Franz Boas PapersWestern Social Science



At the Ryan Nicolson/G̱wi'molas Potlatch

Boas Project members were honored to join in the celebration at the Ryan Nicolson/G̱wi'molas Potlatch in March 2016 at Alert Bay, British Columbia; photo shared by the Nicolson family, with our sincere thanks!

At the Nicolson Potlatch

At the Mikael Willie/Ol Siwid Potlatch

In early March 2015, members of the FBP project travelled to Alert Bay, Cormorant Island and the home of the Namgi's First Nation to attend the Mikael Willie/Ol Siwid Potlatch. The night before the Potlatch, Friday March 6, we met with our project partners from the American Philosophical Society who had travelled from Philidelphia, PA and were introduced to dozens of hereditary chiefs in the Big House. Ryan Nicolson and Mikael Willie introduced us briefly by informing the leaders about our project and explaining that were there to "do things in the right way." Eagle along BC CoastlineThe following day, we packed ourselves into the Big House with about 1000 others for an intense and riveting display of history, law, language, and pageantry. We had the good fortune to witness 50 songs and dances over the 21-hour event, many of which had not been performed in decades. One such performance was called the Animal Kingdom Dance, a display that was animated by Mungo Martin in the early 1950s. The project was allowed "floor time" at the Potlatch, where Drs. Regna Darnell and Susan Hill addressed our host, Mikael Willie, the leaders, and the community as a whole with our intentions. They articulated our commitment to our local partners, the Musgamgw Dzawada' enuxw Tribal Council, and as a group we presented a series of gifts to our hosts, including a research fellowship to be held at the discretion of Chief Ol Siwid. We were gifted the opportunity "to do the right thing" and were allowed to move from the important role of 'witness' to 'participants,' as were led in a song and dance around the Big House to receive us. In the early morning of Sunday, as the event was completed we were further gifted with bags, shirts, towels, dvds, money, jam, and herbs.  Our simple instructions for attending the event were to do the right thing, and in response to our involvement and actions we were told that we did. As with our trip to Namgi's First Nation and Gway'i (Kingcome Village) in the summer of 2014, this was a resounding success.  -Marc Pinkoski

The Franz Boas Papers Speaker Series: Inaugural Lecture, March 3, 2015

"The elimination of the Negro Type": Franz Boas, Anthropology, and the Plasticity of Humankind. Boas' ideas about plasticity into transnational conversations about the malleability of human "types" (Europeans, Asians, Indigenous, in addition to people of African descent in settler colonial contexts) at the turn of the 19th & 20th Centuries. Gregory D. Smithers is an associate professor of history at The Virginia Commonwealth University, Co-editor The Boasian Road to Plasticity (The Franz Boas Papers), and author of Slave Breeding: Sex, Violence, and Memory in African American History (University Press of Florida, 2013).