Franz Boas PapersWestern Social Science

Milestone Reports

Franz Boas Papers 2015-2016 Milestone Report for SSHRC

INTRODUCTION: The Franz Boas Documentary Edition continues its dual mandate of collaboration with and return of intellectual property to indigenous communities where Franz Boas did his research and production of print and electronic thematic volumes of selected and annotated correspondence.  The partnership between a major university press, the archive holding the documents, and Indigenous communities continues to prove productive.  We have continued to hone the relationship among the partners. The Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) has further developed its protocols and is planning at least one volume on Indigenous uses of Boas documents.  With the aid of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enux Tribal Council, a broader network of British Columbia Indigenous communities is being developed that will persist beyond the life of the Project.  The first volume of the documentary editions appeared in Sept. 2015.

THE DOCUMENTARY EDITION: Progress has been slow during the past year because of the need to develop a digital format compatible with the needs of the American Philosophical Society (APS), U. Nebraska Press and the Indigenous communities.  The APS digitization has limited searchability and the Nebraska electronic edition will not be fully searchable; neither of these factors was anticipated in advance.   We have planned our formats so that materials developed internally for our documentary editing team will ultimately be useful to all Partners (as supplement to published volumes, both electronic and in print; as enhanced searchability  for APS digital scans; as searchable by locally appropriate categories within Indigenous communities.)  We have now transcribed the majority of materials that will be needed by volume editors. Volume editors are now progressing much more rapidly in their work and several volumes should be forwarded to the Press in the coming year.  Several of our volume editors have written or are writing scholarly papers that arise form their documentary work.

One of our recurrent difficulties has been translation.  We have located a work study student who can do second reads on the Spanish letters re Boas in Mexico.  We have been able to translate some of the German correspondence and continue to seek affordable ways of pursuing this.

PARTNERSHIP UPDATES: We have made a number of changes in personnel as the emphasis of the project has shifted from setting out the scope of the research on thematic volumes and the liaison with descendant communities in British Columbia to selection and annotation of documents and to finalizing decisions about document metatagging, storage and access.

Dr. Martin Levitt, initial signatory to the American Philosophical Society Partnership, has retired as the Society’s Librarian.  His successor, Dr. Patrick Spero, is enthusiastic about continued (and expanded) support of the Boas Papers Project.  Under his leadership, mutual engagements with the APS Centre for Native American and Indigenous Research are proceeding in a spirit of mutual reinforcement.  CNAIR director Dr. Timothy Powell and his senior archivist Brian Carpenter continue to work closely with us on B.C. fieldwork and community engagement.  We have developed a joint collaboration with the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs in Vancouver.  UBCIC represents most of the interior tribes and fleshes out the collaborations we have already established on Vancouver Island.

The University of Nebraska Press has worked closely with us to develop a mutually satisfactory format for the thematic volumes.  The PD, PC/DE and Associate Director visited the Press for detailed negotiations.  Supported by the APS Librarian we were authorized to modify the Press template in ways that facilitate use of Boas documentary volumes by both Indigenous and scholarly audiences.  The Press defines electronic edition as an e-book, so we have also had to design digital formats for our editorial team and differ from those of both the Press and the APS.  This has taken a great deal of time and energy over the past year but promises a “third product” not envisioned in the original Partnership Grant application but responsive to the expressed needs of our Indigenous partners and the Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC).

New Co-Investigators:

New Editorial Advisory Board:

Other Updates:

Dr. Marc Pinkoski has resigned as Communities Liaison.  His responsibilities were based in Victoria where a number of Indigenous collaborators were students and our partnership with the university made it a convenient venue for periodic consultations and team meetings. 

Dawn Nicolson, former director of our tribal council partner, has replaced Dr. Pinkoski .  Her mandate is to extend the network of the Indigenous Advisory Council to include non-Kwakwaka’wakwcommunities in British Columbia and to develop community-appropriate mechanisms for vetting of materials proposed for publication and to advise on digital knowledge sharing. 

Sam Cronk has now been hired full-time as Project Coordinator and Digital Editor.  He is an ethnomusicologist and will also be a co-editor of at least one volume. 

TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT:  Because the APS Digital Library database includes insufficient metadata, their online letters are functionally unsearchable and do not meet the expressed needs of indigenous partners or the volume editorial teams. In response, PC/DE Sam Cronk has developed an Omeka database to store and share transcriptions of correspondence from the APS and other institutions. An effective workflow was implemented to transcribe, metatag and upload documents. Cronk worked this spring with Information and Media Studies graduate students at the University of Western Ontario, providing training for using an Omeka database and cataloguing archival documents. Database content available to all editors has also been significantly enriched by the digitization and transcription of documents shared by the American Museum of Natural History (Cronk and Moritz), the University of Washington (Smith), the Canadian Historical Museum (Moritz, Bain), and the Shetland Archives (Moritz).

Additional digital initiatives include an ongoing overhaul of the Franz Boas Papers website, launching a facebook page, and the development of digital complements (Digital Hub) for publications, including a Boas Wiki (with biographical information for each correspondent), and digitally enhanced maps.  A full explanation of the Omeka Database and Digital Hub has been provided by the PC/DE through a series of workshops to editorial teams, project partners (including the University of Nebraska Press) and the IAC.

