Over the course of the last two weeks, I've read through hundreds and hundreds--possibly a thousand or more--pages of BIA reports, Congressional hearings, testimony, and various other sorts of archival data. It has been time well spent. I've connected some dots and rewoven some pieces of the ethnohistorical record that are very telling and bear some significant contemporary relevance. But...as I've told my students and colleagues on more than one occasion, this is sometimes very depressing work. Do you know how when things are stressful or wrong at work or in your family (as when a relative is very ill), you can sometimes manage during the light of day, but at night you wake up in a cold sweat and everything seems absolutely hopeless? Well, that has been happening to me. I am so glad that I'm taking a road trip next week where I'll be working on a different strand of this story that is more fun and straightforward. Until yesterday, I was thinking that I'd made some bad decisions regarding the timing of this other fieldwork (afraid that it might slow down my train of thought and momentum) but today, I am thrilled beyond belief to be getting a forced break from this stuff.
Here is a bit of related serendipity. The set of books featured at the top of this post are just a part of what I've been churning my way through these last few weeks. I checked them out from our library and had not noticed until a couple days ago that they were part of a donated private collection. My heart almost skipped a beat when I discovered this book plate, which appears in the front of about 6 or 7 volumes. This man was one of a series of Indian agents who influenced the course of events about which I am writing. Weird, to be up at 2 am trying to put 2 and 2 together, and then to realize I am working with one of the very texts these guys were variously constructing and consulting.