Skip to main content

Elliot Zashin Papers

Identifier: Ayer-Modern-MS-Zashin

Scope and Content of the Collection

Materials relating to three undergraduate research studies of American Indians, conducted in the summers of 1961 and 1962. Includes Zashin correspondence and a letter from anthropologist Erna Gunther, personal field notes, extensive interviews, minutes of meetings, reports and surveys, several Puget Sound newspapers and a tourist guide for La Conner, Washington.


  • Creation: 1960-1962



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Elliot Zashin Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Elliot Zashin Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Elliot Zashin

Author and independent non-profit organization manager.

Elliot Zashin, who attended Harvard and the University of California-Berkeley, is a Chicago-area author and activist for social equality and civil rights. During his life he has been the Hillel Director at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the executive director of a film by Shuli Eshel entitled “Maxwell Street: A Living Memory,” about of the Jewish experience in Chicago, for which he made a study guide. Among his publications are Civil Disobedience and Democracy (Free Press, 1972) and “Welcoming Jewish Americans” (Chicago History, Spring 2000).

As an undergraduate in 1961, Zashin volunteered to participate in a Harvard-Radcliffe summer American Indian project. For his supervisor he was linked with a well-known anthropologist at the University of Washington, Erna Gunther. His first project was a study of the governance of the Swinomish Reservation in LaConner, Washington, as Dr. Gunther was interested in finding out how the original institutions modeled after the U.S. Constitution had evolved. Zashin lived with a Native American family, interviewing key individuals in the community and reading tribal documents, keeping copious notes and a detailed daily journal, which resulted in a summarizing report.

In late August, 1961, Zashin traveled to a Native American village at Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula, hoping to study the political relationships within the community. His efforts yielded little, but as he himself has said, "…my notes include my observations as an outsider…of how a middle-class Anglo college student was struck by a more or less unmediated encounter with Native Americans in the early 1960s."

In the summer of 1962, Zashin was at the Crownpoint, in the northwest corner of New Mexico, where he conducted a survey of Indian trading posts and the business practices that existed between Navajos and the non-Indians with whom they dealt. Although his final report has been lost, Zashin left extensive interview notes comparing the responses of the Indians with those of the Anglo traders. At the end of the summer, he left for graduate school at the University of California-Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in political science.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Materials relating to three undergraduate research studies of American Indians done in the summers of 1961 and 1962 by Elliot Zashin. Includes correspondence, personal field notes, interviews, records, reports, surveys, and other miscellany relating to Navajos of Crownpoint, New Mexico, and the Swinomish tribe at La Conner and the Indian Reservation at Neah Bay, both in Washington state.


Arranged alphabetically by location of Indian reservation.

Collection Stack Location

3a 57 2


Gift, Elliot Zashin, 2009.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2010.

Inventory of the Elliot Zashin Papers, 1960-1962
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States