ORGANIZATION OF ACTIVITIES:  Roles and Responsibilities of Key Team Members and Partner Organizations:  New Communities Liaison Dawn Nicolson is serving as a connection between FBP project editors and staff and Indigenous communities, providing information and support especially with reference to community contacts and protocols.  

The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Tribal Council continues to support the work of Ryan Nicolson for the Project on their Behalf.  Deanna Nicolson is now working on language revitalization and education.  Ryan Nicolson received a research grant from the APS Phillips Fund.  He sponsored a potlatch to present his work on place names, clan names and chiefly titles to the Kwakwaka’wakw communities.  These are the key concerns that guide the annotation and digital footprint of the documentary volumes.  Mikael Willie (Ol Siwidi) has used the support of the Boas Project presented at his potlatch in March 2015 to carry out his research on clan names and chiefly titles.

The PD, Chair and Co-Chair of the IAC, Associate Director, and several Victoria-based researchers attended the Potlatch.  The Boas Project was recognized for its direct contribution to the potlatch.  The PD accepted a Marianne Nicolson print and other gifts presented during the Potlatch in acknowledgement of this support.  The APS presented all participants with copies of Boas-Hunt unpublished materials from their archives, as well as a manuscript dictionary.  The reinstatement of traditional governance through the potlatch system relies heavily on research in the Boas papers and other ethnographic documents.  The potlatch system is the best potential mechanism for all 17 Kwakwaka’wakw tribes to make collective decisions about material for the documentary edition.  This potlatch plus the one a year earlier have moved us a long way toward this goal.

The Indigenous Advisory Council met in Washington in June and in Vancouver in December, 2015. The Indigenous Uses of Boas' Research volume(s) is being led by the IAC, with contributions coming from IAC members as well as other identified Indigenous scholars (i.e., Sarah Hernandez, Sicangu Lakota, PhD in English). It is anticipated this work will appeal to a broad academic and Indigenous community-based scholarly audience from the fields of Anthropology, English, Geography, History, Indigenous Studies, Political Science, and various interdisciplinary areas of inquiry. While some archival material will be reproduced in this publication, the overall composition will be more similar to the essays found in Volume 1.

KNOWLEDGE MOBILIZATION: The third year of the project has again produced multiple deliverables in scholarship and outreach activities foreshadowed in the application.  The list below summarizes KM already underway.


Regna Darnell, Michelle Hamilton, Robert L.A. Hancock and Joshua Smith, eds. Franz Boas as Public Intellectual: Theory, Ethnography, Activism.  Volume I: Franz Boas Papers: Documentary Edition.   University of Nebraska Press, 2015. 

Regna Darnell

Evan Habkirk

Sergei Kan:

 Sarah Moritz:

David Posthumus:

Joshua Smith:

Vermeulen, Han


PhD Dissertations

Fellowships and Grants:


Conference and Workshop Presentations

Angie Bain

Quetzil Castañeda

M. Sam Cronk

Regna Darnell 

Michelle Hamilton

Evan Habkirk

Robert L.A. Hancock

Susan Hill

Sergei Kan

Sarah Moritz

David Posthumus

Heidi Stark:

Jarrad Reddekop:

Joshua Smith


Additional Outreach 


Ongoing KM Priorities:

PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION: Acceptance by the Association of Documentary Editing of a roundtable Panel (Susan Hill, Angie Bain, Joshua Smith, Sam Cronk, Evan Habkirk) at their upcoming annual conference (New Orleans, Aug 2016), and invitation of Smith and Cronk to join two additional roundtable discussions.

 Acceptance and recent presentation (May 2016) of panel presentation about Franz Boas at NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) by members of the IAC.

 Other potential measures of success include: 

 We continue to leverage our work with other research projects.  Our work dovetails with that of the APS Endangered Languages Committee and members of our team will attend their conference in the coming year.  We have supported the digitization and the establishment of CNAIR.  Our long-term contributions to the APS in digital access, dissemination and searchability will enhance the value of APS resources for our Indigenous community collaborators.  The Boas Project has supported Indigenous scholars to come to the APS (e.g., Ryan and Deanna Nicolson).  This is particularly important while CNAIR is still seeking full endowment funding.

The APS has obtained funding for an updated digital catalogue of their Native American resources. Digitization of the Boas professional papers (correspondence) undergirds the intention to digitize as much as possible of the manuscript holdings in the ACLS collection held by Boas at the time of his death.  The catalogue will correct errors in existing microfilm and digital scans.

We continue to pursue linkages to German scholars and hope to join them in funding applications for location, digitization and translation of Boas materials in German, still located in Germany (e.g., through the German Research Council).  We are still seeking affordable translation for German documents in the APS collections that should be included in the documentary edition.

The suitability and significance of our activities has followed the template laid out in the Partnership proposal.  The outputs in terms of training HQP, conference papers, publications and enhanced Aboriginal community connections continue to be more than we had planned for in the 2nd year of the project.  These facets of the project, and the individual volumes of the documentary edition, will not move forward in lockstep.  Each part of the project has its own trajectory and the PD will keep the pieces in communication.  Our annual workshops at conferences and in B.C. will integrate these different parts of the work and allow us to continually assess the interim and final objectives of the project from the point of view of different Partners, team members, and consultants.

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