150 years ago, 28 November 1869, my third cousin, 3 times removed, Albert Ernest Jenks was born in Ionia County, Michigan to Stillman Leek and Sophia Parnell Keeny Jenks. Albert was the last of their family of six children.
He married Maude Huntley on Oct 22, 1901 with whom he had a son, Clifford Huntley. He received two Bachelor of Science degrees, one at Kalamazoo College in 1896 and one at the University of Chicago in 1897. He earned his graduate in economics at the University of Wisconsin in 1899 and a Science Degree at Kalamazoo College in 1924. His expertise was economics, but his dissertation, The Wild Rice Gatherers of the Upper Lakes (1900) led him into ethnology and anthropology. His dissertation explains the primitive economics of the Indians surrounding the Great Lakes. He describes how some of the Indians sow wild rice, while others do not sow and do or do not believe in the motive behind it. The tribes that did sow the wild rice displayed a unique economic activity.
Jenks published Bontoc Igorot in 1905, which was a major anthropological study of the Philippines. He described the cultures as a hierarchy according to arbitrary, ethnocentric criteria. Jenks and his wife had their only child while located in the Philippines in 1902-1903. [actually, he was born in 1905, and died in 1918]
He started teaching sociology, at the University of Minnesota in 1906, but in 1907 he became a Professor of Anthropology. Jenks created the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota in 1918. He was the chairman of the department until his retirement in 1938. Dr. Jenks was described as a good lecturer by Lloyd Wilford, who later became Dr. Jenks’ assistant for many years. These two traveled to New Mexico in 1928, where they first experienced the art of excavating. In 1932 a field research program was initiated at the University of Minnesota. For the next six years Dr. Jenks and Wilford would spent many hours excavating and studying their findings.
In 1932, Jenks published The Problem of the Culture from the Arvilla Gravel Pit, which describes the findings at a gravel pit in the Red River valley, in North Dakota. The graves of 400-800 skeletons were found with only a few artifacts. This article focuses on several artifacts found, namely two harpoons, a knife, and a skin-dresser. Some of the other artifacts noted were beads, a sandstone ‘whetstone’, a ball of red ocher and a missing bone knife.
Highway workers near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, discovered the “Minnesota Man” in 1931. Jenks was called to the Paleo-Indian site, where he took the skeleton and associated artifacts to the university for research. The skeleton was later discovered to be that of a teenage girl. There is no accurate date of when she was alive. The Pleistocene Man in Minnesota, 1936 describes the full details of the findings and all related information.
In 1933 William H. Jensen, a local farmer, discovered the Brown ‘s Valley Man. Jensen described his findings to Jenks through a letter. The next summer Jenks, Wilford and students proceeded to excavate the site further. Jenks was able to confirm the reports of Yuma and Folsom-types at the gravel pit. The human skeleton was placed in the Paleo-Indian period along with the “Minnesota Man,” both were found in Western Minnesota. Two of the flints found were almost near duplicates of each other. Dr. Jenks published The Discovery of an Ancient Minnesota Maker of Yuma and Folsom Flints, 1934 and Minnesota’s Browns Valley Man, 1937, both of which discuss the site and findings. The Sauk Valley Skeleton, published in 1938, was co-authored by Lloyd Wilford.
Other sites Jenks excavated and researched include the Cambria Focus located in the northwest corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota. Wilford assisted Jenks excavate the site on a smaller scale than previous anthropologists did. They collected smaller amounts of refuse and cultural materials. Wilford’s dissertation, Minnesota Archaeology with Special Reference to the Mound Area, was based on several archaeology sites, such as Kathio, Howard Lake, Blackduck Lake, Laurel, Round Mound, and the Tudahl Rock Shelter. Jenks did research in Philippines.
Upon retiring from the University of Minnesota in 1938, Dr. Jenks moved to his rural home near Mound, Minnesota. Dr. Jenks is most noted for founding the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, one of the earliest in the nation. He published many books, publications and articles related to the study of anthropology and other subjects (sociology, economics, and ethnology).
Johnson, Elden, Upper Great Lakes Anthropology, “Lloyd A. Wilford and Minnesota Archaeology”, pages 1-3.
Marquis, Albert Nelson, Who’s Who in America, Vol. 27, 1952-53, p age 1255.
American Anthropologist, Vol. 34/3, 1932, “The Problem of the Culture from the Arvilla Gravel Pit”, pages 455-466.
Science, Vol. 8, 1934, “The Discovery of an Ancient Minnesota Maker of Yuma and Folsom Flints”, page 205. Hilleman,
Melanie A., The Paleo-Indian Period, 1986.
In addition, Cousin Albert wrote The Childhood of Ji-Shib’ The Ojibwa, and sixty-four pen sketches, in October 1900. [I have a first edition in my personal library]
He was also the author of The Wild-Rice Gatherers of the Upper Great Lakes and Economic Plants Used by the Ojibwa.
Albert passed away on 6 June 1953 in Hennepin, Minnesota.