Raymond James DeMallie Jr.

October 16, 1946April 25, 2021
Obituary of Raymond James DeMallie Jr.
Raymond J. DeMallie, Jr. (October 16, 1946 – Aril 25, 2021)—often referred to as Ray— was born in Rochester, New York. He was the son of Raymond J. DeMallie, Sr. and Dorothy L. DeMallie (née Mollon). From an early age, he became interested in Native Americans. As a high school student in 1964, he attended the third Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture series at the University of Rochester, which were given that year by anthropologist Fred Eggan. Eggan’s talks, published in book form as The American Indian: Perspectives for the Study of Social Change, so intrigued Ray that he decided to study anthropology with Eggan at the University of Chicago. As an undergraduate (B.A. with honors) and then as a Master’s and PhD student, he was mentored by Eggan and a wide circle of historians, linguists, anthropologists, archivists, curators, and Native elders. While writing a paper on treaty history for historian Father Peter Powell he was introduced to the richness of the Newberry Library’s collections. Similarly, he was taught to use museum collections by James VanStone at the Field Museum and by a several mentors at the Smithsonian Institution. His MA thesis on kinship in Teton Dakota culture and his PhD dissertation on Teton Dakota kinship and social organization remain key resources for today’s scholars. At Chicago, Ray also worked with George Stocking, David Schneider, and Ray Fogelson, adding their expertise in kinship, ethnohistory, and the history of anthropology to his own work. He honed his superb copyediting skills working under Sol Tax on the major journal Current Anthropology. Beginning in 1970 Ray undertook collaborative fieldwork on reservations in the Dakotas, Montana, and Saskatchewan, where Sioux (Lakota, Dakota) and the closely related Assiniboine (Nakota) peoples live. Much of his field study was language-centered, recording texts of historical traditions, myths, and tales. Those remarkable field studies are paralleled by archival, library, and museum work with the goal of discovering, editing, and publishing major sources on the Sioux and Assiniboine past. Responding to needs expressed by Indian people themselves, Ray investigated materials for legal cases in support of treaty rights. In his work in applied legal history, his key partner was Vine Deloria, Jr. They worked together at the Institute for the Development of Indian Law and on book projects such as Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements, and Conventions, 1775–1979. Ray’s first academic position was at the University of Wyoming from 1972-73. He then joined the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University in 1973, which was his academic home until he retired in 2017 as Class of 1968 Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology and American Studies. He maintained close ties to the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology as well. Ray came into a department and a university that had a long tradition of excellence in American Indian Studies. He was following in the footsteps of numerous eminent scholars, including Stith Thompson, a specialist in Native American storytelling in Folklore. Thompson in turn had brought to campus Carl Voegelin, who founded the Department of Anthropology in 1946 and who focused on documenting American Indian languages. Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin who defined the field of ethnohistory came also and founded what are today the American Society for Ethnohistory and its journal Ethnohistory. George Herzog, a founding ethnomusicologist and student of Native American music came in 1948 and founded the Archives of Traditional Music. All of these individuals and others cooperated together as the Research Center for Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, in which many affiliated faculty members had major interests related to Native American languages, histories, and cultures. In 1972, the American Indian Studies Committee was created, chaired by archaeologist James Kellar, who asked Ray to chair it in 1975. An Americanist seminar was created that met once a week for at least one semester each year. Participants included faculty and students from across the campus, who came together to share their work, and from time to time, to host scholars from other institutions. Some of the students, both graduate and undergraduate, enrolled for credit. One of the institutional goals that Ray set out for the committee at that time was to organize a non-degree certificate in American Indian Studies so that students would be better able to find positions related to their interests when they left the university. Already a senior statesman in Native American Studies, Vine Deloria visited the campus in 1974 and expressed surprise at the large crowds of interested students—he thought that the time was right for such a program. Ray surveyed students and faculty about their interest in such a program. Faculty were very positive; students were strongly interested in taking courses as electives but not so sure about committing to a certificate with all the other demands on their time. By the middle of the 1980s, the time was right for proposing an institute. The ongoing Americanist seminars—in which Ray played a key role—had generated interest across the campus, bringing faculty together in a way that often generated proposals for new research, studies, and courses. These new courses, in turn, attracted more students. There was a growing community of students with strong interest and preparation in American Indian studies. Outside participants in the seminars and as visitors to campus included members of different Native Nations, strengthening the foundation for joint research and language-teaching endeavors. In 1983, the group was awarded one of the first two Multidisciplinary Seminars awarded by the Dean of Faculties office. In December 1984, the American Indian Studies Research Institute that Ray and linguist Doug Parks proposed was approved by the university. Ray’s proposal built upon all that had been accomplished in the ten preceding years, on the success of the Multidisciplinary seminar, and, most significantly, on what he had learned about the campus, the administration, and from his colleagues. He addressed these in a document that laid out the purpose of the institute and what it would do for the university and for American Indian Studies nationally. Everyone who knew him knew Ray’s eloquence—in his written scholarship, in his teaching, in his mentoring. You knew his ability to tell a story in such a way that it leads you from the beginning, with many anecdotes, reflections, and