Dr. Pete Gregory receives 2019 Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities Award

Gregory Bel Abbey
The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH), in partnership with Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, has selected anthropologist, archaeologist and Northwestern State University professor Dr. Hiram F. “Pete” Gregory as the winner of the 2019 Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities Award. The award, which has been given annually since 1992, is part of the state humanities council’s effort to honor individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the study and understanding of the humanities. Gregory and the other award winners will be honored on April 4 at the 2019 LEH Bright Lights Awards Dinner in Lafayette.

“I was surprised to receive this honor and am very appreciative,” said Gregory. “I feel as if I am being honored for doing what I have always enjoyed.”

Gregory is academic advisor of the Louisiana Creole Heritage Center and the curator for NSU’s Williamson Museum, which houses a collection of over 100,000 artifacts, including arts and crafts from 41 different tribes of the southeastern United States. In 2016, Nungesser and the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development recognized him as Louisiana’s Archaeologist of the Year.

Gregory is in his 58th year as a member of Northwestern State’s faculty. He is believed to be the longest-serving employee in Northwestern’s 134-year history, working at the institution for more than 40 percent of its tenure. Gregory has taught thousands of Northwestern students who have gone on to be anthropologists, archeologists, nurses, teachers, businesspeople and professionals.

Among the many groups and projects he has worked with for many years are the Jena Band of Choctaws on a language project, a group in the Breda Town section of Natchitoches to preserve the Breda Town cemetery and the Tunica-Biloxi as they became the first tribe to gain federal recognition under rewritten federal regulations. Gregory also helped people in the Robeline area who were interested in preserving Los Adaes, the first colonial capital of Texas. He has also worked extensively with the Caddo Nation in Oklahoma to preserve and promote the tribe’s heritage.

“Whenever I encounter an aspect of Louisiana culture with which I am unfamiliar, whether it concerns people, places, art, history, technology–you name it, I know that Pete will have some familiarity and in many cases detailed expertise, and he will take the time to share his knowledge,” said Jeffrey Girard, one of Gregory’s former colleagues at NSU and the 2015 Louisiana Archaeologist of the Year.

Gregory received the President’s Distinguished Service Award from NSU in 1999. The Creole Heritage Center presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award last year.

Gregory co-authored a major work, “The Historic Indian Tribes of Louisiana” with Fred B. Kniffen and George A. Stokes. 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. Gregory also co-authored “The Work of Tribal Hands: Southeastern Split Cane Basketry” with Dayna Bowker Lee.

“Louisiana is a rich state in terms of cultural diversity,” said Gregory “It is one of the most amazing places on the planet when you consider how people manage to keep their own culture going. They do things traditionally. I am glad I have been able to help people find their own voice along with appreciation for what they do.”

Gregory has a long relationship with federal and state agencies involved in archaeology. Those connections have helped steer grants to Northwestern that helped undergraduate students do the type of fieldwork they are not normally able to do at research institutions.

During his career, Gregory has served as a consultant or on commissions for the Native American Rights Fund, the Louisiana State Museum, the Louisiana Division of State Parks, the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Coalition of Eastern Native Americans, the Governor’s Commission on Folklife, the Governor’s Commission on Archaeology, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Burial Legislation and the American Indian Policy Review Task Force on Recognized and Unrecognized Tribes.

The LEH 2019 Bright Lights Awards Dinner will be held at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Student Union on April 4, at 6 p.m. Tickets begin at $150. Table sponsorships are available to interested parties. For more information, contact Mike Bourg at (504) 620-2482 or bourg@leh.org, or visit leh.org.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all residents of the state. Guided by the vision that everyone can realize their full potential through the humanities, LEH partners with communities, institutions, and individuals to provide grant-supported outreach programs, literacy initiatives for all ages, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, public lectures, library projects, 64 Parishes magazine, and other diverse public humanities programming. For more information, visit leh.org.

Note: Information for this story was provided by Morgan Randall of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

Pictured above: Dr. Hiram F. “Pete” Gregory, left, and Bel Abbey, a Coushatta traditionalist and teacher, spinning horsehair rope at Abbey’s house near Elton in the late 1970s. Photo by Don Sepulvado

17 thoughts on “Dr. Pete Gregory receives 2019 Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities Award

  1. Best wishes and congratuons to Dr. Gregory, a great teacher who has done so much to preserve the native cultures of Louisiana.

  2. Congratulations Doc! It is an honor to be one of your former students. I can’t think of another individual more deserving of this award. It would bee too much to describe the impact you have had on my life as well as other past students. Thank you for you passion.

  3. Congratulations Doc! It is an honor to be one of your former students. I can’t think of another individual more deserving of this reward. It would be too much to describe the impact you have had on my life as well as other past students. Thank you for your passion.

  4. Congratulations Dr. Gregory! Like many, I am very proud to have you as a professor. A well deserved recognition of your career.

  5. Congrats Doc, You are the only guy I know who might have honestly been surprised to receive such an award. Amazingly enough, it’s those who are most deserving who would truly be surprised. In my 75 years of life I’ve been lucky enough to meet and know many amazing, and in some cases highly celebrated people. Doc, I just want you to know, for my nickel you are at the head of the pack; for reasons too numerous to list. I remember once when you were handing back a paper you had the class write. When you handed mine back you mentioned that grading in my case would have been easier if you were weighing them instead of reading them. I finally got the message, so I’ll quit now! It’s been a pleasure and an honor to know you!

  6. Congratulations Dr. Gregory. One of my favorite professors. The dig you led on what is now the NSU golf course created within me a love for anthropology and archaeology. I still remember your definition of culture…”learned, shared, human behavior. ” Thanks!

  7. Congratulations to Doc Gregory! His appreciation for and unique perspective on cultures and traditions, and his ability to pass along that appreciation to his students, has had a major influence on the career decisions of so many including myself. He is quite deserving of this award.

  8. Congrats Doc! Thank you for your mentorship, without which I would not have become an archaeologist! Well deserved award indeed!

  9. Congratulations to Dr. Gregory! I count myself as one of those students he influenced and guided into a career in archaeology!

  10. Congratulations to Dr. Gregory for this outstanding honor. LEH could not have selected a better person to honor. Thanks for all you contribute to your profession, NSU, Louisiana and our community.

  11. Congratulations Dr. Pete Gregory on receiving this much deserved award! Your anthropological work and significant contribution to the humanities of Louisiana and especially in the Natchitoches area are without compare. Thank you for your wit, intellect and integrity.

  12. Dr. Gregory is truly an outstanding teacher and a great man. NSU is fortunate to have him on faculty across these many decades. His tireless efforts to document and help achieve government verification and recognition for Native American tribes in the region have been invaluable. No one has done more. This is a richly deserved honor.

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