Indigenous Education: the Center Piece of the Barbara Drake Collection

There are so many elements and materials that Barbara Drake donated to The Claremont Colleges, those of us archiving can sometimes lose sight of the specifics. Until this week, I hadn’t spent much time looking over the primary education resources, except for when these materials were divided into subject specific categories weeks ago. However, this week when I became reacquainted with these materials, it brought to life the spirit of Indigenous education that Drake encouraged and centered in her own life.

Needless to say, Barbara was passionate about educating every age group. However, in her materials there is an unmistakable emphasis on making Indigenous education available to primary school children. Not only did Barbara travel between Southern California districts and schools, hosting workshops and interactive lessons ranging in topic from traditional Native American housing to astronomy that incorporated an Indigenous point of view. In addition to these services, she also kept a meticulous variation of Indigenous centered pedagogies and teacher’s guides. These guides inform educators on how to center Native American perspectives, beliefs and traditions in primary school lessons. These pedagogies and guides touch on topics such as Indigenous time-keeping, astronomy, language, math, music and many more.

Plainly stated, Barbara made an effort to retain education guides on how to center Indigenous voices and perspectives in just about any primary school lesson. It cannot be overstated how important these resources are. Children of Indigenous heritage are rarely catered to in terms of educational representation, Barbara’s materials make a serious, and much needed, attempt to correct that.

Sustainability

As my colleague and I continue to file Barbara’s materials into their designated folders, I was fortunate enough to stake my claim over filing her research on ethnobotany, plants and vegetation. As I was doing so, I couldn’t help but think of climate change. As a gen y/gen z cusp, I have known most of my life that the planet was suffering from our wanton abuses of its many resources.

This made me think about the machinations under which our elected leaders, and elected leaders abroad, stand idly by while the planet dies before our eyes. They retain no urgency. They seemingly retain no foresight. They don’t mind if the planet is in an irreversible spiral by the time we inherit it. It is not lost on me that the world will likely look different in 10, 15, or 20 years. However, by that same tenor it is not lost on me that we might continue to see our natural resources stripped away, laid barren or depleted in the name of commercialization during that same time.

Barbara, and her ancestors that came before her, put an unmistakable emphasis on plant-based skills and food, while simultaneously cataloguing geographically relevant biodiversity as they went on. One of the most valuable things I have learned from Barbara’s collection is the incredible biodiversity represented in California, and specifically Los Angeles County. It appears to me, from her materials, that Indigenous peoples have a mutual respect for the earth. They have been exceptional stewards of the earth for centuries. And yet, colonization has deprived all of us existing today of a planet in good health. Instead, the exploitative nature of our commercialized industries and agriculture have painted us into a corner where we are rapidly losing resources and garnering natural disasters. Poignantly, Barbara’s materials allow any observer to be a more careful steward of our ailing planet. In her materials, one can find plant-based recipes that incrementally contribute to a potential decrease in the demand for animal products. In her materials, one can find instructions and suggestions on how to garden, fish and hunt, allowing the reader to devise strategies for a decreased reliance on industrialized means of production.

Simply put, there’s something worth knowing in Barbara’s collection for everyone, especially environmentalists.

Dull Knife, the Cheyenne and the Pursuit of Self-Determination

What constitutes a hero? Some might be tempted to list attributes, deeds, or point to a righteous struggle in which one emerges victorious. I have come to understand that heroes are mainly subjective, and many who are heroic are not catalogued the way, or to the extent, they deserved. Many Native Americans displayed unabashed heroism when colonizers encroached on their land, families, livestock and livelihood. One of these was Dull Knife of the Northern Cheyenne Nation.

I was particularly moved by the story of Dull Knife, the Cheyenne and their hard fought struggle to remain autonomous. Dull Knife was no stranger to resistance or battle, he fought in the Cheyenne-Arapahoe War, the Sioux Wars of the Northern Plains, and fought alongside Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull during the War for the Black Hills. The Native Americans were underestimated, and after each battle they, along with their Chiefs, made their formidable posture known. As such, General George Crook coordinated a surprise attack on Dull Knife’s camp. Those who survived fled and surrendered elsewhere. Subsequently, they were forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma that touted little game, unfamiliar weather and was host to diseases.

In 1878, Dull Knife and 300 others fled, unable to bare the deplorable conditions the colonizers had provided for them. They all began a 1000 mile journey with a single step. On this journey they were forced to split up, reconfigure and eventually surrender at Ft. Robinson. A year after the death of Dull Knife, the Northern Cheyenne were granted the Tongue River Reservation in Montana.

The later years of Dull Knife’s life were marked with struggle, oppression, concealment and brutalization. He never lived to see the small consolation of a reservation, closer to their home of Wyoming, awarded to his people. Even so, he never wavered in his struggle for freedom. He never caved to the proposals of assimilation or displacement, and no matter how hard the white invaders tried, they could never scrub history of his influence or his stature. Rather, like many Native American Chiefs, his struggle casts a large shadow over society 150 years later. The shadow of his heroism, and the heroism of those like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, eclipse the American platitude of “liberty and justice for all”. When one takes the time to learn about those like Dull Knife, they are met with the duty to acknowledge that we are truly an imperfect nation, founded by imperialism. Barbara’s collection reminds me that the term “Founding Fathers” is a misnomer. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, nor the others founded this land. On the contrary, it was the ancestors of those like Dull Knife and Barbara herself who are true founders.

Dull Knife of the Northern Cheyenne
One of Barbara’s pieced of literature regarding Dull Knife

More letters….

After working with the correspondence of Mr. John Seymour for the last month and a half, I was sure that all the letters have been organized and placed in folders. Well… not completely. Today, I discovered that there are more letters that were hidden between other materials in two other boxes. This is the fun part of working with primary sources that you never know what else will you find. So back to unfolding letters, greetings cards, and other notes. This Christmas card/letter below actually reminded me to send my own soon. 


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In the Process of Processing

Hello! I am very happy to report that Week 2 of my CCEPS Fellowship has allowed me to make a solid contribution to processing Honnold/Mudd Special Collections’ Dead Sea Scroll Files! 

I love “before and after” photos – they seem like a cathartic way to celebrate progress – so why don’t we have a look at how the collection has transformed over the last week? Here’s what it looked like when it was originally delivered to our library:

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And here’s what it looks like after about 20 hours worth of work:
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Even though it’s a lot more empty than last week, 20 hours seems like a lot of time to go through just half a file box, doesn’t it? Well, it is – but archivists do a lot more than just put papers in new file folders when they’re “processing” a collection! In fact, when an archivist processes a repository of papers, s/he needs to move deliberately and meticulously to make sure it’s arranged just right.
In the case of the Dead Sea Scroll papers, this means I’ve been spending a great deal of time organizing every file chronologically, flagging items which will require special preservation attention and/or may need to be refiled for the sake of researcher access, and taking careful notes as to details which might be helpful to include in the finding aid which I’ll eventually create.
For example, every time I see a paperclip in the collection, I need to stop and remove that sucker – it will eventually damage the papers it’s holding together (and we don’t want that to happen!).
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“Just say no to paperclips!”
For the purposes of preservation, archivists instead group papers together in cute little folders they make out of acid-free, white paper:
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“When it comes to choosing between paperclips and acid-free folders, there’s no choice!
In closing, I’ll leave you with a shot of the papers I’ve finished arranging thus far. It will be very exciting when they’re all processed and researchers can use them!
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