presidential address, and the dissertation of Regna Darnell, a former student of de Laguna's. In addition, materials on the history of anthropology are in the collection, most of which can found with her teaching materials. The collection also contains copies of photographs from the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899. Although the bulk of the collection documents de Laguna's professional years, the collection also contains newspaper articles and letters regarding her exceptional performance as a student at Bryn Mawr College and her undergraduate and graduate report cards. Only a few photographs of de Laguna can be found in the collection along with photographs of her 1929 and 1979 trips to Greenland.
Frederica Annis Lopez de Leo de Laguna was a pioneering archaeologist and ethnographer of northwestern North America. Known as Freddy by her friends, she was one of the last students of Franz Boas. She served as first vice-president of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) from 1949 to 1950 and as president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) from 1966-1967. She also founded the anthropology department at Bryn Mawr College where she taught from 1938 to 1972. In 1975, she and Margaret Mead, a former classmate, were the first women to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Born on October 3, 1906 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, de Laguna was the daughter of Theodore Lopez de Leo de Laguna and Grace Mead Andrus, both philosophy professors at Bryn Mawr College. Often sick as a child, de Laguna was home-schooled by her parents until she was 9. She excelled as a student at Bryn Mawr College, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in politics and economics in 1927. She was awarded the college's prestigious European fellowship, which upon the suggestion of her parents, she deferred for a year to study anthropology at Columbia University under Boas. Her parents had recently attended a lecture given by Boas and felt that anthropology would unite her interests in the social sciences and her love for the outdoors.
After a year studying at Columbia with Boas, Gladys Reichard, and Ruth Benedict, de Laguna was still uncertain whether anthropology was the field for her. Nevertheless, she followed Boas's advice to spend her year abroad studying the connection between Eskimo and Paleolithic art, which would later became the topic of her dissertation. In the summer of 1928, she gained fieldwork experience under George Grant MacCurdy visiting prehistoric sites in England, France, and Spain. In Paris, she attended lectures on prehistoric art by Abbe Breuil and received guidance from Paul Rivet and Marcelin Boule. Engaged to an Englishman she had met at Columbia University, de Laguna decided to also enroll at the London School of Economics in case she needed to earn her degree there. She took a seminar with Bronislaw Malinowski, an experience she found unpleasant and disappointing.
It was de Laguna's visit to the National Museum in Copenhagen to examine the archaeological collections from Central Eskimo that became the turning point in her life. During her visit, she met Therkel Mathiassen who invited her to be his assistant on what would be the first scientific archaeological excavation in Greenland. She sailed off with him in June 1929, intending to return early in August. Instead, she decided to stay until October to finish the excavation with Mathiassen, now convinced that her future lay in anthropology. When she returned from Greenland she broke off her engagement with her fiancé, deciding that she would not able to both fully pursue a career in anthropology and be the sort of wife she felt he deserved. Her experiences in Greenland became the subject of her 1977 memoir, Voyage to Greenland: A Personal Initiation into Anthropology.
The following year, Kaj Birket-Smith, whom de Laguna had also met in Copenhagen, agreed to let her accompany him as his research assistant on his summer expedition to Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet. When Birket-Smith fell ill and was unable to go, de Laguna was determined to continue on with the trip. She convinced the University of Pennsylvania Museum to fund her trip to Alaska to survey potential excavation sites and took as her assistant her 20 year old brother, Wallace, who became a geologist. A close family, de Laguna's brother and mother would later accompany her on other research trips.
In 1931, the University of Pennsylvania Museum hired de Laguna to catalogue Eskimo collections. They again financed her work in Cook Inlet that year as well as the following year. In 1933, she earned her PhD from Columbia and led an archaeological and ethnological expedition of the Prince William Sound with Birket-Smith. They coauthored "The Eyak Indians of the Copper River Delta, Alaska," published in 1938. In 1935, de Laguna led an archaeological and geological reconnaissance of middle and lower Yukon Valley, traveling down the Tanana River. Several decades later, the 1935 trip contributed to two of her books: Travels Among the Dena, published in 1994, and Tales From the Dena, published in 1997.
In 1935 and 1936, de Laguna worked briefly as an Associate Soil Conservationist, surveying economic and social conditions on the Pima Indian Reservation in Arizona. She later returned to Arizona during the summers to conduct research and in 1941, led a summer archaeological field school under the sponsorship of Bryn Mawr College and the Museum of Northern Arizona.
By this time, de Laguna had already published several academic articles and was also the author of three fiction books. Published in 1930, The Thousand March: Adventures of an American Boy with the Garibaldi was her historical fiction book for juveniles. She also wrote two detective novels: The Arrow Points to Murder (1937) and Fog on the Mountain (1938). The Arrow Points to Murder is set in a museum based on her experiences at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the American Museum of National History. Fog on the Mountain is set in Cook Inlet and draws upon de Laguna's experiences in Alaska. Both detective novels helped to finance her research.
