University Archives staff at Washington University in St. Louis, in collaboration with the Linguists Department of Unicamp State University, São Paulo, Brazil, are working to provide international access to the unique 1930s field notes of anthropologist Jules Henry.
The letters, notes, and journals created about the observations in Brazil of the "Kaingang" people (today known as Xokleng Laklãnõ) document the culture & customs of a culture in danger of losing its language as fewer and fewer people are fluent. This is an example of an "endangered language," spoken today by only a few thousand people who live in Brazil.
This project aims to connect scholars and language teachers in Brazil with the information locked into crumbling pages stored in St. Louis. The ultimate goal is to create an on-line site with multiple language descriptions allowing international access and use of these rare materials.
The people Jules Henry once called "Kaingang" currently call themselves Xokleng Laklãnõ. As part of a project organized by Professor Wilmar D. Ángelis, they recently started a Web Page / Blog hosted by Unicamp State University, São Paulo. Members of the community are trained at the University so that they can post and manage the page themselves, with a goal that the site becomes an education tool for the children and teachers of schools in the community who have classes in both Portuguese and Kaingáng language. View the site at http://laklano.iel.unicamp.br/laklano/ (link may not work due to site construction) And see one of Jules Henry's photographs posted on the site at http://laklano.iel.unicamp.br/laklano/?q=taxonomy/term/37&page=1 (link may not work due to site construction)
This Foundation for Endangered Languages article in 2007 offers an excellent overview of the community's language (article in English). See also the Kamuri Blog, from the Center for Indian Education and Culture, which includes links to information about UNICAMP's collaborative linguistic projects (site in Portuguese).
images: Yoko with her baby (left); Framework of a Xokleng Laklãnõ house (right). Both by J.Henry, circa 1930s.
Jules Henry, Ph.D. (1904-69), professor of anthropology and sociology at Washington University in St. Louis from 1947 to 1969, was both a noted anthropologist and a highly prolific author.
Upon earning his Doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University in 1935, Henry served with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Labor and held various teaching posts at the University of Chicago and in Mexico City. During this time,
Henry conducted sociological research on various indigenous tribes in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.
His most widely acclaimed written work, “Culture Against Man” (1963), is thought by many experts to be one the most penetrating studies in American culture to date. Likewise, his books “Jungle People” (1941) and “Pathways to Madness” (1971) are often regarded as the most thorough and compelling works of their kind.
His life-long companion, Sumia Lottie (Zunia) Henry, and other family members, gave Henry's Papers to the Archives; a Finding Aid for the Jules Henry Papers held by University Archives is available on-line.
The obituary of Jules Henry 1904 - 1969, American Anthropologist, Vol. 73, No. 3., includes a complete listing of all his published papers.
>>image above: Jules Henry in the Field, circa 1930s.