PULLMAN, Wash.— Author and ethnographer Dr. Rodney Frey has won the Evans Handcart Award for his book, Carry Forth the Stories: An Ethnographer’s Journey into Native Oral Tradition published by Washington State University Press. Recently announced by Utah State University’s Mountain West Center for Regional Studies, the prize recognizes the best of research and writing in biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs focusing on stories of people who have shaped the character of the Interior West. “The high quality and diversity of submissions made it a challenge for the regional and national juries to select only two winners,” said Evelyn Funda, director of the Mountain West Center.
The winner of this year’s Evans Handcart Award focuses on spirituality and the lesser-known voices in the region. Frey, who holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and is a professor of ethnography at the University of Idaho, was particularly pleased on behalf of his mentors. Over his forty-year career as an ethnographer and professor, Rodney Frey formed close relationships and successfully partnered with members of the Crow, Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, and Warms Springs communities. He describes Carry Forth the Stories as an “ethnographic memoir” that weaves events of his own life story with stories collected from interviews, oral histories and elders that show the power and value of storytelling. He learned by interacting with elders, participating in tribal activities, and through personal experiences. Now he hopes to help others become effective cultural researchers and teachers, supplying a model for engaging with indigenous peoples.
Frey’s transformation began with his first ethnographic study during the summer of 1974, when an elder recognized some shortcomings with the project and introduced the young graduate student to the importance of viewing and experiencing a culture from the inside. That early lesson endured, changing how he approached his research.
In his book, Frey applies indigenous learning and teaching styles, and discusses techniques such as field trips, visits with tribal elders, “family” groups, role playing, and hands-on activities in his classroom. He also addresses being attentive and honest, as well as language, cultural property rights, tribal review, and “giving back” to host communities. Finally, he shares facets of his own journey with the Sundance and beyond, seeking therapy from both Native and Western healing traditions for himself and his son. In the Foreword, Leonard Bends, retired Sundance Chief, praises Frey’s passion as well as the life he brings to the written words, and offers a moving prayer for Frey and his readers.
Carry Forth the Stories is paperback, 6″ x 9″, 286 pages, and lists for $29.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide or direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360 or online at wsupress.wsu.edu. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.