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Ethnohistory and Historical Method

Author(s): W. Raymond Wood
Source: Archaeological Method and Theory, Vol. 2 (1990), pp. 81-109
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20170205
Accessed: 10-12-2015 03:18 UTC

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3Ethnohistory
and
Historical Method
W. RAYMOND WOOD

In the firstissue of the journal Ethnohistory, Erminie Voe
gelin (1954:2) commented that "if there are few ethnologically
minded historians, there are also equally few historically minded
ethnologists." Fortunately, this is no longer true either of ethnolo
gists or anthropologists of other persuasions, and it is increasingly
untrue of historiansas well (Axtell 1979; Martin 1978). The term
ethnohistory is today widely used in a variety of contexts and is
increasingly discussed in general anthropology texts. It is therefore
curious that one usually seeks in vain for listings in anthropology
department catalogs for either undergraduate or graduate courses in
the subject. That is, as popular as ethnohistory may appear to be
today, anthropologists are rarely trained to do ethnohistory. Formal
courses in the subject are being taught in only a handful of anthropol
ogy departments in the United States today.
There are many definitions of ethnohistory. All or most of them
stress a diachronic emphasis and the use of documents (Axtell 1979;
Carmack 1972; Hickerson 1970:7; Spores 1980:576; Sturtevant
1966:6-7; Wedel and DeMallie 1980:110). Here Iminimally define
the term ethnohistory, as it has been refined among those practition
ers of the art who have remained in the original tradition of the field,
as the use of historical documents and historical method in anthro
pological research. I stress the use of "historical method," discussed
later at length, because although it is?or should be?an integral
part of ethnohistory, this rarely is made explicit. Ethnohistorical
studies, therefore, are based on historical documents, but they are
written with anthropological insight: Their goal may be culture his
tory, the reconstruction of past lifeways, or understanding cultural

81

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82 W Raymond Wood

processes. Although most works that are overtly labeled ethnohis
tory concern the "twilight zone" between prehistory and history,
study may focus on any topic for which documents exist, whether in
history or anthropology.
Since about the 1960s historians have come to accept anthropolog
ical insights and theory in their works, following such works as Berk
hofer's (1969) A Behavioral Approach to Historical Analysis. Ethno
history, once the province of anthropologists, has now entered the
mainstream of history in a variety of works. One of those most likely
to be familiar to anthropologists, and certainly worthy of study by
them, is The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of
Colonial North America (Axtell 1981). Examples of such fruitful
works continue to multiply.
It is the ignorance of historical method that generally handicaps
the anthropologist doing ethnohistory. All too often anthropologists
are guilty of accepting historical documents at face value, producing
poor results by simple acceptance of authority without establishing
criteria for selecting data. Dincauze makes the very apt point that
"documents are artifacts, not authorities," and thus must be sub

jected to historical criticism,- she goes on to make the observation
that historical criticism is "closely akin to the contextual analyses
of field archaeology" (Dincauze 1984:7, 9), in which the interpreta
tion of artifacts is linked to their stratigraphie setting and associa
tions. The first part of this chapter is therefore designed to provide a
primer in the technique and a brief introduction to the literature of
the field. Historical method is a systematic body of principles for

gathering, critically and presenting
examining, the source materials
of history (Garraghan 1946:33). Generations of historians have honed
the technique to a fine edge. Here I describe those aspects of the

technique of most value to beginning ethnohistorians. The remain
der of the chapter reviews modern standards for documentary edit

ing; that is, for editing historical documents and maps, and for the

transcription and publication of these sources. The examples used to
illustrate the text are drawn Great Plains, but they
from the northern

apply to problems that face ethnohistorians wherever they work.
Although the term document is normally reserved for written ac
counts, any source of data on the past may serve as a document.

Archaeological records, photographs, maps, and even the landscape
itself provide data that may legitimately be described as "docu
ments." Our concern here, however, will be with written primary

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A very large literature in historical method exists. In addition. Fischer (1970). consult also Barzun and Graff (1985). by Naroll and Cohen (1970). Historians are quite cognizant of the fact that only a small part of what takes place is observed. of course. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . archaeologists inescapably deal with an equally fragmentary record of human material culture. and Kluckhohn in Gott schalk et al. It contains many valuable lessons in method and is equally engrossing as literature. however. andVincent (1934). This content downloaded from 201. but is still a fine source with which to begin a study of ethnohistory.Pitt (1972). Most history is based on written testimony. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 83 sources?those documents (manuscript or published) that were pro duced by eyewitnesses to an event or by those who were directly involved in the events under study." for too much information has been lost at every point in time to make reconstructions possible in either discipline. Secondary sources?those writ ten by others?are. Lottinville (1976). especially. and ideas for further research. chapters 8 and 22 inA Handbook ofMethod in Cultural Anthropology. Many other general texts are now available. As Walter Taylor (1948) was fond of pointing out. it is instructive to consult Federal Rules of Evidence (Graham 1981). most closely approximates a primer for the method. Archaeologists will quickly discover that the concept of history in most of these works is virtually identical to that of their own view of prehistory. Secondary sources are. An excellent book to follow it is Robin W Winks's The Historian as Detective: Essays on Evidence (1969). Cantor and Schneider (1967).61 on Thu.Garraghan (1946). much less is recorded. Daniels (1972). to be used with caution in analysis. See also Altick (1950)andNev ins (1962) for literary supplements to these more general treatises. (1945). The literature. of which the volume edited by Shafer (1980).148. both history and prehistory are in fact constructions. Louis Gottschalk's Understanding History: A Primer of Historical Method (1958) is somewhat dated today. important for those seeking an intro duction to a topic. A Guide to Historical Method. "In short. Cultural anthropologists also have contributed to this literature. In a parallel vein.Hockett (1955). information about primary documents.81. Davidson and Lytle (1982). is varied. See. for they provide insight on how others have ap proached a problem. not "reconstruc tions. and what has survived is surely not always the most important?save for the fact that those details are often all we have to work with. which synopsizes current princi ples underlying the common law of evidence in American courts. however.

