"It thus seems supremely important to document the anthropological material through uncensored accounts of natives in their own words and in their own language, to preserve the original meaning.” The Results of the Jesup Expedition, Franz Boas at the 16th International Congress of the Americanists, Vienna 1908

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Introduction: Biographical Notes

Today, we take for granted that all peoples have "cultures," distinctive ways of living and of witnessing these experiences in their rituals, tales, and art.

Anthropologists are people who study people, exploring the ways different human communities have organized their social, economic, and spiritual lives across time and space. Today, we take for granted that all peoples have "cultures," distinctive ways of living and of witnessing these experiences in their rituals, tales, and art. When Dr. Franz Boas (1858-1902) first argued that "culture," "language," and "race" varied independently, these ideas were a radical departure from the racism and White-supremacist thinking of late 19th and early 20th century Europe and America. Boas organized The American Museum of Natural History's Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902) to determine whether the first Americans had crossed over an Arctic ice bridge from Asia.

Not all the expedition members took photographs. Bogoras, Hunt, Jochelson, Jochelson-Brodskaya, and Smith were the primary photographers of the expedition teams along with O. C. Hastings, who worked side by side with Boas in 1894 and other Jesup team members in 1898 in British Columbia. On both sides of the North Pacific, additional pictures were commissioned from local professional photographers. 

 

Franz Boas (1858 - 1942)

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Franz Boas is considered the "father of modern anthropology" for his pioneering work on race, culture, and language. Boas trained the first generation of professional American anthropologists including Ruth Benedict, Alfred L. Kroeber, Robert Lowie, Margaret Mead, and Edward Sapir.

He organized the Jesup Expedition as an ambitious comprehensive project on the cultures and history of the North Pacific region focused on the question of human migration from Asia across the Bering Strait. Between 1897 and 1903 Boas secured funding, fielded research teams, and over the next three decades, edited and supervised Expedition publications in addition to his other writing.

 

Waldemar Bogoras (1865-1936)

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Waldemar Bogoras, a populist revolutionary, would become the leading anthropologist of the early Soviet period. His ethnological interests developed during his exile to the Kolyma region of Siberia where he lived between 1887 and 1898. Around 1894, he joined the Russian Geographic Society's Siberyakov Expedition (1894-1898), working with Chukchi.

Recruited to the Jesup Expedition, Bogoras worked among the Chukchi, Even, Maritime Koryak, and Yupik. He also collected material from "Russified Natives" as examples of cultural borrowing and assimilation. His expedition publication, The Chukchi, (link to AMNH pub) is considered an ethnographic classic.

After the Russian Revolution, he became director of the Institute of the Peoples of the North, an agency concerned with education an developmental work among the northern tribes of Siberia and published widely as both an ethnographer and novelist.

 

Livingston Farrand (1867-1939)

Livingston Farrand of Columbia University accompanied Boas on the initial thrust of the Expedition in 1897 and subsequently wrote on the Chilcotin and Quinault and on the basketry designs of the Salish.

 

George Hunt (1854-1933)

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George Hunt, the child of a Tlingit mother and an English Hudson's Bay Company father, was raised in the Kwakwaka'wkw community of Fort Rupert. Much of Boas's Kwakwaka'wkw research depended on Hunt's knowledge of the language and community. Boas trained him to transcribe Kwakwaka'wkw texts. He was also Boas's principal collector and made many remarkable purchases for the museum.

 

Morris K. Jesup (1830-1908)

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Morris K. Jesup rose from humble origins to become a millionaire in the railroad banking business. He helped found the American Museum of Natural History in 1869 and, as its President, financed the expedition which bears his name, the most ambitious American ethnological expedition of all time.

 

Dina Jochelson-Brodskaya (1862-1941)

Dina Lazareevna Jochelson-Brodskay a medical scholar, worked with her husband, Waldemar Jochelson, in Siberia. Brodskaya handled all the physical measurements and medical work and most of the photography during the fieldwork conducted with her husband. She used some of her anthropological measurements for her doctoral dissertation at the University of Zurich and also wrote on the women of northeastern Siberia.

 

Waldemar Jochelson (1855-1937)

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Waldemar Jochelson (1855-1937), with Bogoras, took up ethnology during a Siberian exile for political activities. He worked with the Yukaghir who lived near his place of exile and later took part in the Sibiryakov Expedition (1894-1898) under the auspices of the Russian Geographic Society. Jochelson was in charge of the Siberian leg of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition.

Under Expedition auspices, he worked with Even, Koryak, Yukaghir (including "Russified Natives"), and Yakut. He later led the Aleut-Kamchatka Expedition of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society in 1909-11. From 1912 to 1922, he was division curator of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg/Petrograd, and spent the remainder of his life as an exile in the United States.

 

Berthold Laufer (1874-1934)

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Berthold Laufer was born in Germany and trained in philology, would one day be hailed as the premier Sinologist of his generation. For the Expedition, Laufer researched and collected among the peoples of Sakhalin Island--the Nivkhi (Gilyak), Evenk (Tungus ), and Ainu--and the Amur River Region--the Nanai (Goldi) and Evenk. His subsequent career was spent in extensive researches on China and the peoples on China's rim.

 

Harlan I. Smith (1872-1940)

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Harlan I. Smith was an archeologist on the staff of the American Museum of Natural History at the time of the Jesup Expedition. In 1911 he eventually became chief archeologist of the National Museum of Canada. He established his reputation with a series of excavations in British Columbia and Washington, notably the Great Fraser Midden and Fort Rupert. Contributing his archeological expertise to the Expedition's study of Northwest Coast peoples, Smith also photographed extensively.

 

John R. Swanton (1873-1958)

John R. Swanton, who was to produce a prodigious number of publications on the North American Indians, participated in the Jesup Expedition early in his career while a member of the Bureau of American Ethnology, with the Bureau and the American Museum dividing both the financing and the information that he collected on the Haida.

 

James Teit (1864-1922)

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James Teit, a Scotsman, was married to Lucy Antko, a Nlaka'pamux. He impressed Boas with his detailed knowledge of Northwest Coast Peoples. Teit wrote on the Nlaka'pamux, Lillooet, and Shuswap groups.