William Bauer on writing American Indian history from home

William J. Bauer Jr. (Wailacki and Concow, and an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes) is author of the new book We Were All Like Migrant Workers Here: Work, Community, and Memory on California’s Round Valley Reservation, 1850-1941.  The federally recognized Round Valley Indian Tribes are a small, confederated people whose members today come from twelve indigenous California tribes. In 1849, during the California gold rush, people from several of these tribes were relocated to a reservation farm in northern Mendocino County. Fusing Native American history and labor history, Bauer chronicles the evolution of work, community, and tribal identity among the Round Valley Indians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that enabled their survival and resistance to assimilation.

In a guest post for the First Peoples blog, Bauer talks about the importance of kinship in American Indian culture, particularly for American Indian historians who study their own communities. Bauer begins:

In the 1940s, the Dakota novelist and scholar Ella Deloria wrote eloquently about the significance of kinship and family in Dakota life. Kinship, Deloria explained, was an all-encompassing aspect of being Dakota, governing relationships within Dakota communities and with outsiders. When it comes to writing American Indian history, Deloria’s comments resonate far beyond the Dakota people, and they are as significant now as they were when first published some seventy years ago. This is especially true for American Indian scholars who write about the histories of our communities and homelands. When we research and write about our communities, we inevitably discover our own family histories, which offer an opportunity to interpret and organize our studies. Three narratives from my own research demonstrate the potential of writing American Indian history in a family way.

Bauer’s piece reveals the bonds of kinship that informed both his documentary and oral history sources for his new book. Read his full article here.