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2003-2004 Visiting Fellows

Daniel M. Cobb
D'Arcy McNickle Center
for American Indian History
The Newberry Library

I am indebted to the Friends of the Princeton University Library for making it possible for me to conduct research in support of several ongoing projects. My primary objective was to garner material that is central to turning my dissertation into a book. At the same time, however, I gathered information that will inform a public lecture and two articles.

My manuscript, "Community, Poverty, Power: The Politics of Tribal Self-Determination, 1960- 1968," explores how and why tribal self-determination moved from the periphery to the center of national American Indian politics. The study demonstrates how the struggle against legal termination and cultural assimilation converged with the global politics of decolonization and domestic contests over race and mass society. Throughout this tumultuous period, Indian activists and their allies translated the major foreign and domestic issues of the era-from civil rights and black nationalism to the Vietnam War and modernization-into a language very much their own. At the heart of this process rested the War on Poverty. Drawn from manuscript sources and oral interviews, a major portion of my work explains how the politics of poverty metamorphosed into the politics of tribal self-determination.

An Indian past that is at once bound to and distinct from the larger trajectory of American history emerges from my study. Consequently, "Community, Poverty, Power" not only reinterprets a critical period in American Indian history, but also expands the limited ground upon which historians assess Lyndon Johnson's antipoverty campaign. What is more, by contributing to the ongoing redefinition of politics and activism and weaving together domestic and international histories, it speaks to the latest interpretive developments in the fields of social, political, and interdisciplinary history. Blending several scales of analysis allows historians to seek out the interconnectedness of local people and privileged elites and affords insights into the nature of culture and power, agency and structure, intimate experience and public action.

Collections in the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library and Rare Books and Special Collections Department in Firestone Library are peculiarly well-positioned to support this kind of synthetic research. At the Mudd Library, I was able to consider the papers of Hank Adams, an American Indian activist central to the fishing rights movement and the founding of the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC), while also delving deeply into the ideas and actions of non-Indian advocates via the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) Archives. The papers of Senator George McGovern, a pivotal figure during the 1960s, will offer further insights into the complexities of Indian politics inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, their storage off-site and the limitations of a box-level finding aid made it impossible for me to take advantage of them during my fellowship.

The RBSC in the Firestone Library added further texture to the story I am seeking to tell, particularly through the Charles Minton Papers. Minton served as executive director of the Southwest Association on American Indian Affairs and helped to found a series of Indian youth councils that ultimately led to the creation of the NIYC. Additionally, Minton became deeply involved in launching Community Action Programs in Indian communities and served as a confidante to Robert Roessel, a leading innovator in American Indian education and persuasive counsel to Office of Economic Opportunity Director R. Sargent Shriver.

Finally, the papers of Alfonso Ortiz promise to lend insight into Indian youth activism and Community Action. To my chagrin, I discovered that these were not only off-site and unprocessed but also in very poor condition. Though hard to fathom, it was revealed that Ortiz-once a professor of anthropology at Princeton University-had kept both his and Charlie Minton's papers for safekeeping in. . . a chicken coup.

The timing of the fellowship, in addition to the Ortiz Papers revelation and richness of the materials generally, made my experience at Princeton doubly memorable. Having successfully defended my dissertation at the University of Oklahoma in June, I traveled to Princeton in July. It was there, as I was concluding my research, that I was offered the position of assistant director of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History at The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois.

Indeed, the call came as I was discussing the contours of a manuscript for The Princeton University Library Chronicle. This essay, which should be ready for submission in the winter or early spring, will explore the transnational context of Indian politics during the 1950s and 1960s as evidenced research conducted in the AAIA Archives. In the meantime, I will be integrating material from the same collection into a paper entitled "When Sol Met Earl: Indians, Jews, and American Social Science in the 1960s." I have been invited to deliver it at a spring symposium organized by the University of Oklahoma's Judaic Studies Program and will then turn to developing it into an article.

In all of these ways, the Friends of the Princeton University Library has furthered my development as a scholar and shaped the contours of my research projects. I am thankful not only for the generous financial support, but also for the helpful assistance of staff from both the Mudd and Firestone libraries.


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