De Laguna began her long career at Bryn Mawr College in 1938 when she was hired as a lecturer in the sociology department to teach the first ever anthropology course at the college. By 1950, she was chairman of the joint department of Sociology and Anthropology, and in 1967, the chairman of the newly independent Anthropology Department. She was also a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania (1947-1949; 1972-1976) and at the University of California, Berkeley (1959-1960; 1972-1973.)
During World War II, de Laguna took a leave of absence from Bryn Mawr College to serve in the naval reserve from 1942 to 1945. As a member of WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), she taught naval history and codes and ciphers to women midshipmen at Smith College. She took great pride in her naval service and in her later years joined the local chapter of WAVES National, an organization for former and current members of WAVES.
In 1950, de Laguna returned to Alaska to work in the Northern Tlingit region. Her ethnological and archaeological study of the Tlingit Indians brought her back several more times throughout the 1950s and led to the publication of Under Mount Saint Elias in 1972. Her comprehensive three-volume monograph is still considered the authoritative work on the Yakutat Tlingit. In 1954, de Laguna turned her focus to the Atna Indians of Copper River, returning to the area in 1958, 1960, and 1968.
De Laguna retired from Bryn Mawr College in 1972 under the college's mandatory retirement policy. Although she suffered from many ailments in her later years including macular degeneration, she remained professionally active. Five decades after her first visit to Greenland, de Laguna returned to Upernavik in 1979 to conduct ethnographic investigations. In 1985, she finished editing George Thornton Emmons' unpublished manuscript The Tlingit Indians. A project she had begun in 1955, the book was finally published in 1991. In 1986, she served as a volunteer consultant archaeologist and ethnologist for the U. S. Forest Service in Alaska. In 1994, she took part in "More than Words . . ." Laura Bliss Spann's documentary on the last Eyak speaker, Maggie Smith Jones. By 2001, de Laguna was legally blind. Nevertheless, she continued working on several projects and established the Frederica de Laguna Northern Books Press to reprint out-of-print literature and publish new scholarly works on Arctic cultures.
Over her lifetime, de Laguna received several honors including her election into the National Academy Sciences in 1976, the Distinguished Service Award from AAA in 1986, and the Lucy Wharton Drexel Medal from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. De Laguna's work, however, was respected by not only her colleagues but also by the people she studied. In 1996, the people of Yakutat honored de Laguna with a potlatch. Her return to Yakutat was filmed by Laura Bliss Spann in her documentary Reunion at Mt St. Elias: The Return of Frederica de Laguna to Yakutat.
At the age of 98, Frederica de Laguna passed away on October 6, 2004.
Darnell, Regna. "Frederica de Laguna (1906-2004)." American Anthropologist 107.3 (2005): 554-556.
de Laguna, Frederica. Voyage to Greenland: A Personal Initiation into Anthropology. New York: W.W. Norton Co, 1977.
McClellan, Catharine. "Frederica de Laguna and the Pleasures of Anthropology." American Ethnologist 16.4 (1989): 766-785.
Olson, Wallace M. "Obituary: Frederica de Laguna (1906-2004)." Arctic 58.1 (2005): 89-90.
Although this collection contains a great deal of correspondence associated with her service as president of AAA, most of her presidential records can be found in American Anthropological Association Records 1917-1972. Also at the National Anthropological Archives are her transcripts of songs sung by Yakutat Tlingit recorded in 1952 and 1954 located in MS 7056 and her notes and drawings of Dorset culture materials in the National Museum of Canada located in MS 7265. The Human Studies Film Archive has a video oral history of de Laguna conducted by Norman Markel (SC-89.10.4).
Related collections can also be found in other repositories. The University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania holds materials related to work that de Laguna carried out for the museum from the 1930s to the 1960s. Materials relating to her fieldwork in Angoon and Yakutat can be found in the Rasmuson Library of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in the papers of Francis A. Riddell, a field assistant to de Laguna in the early 1950s. Original photographs taken in the field in Alaska were deposited in the Alaska State Library, Juneau. Both the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress and the American Philosophical Library have copies of her field recordings and notes. The American Museum of Natural History has materials related to her work editing George T. Emmons' manuscript. De Laguna's papers can also be found at the Bryn Mawr College Archives.
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Frederica de Laguna.
Some of the original field notes are restricted due to Frederica de Laguna's request to protect the privacy of those accused of witchcraft. The originals are restricted until 2030. Photocopies may be made with the names of the accused redacted.