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Synopsis

In March, 1950, the University of California assumed custodianship of an extensive collection of original and secondary data referring to California Indian ethnology, made by Dr. C. Hart Merriam and originally deposited with the Smithsonian Institution. Since that time the Merriam collection has been consulted by qualified persons interested in linguistics, ethnogeography, and other specialized subjects. Some of the data have been published, the most substantial publication being a book, Studies of California Indians (1955), which comprises essays and original records written or collected by Dr. Merriam.
The selection and editing of the material for the Studies volume made us aware of the extent of the detailed information on ethnogeography which a thorough survey of the Merriam data would provide. We therefore approached Dr. Leonard Carmichael, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, with the proposal that a qualified graduate student be appointed as research assistant to study and prepare for publication a discrete amount of Merriam record material, remuneration for this work to be paid from the E. H. Harriman fund, administered by the Smithsonian Institution for preparation and publication of Dr. Merriam's ethnological data. This proposal was approved, and Mr. Martin Baumhoff began his one year of investigation on September 15, 1955.
After discussion, we agreed that the area where tribal distributions, village locations, and aboriginal population numbers were least certainly known—and also a field where the Merriam data were fairly abundant—was the territory of the several Athabascan tribes of Northwestern California. Under our direction, Baumhoff patiently assembled all the available material on these tribes, producing what is certainly the most definitive study yet made of their distribution and numbers.
In this monograph the importance of the Merriam data is central, although they are compounded with information collected by other students of the California Athabascans. We believe that the maps showing group distribution represent the closest possible approximation to the aboriginal situation that can now be arrived at.
The Department of Anthropology hopes to be able to continue the work of studying and publishing the Merriam data on tribal distributions. It takes this opportunity to express its appreciation of the coöperation of the Smithsonian Institution in this undertaking.
A. L. Kroeber

R. F. Heizer

 

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