Below is part of a lovely tribute to Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology, and adjunct professor in Folklore, Emeritus Ray DeMallie, who passed away on April 25, 2021, sent out by the Anthropology department. Dr. DeMallie had a huge impact on his fields and will be greatly missed.
Raymond J. DeMallie, Jr. (October 16, 1946 – April 25, 2021)—often referred to as Ray— was born in Rochester, New York. He was the son of Raymond J. DeMallie, Sr. and Dorothy L. DeMallie (née Mollon). From an early age, he became interested in Native Americans. As a high school student in 1964, he attended the third Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture series at the University of Rochester, which were given that year by anthropologist Fred Eggan. Eggan’s talks, published in book form as The American Indian: Perspectives for the Study of Social Change, so intrigued Ray that he decided to study anthropology with Eggan at the University of Chicago. As an undergraduate (B.A. with honors) and then as a Master’s and PhD student, he was mentored by Eggan and a wide circle of historians, linguists, anthropologists, archivists, curators, and Native elders. While writing a paper on treaty history for historian Father Peter Powell he was introduced to the richness of the Newberry Library’s collections. Similarly, he was taught to use museum collections by James VanStone at the Field Museum and by a several mentors at the Smithsonian Institution. His MA thesis on kinship in Teton Dakota culture and his PhD dissertation on Teton Dakota kinship and social organization remain key resources for today’s scholars.
Beginning in 1970 Ray undertook collaborative fieldwork on reservations in the Dakotas, Montana, and Saskatchewan, where Sioux (Lakota, Dakota) and the closely related Assiniboine (Nakota) peoples live. Much of his field study was language-centered, recording texts of historical traditions, myths, and tales. Those remarkable field studies are paralleled by archival, library, and museum work with the goal of discovering, editing, and publishing major sources on the Sioux and Assiniboine past. Responding to needs expressed by Indian people themselves, Ray investigated materials for legal cases in support of treaty rights. In his work in applied legal history, his key partner was Vine Deloria, Jr. They worked together at the Institute for the Development of Indian Law and on book projects such as Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements, and Conventions, 1775–1979.
Ray’s first academic position was at the University of Wyoming from 1972-73. He then joined the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University in 1973, which was his academic home until he retired in 2017 as Class of 1968 Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology and American Studies. He maintained close ties to the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology as well. Ray came into a department and a university that had a long tradition of excellence in American Indian Studies. He was following in the footsteps of numerous eminent scholars, including Stith Thompson, a specialist in Native American storytelling in Folklore. Thompson in turn had brought to campus Carl Voegelin, who founded the Department of Anthropology in 1946 and who focused on documenting American Indian languages. Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin who defined the field of ethnohistory came also and founded what are today the American Society for Ethnohistory and its journal Ethnohistory. George Herzog, a founding ethnomusicologist and student of Native American music came in 1948 and founded the Archives of Traditional Music. All of these individuals and others cooperated together as the Research Center for Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, in which many affiliated faculty members had major interests related to Native American languages, histories, and cultures.
In December 1984, the American Indian Studies Research Institute that Ray and linguist Doug Parks proposed was approved by the university. Ray’s proposal built upon all that had been accomplished in the ten preceding years, on the success of the Multidisciplinary seminar, and, most significantly, on what he had learned about the campus, the administration, and from his colleagues. Ray’s successful establishment of the American Indian Studies Research Institute can be attributed to his abilities as an administrator but it was founded on his extraordinary reputation as a scholar and his outstanding record in teaching and mentoring. These same qualities underpinned his being named a Chancellor’s Professor in 2004, his being recognized by the Plains Anthropological Society with its 2019 Distinguished Service Award, and his being honored with a book published in his honor—Transforming Ethnohistories: Narrative, Meaning, and Community, edited by Sebastian Felix Braun.
A full account of all of Ray’s work is beyond the scope of this remembrance, but highlights include his editing of the massive Plains volume of the Smithsonian Institution’s Handbook of North American Indians and his editing and annotating of primary sources in widely read and highly regarded works such The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, Lakota Society, and (with Elaine A. Jahner) Lakota Belief and Ritual. With co-editor Alfonso Ortiz, he honored his own teacher Fred Eggan with the edited collection North American Indian Anthropology: Essays on Society and Culture. Among his later works is the monumental volume A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri: The Journal and Description of Jean-Baptiste Truteau, 1794-1796, which he co-edited with Doug Parks and Robert Vézina.
--Anya Peterson Royce with Jason Baird Jackson (drawing on an earlier profile authored by Della Collins Cook, Douglas R. Parks, and Anya Peterson Royce and published in 2017)