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Omer C. Stewart papers

 Collection
Identifier: COU:1518

Scope and Contents

The Omer C. Stewart Papers contain materials created and collected by Stewart during his work as an anthropologist at the University of Colorado Boulder. These include Stewart's publications, reports, surveys, correspondence, and research files, as well as newspapers, indexes and bibliographies, and audio/visual material. Topics include Native American/American Indian cultures and land claims, peyotism and the use of peyote in religious practices, alcohol and its use across different cultures, general world ethnography, and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder. A large part of the collection contains material from the Tri-Ethnic Project, an in-depth athropological study of Anglo-Americans, Hispanics, and Ute Indian individuals in the shared community of Ignacio, Colorado, from 1959 to 1962. See the scope/content note of each accession and series for more detailed information.

Dates

  • 1600 - 1991

Conditions Governing Access

Much of the material in the Tri-Ethnic Project files (Accession 2: Series 5) and Community studies files (Accession 2: Series 8) is CLOSED TO ALL RESEARCH ACCESS AND USE until January 1, 2040, in keeping with ethical and legal guidelines of the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, the Society of American Archivists, and the University of Colorado Boulder Archives. Any files that contain field notes or data from personal surveys about specific individuals - including ethnicity, family and household information, income, education, and occupation information - have been separated and restricted, due to the private nature in which this information was collected. Researchers wishing to access restricted files must obtain permission from an Institutional Review Board. Contact CU Boulder Archives for more information.

Biographical Note

Omer Call Stewart (1908-1991) was the first chairman of the CU Anthropology Department and an expert on Native American cultures. He graduated from high school in Salt Lake City and spent two and a half years as a Mormon missionary in France and Switzerland. Upon his return, he attended the University of Utah, graduating with a degree in anthropology in 1932. He received his doctorate in anthropology in 1940 from the University of California at Berkeley and taught briefly at the universities of Texas and Minnesota.

Mr. Stewart served as an intelligence officer during World War II and was sent as an undercover agent to the Middle East in 1943, where he worked until the end of the war. He joined the University of Colorado faculty in 1945, serving as chairman of social sciences from 1952 to 1959. He later helped create the anthropology department and served as its first chairman. He retired from CU in 1973, but remained an active advocate and researcher on the rights and religions of Native Americans.

His primary work involved the peyote ritual used by the Native American Church. After attending his first peyote ritual in 1937, he continued to study the origins of peyotism and its spread through North American tribes. He wrote Peyote Religion, published in 1987 by the University of Oklahoma Press.

He also testified in several religious freedom trials on behalf of Native Americans who use the hallucinogenic peyote cactus in religious ceremonies, as well as testifying before the Indian Land Claims Commission. He participated in the Institute of Behavioral Sciences Tri-Ethnic Project in Ignacio, Colorado from 1959-1961, and he continued to conduct research and to participate in anthropological and community affairs until his death.

Mr. Stewart was the recipient of a number of awards including the 1983 Bronislaw Malinowski Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Biography from the Silver and Gold Record (Jan. 9, 1992), p.2

Extent

392 linear feet (594 document boxes, 65 records boxes, 65 other boxes, 18 oversize folders, 12 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

This collection contains the professional papers of Omer C. Stewart (1908-1991), an expert on Native American culture and the first chairman of the CU Anthropology Department. His primary work involved the peyote ritual used by the Native American Church. He testified as an expert witness before the Indian Claims Commission, and in several religious freedom trials on behalf of Native Americans who use the hallucinogenic peyote cactus in religious ceremonies. He also participated in the Institute of Behavioral Sciences Tri-Ethnic Project in Ignacio, CO, a community composed of Utes, Hispanics, and Anglo-Americans.

Arrangement

The Omer C. Stewart collection is divided into three accessions, according to the period in which it was acquired by the University of Colorado Boulder Archives.

The first accession is comprised of seven series: 1) Great Lakes region ethnohistorical research, 2) Southern Colorado records, 3) Unsorted federal and American Indian documents, 4) Peyotism, 5) Race relations, 6) Mormonism and Scientology, and 7) Miscellaneous topics, including war/agression and general anthropology/archaeology.

The second accession is comprised of 15 series: 1) Omer C. Stewart publications, 2) Anthropology Department, University of Colorado, 3) World ethnography notes, 4) Peyote files, 5) Tri-Ethnic Project files, 6) Land claim cases, 7) Newspapers, 8) Community studies files, 9) Special subjects, 10) Ethnohistorical bibliography of the Ute in Colorado, 11) Indexes and bibliographies, 12) Photographic plates, 13) Audio/visual material, 14) Ethnic groups in Colorado, and 15) Maps.

The third accession contains four series: 1) Kilton Stewart thesis, 2) Burning grasslands manuscript, 3) Alcohol research, 4) Correspondence.

See the scope/content note and arrangement note of each accession and series for more detailed information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Omer C. Stewart collection is divided into three accessions, according to the period in which it was acquired by the University of Colorado Boulder Archives. The first accession, comprised of 55 linear feet, was acquired from Omer C. Stewart in a series of small donations between 1961 and 1988. The second accession, which makes up the bulk of the collection at 330 linear feet, was a gift of the Stewart family in 1992. The third accession contains only seven linear feet; Box 1 was acquired in March 2006 from Sondra Jones of Provo, Utah, and Boxes 2-8 were donated by Omer Stewart's son, Carl Stewart, in March 2010 and December 2011.

Processing Information

Folder titles and sub-series reflect the original arrangement and language of the collection, as received from Omer C. Stewart. Much of the descriptive language used throughout this finding aid (i.e. "black," "Indian," "Chippewa," "Indochina," etc.) is transcribed from the original material and may not reflect the current prefered terminology of individuals who self-identify with those cultures.

Much of the arrangement and description of the collection was conducted by Carl Stewart, son of Omer C. Stewart, from 1992 to 2011.

Severely water-damaged issues of the Louisville Times (Louisville, Colorado: 1948, 1961) were deaccessioned from Accession 2: Sereis 7: Community Studies Files in 2019 due to mold and other preservation concerns. This periodical is available in the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection of the Colorado State Library.
Status
Completed
Author
Accession 1 inventory by Larry Strock, 1975. Accession 2 inventory by Harvey N. Gardiner, 1994. Finding aid edited by Athena Knudson, 2015, and Megan K. Friedel and Jamie Marie Wagner, 2019.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Special Collections & Archives Repository

Contact:
1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States