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Tsianina Blackstone on What Good Friends Archaeologists Make

Archaeology Quotations


Tsianina Blackstone, the famous Cherokee-Creek mezzo-soprano, first met archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915. She eventually became Hewett's protege and friend, despite Hewett's decidedly weird idea of social conventions:

Tsianina knew little about archaeology, but she was to remember the day she met [Edgar Lee] Hewett vividly because of a peculiar request he made of her. She noticed that as he showed her the skulls of ancient people on display in his [San Diego, California] Museum of Man, he paid particular attention to her own head. Presently he said, "You have made so much out of your life in such a short time and your head is so beautifully shaped, I would consider it a great contribution to the history of your people if you would let us have your head when you depart for the Happy Hunting Ground."

Tsianina made no reply, but inside she didn't feel so good. She later wrote, "He frightened me, and I had a secret fear of having my skull on display for all to see. Imagine my relief when my beloved friend left for his Happy Hunting Ground before me!"

Quoted in Beatrice Chauvenet. 1983. Hewett and Friends: A biography of Santa Fe's vibrant era. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe. pp. 157-158.

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