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Journeys West

Jane and Julian Steward and Their Guides

Virginia Kerns

Publication Year: 2010

Journeys West traces journeys made during seven months of fieldwork in 1935 and 1936 by Julian Steward, a young anthropologist, and his wife, Jane. Virginia Kerns identifies the scores of Native elders whom they met throughout the Western desert, men and women previously known in print only by initials and thus largely invisible as primary sources of Steward’s classic ethnography. Besides humanizing Steward’s cultural informants—revealing them as distinct individuals and also as first-generation survivors of an ecological crisis caused by American settlement of their lands—Kerns shows how the elders worked with Steward. Each helped to construct an ethnographic portrait of life in a particular place in the high desert of the Great Basin.  The elders’ memories of how they and their ancestors had lived by hunting and gathering—a sustainable way of life that endured for generations—richly illustrated what Steward termed cultural adaptation. It later became a key concept in anthropology and remains relevant today in an age of global environmental crisis. Based on meticulous research, this book draws on an impressive array of evidence—from interviews and observations to census data, correspondence, and the field journals of the Stewards. Journeys West illuminates not only the elders who were Steward’s guides but also the practice of ethnographic fieldwork: a research method that is both a journey and a distinctive way of looking, listening, and learning.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi-xxx

During the many years I worked on this book and its predecessor, I made more than a dozen journeys west and had the privilege of seeing most of the places mentioned in the pages that follow. The mountains and deserts of the American West have an astonishing and enduring beauty that nearly two centuries of rough use have not yet destroyed. ...

Part 1. California, 1935

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1. Going There

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pp. 3-26

In spring 1935 Julian Steward was thirty-three years old, happily married to his second wife, and temporarily out of work. He had given up a promising position in anthropology at the University of Michigan in 1930 in order to marry his first wife, a psychologist, and join her at the University of Utah. So unusual was that decision ...

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2. Shoshone Territory

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pp. 27-52

On the road into Death Valley the elevation dropped by thousands of feet and the temperature climbed. Still in the first month of spring, it was already 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun, and the open landscape and cloudless sky offered no escape from the heat. Not even a cloud shadow gave them respite. Steward took a photograph ...

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3. Valley of the Paiutes

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pp. 53-80

Jane and Julian arrived in Lone Pine late in the day and found a comfortable cabin in an auto camp. With a population of just 360 the town seemed cosmopolitan after Olancha, Cartago, and Darwin. Located at the foot of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the forty-eight states, Lone Pine enjoyed a brisk tourist trade. Hikers and ...

Part 2. Nevada, 1935

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4. Coyote's Country

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pp. 83-110

After some quiet days at Deep Springs, where Julian worked on his field notes and made repairs to the car, he and Jane left for Nevada in late May. He hoped to find Shoshone elders in western Nevada who could tell him more about Death Valley country, adding to what he had learned from George and Mamie Gregory at Olancha. ...

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5. The Peoples Land

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pp. 111-150

In the wilting heat of late June, Julian and Jane drove to Schurz, Nevada, the trading post and administrative center of the Walker River Reservation. Just before reaching Schurz they skirted Walker Lake, thirty miles long and as blue as the sky. At Schurz, a hamlet shaded by tall cottonwood trees, they left an ...

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6. River from Snow Mountain

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pp. 151-182

After ten wearing days of work Jane and Julian left Ely, Nevada, in early August to spend a week in Salt Lake City, two hundred and fifty miles away. Julian needed more maps, and he had plant specimens that he hoped to have identified at the University of Utah. They headed northeast, still traveling on the Lincoln Highway as they left ...

Part 3. Idaho and Utah, 1936

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7. Basin and Plateau

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pp. 185-218

In late June 1936 Julian and Jane left the crowded streets and steamy heat of Washington DC for the open reaches of the West. As temperatures edged up in summer, the smothering weight of humid heat pressed down. The thick air settled indoors, where even the whirring fans could not stir it. Leaving behind high summer in the ...

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8. Land of the Utes

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pp. 219-244

On their return to Utah Julian and Jane stopped briefly in Ogden to see their friends, the Howes. The next day they left Salt Lake City and drove due south, skirting the base of the Wasatch Mountains as they entered Utah Valley, passed Provo, and headed for the Kanosh Reservation where some Pahvant Utes lived. It was an easy day's journey ...

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9. Trails West

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pp. 245-267

In mid-September—just two weeks before Jane departed for Washington and Julian left the Uintah and Ouray Reservation—they left Kanosh and drove two hundred and fifty miles north. They could see the first signs of fall scattered across the mountain slopes. Small patches of red showed where mountain maples, soon to shrug off their leaves, ...

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10. Trail's End

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pp. 268-292

Steward left salt lake city the day after his wife boarded the train for Washington. His original plan called for spending a week at the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, then driving west to Skull Valley and Deep Creek Valley to find Goshute informants. With less than three weeks to finish his own field research, he needed to complete one ...

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Afterword: Journeys West

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pp. 293-322

In 1843 an explorer set out on a journey through the high desert. Maps of the time showed a space framed by mountains and crosscut by a line. The explorer went in search of the line, labeled the Buenaventura River: a broad band of water that flowed west through the desert and toward the sea. Despite glimpses by trappers and other travelers, ...


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pp. 323-376


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pp. 377-396


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pp. 397-414

E-ISBN-13: 9780803228276
E-ISBN-10: 0803228279
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803225084
Print-ISBN-10: 0803225083

Page Count: 444
Illustrations: 27 photographs, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 859671437
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Journeys West

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Subject Headings

  • Steward, Julian Haynes, 1902-1972.
  • Steward, Jane Cannon.
  • Anthropologists -- Great Basin -- Biography.
  • Archaeologists -- Great Basin -- Biography.
  • Indians of North America -- Great Basin -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of North America -- Great Basin -- Social life and customs.
  • Anthropology -- Fieldwork -- Great Basin -- History.
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