A Conversation With Dr. R. David Edmunds
Professor is a Renowned Expert on Native American and Western History
June 25, 2009
We sat down for A Conversation With ... Dr. R. David Edmunds, the Anne and Chester Watson Chair in History in the UT Dallas School of Arts and Humanities.
“ A Conversation With…”
Recorded April 27, 2009
Edmunds is an expert on American Western history, Native American History, and the Potawatomi, Shawnee and Great Lakes Tribes.
He was a content and historical adviser to PBS’ American Experience program for the five-part series “We Shall Remain.” PBS describes the series as a provocative multi-media project that establishes Native history as an essential part of American history. The five episodes were “After the Mayflower,” “Tecumseh’s Vision,” “Trail of Tears,” “Geronimo,” and “Wounded Knee.”
Dr. Edmunds earned the distinguished Francis Parkman Prize recognizing outstanding nonfiction historical writing and has written or edited nearly a dozen books, including The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire. He has been recognized with awards or fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Newberry Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities, in addition to winning five teaching awards from four separate universities.
During our visit, Dr. Edmunds shared his thoughts on:
- How his Cherokee heritage contributes to his research perspective.
- How an undergraduate chemistry major becomes a world-renowned expert on Native American history.
- His philosophy about communicating broadly to ignite interest in tribal people and their heritage.
- Hollywood’s portrayal of Native people — some films actually get it right.
- How his passion for native history and culture keeps him writing, researching and sharing the stories of native peoples.
“I think the biggest issues for tribal people in the 21st century is the issue of Native American identity: Exactly who is Indian, and how do we decide? In the past we’ve basically looked at descent and we’ve said, ‘People who are one-quarter Indian or one-eighth Indian, those are tribal people,’ and we’ve let the tribes themselves make that decision…but there’s the other side of this coin. Other people have said you’re really Indian if you’ve followed an Indian way of life.”
— R. David Edmunds
On the unfolding chapter today and the chapters ahead for Native American life and culture in America