Note that Gottschalk speaks of mental images. at the same time recognizing that the truth has in fact eluded him forever" (Gottschalk 1958:47). not reality. (3) determination of which details in a source are credible (internal criticism). 84 W Raymond Wood the historian's aim is verisimilitude with regard to the perished past?a subjective process?rather than experimental certainty with regard to an objective reality.61 on Thu. These notions are clearly conso nant with modern anthropology in that we seek knowledge and generalizations based on the careful examination of all relevant evidence. Modern readers need not be This content downloaded from 201. and the ideal series that we affirm and hold in memory" (Becker 1932:222). Into these "imagined facts and their meaning" there also enters a "per sonal equation. Here we are concerned with the second and third steps?with the authenticity and credibility of the documents we use. History and ethnohistory thus have precisely the same ends: the imaginative construction of the human past within the constraints of the evidence revealed as credible by the process of historical method. and it is well known that every gener ation writes the same history in a new way. for evidence is not fact but testimony about facts (Shafer 1980:74). Becker said it another way: "Let us admit that there are two his tories: the actual series of events that once occurred. Carl L. nor does he speak of facts. (2) determination of which documents or sources are authentic (external criticism). The history of any event is never precisely the same thing to two different persons. He tries to get as close to an approxima tion to the truth about the past as constant correction of his mental images will allow. realizing that "truth" is simply the best current hypothe sis?a point of view that indeed characterizes all fields of science. Historical Method A well-tried method for establishing baselines for histori cal studies exists. for many authentic docu ments are quite lacking in credibility. and most texts in historical method generally di vide it into four steps: (1) formulation of a problem for which rele vant documents are sought. and (4) organizing the reliable information into a narrative in which the problem is resolved or refined (Gottschalk 1958:28).81. and puts upon it a new construction" (Becker 1955:336). 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..148. Authenticity and credibility must be consid ered separately for each individual source. The most we can hope for is probability.

and on establishing the most precise reading of the text. Such forgeries tend to be pro duced for major historical events or personages. the fal sity of the "journal" is indicated by the simple idea that no two eyewitnesses will report the same elements in their descriptions. Apart from the patent parallels between Poe's account and details of the Lewis and Clark expedition. External Criticism External criticism is concerned with the authenticity of a document. Rather. Every independent account of any length will contain idiosyncratic This content downloaded from 201. It usually is best to avoid using the term "original" in any precise discussion. but its application is sometimes quite complex. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 85 reminded that government or other representatives. is the document we are using what it pur ports to be? The idea of authenticating documents is a simple one. Five examples of forgeries from the Great Plains of North America offer illustra tive cases. In other words. commonly produce documents intended to deceive or mislead their audience. discuss the genesis. Ideally.61 on Thu. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . of a document?for an authentic.81. The first example is a narrative published by Edgar Allan Poe (1840). for example. which alleged to be the diary of trader "Julius Rodman" and described hisascent of the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains in 1790. the original (or photocopies) of a document must be used for study. This step deals with the document itself. no less than pri vate individuals. for the steps in doing so. because this is where counterfeiters realize the greatest financial return for their efforts. be a clerk's copy of an "original" source. Because it was based on the journals of Lewis and Clark and other contemporary documents.148. especially. Historical forgeries are common. not with its content or meaning.. Authentication generally focuses on the author and date of a document. The recent attempt to fabricate Hitler's diaries provides a dramatic but not unusual case. and they take many forms. at least until one has verified that a published source is an accurate and reliable transcription. or derivation. credible source may. it requires no great historical in sight to identify it as a fraud by an author well known for such tricks (Ketterer 1979:141-45). Forged narratives for commonplace past happenings are more rare but are nevertheless more plentiful than one might expect. see Gottschalk (1958:118-38) and Shafer (1980:127-47).

. . Louis. 86 W. One example of several will suffice: a firsthand account would not err as grievously as in the instance of the "salt springs" near the mouth of the Niobrara River where "LeRaye" and his companions allegedly halted to extract salt. reveal them as unreliable. although "the absence of published critiques has allowed the story to be redis covered and reprinted at least four times . as in this instance. It appears to be an elaborate and plausible fabrication of the adventures of a frontiersman who was captured by Plains In dians. Another form of forgery is illustrated by the journal of Jonathan Carver. an effective cathartic no one would knowingly use as a food additive. including the fact that transcriptions of letters that were purportedly written by Lewis's great-grandfather were in fact dated after Rowz?e's death.81. More subtle in style is the forged "journal" of "Charles LeRaye" (Robinson 1908). exhaustive however. rather. provides convinc ing evidence that the narrative is a forgery. it seems probable that the author also used other authentic but not presently identifiable travel accounts to embellish the story (Dollar 1982). The springs. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . An study of its content. a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Tests of the narrative. a narrative that describes the general setting of the upper This content downloaded from 201. Raymond Wood details or trivia that no other source mentions. they have ignored it" (Yelton 1988:161).61 on Thu. which has been accepted as authentic by numerous historians. A similar instance is The Adventures of My Grandfather. which still exist. point to the fact that it is a story composed by John Lewis Peyton and is best considered a historical novel. A reprint with an intro duction by Frederick Webb Hodge (1929) and an article using the account as a "source" for the "Mound Builder" myth (Blakeslee 1987) appear to give this narrative credibility. An examination of the counterfeit narrative for details relating to the Mandan Indians shows that it contains nothing that cannot be found in other extant sources. contain not sodium chloride but sodium sulfate (Glauber salt).historians have not for gotten the tale. an ac count fabricated by John Lewis Peyton (1867) concerning John Row z?e Peyton's alleged escape and voyage in 1774 from the presidio in Santa Fe across the Great Plains to St.148. However. Although the account appears to be based on extant and reliable sources?including the journal of Patrick Gass. The reasons for their silence are clear. Close scrutiny of the content of even the most plausible accounts may. for numerous elements in the text demand skepticism. in short.

