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Iroquois Journey

An Anthropologist Remembers

William N. Fenton

Publication Year: 2007

Iroquois Journey is the warm and illuminating memoir of William N. Fenton (1908–2005), a leading scholar who shaped Iroquois studies and modern anthropology in America. The memoir reveals the ambitions and struggles of the man and the many accomplishments of the anthropologist, the complex and sometimes volatile milieu of Native-white relations in upstate New York in the twentieth century, and key theoretical and methodological developments in American anthropology.
Fenton’s memoir, completed shortly before his death, takes us from his ancestors’ lives in the Conewango Valley in western New York to his education at Yale. It affords valuable insights into the decades of his celebrated fieldwork among the Senecas, his distinguished scholarship at the Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington, DC, and his research at the New York State Museum in Albany. Offering portraits of  legendary scholars he encountered and enriched through wonderful personal anecdotes, Fenton’s memoir is a testament to the importance of anthropology and a reminder of how much the field has changed over the years.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: The Iroquoians and Their World


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pp. v

List of Photos

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

A scholar's lifework is measured not only by what of lasting value was accomplished but also by how things were done, and to what end. A case in point is the extraordinary...

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1. Upstaters in Suburbia and at Home

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pp. 1-20

My career as an Iroquoianist may have been foretold three generations before my birth. The Fentons of Conewango Valley in western New York and the family of Amos Snow of the Seneca...

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2. At Yale and among the Senecas

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pp. 21-41

My introduction to graduate work at Yale immersed me in two realms, ethnology and prehistory. George Peter Murdock, a consummate bibliographer who could hand each student references on any ethnographic topic complete with call numbers,...

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3. From Teaching to the Bureau of American Ethnology

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pp. 42-57

Having defended my dissertation in May 1937, I returned to New Haven for commencement to accept the PhD. Meanwhile, I had been angling for an academic job. At some conference, Edward Sapir met Laurens Seelye, fresh from American...

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4. The War and Postwar Years

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pp. 58-90

Ihad barely returned to Turkey Run from Six Nations when on a December Sunday, Olive's mother, whom the children had dubbed "Bonner," had a guest from Salamanca who wished to visit Arlington Cemetery. I vividly recall standing near the Lee...

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5. The National Research Council

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pp. 91-109

Late in November 1951, the Division of Anthropology and Psychology of the National Research Council asked me to help organize a conference on disaster studies, a concern of the...

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6. The New York State Museum

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pp. 110-150

Leaving spacious quarters on the third floor of the Smithsonian tower for desk space at 2100 Constitution Avenue in 1952 had prepared me for removal to Albany two and a half years later. My research notes, a complete set of the annual reports and bulletins...

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7. Research Professorship at Albany

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pp. 151-168

My first priority as research professor at suny Albany was to prepare a copy of Father J. F. Lafitau's "Customs of the Indians," which I had begun with Elizabeth Moore in 1939, for the editors of the Champlain Society of Toronto. The project had...

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8. Life after University

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pp. 169-174

Having retired from the university in June 1979, at age seventy, I became distinguished professor emeritus, activated my pensions, and devoted my energy to research and the writing of four books, including this one. During my first year...


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pp. 175-178

The Publications of William N. Fenton

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pp. 179-194


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pp. 195-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780803213968
E-ISBN-10: 0803213964

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 26 photographs
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: The Iroquoians and Their World