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Native American Studies and SSU Library’s Special Collections


Among Sonoma State University Library’s many unique and diverse Special Collections are the John W. Hudson papers.

John W. Hudson (1857-1936) spent much of his working life as an ethnographer and collector, conducting extensive research among the Potter Valley Pomo Indians of Mendocino County, California.

His significant basket collections are prized today at the Smithsonian Institution, the Field Museum in Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah.

His reputation as an excellent amateur anthropologist led to his 1901 appointment as assistant ethnologist in the Department of Anthropology at the Field Columbian Museum of Chicago. In this capacity, he spent five years traveling throughout remote regions of California, collecting artifacts, taking photographs, and recording cultural and linguistic information from a multitude of California Indian peoples.

In 1906, Hudson returned to Ukiah, where he spent the remainder of his life independently pursuing his own ethnographic studies, culminating in an ultimately unpublished work on Pomo Indians.

His papers at SSU include copies of correspondence, memoranda, field notes, catalogues, and notes on linguistics. Other notes pertain to basketry, fishing, tools, childbirth, ceremonies, plants, and animals. All relate to regional indigenous tribes. 

The originals of most of these materials form the heart of the Grace Hudson Museum’s research collection. Sonoma State’s materials were gathered and donated by David Peri, Sonoma State University Anthropology Professor (1931-2000), and James R. Welch, Sonoma State University graduate (M.A. 2000) and author of  the article “Sprouting Valley: Historical Ethnobotany of the Northern Pomo from Potter Valley, California” (2013), published in Contributions in Ethnobiology

To make an appointment to view any of the SSU Library’s Special Collections, contact us at specialcollections@sonoma.edu or call 707-664-4152. A full list of our collections is available on the Library’s website.

A basket woven by the Potter Valley Pomo Indians.