Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In Memoriam: Dr. Mary Bruce Becker

On behalf of the Newberry Library's D'arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History, I submit the following:

Dr. Mary Druke Becker, passed away in June 26, 2006 in Munich, Germany of a sudden heart attack. She is mourned by friends and associates at the Newberry and across the country.

Mary Druke Becker's association with the Newberry began in 1978 when she was appointed Associate Director of the Documentary History of the Iroquois Project. This project, underwritten by a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (and subsequently supported by the Library), is a comprehensive compilation of all treaties and agreements entered into by the Iroquois Nations, with various colonial and imperial states. Originally projected at some 2,000 documents, its size and scope grew dramatically and ultimately reached a total of 9,255 documents. This dramatic expansion was due in no small measure to the efforts of Mary Druke Becker, who, working closely with Center Director Francis Jennings and Project Editor William Fenton, coordinated activities, conducted research in archives and repositories, and consulted with members of Iroquois communities on matters of interpretation and presentation. These contacts drew Chief Jacob Thomas (Cayuga) of the Six
Nations Reserve in Canada, to the Library as a consultant. In 1980 Thomas presented the Center with his reproduction of an Iroquois Condolence Cane.

In 1984, Syracuse University Press published The History and Culture of Iroquois Diplomacy: An Interpretative Guide to the Treaties of the Six Nations and their League, edited by Jennings, Fenton and Druke. This publication is a companion to Iroquois Indians: A Documentary History, the 50-reel microfilm record of the documents collected and reproduced through this massive project.

Dr. Becker's association with the Center continued after she had left for subsequent academic postings. In 1991, the Center distributed her Recent Books and Articles in American Indian History," as well as a 1992 supplement.

In keeping with Becker's determination to share the fruits of her considerable labors, the Newberry Library transferred paper copies of the Iroquois documents to the Iroquois Museum, Howes Cave, New York. The Newberry holds a microfilm copy, and administrative records from the project.

A seminal figure in the long history of the Newberry Library's McNickle Center, Mary Druke Becker is remembered fondly by staff, scholars, librarians and associates, and on their behalf, I extend my condolences to family and friends.

Brian Hosmer, Director

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