any identification would neces sitate "the discovery of not just one site. by any other source. directly or indi rectly. a respected North Dakota historian. Instead. despite Libby's claims to the contrary.61 on Thu. A recent examination of the original (and reliable) manuscript in the British Museum reveals that it was augmented with material from other sources before publication?apparently by an editor re tained by the publisher?in an attempt to make the book more in teresting to the reading public (Parker 1976:30-32). Libby rejected the idea that the French explorer Pierre Gaul tier de Varennes. No historical. had visited the Mandan Indians in what is now North Dakota in 1738-39. he sup ported the idea that V?rendrye visited the Hidatsa Indians at a point on the Missouri River 180 miles upriver from the soundly documented historic villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa (Libby 1909. Whereas one could believe the partial or total loss of one (or of sev eral) sites to the Missouri River. the loss of all of them strains belief" (Smith 1980:84-89). Ethnohistory and Historical Method 87 American Midwest in 1766-67. 1916). but not one existed in the area he claimed for them. Libby. A special form of forgery is fabricating evidence to bolster a shaky argument. This content downloaded from 201.81. archaeological. Circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that Orin G. and amore careful scrutiny of the archives simultaneously rescued a once-dis credited source and benefited scholarship. either fabricated evidence himself or uncritically accepted evidence fabricated by a colleague (Haxo 1941) to support his view of a poorly documented historical event. of his account published The version in 1778 contains material that was added from contemporary travel ers' accounts?providing such an apparent case of plagiarism that the narrative was sometimes rejected in its entirety as being spuri ous. Not one of his allegations concerning the Hidatsa occupation of the area is supported. Archaeologically. or traditional evidence exists or even suggests that the Hidatsa ever lived in that upriver locale. the Sieur de la V?rendrye. at least for his studies relating to the history of the Hidatsa Indians. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . but of a group of sites. Libby's comment that Ramsay's accounts must be "severely tested before being taken for truth" (1902:703) is now applicable own to his work.148. despite eighty years of research. Libby once published an expos? of the plagiar ism he detected in David Ramsay's History of the American Revo lution (1793). Hidatsa villages left conspicuous ruins. The authenticity and credibility of the original manuscript is thus assured.

empha sis in original). but that it is as close to what actually happened as we can learn from a critical examination of the best available sources. even an authen tic one. This has been shown to be particularly true of narratives written by This content downloaded from 201.61 on Thu. and we are rarely given clues to that person's position in the society being described. One of the most important rules is that "for each particular of a document the process of estab lishing credibility should be separately undertaken regardless of the general credibility of the author" (Gottschalk 1958:143-44. many statements made in ethnographies are based on the testimony of a single eyewitness or informant. the testimony of a nonwitness is hearsay evidence in his tory (as it is in law) and must be regarded with suspicion. Sources may be readily separated into two categories: those produced by eyewitnesses to an event and those written by individuals who were not present when the events being described took place.88 W. That is. Cultural biases and ethnocentrism often markedly affect both observations and judgmental statements by eyewitnesses. Credibility is concerned with the individual statements within a document. Furthermore. (Gottschalk 1958:139-40. A historical a "fact" thus may be defined as particular derived directly or indirectly from historical documents and regarded as credible after careful testing in accordance with the canons of historical method. the historian queries each individual bit of testimony separately. Although we must keep in mind the fallibility of any witness. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . we seek particulars and do not accept the entirety of any primary source. It is impor tant to keep in mind that every detail in a document. Raymond Wood Internal Criticism Credibility deals with the meaning of statements in a source and provides a means to evaluate a document.148. emphasis in original) Parenthetically. not with the en tire source. we should subject anthropological sources to the same kind of scrutiny we give any other kind of document. need not be accepted.81. Itmight be well to point out again that what ismeant by calling a particular credible is not that it is actually what happened. the testimony of one who was on the scene at the time of the event is generally more credible than that of someone who was not there. for they are subject to such biases as transient theory and method as well as personal bias. Furthermore.

(2)What was the purpose of the document and what was its intended audience? Was it written for the author's eyes alone. for there was much borrowing be tween count-keepers. Every documentary source must be understood within the prevailing ideology of the period of its composition. A detail is credible if it can pass three tests: 1.. "both meaning and chro nology are established. Native records for aboriginal Americans north of Mexico are suffi ciently rare that the "winter counts. their interpretations remain at about the same level as they were in the 1880s. the greater the potential distortion in the record. not the source as a whole. winter counts must be used with the same rules that are applied to other documents. winter counts are frequently dependent on outside sources for interpretation. These counts therefore do not provide indepen dent observations as to what was considered important to the count keeper. on the basis of documentation inde pendent of the winter counts" (Thurman 1982:173). Scholars have studied these records for the past century seeking to augment the historical record. what was the source of the information? Gottschalk (1958:150) repeats: "the primary witness and the detail are . Several principles. or for special interest groups? (3) How competent was the witness? Expert and amateur witnesses differ widely in their ability to report such things as numbers. . The means by which sources can be appraised are almost infinite. of the Indians of the Great Plains have attracted wide attention. Furthermore. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .61 on Thu. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 89 whites were captured by Indians that purport who to be "true" ac counts of the lives of their captors (Vanderbeets 1984) but in reality reflect a general prejudice against Indians." or calendars.148. for the greater the time lapse between the observation of an event and its documentation. the subjects of examination. particularly for events predating the arrival of Euro-Americans. Was the primary witness able to tell the truth? Was the person an eyewitness? If not. and no brief essay can begin to elaborate on them. especially those narratives written for a popular audience. that is. In short. To date. Many of the different counts depict the same events. however. These records consist of bison robes painted with pictographic symbols representing mem orable events in the yearly cycle of a particular tribal unit. however." This content downloaded from 201. are basic: (1)Temporal proximity to the event is important.81. if at all. for others.

