|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
At a Glance
Scope and Contents
The materials consist of 30 volumes (about 8,500 pages) of linguistic and anthropological notes made about the Kwakwaka'wakw by George Hunt in Fort Rupert, British Columbia, between 1898 and 1931, at the request of and in collaboration with Franz Boas.
The texts, which consist of a wide array of stories and cultural information, were written by Hunt in Kwakʼwala with interlinear English translations. Hunt would mail small batches to Boas, who then made extensive corrections and notations on the pages. The manuscripts were given to Columbia University by Boas in the early part of the 20th century. (The actual Hunt/Boas correspondence is held by the American Philosophical Society.)
Hunt's information came from careful and extensive interviews with many Kwakwaka'wakw people, as well as from his Kwakwaka'wakw wives, but the manuscripts are not direct transcriptions of interviews. Rather, they are distillations of what he learned from his informants, and they also draw on his own experience growing up in Fort Rupert. Hunt himself was the child of an English father and a high-ranking Tlingit mother.
These manuscripts form the basis for most if not all of Boas's publications on the Kwakwaka'wakw, but are unique and distinct from the published materials in many ways. The manuscripts include Hunt and Boas's disagreements on Kwakʼwala orthography and English translations; Boas's annotations, with e.g. museum accession numbers next to references to ceremonial objects; occasional small drawings, some of which were not published; and multiple numeration systems that refer to various publications. These manuscripts are well-known in the scholarly arena and have been the basis for many publications over the last 100 years, but have been inaccessible to the Kwakwaka'wakw themselves.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Conditions Governing Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located onsite.
This collection may be accessed in-person in the RBML Reading Room.
Conditions Governing Use
Patrons may take photographs of material in the Reading Room. Volume 14 of this collection may not be reproduced, including via Reading Room photography, due its cultural sensitivity, pending review from the respective community of origin. Additional items not currently designated as such may be so designated at any time by Library staff upon examination.
The Franz Boas papers at American Philosophical Society (APS) contain the Hunt/Boas correspondence, and have been fully digitized https://search.amphilsoc.org/collections/view?docId=ead/Mss.B.B61.inventory06-ead.xml#708695Hunt,George. The American Council of Learned Societies Committee on Native American Languages at APS has Hunt/Boas material as well: https://search.amphilsoc.org/collections/view?docId=ead/Mss.497.3.B63c-ead.xml#Kwakiutl(Kwakwaka'wakw).
Existence and Location of Copies
This material was microfilmed in the 1970s. Microfilm information: Manuscript in the language of the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island. 98-8031 [vols. 1 and 2] 98-8032 [vols. 3 and 4] 98-8033 [vols. 5 and 6] 98-8034 [vols. 7 and 8] 98-8035 [vols. 9 and 10] 98-8036 [vols. 11 and 12] 98-8037 [vols. 13 and 14].
Material was digitized in 2023.
The materials were long known as the George Hunt / Franz Boas "Kwakiutl" manuscripts. They were cataloged under RBML X-manuscript call numbers X898.K979 H 912 and X898.K979 H 912 3. In 2023, they were moved under archival control and given collection number MS#2123.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Pages in volume 14 were removed from a poor-quality container and rehoused into folders in a manuscript box.
2023-03-16 Finding aid created. kws