This week was a busy week, both with Barbara’s collection and finals at CGU! As we head into the winter break I will be thinking a lot about the things I learned from some of Barbara’s materials this week. This week began the processing phase, where her materials are arranged into formal series and subseries for future research. One of the subseries covers her educational materials on different tribal histories as well as geographical locations related to these tribal histories. In these folders she had a nearly perfectly preserved Alaska: The Magazine of Life on the Last Frontier issue from July of 1978, dedicated to all things Alaska. I was fortunate enough to be able to sift through the pages and get a candid peek into decades before my existence and to a place I had never been. The blue toned images of snow caps stood in juxtaposition to the clippings from Arizona Highway which revealed a rust colored landscape with a brimming blue sky, accented by stone and clay housing. Drake’s attention to detail when curating these images is evident, she reminds anyone who looks at them that Indigenous people and Indigenous spaces are anything but monolithic.
When reading through her educational materials I couldn’t help but notice the gaps in my own public school K-12 education. I had heard names like Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and Crazy Horse but didn’t know the details of their courage and resolve, or extraordinary lives, until reading through Barbara’s materials. I learned from the materials that Chief Sitting Bull refused to surrender, even in his last moments. I learned that it was Chief Sitting Bull who forced General Custer to take his last stand in the battle of Little Big Horn. Needless to say, I am grateful Barbara’s materials fill some of the gaps in my American history education. As I continue to process this collection I have no doubt that I will continue to learn more from Barbara and all the materials she thoughtfully curated.
This concludes my first week as a CCEPS archival fellow and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to catalogue someone like Barbara Drake’s collection. Through her archival materials it is abundantly clear what a force to be reckoned with she was. As a Gabrieleño/Tongva Elder and a member of the local Tongva community she consistently elevated the voices and perspectives of Indigenous peoples not just in her community, but anywhere she had the chance. Barbara Drake was responsible for countless events that embraced the Indigenous community including workshops, natural foods classes, celebration of life events and traditional ceremonies to name a few. However, she was also instrumental in displaying her culture to educate those that were not Indigenous and she did so all over Los Angeles County, Orange County, the Inland Empire and many other enclaves of California. Later in her career she would go on to be a lecturer at Pitzer College on ethnoecology.
Working on Barbara Drake’s collection will be beneficial in many ways, but one of the most salient benefits is allowing her collection and her work to continue to educate people even after her passing. It is an integral piece of American history to understand what Native American land we currently reside in and what treatment Native Americans have been subjected to since the inception of the United States. Barbara Drake made it her mission to educate people on this front but did not stop at the ethnoecology of the Gabrieleño/Tongva. Through the initial survey of her work, I found research and educational materials that touched on many tribal histories including, but not limited to, the Sioux, Lumbees, Cherokee, Hopi and Navajo. Her research detailed an incredible wealth of knowledge regarding plant species, plant uses, holistic remedies and plant-based recipes. On the other hand, I was totally intrigued by some of her correspondence, relaying what an action-oriented educator she really was. I am grateful for the opportunity to informally learn from Barbara Drake and plan to process her collection with the utmost care and responsibility. This week I fully surveyed Barba Drake’s collection and next week I will move on to the processing phase.