is subject This content downloaded from 201. Wood 1986). hence the circumspect phraseology of historians in saying. Still. Unfortunately. else. Was the witness willing to tell the truth? Egos and uncon scious biases often are involved. Take care in this last test. . protecting his own interests.61 on Thu. as Gottschalk said. Their use. Is the account internally consistent? Is the author an interested witness. Raymond Wood 2." (Gottschalk 1958:166 67.148. . can never be ac cepted without reservation. Is there independent corroboration of the detail? A single statement. so these noncontroversial matters are usually re ported accurately. grinding axes. for some seemingly independent obser vations derive the same source. from Indian testimony concerning past events in their culture is commonly based on a com mon mythology or oral tradition (Hanson 1979). a great number of contradictory statements appear in some ethnographic accounts. Memories are fallible. For example. for example. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Early efforts to understand the Hidatsa were hampered by use less attempts to reconcile these inconsistent accounts. For example. 3. of course. some details simply cannot be corroborated. Consult Shafer (1980:166-67) for a useful checklist of internal criticism. "According the cavalry under his command . that "Alexander Henry is our authority for the statement that. . or pleasing a superior? We can place greater confidence in details that are of little conse quence to the author. Accept details based only on the inde pendent testimony of two or more reliable witnesses. early explorers likely had nothing to gain in reporting matters such as housing details or kinship. . for example. . 170). given inevitable cross-cultural misunder standings. . Each of the three Hidatsa Indian subgroups in North Dakota.". In other words. even by an unimpeachable source. Indepen dence of testimony is critical. and slips of the pen are common.". Oral traditions are without question a major source of infor mation about a people and their past. one must probe the covert agenda of the writer as well as examine the overt purpose of the docu ment. 90 W. we confirm a lie. Part of this occurs because many historic tribes were in fact compo site groups with separate histories. had its own origin tradi tion.81. Only when the three groups are separately considered can many of the contradic tions between them be satisfactorily resolved (Bowers 1965:14. to Captain Benteen. and "if Eisenhower's memoirs are to be believed .

Histo rians agree that we all must use documents that are "tainted" in one way or another. They must always be cross-examined" (Kluckhohn and Leighton 1974:27).61 on Thu. The trick is to identify the problems in our sources and ascertain the level of probability of the credibility of important details. Vansina's Oral Tradition as History (1985. A final caution: Carefully check all translations and have their accuracy verified by someone familiar with the meaning of words in that time and place. in our appraisals we must do what we routinely do in everyday life: make constant judgments as we evaluate what others say orally to us in terms of probability. All documents contain statements of varying reliability. or incompetent persons. "facts never speak for themselves. Furthermore. In other words. The pursuit of oral tradition will. but no full understanding of a people can be gained without consulting them. Words.81. commonsense rules. partisan. and certainty (Shafer 1980:55). quickly carry one into the realm of oral history. where they are not simply obscure. Some words that seem to have obvious meanings to us today have changed over time and. Another source of error also exists: Some of our materials are con tained in accounts written by overly romantic writers like George Catlin. John Francis McDermott's (1941) collation of early French terms This content downloaded from 201. Furthermore. Consider carefully whether a docu ment says what you think it says. obscuring meaning and making it difficult for amateur translators to determine which word is meant. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .148.. careless. however.Many of his observations on American Indians in his Letters and Notes (Catlin 1841) are romantically distorted. in addition. ranging from casual stan dards to the fact that some documents were written by poorly edu cated subjects not well versed in grammar. the translator may have been ignorant of the subtleties of the language. the subject for another study. may actually be misleading. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 91 to many qualifications.in addition. unscrupulous. There are a host of reasons for this. plausibility. and that documentary analysis is little more than carefully formulated. inac curacies in other details of this eyewitness account make it neces sary to use his record with caution. in older docu ments especially. also Vansina a 1965) is useful adjunct to the anthropological study of oral tradition in the ethnological literature. Many translations and transcriptions are poorly done. people sometimes wrote phonetically. that is. have histories. It has been said that documentary material ismade up in large part of state ments by more or less ignorant.

a point that is elaborated in Lowenthal's The Past is Another Country (1985). Recog nizing this fundamental difference permits us to consider the people of that time more in their own terms. they would be neither physi cally nor mentally comfortable were they to find themselves living in either of them. 92 W Raymond Wood in the Mississippi Valley is a good introduction to the kinds of lin guistic changes that bedevil translators. Although a distance of three miles is often accepted for the term.61 on Thu. 'quaint' perhaps. rather than in those categories we impose on them" (Deetz 1977:156). . for a Canadian it was a cultivated field" (McDermott 1941:2-3).. One can similarly err in translating the term league into English miles. It is as important to retain a sense of detachment with one's ante cedents as it is with those of other cultures. The American colonial era was another world. Although many Americans are direct and recent descendants of both worlds. as distinct from our own as Elizabethan England.81. We mistakenly think of Americans in the seven teenth century as ourselves but somehow simpler. Documentary Editing and Transcription Transcribing Narrative Documents The objective of documentary editing is to produce a pub lished text that makes it unnecessary for later scholars to consult an original manuscript. this goal is rarely attained. James Deetz has reminded us of the gulf in values that separates such niches in time. beliefs. An empathy for past values. but this is not always possible: All ethnohistorians eventually must make their own transcriptions of documents important to their This content downloaded from 201. but people with whom we would feel an instant empathy. seven different distances?both nationally and regionally?were de noted by "league" (Chardon 1980). 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . "A desert for a native of France would be a wild or deserted country. The nouns habitant and habitation there did not mean "to live" or "to dwell" but instead referred to "farmer" and "farm"?a significant change in meaning. Were amodern American actually to meet most of the individuals with whose testimony they deal in ethnohistory. Needless to say. and behavior also is critical. . "we would experience a sense of culture shock as pro found as if we had encountered amember of any other of the world's exotic cultures. Such editing tasks are best left to the professional documentary editor.148.

