Bryn Mawr College Art & Archaeology Collections

Frederica DeLaguna: Contributions of an American Anthropologist to the Bryn Mawr College Collections

April 1999 through December 2003


 

The objects on display in this exhibit were collected by Frederica de Laguna, who founded the Bryn Mawr College Anthropology Department. She taught anthropology at Bryn Mawr from 1938 until her retirement in 1975. She continues to serve the college as the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor Emeritus of anthropology.

De Laguna's achievements cover an extensive time span. She began doing fieldwork in 1929, after graduating from Bryn Mawr College, and continued her work in the field into the late 1980's. She has written 16 books and over a hundred other publications.

Most of the objects in this case were collected by de Laguna during the 1950's and 1960's while she was conducting ethnographic research among the Tlingit and Copper River Athapaskan Indians in Alaska.

This exhibit is in honor of Professor de Laguna, under whose guidance eighty percent of Bryn Mawr's collection of archaeological and ethnographic objects was established.

1906: born in Ann Arbor, Michigan
1927: graduates from Bryn Mawr College (AB)
1929: begins field experience as assistant in a survey of the archaeology of Greenland
1930: leads archaeological and ethnological reconnaissance of Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet in Southern Alaska
1933: receives Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University
1934: publishes The Archaeology of Cook Inlet, Alaska. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press for the University Museum.
1938: begins academic career at Bryn Mawr College
1947: publishes The Prehistory of Northern North America as Seen from the Yukon. Society for American Archaeology.
1949: continues work in southeastern Alaska, conducting research that combined the approaches of archaeology, history, and ethnography among the northern Tlingit communities of the Yakutat
1960: publishes the Story of a Tlingit Village: A Problem in the Relationship Between Archaeological, Ethnological and Historical Methods. Washington, DC: Bulletin 17, Bureau of American Ethnology.
1966-67: serves as president of the American Anthropological Association
1967: anthropology splits from its association with sociology and de Laguna, who had been the chair of the combined department, continues as chair of the Department of Anthropology.
1972: Under Mount Saint Elias: The History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, No. 7 (in 3 parts).

1975: de Laguna retires, but immediately begins further serving Bryn Mawr College as William R. Kennan, Jr., professor Emeritus of anthropology
1975: de Laguna and Margaret Mead become first women anthropologists elected to the National Academy of Sciences
1975: publishes The Archaeology of Cook Inlet, Alaska, 2nd revised edition. Anchorage: Alaska Historical Society.
1986: receives American Anthropological Association's Distinguished Service Award
1991: Edits and contributes to George Thornton Emmons' The Tlingit Indians. Seattle & London: University of Washington.
2000: projected publication date of her latest book, Travels Among the Dena. Olympia: University of Washington Press.

Objects on Display:

1: Winter Boots. Material: Leather, fur, corduroy, sinew, thread. Provenience: Anaktwuk Pass, Alaska. Culture: Eskimo. Made by Susy Paneak in 1965. Collected and donated by Herb L. Alexander, assistant professor in the Anthropology Department at BMC underneath Frederica de Laguna in 1967-68.

2: Ground Squirrel Trap/Snare. Material: Wood. Culture: Ahtena (Athapaskan). Made by Mrs. Elona McKinley of Copper River, Alaska. Collected by Frederica de Laguna, 1960. Explanation: "This type of snare was set in the animal's trail, and brush was arranged in two converging lines on each side so that the animal could not easily avoid the snare . . . When the animal tried to force its way through the gate, it would break the grass strings holding open the noose, and these movements would dislodge the little trigger stick or hook. This permitted the heavy butt end of the pole to swing down, while the animal was hoisted by the neck until its hind legs just cleared the ground. The line from the noose was threaded though a piece of wood . . ., which slid down on the animal so that it could not bite through the line" (De Laguna Saint Elias 371-372).

3: Model of Fish Trap. Material: Wood. Culture: Athapaskan. Made by "Old" Jimmy Sinyone of Northway on the Upper Tanana River, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna, 1960. Explanation: Cylindrical traps for salmon and oelachon, with an inverted funnel-shaped entrance were probably the most common type of fishtrap. De Laguna quotes Harrington as describing this type of fishtrap as "'an 'open-tip funnel trap, a sort of slatted basket of slender poles sometimes 10 feet long with a funnel of poles at one end, through the open tip of which fish find their way into the trap, few finding their way out through the tiny opening to which there is no convergent guiding from the inside. A door at one side of the trap enables removal of the catch'" (387).

4: Gambling Sticks (43). Culture: Tlingit. Made by Jack Reed of Yakutat, Alask, for Frederica de Laguna, 1952. Explanation: These sticks were made for De Laguna as "counters" for playing Chair Dice (see below number 5). Twenty counters are needed to play Chair Dice, but jack Reed made 3 extra, in case some were lost. The sticks are pencil-shaped like those for the Stick Tossing Game.


