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Vietnam Archive Receives Collection from Renowned Anthropologist

The collection includes textiles, smoking pipes, swords and wood carvings from Montagnard tribes that Gerald Hickey worked with in Vietnam from the 1950s-1970s.

Written by Cory Chandler

Gerald Hickey, left, with Cua tribesmen, 1966.

Gerald Hickey, left, with Cua tribesmen, 1966.

The Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive received a collection of artifacts and photographs from world-renowned anthropologist Gerald Hickey.

The eight linear feet of items – meaning they will fill eight one-foot-wide archival boxes – include textiles, smoking pipes, swords and wood carvings from Montagnard tribes that Hickey worked with in Vietnam from the 1950s-1970s while he was employed by entities such as the Michigan State University Group (MSUG) and the Rand Corporation.

The Montagnards consist of various ethnic minorities in Vietnam of Malay-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer descent. These include ethnic groups such as the Rhade, Jarai and Bahnar.

Hickey worked with rural people in Vietnam, including Montagnards as part of MSUG’s contract to help South Vietnam develop into a modern nation-state. While working with MSUG, Hickey became particularly interested in the Montagnards during his visits to the Vietnamese Central Highlands. He learned of the tribes’ disenchantment with the South Vietnamese government under Ngo Dinh Diem for allowing ethnic Vietnamese to settle on Montagnard lands.

After a stint teaching at Monteith College in Detroit, Hickey returned to Vietnam as an employee of the Rand Corporation in 1964 to specifically work with the Montagnards. He unsuccessfully tried to secure land titles for the Montagnards and was known for his support of a process of political accommodation that would have led to a coalition government in South Vietnam with Communist participation. He believed this would end the war.

Hickey’s donation to the archive includes woven blankets made by the Jarai people that depict images of helicopters and M-16 machine guns. Hickey also donated a wooden statue of a peahen presented by Nay Luett, a Jarai Minister of Ethnic Minorities in South Vietnam who carved the statue.

Hickey’s latest donation adds to his existing collection of books and maps at the Vietnam Center and Archive. Most of the books are French studies of Montagnard life in Vietnam.

“Hickey’s collection greatly enhances the Vietnam Center and Archive’s holdings on Montagnard culture,” said Ty Lovelady, associate archivist for the Vietnam Archive. “It is a wonderful treasure for Texas Tech University.”

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4 Responses to “Vietnam Archive Receives Collection from Renowned Anthropologist”

  1. Gary Mount Says:

    The mountaingnard people were good people, I had the opportunity to be around them on several occassions in the Central Highlandsof Vietnam, they were very adept at making anything out of wod and other materials, they carved wooden helicopters out of teakwood or mahogany and would sell them to us if we shut down for any lenghth of time. I hope they survived because the Nva hated them, but no one seems concerned about them after we left, they gaurded many of our firebases in the Central Highlands, God bless those people. Thank you Mr, Hickey for the donations so newer generations will know of them.

  2. Vietnam Archive Receives Collection from Renowned Anthropologist « Vietnam Center & Archive News and Updates Says:

    [...] carvings from Montagnard tribes Dr. Hickey worked with in Vietnam from 1950s-1970s.  Please click here for the official press [...]

  3. Sam Moyer Says:

    An extremely generous gesture, Dr. Hickey. As a Marine human intelligence guy working out of Dong Ha, with some of my small teams further west, we had occasion to work very closely with the Bru tribespeople. One individual in particular, after rallying to our side, helped us relocate his small collection of family members to safety, and subsequently provided exceptionally valuable information to us on NVA roads under the canopy, tanks, trucks, and assembly areas. He also accompanied one of my officers on a number of operations into the mountains, with excellent results. Your dedication to them, and to improving their lives, is most commendable.

  4. Mike Caron Says:

    Gerald Hickey was present the night Roger Donlan’s Special Forces camp was attacked at Nam Dong. Col. Donlan was awarded the first Congressional Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. Now the Kansas City chapter of Special Forces Association is raising funds to build a Montagnad children’s library there. We hope it will preserve and make available material on their cultures, traditions and values for future generations. Montagnard children deserve a peaceful and prosperous future that respects their many unique ways of life.

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The Vietnam Center
Founded in 1989, the Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive houses the largest collection of materials related to the Vietnam conflict outside of the U.S. National Archives.

Founded in 1989, the Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive houses the largest collection of materials related to the Vietnam conflict outside of the U.S. National Archives.

Its mission is to support and encourage research and education regarding all aspects of the American Vietnam experience.

Connect with the Vietnam Center and Archive on .

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