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 firstname.lastname@example.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