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Native American Collections at The Bancroft Library: Instruction and Research

Highlights of the various Native American materials held at The Bancroft Library

Classes at The Bancroft Library

The Bancroft Library supports the teaching and research missions of the University of California, Berkeley, and welcomes class visits that incorporate and explore its collections. Every semester, Bancroft hosts a diverse array of classes in which instructors and students use archival documents, manuscripts, rare books, pictorial materials, and more.

In particular, multiple classes from the Departments of American Studies, Ethnic Studies, History of Art, and Linguistics, and the College Writing Program, have benefited from Bancroft's collections on Native Americans.  A sampling of course titles include:

  • Race and Representation in the Twentieth Century in the United States
  • Visual Cultures of California, 1500-Present
  • Native American Texts and Archives
  • Modern Native American Cultures and Peoples: Active Agents of Social Change
  • Researching Water in the West: Its Presence, Its Absence, and Its Consequences for the Peoples of California
  • Native American Cultures & Peoples Confront Injustices: Empowerment, Solidarity, Activism
  • History, Structure, and Sociolinguistics of Yurok
  • Indigenous California History, Literature, and Art

Of special note is the class Researching Water in the West: Its Presence, Its Absence, and Its Consequences for the Peoples of California conducted through the College Writing Program.  This class is part of the American Cultures Engaged Scholarship, an undergraduate course designed to connect students' academic research and scholarly work with community leaders and organizations.  Since 2011, students have been coming to Bancroft to view anthropological collections and maps that demonstrate water use in the Owens Valley, alongside Harry Williams, a Bishop Paiute elder and water rights activist.  Further information on this class and its impact are included just below.

The Bancroft Library has also partnered with UC Berkeley's Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program, the Native American Student Development Office, and the Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, as well as with such sister institutions as Stanford University.

Theresa Salazar with students from Researching Water in the West, 2014

Theresa Salazar with students from Researching Water in the West, 2014
Photo courtesy of Diana Vergil

Research

Outside of the classroom, The Bancroft Library supports the research of students, scholars, and the general public alike.  Its collections have been used extensively in dissertations, theses, publications, exhibitions, film, and much more.

One such example arose from the class Researching Water in the West: Its Presence, Its Absence, and Its Consequences for the Peoples of California.  A student, Jenna Cavelle, chose to pursue further research on the topic and was awarded UC Berkeley’s 2012 Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize to continue her project Recovering Cultural Memory: Irrigation Systems of the Owens Valley Paiute Indians.  She curated an exhibition at The Bancroft Library, Water & Culture: Recovering Owens Valley Paiute History, which highlighted her work.  After graduation, she went on to produce and direct the film Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute, winning the Best Short Documentary at the 2015 Red Nation Film Festival.

Jenna Cavelle's Bancroft Exhibition Poster Poster for Paya, The Water Story of the Paiute
Jenna Cavelle's Bancroft Exhibition Poster Poster for Paya, The Water Story of the Paiute


A sampling of recent publications utilizing Bancroft collections are included below.