Wanneh, Gawaso, 1881-1955Variant names
Arthur C. Parker was born in 1881 on the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation of New York in western New York. He was the son of Frederick Ely Parker, who was one-half Seneca, and his wife Geneva Hortenese Griswold, of Scots-English-American descent, who taught school on the reservation. As the Seneca are a matrilineal nation, the young Parker did not have membership status at birth, as his mother was not part of the tribe, but he was descended from prominent Seneca, including the prophet Handsome Lake, through his father.
In 1903 Arthur was adopted into the tribe as an honorary member, when he was given the Seneca name Gawaso Wanneh (meaning "Big Snowsnake"). His grandfather Nicholson Henry Parker was an influential Seneca leader. As a youth, Arthur lived with Nicholson on his farm and was strongly influenced by him.
Arthur Parker was influenced by both the Seneca culture and the Christian missionary culture of his mother's family, and his social status of bridging peoples. He explored his Seneca lineage as a way of connecting himself to a powerful, symbolic past and integrating into twentieth-century American life. Although his own family was Christian, he also witnessed followers of the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake, who had tried to resurrect traditional Seneca religion.
He was field archaeologist at the Peabody Museum in 1903; beginning 1906, he was archaeologist of the New York State Museum. In 1904, Parker was given a two-year position as ethnologist at the New York State Library, part of the New York State Education Department, and collected cultural data on the New York Iroquois. Then in 1906, he took a position as the first archaeologist at the New York State Museum (http://www.nysm.nysed.gov).
In 1911, together with the Native American physician Charles A. Eastman and others, he founded the Society of American Indians to help educate the public about Native Americans. From 1915 to 1920, he was the editor of the society's American Indian Magazine. In 1916, he was awarded the Cornplanter Medal.
In 1925 Parker became director of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, where he developed the museum holdings and its research in the emerging fields of anthropology, natural history, geology, biology, history and industry of the Genesee Region. During the 1930s and the Great Depression, he also directed the WPA-funded Indian Arts Project, which was sponsored by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
In 1935, Parker was elected the first President of the Society for American Archaeology. In 1944, Parker helped found the National Congress of American Indians.
After retiring from directing the Rochester museum in 1946, Parker became very active in Indian affairs. He moved to Nunda-wah-oh, near present-day Naples, New York, where he felt his ancestors had lived. There he overlooked Canandaigua Lake. He died there on New Year's Day, 1955, aged 73.
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Cattaraugus Indian Reservation||NY||US|
|Indians of North America--Money|
|New York State|
|Iroquois Indians--Social life and customs|
|Civil War, U. S., 1861-1865|
|Centaur Statue (Buffalo, N.Y.)|
|Handsome Lake Religion|
|Indians of North America|
|Army (United States)|
|Indians of North America--History--Study and teaching|
|Indians of North America|
|Learning and scholarship|
|Indians of North America--Government relations|
|Indians of North America--Material culture|