Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology

By Sally Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Maggie Wilson and Ojibwa Women's Stories

RUTH LANDES arrived in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada, on July 6, 1932. For the next three months until her return to New York, she maintained regular correspondence with Ruth Benedict. 1 The letters reveal her first impressions in the field, her frustrations and elation, her keen sense of observation, and her insights into the collected data.

Upon her arrival she met A. E. Spencer, the Indian agent. Following her inquiries of him and other locals concerning several reserves in the vicinity, she opted, as recommended by A. Irving Hallowell, for Manitou Rapids (RL to RB, July 10, 1932, RFBP). She found lodgings with the Department of Indian Affairs farm instructor and his wife, William and Helen Hayes, the only non-Native family living on the reserve. Her first impressions, unlike mine in 1995 taking in the beauty of the landscape, emphasize the poverty, the shabby living conditions, the rampant tuberculosis. She found the work strenuous, writing in her first letter to Benedict: "The Indians live considerable distances apart. The first house I arrive at requires a hike of 2 miles. Only the divine pursuit of knowledge drove me to make this walk 5 different times under yesterday's blazing sun.”

In her first letter she also informs Ruth Benedict that she has hired Mrs. Maggie Wilson as her interpreter for $1.00 a day. A Christian, Wilson was "the one informant recommended by the agents and by Miss Densmore; it turned out too that Mr. Hallowell had used her” (RL to RB, July 10, 1932, RFBP). It was Wilson who would, in the Boasian tradition, serve as Landes's "key informant” for her ethnological research at Manitou.

Within the first few days in the field, she learned that "Midé ceremonies are to be held next week.” The midé ceremonies were rites of the Midéwiwin, the religious society and revitalization movement concerned with curing and with the continuity of aboriginal

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Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ruth Landes - A Life in Anthropology *
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations *
  • Series Editors' Introduction *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • Part One - Beginnings *
  • Chapter One - Immigrant Daughter *
  • Chapter Two - New Woman *
  • Chapter Three - Student at Columbia *
  • Part Two - Apprenticeship in Native American Worlds *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Four - Maggie Wilson and Ojibwa Women's Stories *
  • Chapter Five - Lusty Shamans in the Midwest *
  • Part Three - She-Bull in Brazil's China Closet *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Six - Fieldwork in Brazil *
  • Chapter Seven - Writing Afro-Brazilian Culture in New York *
  • Chapter Eight - The Early Ethnography of Race and Gender *
  • Conclusion - Life and Career *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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