By Corey Poole
Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser and the Office of Cultural Development will recognize the winners at the Capitol Park Museum May 24 at 7 p.m. The ceremony is held in conjunction with Culture Connection, the annual conference of Louisiana’s culture stakeholders. Each honoree was chosen for their outstanding contributions to Louisiana’s culture.
Gregory came to Natchitoches in 1961 after completing a bachelors in anthropology and a masters in geography at Louisiana State University. He came to teach at NSU for a year to fill in for a professor who went on leave.
“Natchitoches and I were a nice fit,” he said.
He also earned his masters and Ph.D. in anthropology from Southern Methodist University.
While he trained primarily in pre-historic archaeology, he quickly learned French and Spanish colonial history when he came to Natchitoches. No one was doing much in Louisiana with historic sites in the early 60s, according to Gregory.
He wrote his dissertation on Los Adaes State Historic Site. He and his students still work at the site from time to time.
“It’s a really unique and special place,” he said.
Growing up in Concordia Parish, Gregory was surrounded by Indian mounds and artifacts. Curious about the people from a young age, he said it was the logical thing for him to continue being interested in them. His first supervised archaeological job was in 1953 at Poverty Point. After a few days of work he was hooked.
His work has led him to Creole-French, Anglo-American and Spanish sites. “Archaeology isn’t limited to one group of people,” he said.
The best part of his job is the teaching. “I love watching my students go out and do things,” he said. “While I’ve had the most fun with that, it’s exciting to get information out of the ground an into a book. It brings the past back and Louisiana is a special place for archaeology.”
Louisiana has the oldest Indian mounds in North America and still has the tribes living on the land that’s connected to the archaeology. The Mississippi River built up most of the state and brought people to the area long before the white man ever arrived.
“It’s a treasure trove of archaeology,” said Gregory.
Gregory had heard of the Archaeologist of the Year award, but never thought anyone would nominate him. A group of his friends surprised him with the news that they’d nominated him and that he’d been chosen for the award.
“I was a little shocked,” he said. “But I’m pleased to receive it.”
An early interest in human-land relationships led him to studies of regional cultural ecology. His fieldwork has been both archaeological and ethnographical in nature, with ethnic diversity and cultural continuity as major focuses of his research. This work has involved Native Americans, Anglo-American and Louisiana French fishing communities, the Anglo, Creole, and African-American culture of the plantation regions, and the Anglo-Saxon culture of the upland South. Active in cooperative programs with the Louisiana Indian communities since the early 1970s, Gregory has worked with seven of the eight tribal communities in Louisiana and three in Oklahoma. He has also worked with the Louisiana Creole communities on Creole ethnography and geography.
Together with Drs. Fred B. Kniffen and George A. Stokes, he co-authored a major work on the Native Americans of Louisiana, The Historic Tribes of Louisiana. He has contributed two major catalogs of Louisiana folk art and has authored papers on folkways, material culture, and archaeology in a number of professional journals. He also edited the major articles relating to the Caddo in The Southern Caddo: An Anthology.