what seem like tangents, to an end which is inevitable and convincingly right, even though it is not predictable. He used stories as indirect morality lessons that you ignore at your peril. You can take the end of “These Have No Ears,” his American Society for Ethnohistory presidential address of 1992, as a perfect example. Looking back at any of his stories, you can see all the pieces and how they fit together and complement each other. Every story has a through-line, the meaning that floats above the bits of text. That is the mark of a distinguished ethnographer. The mission statement in his request for the new institute status laid it all out in terms of five goals: 1. Coordinate research, teaching and curriculum relating to American Indians of both North and South currently represented in many different areas of the university 2. Coordinate resources for American Indian studies, including collections in Anthropology, Glenn Black Laboratory, Archives of Traditional Music, Archives of Languages of the World, and the William Mathers Museum. 3. Provide a locus for interdisciplinary cooperation for faculty, research associates, and graduate students 4. Provide a center for the coordination of grant proposals and fund-raising aimed at supporting research and expanding resources for American Indian Studies 5. Build a nationally recognized institute that can provide sorely-needed leadership in the developing area of American Indian studies. The initial proposal then told readers why these were the right goals while expanding on how the Institute would accomplish them. Ray spent time on the matter of funding—the first question that any administration asks, and that he was in a strong position to answer with his and others’ track records; on the primary material collections stewarded at IU; on how students would benefit, and lastly a persuasive five-year plan. Ray’s successful establishment of the American Indian Studies Research Institute can be attributed to his abilities as an administrator but it was founded on his extraordinary reputation as a scholar and his outstanding record in teaching and mentoring. These same qualities underpinned his being named a Chancellor’s Professor in 2004, his being recognized by the Plains Anthropological Society with its 2019 Distinguished Service Award, and his being honored with a book published in his honor—Transforming Ethnohistories: Narrative, Meaning, and Community, edited by Sebastian Felix Braun. Ray described his own scholarship as beginning with questions of kinship—how do people form families and what meanings do they attach to their forms and practices of relationship? Kinship—especially as practiced and understood among the Sioux people—remained central to his interests throughout his career. Kinship, he said, led inevitably to the structures and ideologies of social life, which then led to religion and to conceptions of the world more broadly. A symbolic approach seemed to him to be the most useful perspective for understanding patterns in both social and cultural life. As a method, ethnohistory helped identify how patterns of change and of continuity emerge over time. A full account of all of Ray’s work is beyond the scope of this remembrance, but highlights include his editing of the massive Plains volume of the Smithsonian Institution’s Handbook of North American Indians and his editing and annotating of primary sources in widely read and highly regarded works such The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, Lakota Society, and (with Elaine A. Jahner) Lakota Belief and Ritual. With co-editor Alfonso Ortiz, he honored his own teacher Fred Eggan with the edited collection North American Indian Anthropology: Essays on Society and Culture. Among his later works is the monumental volume A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri: The Journal and Description of Jean-Baptiste Truteau, 1794-1796, which he co-edited with Doug Parks and Robert Vézina. In addition to his writing, Ray played a central role through the work of the American Indian Studies Research Institute in the development of curricula for use in teaching Native American languages and in legal historical work in support of Native American sovereignty. In his work for the Institute for the Development of Indian Law, he published dozens of studies of treaties and treaty-making. He was also a regular consultant for museum exhibition projects and for Native nations. As an editor, he founded and co-edited (with Doug Parks) the book series Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians, Studies in the Native Languages of the Americas, and Sources of American Indian Oral Literature, all published by the University of Nebraska Press). Reflecting on his own work in the “Afterword” to Transforming Ethnohistories, Ray recalled: “I came to anthropology with a love of history and a deep interest in American Indians, particularly the Sioux. As a student, I read the classic ethnographies and studied anthropological theories but at the same time immersed myself in documents, including correspondence and reports from the Office of Indian Affairs and the War Department in the National Archives; the unpublished manuscripts of J. Owen Dorsey and other anthropologists in the Bureau of American Ethnology Archives; Lewis Henry Morgan’s papers at the University of Rochester; and the manuscripts of George A. Dorsey and the ethnographic collections (documents of another kind) at the Field Museum. I came to appreciate the writings of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century anthropologists, not as outdated antiquarian curiosities but as ongoing conversations to which I could contribute. I consoled myself that if I was interested enough in something to pick up where an anthropologist one or more generations before me left off, then in the future there would be others like me who would continue the conversation.” There is abundant evidence already available showing that the conversations to which Ray DeMallie contributed so abundantly and well are, as he hoped, already ongoing. They are evident in the extraordinary scholarship and dedicated community engagement of the generations of students he mentored. They are also vigorous across Indian Country, in courtrooms where Native Nations insist on their treaty rights, in settings where Native youth and elders renew Indigenous languages, and in archives, libraries, museums, and classrooms where Indigenous and settler students and scholars talk about and pursue their studies. --Anya Peterson Royce with Jason Baird Jackson (drawing on an earlier profile authored by Della Collins Cook, Douglas R. Parks, and Anya Peterson Royce and published in 2017)

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