There is a growing literature on documentary editing (e. It is a succinct introduction to the techniques and literature of this field. This French-Canadian left a narrative of his exploration west of the Missouri River in the summer and fall of 1805 through what is now western North Dakota. . In 1910 a clerk's copy of Larocque's narrative was discovered and printed by Lawrence J. had the composition been my own" (Coues 1897:xiii). obtain a legible photocopy or microfilm of it and check it against whatever transcrip tion you may be using. silently deleted passages deemed prurient or redundant. in addition to which "almost every sentence was recast in favor of such gram matical propriety as could be impressed upon the composition with out entirely rewriting it. Coues admitted to hav ing deleted superfluous words and tautological phrases. . an appendix.g. although it is still worthwhile to consult older studies by Carter (1952) and Tanselle (1978). north-central Wyoming. reduced the copy to about two-thirds of its . A fine example of the necessity for consulting the original is illus trated by the publication history of the journal of Fran?ois-Antoine Larocque. and a comprehensive Guide to Documentary Editing (Kline 1987) was recently published under the auspices of the Association for Documentary Editing. Beals 1979). A document important to you may simply never havebeen published. and pioneer documentary editors rarely said very much about their transcription methods and standards. Burpee in the publications of This content downloaded from 201. upshot penciling' textual compromise between what I had found written and what I might have preferred to write. and eastern Montana. An il luminating example of a confession of nineteenth-century editorial largess is contained in Elliott Coues's description of his editing of the manuscript journals of Alexander Henry. even when the editor of a published version says it is a "literal transcription.81. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . We are fortunate that these journals have been edited recently using modern standards (Gough 1988). Older published documents are espe cially prone to problems. and one may even wish to publish a more extended extract or even an entire document in. the of all this 'blue was a original dimension. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 93 research." Inmany instances the editor may have silently modernized some words that originally meant some thing quite different. If a document is really critical to your research. say. or perhaps those that are in print are of uneven quality. or otherwise bowdlerized or mutilated the text.148. Sooner or later one finds it necessary to quote some seg ment of a previously unpublished document in support of one's topic.61 on Thu..

Making one's own transcription is fraught with difficulties in spite of the fact that the task seems. discovered the French translation and. even when dealing with well-known historians. The result was anything but satisfactory. the language which (despite his French extraction) Larocque preferred for his entire life. to be a simple one. Handwritten manuscripts can rarely be reproduced exactly in printing. it was issued in French translation in the same series (Burpee 1910. however. translated it back into English. but Hazlitt's retranslation left his language awk ward and often confused his meaning." but in this context meaning the pronghorn antelope) was translated as "caribou. At this point the story takes a bizarre turn. inconsistent spelling and punctuation. Consulting printed sources is therefore risky. contain faded text." This matter is easily remedied. under the Canadian pol icy of dual publication in English and French. and errors that appear in Pierre Margry's oft-cited six volume work of French archival documents are one case in point. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Mildred Wedel finds that "the numer ous editorial changes. and complications in the This content downloaded from 201. This is especially frustrating for anthropologists who are accus tomed to consulting and relying on published sources. assuming the original had been in that language. a Montana histo rian. as "many of the manuscripts he used are available in fair copy or micro film in this country" (Wedel 1976:14). Ruth Hazlitt. on the face of it. deletions. In neither edition was it stated that the original was in English. obsolete or obscure words. Many documents.148. Some documents pose few problems. Larocque's command of English had been reasonable. 94 W Raymond Wood the Canadian Archives. Deciphering such documents requires at least rudimentary skills in elementary paleography. The following year.81. Equally serious was the im proper translation of terms: the French term cabri (literally "goat. especially those by well-edu cated individuals with a clear hand and whose spelling is good.61 on Thu. For nearly half a century Montana historians have labored under the twice-translated and gar bled language in this version (Wood andThiessen 1985:158-59)." leaving scholars to ponder why this boreal animal was living in the short-grass plains of Montana. however. 1911). and a host of related prob lems. Some years after its publication. but historians have always been aware of how long it takes to research even the simplest topic. Wedel cites other instances of misplaced trust in published documents and further reminds us that adequately conducted historical research consumes a great deal of time.

one follows the manuscript "absolutely in spelling. Most early maps are of course planimetrically inaccurate.61 on Thu. According to one widely read historical manual. many historical studies rely on maps more as illustrative material than as primary documents in their own right. consult the editorial procedures outlined in volume 2 of the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Moulton 1986. Curiously enough. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . only photocopies can provide "true" facsimiles of any document?and even these do not necessarily reveal erasures and other such changes. capitalization. The use of maps is governed by the same rules that apply to any other kind of document.148. Here." However desirable this might be.81. one ironclad rule in historical editing: Be consistent. by Naylor (1986). three general ap proaches to transcription are currently in use: literal. yet maps may yield data that are impossible to obtain from narrative accounts. expanded. for each offers a different set of problems. and modernized (Freidel 1974:27-36). No simple solution to these problems exists. but anthropologists are usu ally more interested in the cultural data embedded in them than in what they depict in the way of topography. it is rarely practical except for brief documents or excerpts. This content downloaded from 201. No single set of rules can ever apply to all situations. but a useful literature on how to prepare and publish transcriptions is beginning to appear. In the final analysis. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 95 text such as those already mentioned make it even more difficult. State your editorial standards and follow them. What ever departures one may make from the literal approach must be clearly set out in the introduction. 2:49-55). Every document must be ap proached differently. For scholarly purposes the literal approach is demanded. and punctua tion. for there are simply too many variables. however. and these departures must be followed consistently throughout the text. For a good example of the editing of a complex set of documents. The expanded and modernized forms are used to produce readable texts for lay readers. Transcribing Maps Maps and charts summarize in unambiguous form contemporary knowledge (and misinformation) about geography. Another recent example of the literature in this field is in Presidio and Militia. There and Polzer is. One must begin with a set of rules for transcription derived from appropriate prototypes and modify them as necessary.