(Jack Reed)
5: Chair Die. Material: Wood. Culture: Tlingitized Eyak. Made by Jack Reed of Yakutat, Alaska. Collected by Frederica de Laguna, 1952. Explanation: The chair die was used in a gambling game, which De Laguna describes as follows: "Two persons play against each other, using 20 sticks as counters, each having a pile of 10 in front of him at the start of the game [see Explanation for number 4]. To play, one person takes the die by the 'back' of the 'chair' between thumb and forefinger, and flips it over the back of his hand with a snap of the wrist. It counts two points if the 'chair' lands sitting up on the shortest edge; 1 point if it lands on one of the other three edges; and 0 if it falls flat on either side. As he scores, the player takes 1 or two counters from his opponent's pile and adds them to his own. If the die falls flat on either side, the player misses his turn, which passes to his opponent. Winning involves taking all the counters" (Mount Elias 555). There are, however, other methods of scoring.

6: Bull-Roarer. Material: Wood. Culture: Athapaskan. Made by Tenos Charley of Copper Center, Alaska. Collected by Frederica de Laguna, 1960. Explanation: The bull-roarer or toy-buzz was commonly used as a toy.

7: Carrying Cradle. Material: Wood Bark, Leather, Yarn. Unknown maker, Tanacross, Alaska. Culture: Athapaskan. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna in Christochina, Alaska, 1968. Explanation: The carrying cradle was used to transport babies. Due to its design, the baby is held securely in his or her seat but at the same time freedom of movement is possible for his or her legs. The carrying cradle is used widely throughout North America, except among the Eskimo.

8: Basket. Material: Birch Bark. Culture: Tetlin, Upper Tanana (Athapaskan). Made by Jessie Titus, Tetlin, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna at the Tazlina Trading Post, 1960. Explanation: Used to cook and store meat and boil food at camp.

9: Basket. Material: Birch Bark. Culture: Athapaskan. Made by Annie Moses, Tanacross on the Upper Tanana River, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna at Tazlina Trading Post, 1960. Explanation: See object number 8.

10: Dish. Material: Birch Wood. Culture: Athapaskan. Made by Jum Tyone, Gulkana, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna in 1960. Explanation: Household utensil.

11: Spoon. Material: Wood. Culture: Ahtena (Athapaskan). Made by Jum Tyone, Gulkana, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna at the Native Bible Conference in Copper Center, Alaska, 1960. Explanation: Household utensil.

12: Model of Skin Boat. Material: Wood, Seal, or Caribo Intestine. Culture: Ahtena, Copper River Tribe (Athapaskan). Made by Howard Sanford, Chistochina, Copper River Valley. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna in 1960.

13: Barbed Harpoon Head. Material: Bone. Culture/Period: Birnik. Archaeological artifact found in Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna in a Seattle curio shop in 1932. Explanation: In her ethnographic research, De Laguna sates the following about the harpoon: "The barbed head is attached to a line of spruce roots. The line is then fastened to the forward end of the spear. . . The attachment is such that, after the animal is harpooned, the line detaches from the shaft which floats away and is then picked up by the hunter" (Mount Elias 377). Under the skin of animal, the harpoon head (detached from shaft) turns at right angles to the line and cannot leave the body of the animal.

14: Barbed Harpoon Head. Material: antler. Culture: Tlingit. Unknown maker, Kachemak Bay,
Cook Inlet, Alaska. Collected by Frederica de Laguna, 1931. Explanation: See number 13.

15: Model Sealing Harpoon. Material: Wood, Ivory, Sinew. Culture: Inupiat?. Unknown maker, Wainwright, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna, 1950. Explanation: Used for harpooning seals at open holes or leads of water; harpoon used with the wooden shaft, ivory hand rest, fixed foreshaft, and toggle head.

16: Model Sealing Harpoon. Material: Wood, Ivory, Baleen. Culture: Inupiat? Tlingitized Eyak? Unknown maker, Wainwright, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna in Juneau Indian Arts and Crafts, 1950. Explanation: In capturing seal as they come up for air at breathing holes, the sealing harpoon with the wooden shaft, ivory ice pick (attached by baleen lashings), socket piece and barbed head is used.

17: Model of Kayak, with double-bladed paddle and harpoon shaft (harpoon head is missing). Material: Wood, Gut, Sinew. Culture: Tlingitized Eyak?. Unknown maker, Bristol Bay Area, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna in 1950.

18: Model of Sea Otter Canoe, with skin robe or rug, two paddles and forked prow. Material: Wood, Fur. Culture: Tlingitized Eyak. Made by William Howard, Yakutat, Alaska. Purchased by Frederica de Laguna in Juneau, 1950.

 

This exhibit was developed by Amy Spangler '99, for the College's Collections. If you have any questions or comments email: tjohnsto@brynmawr.edu.


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