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Willamette students cataloguing Chemawa photos
By Ron Karten
Smoke Signals staff writer
SALEM When Chemawa indus
trial arts teacher and yearbook and
newspaper adviser Charles Holmes
walked on in 2011, he left behind a
treasure of more than 3,000 photos
and more than 50 years of yearbooks
and school newspapers collected
during his career at the school.
The collection totals some 40
boxes in all.
His wife, Charlotte, bequeathed
them to the Grand Ronde Tribe in
the names of Tribal Museum Cura
torCultural Liaison David Lewis
and Cultural Collections Specialist
Lewis then served as gatekeeper
and facilitator in turning the pro
cessing of the collection over to Wil
lamette University students.
"I saw the value in the collec
tion," Lewis said. "I understand the
archival process. I have a wonder
ful connection with Rebecca, and I
made the project available to her
and her students."
Lewis is referring to Willamette
University Anthropology Professor
Rebecca Dobkins, who teaches a
Native North American Cultures
class, which Lewis has taught when
Dobkins worked on sabbatical.
Lewis proposed a joint Grand
Ronde-Willamette University proj
ect to catalogue and identify the
"The project fits into the bigger
picture of the growing connections
between Willamette University and
the Grand Ronde Tribe, and Wil
lamette University and Chemawa
Indian School," Dobkins said.
Montano initially worked to pro
cess the photos. She cleaned and
put them into protective sleeves
and boxes. Since they have been
turned over to Willamette Univer
sity for archiving, Montano checks
in periodically to see where they are
in the process.
"I know a lot of our Tribal Elders
have attended Chemawa," she
said. "And a lot of the photos are
of the old campus that the Tribal
Elders will remember. I think for
a lot of people who attended, it will
bring back memories. We just hope
that they'll enjoy it as much as we
Each year, the class includes a
research component, Dobkins said.
This year, and for a few more to
come, it is and will be the Chemawa
"The project is one that will exist
on a number of levels," Dobkins
said, "and change over time."
It will include straight research
to archive the photos. Studying the
yearbooks will play an important
role in making identifications and
It will include meetings with Che
mawa students past and present,
and that will likely involve Grand
Ronde and other Native American
Elders who attended, taught or
worked at the school.
Research also is likely to include
working with oral histories both
historical recordings and the devel
opment of new ones.
On the technical side, the work
will include scanning photos and
posting them online for interactive
;twc " -
Photo by Michelle Alaimo
Emilia Jensen, a senior at Willamette University in Salem, looks through a Chemawa Indian School yearbook from
1 961 as she works on an assignment for her Native North American Cultures class in the college's archives on
Thursday, Nov. 1 5. The yearbook is part of a collection that Chemawa industrial arts teacher and yearbook and
newspaper adviser Charles Holmes had. The collection was donated to the Tribe after he walked on in 201 1 .
"As a professor," Dobkins said,
"this is an ideal project because it
is timely and unfolding."
The plan for this semester is
to develop the project in three
1) Cataloguing the photos with
identifying numbers, key words
and descriptions. This year, 28
students each have 20 photos to
catalogue, so the current group
will have completed almost 600
by the end of class. That will
leave plenty for future classes.
2) Review the many yearbooks that
are currently are on loan to the
Willamette University archives
for clues about the pictures. Part of
that might involve inviting Grand
Ronde Elders who attended or
worked at Chemawa to help.
3) Plan the next phase of the re
search. Next year's project depends on
what is discovered this year, Dob
kins said. "Maybe through oral
histories, we'll be able to explore
what makes Chemawa a commu
nity," she said.
Student reactions to the photos
The culture that senior Fletcher
Haynes, 29, a Spanish major, saw
on the Chemawa campus was very
similar to the culture he recognizes.
He pointed to the sporting events and
the spirit events. "It could have been
from my high school," Haynes said.
Senior Travis Smith, a political
science major, saw differences.
Referring to photos of students
helping to build facilities at Che
mawa, he said, "Coming from a
public school background, we don't
build things like that."
For Blanca Gutierrez, a junior
majoring in American Ethnic Stud
ies and English, "The pictures pose
a lot of questions about changes
taking place. The Driver's Educa
tion program is gone now. And
there are physical changes in the
With the pictures, said senior
Brita Hill, a music major, "it's so
much more real."
"It's a very human connection,"
said Haynes. "Many of the people in
the pictures are still alive today."
Senior Emilie Jensen, a biology
major, said seeing these real-life
experiences in the pictures con
tradicts "what we've been taught."
The pictures help the history she
is learning in class "fall into place."
She compared it to seeing a photo
of a relative she has only heard
"I didn't expect something so
hands-on," said senior Chris Tokesh,
a bio-chemistry major. "It's been a
"It's exciting to have this," said
Dobkins. "It is something very
concrete. It's contributing to their
learning, and it's doing something
that could be valuable. The work is
not that glamorous, but it is a direct
connection to the community.
"We're looking specifically at is
sues of change, diversity and resil
ience. We're looking at the boarding
school history. (The project) blows
"I didn't realize that Chemawa
was a boarding school," Jensen
said. "It shows how necessary it is
to go deeper into a subject to un
"Students come in knowing almost
nothing about Native life," Dobkins
said. "The last time they studied Na
tive Americans was in fourth grade
when they made the dioramas. The
course has been a rollercoaster for
some when they realize what they've
never been taught."
Information gleaned in the class
has already given these students a
background for understanding the
Junior Mariah Anderson, a psy
chology major, noted "the impact
that Native Americans have had,
how smart they were to develop
the land the way they did." She
added that she has learned about
civil rights in five different classes,
but none of them talked about civil
rights for Native Americans.
"There's a lot of invisiblization,"
said Jensen. "It's pretty sad, but it's
nice to see the presence of Native
Americans throughout the year. It's
a good backup for the things we're
learning. It's harder to fall back
into not knowing."
"(The class) definitely changed my
outlook about Native Americans,"
said senior Linnea Hardlund, a
biology major, "especially learning
about the different interactions
between the government and all
the different (ethnic groups) in the
country. (The treatment) is not the
same at all. You also see what Na
tive Americans bring to the society,
and how that will help in the future.
Slowly, we're making changes."
Twenty-five from the class, in
cluding Gutierrez, have been moved
to action. They volunteer as tutors
in Willamette's Chemawa Indian
School Partnership Program.
"We tutors get a lot out of it,"
Gutierrez said. "Sometimes, I think
we get more out of it."
Junior Caroline Bishop, an ar
chaeology and art history major,
is so excited about the subject that
she has requested an internship to
continue cataloguing photos after
the class ends. Last year, she in
terned at Willamette's Hallie Ford
Museum, also working with Native
"Pictures make more sense," she
said. "They bring up interesting
things that I want to learn more
The purpose of the course, Dob
kins said, includes the details but
she also wants to make sure that
students keep track of the big
"We have a responsibility for
learning about the people of the
land," Dobkins said.
"This class is a really good ex
ample of how Tribes and universi
ties can work together," Lewis said,
"especially on projects of historical
collections. This is history valuable
to the whole area." B