Vietnam Archive Receives Collection from Renowned Anthropologist

Documents include textiles, smoking pipes, swords and wood carvings collected through decades of work.

Written by Cory Chandler

The Texas Tech University 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.”

CONTACT: Ty Lovelady, associate archivist, Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-9010 or t.lovelady@ttu.edu.