St. Plotting the locale. D. D. as the prime meridian more accurately places the site in northwestern Missouri. The prime meridian at Greenwich became a standard for Great Britain after 1794.81. It is obviously best to consult the original copy or a good facsimile of a manuscript map.C. Cracow.61 on Thu. 96 W Raymond Wood although there are a few special considerations peculiar to represen tations of topography. although not at all near the correct location in Benton County.C. This is a very large and technical field. Toledo. Petersburg.. Uranibourg. Harvey 1980. Rome. the island of Ferroin the Canary Islands. longitude was reckoned from such diverse points as one of the Azores Islands. and This content downloaded from 201. Many of the same general principles used for historical and archaeological research are equally applicable to his toric drawings and paintings.. Washington. Copenhagen. G. there is no literature that discusses the use of maps and the graphic arts in any useful detail. Even a rudimentary knowledge is of great help.148. but as late as 1881 no less than fourteen different prime merid ians were in use for topographic maps alone. Isla del Fuego in the Cape Verde Islands. "Every country had its favorite prime meridian. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Such matters as the fact that Greenwich. and Philadelphia. the example illus trates the point that one must begin map interpretation by being knowledgeable about the basis for mapmaking. one for general land maps and another for marine charts" (Brown 1949:282-83). "the selection of a prime meridian was based on patriotism. some had two. Rouen. Tooley 1949. Most often the original no longer exists. he said it was "obviously incorrect. Brown 1949. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. whim. When M. Although Koch's reading of the longitude is too poor to assist in properly locating the site today.Wilford 1981) and their bibliographies. but sum mary information may be obtained in a variety of sources (Bagrow 1964. he assumed the longitude given for it was measured from Greenwich. As far as I am aware. convenience or misconception" (Brown 1949:282). The critical use of maps necessitates some knowledge of the his tory of cartography. Bricker and Tooley 1969. Until about 1880. in the south west part of the state. for it describes a point in the Atlantic Ocean!" (Mehl 1962:30). England. however.. was not always used as the prime meridian for determining longitude are not common knowledge. Mehl attempted to rediscover the location of the fos sil mastodon that Albert Koch excavated on the Pomme de Terre River in Missouri in the 1840s. Pisa. Skelton 1972. Using Washington. Bologna.

but in most instances careful inspection and handwriting analysis were neces sary to determine which legends Clark had added (Wood 1981. This is an important step in authenticating This content downloaded from 201. in spite of the fact that expedition records (published in paraphrase in 1814) clearly state that the fort burned to the ground shortly after it was abandoned in the spring of 1805 (Biddle 1814. but better yet are copies of the maps in constructional sequence: the surveyor's original draft. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the representation of rivers and other landmarks with which the surveyor or engraver was likely to be familiar. for many maps were reengraved. One index of reliability is. of course. and the engraver's pub lished version. In a revision the cartographer may add features or legends to an older map. astrolabe. This leads us to a series of questions we should answer before relying on any information on the chart.81. or dead reckoning? What did the surveyor or engraver think was worthwhile to depict? Check contemporary travels against maps. The situation usually is well in hand with a first published copy. a contemporary copy or the engraver's copy. it may be possible to trace its manuscript prototype to an archive. This might be difficult to detect when the additions are in the same hand. 2:411). how was the map made? Did the maker employ a compass. but the tribes of the upper Missouri River were in constant movement at the time of the expedi tion.61 on Thu. and during the expedi tion William Clark made a number of notations on the maps in his own hand. continued to appear on maps for nearly a century after the expedition's return. 1983. Seven years is not a long time. dates of explo ration. and the area itself. even after newer and more accurate charts were Fort Mandan. A related problem is the silent updating of an existing map. plate 4). the 1804-5 wintering post of the Lewis and Clark expedition in present North Dakota. Lewis and Clark carried with them a set of maps made seven years earlier by a Spanish expedition.148. The least desirable sources are later editions. but annotations by another person usually are obvious. in short. A set of maps carried by the Lewis and Clark expedition illustrates this problem very nicely. translated. available. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 97 one must dependon the reliability of a published version or of man uscript copies. and reissued without being updated for many years. For example. and the separation of the elements on the maps aids us in better understanding the course of events in the area. If one uses a published map. Plagiarism. is even more a danger in maps than in narrative documents. In one case the additions are conspicuous. so the final product contains material of differentages.

For example. If the map is a published one. 98 W Raymond Wood a map. Knowledge of local history and physiography also is necessary to evaluate changes that may have taken place since the map was made. Key maps that accurately portray the landscape for the time they were made should be identified. were they eyewitnesses? A biography of the surveyor and the engraver may be important in revealing their training. 8.Wheat (1958. can you identify that base map? Who were the sources for the surveyor's data: Does the map reflect only the maker's observations. or foot journey will give one a deeper understanding of such journeys than any other single element in such research. Chomko (1985). reenacting a sailboat.61 on Thu. as it is rarely practical to use the same means of transport employed by the traveler.2:204) dated it to 1805 in the belief that it had been made at the headquarters of the expedition at Fort Mandan in the winter of 1804-5. "The ground itself is a document which the scholar must not neglect" (Winks 1969:302). canoe. what were the engraver's sources? Is the map wholly original. Comparisons of these maps with less firmly dated ones often prove illuminating. or does it contain the observations of others? What did these sources know of what they told the map maker: that is. There is no alternative to person ally following a map illustrating an explorer's route. the biography of Jean-Bap tiste Louis Franquelin. or were the surveyor's data im posed on an older base map? If so. and other information relevant to ap praising the map. With such a background you can better identify landmarks and better interpret and understand the statements and maps of travelers. It is mandatory to know the geography of the area in question and to have a "feel" for the country. retracing routes must usually be done by au tomobile. Reuben Gold Thwaites (1904-5. vol. Louis in 1805. con scientiousness (or lack of it).Carl I.81.148. Nevertheless. Find those charts that served as the base maps for later cartographers (sometimes called "mother maps"). An examination of the map by Stephen A. the famous French mapmaker. Today. Louis was based on maps produced by the exploration This content downloaded from 201. horseback. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and the commentary pro vided for some of the major maps he produced of North America (Delanglez 1943) permit us to use Franquelin's maps with a greater level of confidence. map 3) published a William Clark manuscript map he thought was a copy of a French or Spanish manuscript map made before Lewis and Clark left St. however. revealed that the course of the Mississippi River above St. In his edition of the journals of Lewis and Clark.

