Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 19, 2001 - Issue 36



Anthropologist leaves life's work on Southern Ute language to tribe


 by Matt Joyce Durango Herald Staff Writer

IGNACIO, CO Ė A young anthropologist just beginning his career came here in 1961 to document the Southern Ute Indian language Ė a language that had never before been written down.

Forty years later, James Goss, 67, has returned to the Southern Ute Indian Cultural Center and Museum to donate his entire research collection on Ute language, history and culture.

"Iíve always considered that whatever the older Ute people told me back in the 1960s is the traditional property of the Ute people and that it belongs here," Goss said.

"I keep my treaties. I promised to bring things back to the people that gave me my career, and now Iím doing it."

Goss, now a professor emeritus at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, developed an alphabet, a dictionary and a complete grammar of the Southern Ute language.

David Box, a Southern Ute elder who lives in Denver, helped lay the groundwork for some of Gossí Ignacio interviews in the early 1960s, he said. Box said he would tell the Southern Ute people, "Weíve got something thatís good here because weíre going to use this when the time comes in the future."

Box said that Gossí research could be useful for the tribe, especially younger tribal members.

James Goss displays some of the items Tuesday he donated to the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum in Ignacio. Goss developed an alphabet, dictionary and grammar of the Southern Ute language.

"Itís a fact-finding venture," Box said. "Now, you can come up with all kinds of facts and store that. Itís no good unless you use it."

Goss was at the Ute museum Tuesday helping develop an exhibit on Southern Ute veterans of 20th century wars. The exhibit is scheduled to open Memorial Day, said Lynn Brittner, director of the museum.

Gossí museum contributions, which will take several trips to transport, include clothing, beadwork, maps, photographs, books on museum administration, books and academic papers on a variety of American Indian tribes, and an assortment of records of the Ute language from early explorers such as John Wesley Powell.

Gossí donation also includes an audio recording of tribal member Eddie Box broadcasting the tribal news over KIUP in the Ute language during the summer of 1961.

"By the time Iíve transferred this whole collection, it wonít just be a Ute collection, but all the Native American material Iíve accumulated over 40 years of study as a professor," Goss said.

Brittner said the museum has plans to start a foundation and build a new museum, research center and auditorium.

Gossí donation "is a great impetus to plan not only a museum, but also a research facility so that Ute students could come here and study about their own culture and not have to go somewhere else and fill out forms, and be denied access to collections," she said.

For now, the museum is seeking small grants to house the collection in acid-free boxes and folders, Brittner said.

"Weíve already started using his library even though we havenít finished cataloging it," she said.

Goss said he hopes the gift Ė a legally binding decision that cannot be challenged by future Goss generations Ė will form the nucleus of an active research center on American Indian tradition and culture.

"This will be much more useful to the next generation of Utes than it would be in a university library or divided up by my descendants after Iím passed on," he said. "The Ute people gave me my career and now itís payback time.

"This is the way Iím finishing my career."

Contents copyright © 2001, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.

People of the Colorado Plateau


Written Ute Language




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