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Renowned Anthropologist, a UA Alumnus, Leaves Papers to University Libraries, New Endowment Established in His Memory

Henry “Hank” Dobyns
Henry “Hank” Dobyns

Date: December 17, 2009

Contact: Laura Bender


University Libraries at the University of Arizona (UA) announce a new endowment in honor of renowned anthropologist and alumnus Professor Henry “Hank” Dobyns and to mark the bequest of his research materials to the Libraries’ Special Collections.

The Henry F. Dobyns Applied Anthropology Endowment Fund, created by Rich Stoffle, Professor of applied cultural anthropology at the UA, and Carla Stoffle, Dean of Libraries at the UA, will support the purchase, processing, digitization, and preservation of the Dobyns collection as well as future applied cultural anthropology collections.

As an applied anthropologist and ethnohistorian, Dobyns researched and published extensively on American Indians and Hispanic peoples in Latin and North America. Dobyns, a native Tucsonan, is most well-known for his watershed demographic research on the size of North American populations before Columbus’ arrival in 1492. Dobyns also spent nearly three decades researching water rights for the Gila River Indian Community. His complete donated collection is estimated to include 10,000 books and 400 boxes of materials including correspondence, research notes and files, original manuscripts and photographs relating to his life’s work. The bulk of the collection reflects his interest in the American Southwest, including his work on water rights for the Gila River Indian Community and various other American Indian issues.   

Dobyns’ research training and academic career began at the UA under the tutelage of Professor Edward Spicer. Throughout his career Dobyns himself relied on the UA’s extensive collection of Southwestern materials. According to Lawana Trout, trustee for the Dobyns estate, the UA was a logical destination for his collection. “It seems to me the absolute best choice and natural choice for the collection to go to UA because he knew it would be available to young students and mature scholars alike.”

The addition of his collection strengthens the University Libraries’ well-known holdings of Southwest and Native American collections. “The UA has a major collection of Southwestern materials and his materials will be a remarkable addition to what you already have,” Trout said. 

Dobyns earned a B.A. degree in anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1949. He continued graduate studies at the UA where he focused on researching prehistoric Native American issues. His M.A. thesis was a massive 702-page-long analysis of Pai ceramics titled Prehistoric Indian Occupation Within the Eastern Area of the Yuman Complex: A Study in Applied Archaeology. He completed his Ph.D. at Cornell University in 1960.

Professor Dobyns taught and conducted research at various academic institutions in his career including the Arizona State Museum, Cornell University, the University of Florida at Gainesville, the University of Kentucky, Prescott College, the University of Wisconsin Parkside, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Arizona. He was a NEH research fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago and a lifetime member of the Arizona Historical Society.

Dobyns also worked on several National Park Service projects including the Old Spanish Trail study, an ethnohistoric and ethnographic assessment from 1829 – 1849 of selected communities along the 2,700 mile historic trade route, and the Anza Trail Project, a cultural analysis of the 18th century Anza Expedition members in Sinoloa and Sonora before leaving for the 1,200 mile journey to California where they eventually settled San Francisco Bay in 1776.

Dobyns’ many books include “Papagos in the Cotton Fields,” “The Ghost Dance: Among the Pai Indians of Northwestern Arizona,” “The Papago People,” “Spanish Colonial Tucson,” “Indians of the Southwest: A Critical Bibliography,” and “From Fire to Flood: Historic Human Destruction of Sonoran Desert Riverine Oases.”

Though Dobyns’ teaching and research was wide-ranging, he remained connected to the UA throughout his career; in recent years Dobyns worked as a senior researcher at the UA’s Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology.  Dobyns passed away on June 21, 2009.

To learn more about the Henry F. Dobyns Applied Anthropology Endowment Fund contact Laura J. Bender, Senior Director of Development, University Libraries, at (520)621-3485 or visit www.library.arizona.edu/about/giving/endowments.html.