Frederica de Laguna Northern Books

The Life of Frederica de Laguna - Part 4


Freddy returned to her own field, planning an ambitious project that combined archaeological, historical and ethnographic disciplines into a comprehensive study of Tlingit culture. She hoped to trace the development of a recognizable Tlingit pattern from the culture's early appearance to modern times. In 1949, she began surveying Northern Tlingit communities on the Gulf Coast of Alaska including Yakutat. That same year, she was elected vice-president of the Society for American Archaeology (1949-50). In 1950, Freddy brought a team of researchers to Angoon, Admiralty Island in Southern Alaska where she joined efforts with Viola Garfield. This collaboration led to the writing of The Story of a Tlingit Village: A Problem in the Relationship Between Archeological, Ethnological, and Historical Methods (1960) which laid the methodological foundations for her later research.

With the collaboration of Catharine (“Kitty”) McClellan, one of her graduate students who had become her close collaborator, she moved from Angoon back to Yakutat. There, the research later published as Under Mount Saint Elias: The history and culture of the Yakutat Tlingit (Smithsonian contributions to anthropology) (1972), took shape as Freddy came back every time she could, becoming more and more attached to the community. The resulting 3 volumes were hailed both by both the scientific community and the Yakutat people themselves. In fact, the Yakutat people rewarded her with a special celebration during a potlatch in 1997. Her return ahd the celebration became the topic of an award-winning documentary by Laura Bliss, Reunion Under Mount Saint Elias: The Return of Frederica de Laguna.

It was during this time (1965-1967)that Freddy and Kitty began to work on the Atna, Athabaskans of the Copper River, and their neighbours on the upper Tanana. At the same time, Kitty conducted additional research of her own in the Yukon territory. Together, they perfected research methods in ethnography with Freddy moving toward a perception of research as a dialogical enterprise.

In 1965, Freddy became president of the American Anthropological Association (1965-1966), She was re-elected in 1966 (1966-1967). In 1975, Frederica de Laguna and Margaret Mead became the first female anthropologists elected to membership in the National Academy of Science.