(References are to Tucker [1942]and Temple [1975]) Jolliet original (lost at Lachine) Marquette 1673-74 Jolliet 1674 (Tucker. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 99 Figure 3.81. believed to have been made by Jolliet. to build a genealogy It is useful for the charts one is using to clarify the relations among them.1). This is curious because. pi. were lost in the Lachine Rapids of the St. One of them. now lost and referred to as the "Jolliet X" map. there are several maps based on the 1673 exploration of the Mississippi River by Jacques Mar quette and Louis Jolliet. The original chart or charts. The subject is not even mentioned in Kline's Guide to Documentary Editing [1987). Law rence River west of Montreal on his return home from that expedi tion. 58) Thevenot (Marquette) 1681 Anonymous 1762-73 Randin 1674-81 (Temple. and Jolliet produced two others. Marquette subsequently produced his own map of their explo rations. In contrast to the growing literature on the editing of narrative documents. pi. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .1. pi.61 on Thu. very little has been written on the editing of maps. as one historical cartographer This content downloaded from 201. pi. Genealogy of the Marquette and folliet maps. 5) (Temple.148. so that some parts of the map reflect information half a decade after the date that Thwaites and Wheat ascribed to it. Internal on the map thus dates it to evidence about 1810. For example. 3. is the apparent source for a variety of dependent charts (Delanglez 1948) (see Fig. 6) Randin second copy Franquelin 1678-79 I Franquelin 1681 of that river by Zebulon Montgomery Pike in 1805 and 1806 that were published in 1810. 56) (Tucker.

a dictum that. even when only part of the map is illustrated. 2. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . They may be set in type or hand lettered to duplicate the original penmanship. Corrections. Many options are available for reproducing map text and legends so they are legible. must occasionally be edited because they cannot be easily read and understood. must be reproduced when they are published at such reductions that many legends cannot be read. applies equally to narrative documents. of course." ismore useful in revealing how maps are being used in contemporary historical atlases than as a guide to editing them. No transcription. 3.61 on Thu. Itmay sometimes be necessary to slightly exaggerate small-scale cultural or physical features so they are not lost in the final reduced copy. A careful transcription nevertheless can suffice for most gen eral if not specific uses. no matter how carefully prepared. can ever fully replace the original. In either case they must be utterly faithful to the original spelling and should accurately mirror the position and emphasis on the original. "Indeed. Maps. A transcription is therefore necessary if the reader is to read detail on the chart. The first step in transcription is to reproduce the map itself by faithfully tracing its linework and symbols.148. I disagree with Wiberley (1980:502)when he says it is logical to correct the contents of old maps they differ fundamentally because from personal papers (although he retreats from this position in asserting that most small-scale maps of America made before 1865 cannot be edited). 4. the position that the text of a scholarly edition of any material can ever be modernized is indefensible" (Tanselle 1978:48). Many maps. Publishing an original map is often unsatis factory because it cannot be legibly reproduced. and it serves as a point of departure for the scholar demanding more detail. Stephen Wiberley's (1980) article. 1. "Editing Maps. "maps are a precise index of geographical knowledge" (Diller 1946:505). 100 W Raymond Wood said. erasures. Documentary editors must present documents as close to the original form as possible. and similar modifications can rarely be depicted with enough precision to satisfy all potential users of a given map. This content downloaded from 201.81. especially large-scale ones. like narrative documents. The following points may serve as a general introduction to cartographic editing in ethno history.

At the same time it is too large to be legibly reproduced in book or journal size. however. are being trained in the use and interpretation of documents. 55-57. pis. J.148. 1982a) for transcriptions of John Thomas Evans's 1796-97 maps of the Missouri River. Francis Parkman also made careful hand transcriptions of a number of maps he found in European archives. Their value lies in the fact that the originals of some of the maps he made no longer exist (e. 2:102). Tyrrell (1916) reproduced the entire map. Color is usually cosmetic rather than really informative. The reason is not hard to detect: Archaeologists may be trained to inter pret the prehistoric past.g. B.Wagner (1955) for three maps by Peter Pond. A number of examples of varying format and size illustrate some of these points. and degrees are now offered in historical archaeology through depart ments of history and anthropology in several universities in the This content downloaded from 201. a magnificent cartographic monument to its maker" (Wheat 1958. see Han son (1980) for the George Drouillard maps of 1808. Conclusions The early historic period tends to be the most poorly inter preted era in the culture histories of many parts of the world. and of William Clark's 1803-4 mapping in the state of Missouri. and parts of it were traced under the direction of Elliot Coues for his editions of Alexander Henry's and David Thompson's journals (Coues 1897). When color on old maps does transmit essential data. a German who came to the United States in 1854 bringing copies of many early maps relating to the discovery and exploration of America (Winsor 1904). 59). 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Most historical archaeologists today. it may be depicted by hatching or stippling on the transcription. and Wood (1981.61 on Thu. drawn in 1814.81. and which are now in the Winsor Memorial Map Collection in Harvard College Library. is said to be "one of the greatest maps ever drawn.. see Temple 1975. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 101 5. Kohl. as in the case of boundaries without additional lines. For examples of more recently redrawn maps. David Thompson's map of northwestern Canada. Many transcriptions were made of maps before photography made exact reproductions possible. but all too many of them still use historical documents naively. A famous collection of such maps was produced by John G.

