North American Ethnology


Dr. Peter Whiteley (Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of New Mexico 1982) is Curator of North American Ethnology.
Dr. Whiteley studies the cultures, social structures, social histories, and environmental relations in Native North America from the 17th century to the present.

Dr. Whiteley's research on Native North American societies and histories is based on field ethnography and archival documents: principally the Hopi of northern Arizona, where he began fieldwork in 1980; Cayuga and other Six Nations Iroquois in northeastern North America, beginning in 1999; Hupa in northwestern California, beginning in 1993; and Eastern and Western Pueblos beginning in the late 1970s. He continues to publish on society, culture, and history in all these regions. He has also worked extensively for Native American communities, especially in regard to land and resource rights. His most recent major work concerns a reconstruction of the social forces and historical processes at work in the split of the Third Mesa Hopi town of Orayvi in 1906: The Orayvi Split: a Hopi Transformation, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, 87, 2008. He is currently engaged in an extensive comparison of the evolution of kinship systems cross-culturally, especially of Crow-Omaha type, in collaboration with Dr. Ward Wheeler (Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, AMNH), a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Bantu Research

Research

Bantu Research

Phylogenetic methods offer a promising advance for the historical study of language and cultural relationships. Applications to date, however, have been hampered by traditional approaches dependent on unfalsifiable authority statements: in this regard, historical linguistics remains in a similar position to evolutionary biology prior to the cladistic revolution. Influential phylogenetic studies of Bantu languages over the last two decades, which provide the foundation for multiple analyses of Bantu sociocultural histories, are a major case in point.

Hopi Research

Research

Hopi Research

In 1980, Peter Whiteley began fieldwork with the Hopi of northern Arizona. After having spent time as an undergraduate traveling around the United States, he became very interested in the persistence of Southwestern Native American cultures in the face of acculturative pressures.

Crow-Omaha Kinship Systems

Research

Crow-Omaha Kinship Systems

Out of Dr. Whiteley’s research on the relationship between matrilineal kinship, Hopi ritual sodalities, and the Orayvi Split grew an interest in two mirrored kinship systems of the "Crow-Omaha" type.

Uto-Aztecan Research

Research

Uto-Aztecan Research

In collaboration with the Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Ward Wheeler, Dr. Whiteley has been studying historical relationships among languages, beginning with Uto-Aztecan languages of Middle and North America, using genetic methods developed in the field of evolutionary biology.

Diary of Francisco Garcés

Research

Diary of Francisco Garcés

The 1775-1776 diary of Spanish explorer Fray Francisco Garcés traveling from San Xavier del Bac to Hopi, via southern Arizona, southern California, and up the Colorado River, contains invaluable information about Native societies living in these regions at the time.

Six Nations Research

Research

Six Nations Research

The Cayuga Diaspora: this research is designed to disclose as much as possible about the social and historical processes at work, and their effects on persistent but changing Cayuga identities. Louis Cook: Dr. Whiteley’s project involves writing a biography of Colonel Louis Cook.

Reinterpreting the Northwest Coast Hall

Research

Reinterpreting the Northwest Coast Hall

In 2017 a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation sponsored a plan to reinterpret and conserve the Northwest Coast Hall which was first conceived by Franz Boas in the late 19th century.