At the mouth of that stream. The animals would have dispersed over the rugged ground along the valley wall above the cliffs and could not have been driven over the cliffs themselves.81. did Lewis and Clark describe the bison jump? Members of the expedition had had every opportunity to learn of this hunting technique the preceding winter at Fort Mandan." a clear indication they were at the river's edge. who practiced this form of hunt This content downloaded from 201. Far too many anthropologists use his torical records as they would use modern monographs?except that they tend. then. But why were the bison piled at the foot of the cliff? Meriwether Lewis says the river had away part of this immence "washed pile of slaughter.148. then stampeded them over the precipice to their death (Moulton 1987. the con figuration of its junction with the Missouri River. where they had win tered with the Mandan and Hidatsa. but they did not associate them with those they saw at Slaughter River. Their account of a bison kill conforms to the particulars of comparable (and soundly documented) hunting prac tices in the historic period in the northern Plains. In their journals Lewis and Clark proceeded to explain that the bison were the victims of a hunt in which the Indians herded the unfortunate beasts toward the cliff. But was it what it was purported to be? An inspection of the locale reveals that the configuration on the ground has no parallel with any of the many dozens of known bison jumps in the northern Plains. This locale has understandably been cited repeatedly as an exam ple of a bison jump. for successful prehistoric societies everywhere persisted into the period when written records were being prepared either about them or by them. to be more critical of the modern data than of the older materials. A cautionary tale is perhaps appropriate here. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 219). as revealed on William Clark's map. the base of which was littered with an "immence pile" of the carcasses of rotting bison.61 on Thu. Most archaeologists cannot escape the eventual use of historical documents. they passed a high cliff in what is now central Montana. 4:216-17. When Lewis and Clark were ascending the Missouri River in the spring of 1805. would have acted to sweep floating bison against the shore beneath the cliff and to accumulate the animals they found there. Lewis and Clark had previously mentioned large numbers of drowned bison they had seen along the river bank.A nearby stream was named Slaughter River (modern Arrow Creek) in memory of the deceased bison. 102 W Raymond Wood United States. perhaps. or kill. Why.

New York: Oxford University Press. as an intern in the summer of 1981. James P.Graff 1985 The Modern Researcher. Revised and enlarged by R. Axtell. This content downloaded from 201. 1950 The Scholar Adventurers. R. Moore.148. Skelton. Archaeologists are used to such work schedules but are impatient at the slow pace that the critical analysis of documents demands. Joseph C. John H. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. National Archives and Records Service. Leo 1964 History of Cartography. Ethnohistory and Historical Method 103 ing. Thiessen for their comments on early drafts of this paper. Wisconsin. Ronda. The evaluation of historic documents is a time-consuming prac tice. and Henry F.81. Porter. and to helpful comments by several reviewers. A. Jeffery R. Archaeological research often is said to consist of 10 percent fieldwork and 90 percent laboratory analysis. The landscape was a document that had not been critically appraised. James 1979 Ethnohistory: An Historian's Viewpoint. REFERENCES Altick. historical method cannot be used casually. 10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .61 on Thu. Acknowledgments I thank Richard Sheldon and members of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. An inspection of the landscape revealsthat the perfectly sound description of a natural catastrophe had been wrongly linked with an ethnographically documented practice (Wood 1982b:4-5). Chomko. Ethnohistory 26 (1 ):1-13. Moulton. Gary E. and Thomas D. for the opportunity to attend the Tenth Annual Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents (Camp Edit) in Madison. Jacques. 4th ed. Lee Lyman. In this instance physical evidence takes precedence over and guides the interpretation of documentary data. Barzun.1 am also indebted to Stephen A. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1981 The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America. Hanson. New York: Macmillan. Richard D. Bagrow. however. If sound ethnohistory is to be done.

10 Dec 2015 03:18:07 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Charles. 1987 John Rowze? Peyton and the Myth of the Mound Builders. Berkhofer. D. Publications of the Canadian Archives 3:1-82. Norman F. 1965 Hidatsa Social and Ceremonial Organization. Maryland Historian 10(2):27-37. Ottawa: Imprimerie de L'Etat.] 1814 Historyof the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark. Definitions. Lawrence J. Publications des archives canadiennes 3:1-82. 1932 Everyman His Own Historian.C. Nicholas. Tooley 1969 A History of Cartography: 2500 Years of Maps and Mapmakers.C. Robert M. Carmack.: Government Printing Office.61 on Thu. London: Thames and Hudson. 1969 A Behavioral Approach toHistorical Analysis. Blakeslee. Carter. Ross W. 1805. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau. Lloyd A. George 1841 Letters and Notes on the Manners. Customs. 104 W Raymond Wood Beals. Burpee. V.148. Brown. 1910 Journal of Larocque from the Assiniboine to the Yellowstone. Becker. Annual Review of Anthropology 1:227-46. D. New York: Crowell.ed. New York: The Free Press.81. 1955 What Are Historical Facts? Western Historical Quarterly 8(3):327-40. Clarence E. Bureau of American Ethnology. Historical Washington. Boston: Little. Jr. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep. Bowers. 1805. and Richard A. 1952 Editing. and Condition of This content downloaded from 201. [Biddle.: Government Printing Office. Schneider 1967 How to Study History. and Aims. Catlin. Methods. 1911 Journal de Larocque de la rivi?re Assiniboine jusqu'? la rivi?re aux Roche Jaunes. Cantor. American Historical Review 37(2):221-36. 1979 Documentary Editing: A Bibliography. 2 vols. Bulletin 194. Jr.. Brown. American Antiquity 52(4):784-92. Donald J. 1972 Ethnohistory: A Review of Its Development. Carl L. Bricker. and R. Robert F..Washington. Alfred W. Bulletin of the National Archives 7. 1949 The Story ofMaps.

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