Our association works and will work

Our association works and will work

“We are open and any interested person can attend our meetings. We will also be happy to establish cooperation with people hungry for knowledge about the nations inhabiting the American land,” says Ewa Dżurak, president of the Polish American Ethnographic Society (PAES/PATE) im. Bronislaw Malinowski.

The XXVIII Anthropological Seminar of the Polish-American Society was held in the fall of 2022. In the conference room of the Greenpoint Public Library in Greenpoint, seven speakers appeared – in a hybrid form: virtually and in person – who spoke about endangered indigenous languages ​​and very current problems of emigration in the United States. It was a very interesting seminar that attracted a group of interested people. So this is a signal that the Ethnographic Society is still active.

It works and will work. Seminars are organized once a year. We also meet on other occasions. We only had a break due to the pandemic in 2020. I really want this organization to exist and work. Nowadays, when we have the Internet, zoom and the ability to communicate at a distance, it is easier to invite guests, meet and talk. During our last meeting, we had a guest from Alaska – Dr. Matthew Moscicki Spellberg, who is the dean of the Outer Coast College in Sitka, and Professor Izabela Wagner spoke to us from the Italian island of Sardinia. In fact, the pandemic opened the door to the world for us. Who knows if these new technical possibilities will not make our seminars more attractive and attract more interested people. Of course, it’s very nice when we meet in one room, we sit next to each other and we can listen and ask questions and it’s easier to have a discussion.

The previous, 27th seminar was held in 2021 in Poland. Why in Warsaw? Was it a different seminar from those organized over the years in Ventnor City Public Library, New Jersey, or the 26th Seminar in Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn?

This seminar was held a year ago, on October 28. A lot of interested people attended it. We organized them in cooperation with the American Studies Center of the University of Warsaw.

The program of the seminar was very diverse and interesting. The presenters reported on archaeological research in the Mesa Verde area, conducted by Radosław Palonka and his students from the Jagiellonian University. Adam Piekarski told about the ethnographic pioneers Lewis and Clark, whose task was not only to find a water route to the Pacific, but also to study and document the indigenous cultures they encountered in the American West. Justyna Laskowska-Otwinowska presented her research on the political role of folk music in Latin America. Anna Słupianek presented reflections on the phenomenon of the Chaco culture, Cezary Cieślak’s reflections on conflicts in the region of Mesoamerica in the pre-Columbian period, and Jolanta Gach reflections on the underestimated cultural heritage of the Amazon. Mirosław Sprenger dealt with the early reserve period among the nations of the Great Plains, and in particular with the ambiguous role of the then created Indian police.

During the seminar, a ceremony was held to hand over to the OSA Library a large collection of books by Andrzej Wala – the founder and long-term president of the Polish-American Ethnographic Society. This decision was made by Barbara Wala, Andrzej’s wife, after his death on March 13, 2018. Barbara, along with Andrzej’s friends, attended the ceremony.

Andrzej left behind an impressive collection of items (over 500) on American Indian cultures and the history of the United States. He was particularly interested in the colonial history of the USA, the relations of the British administration with indigenous peoples in the early colonial period and the Indian nations of the East Coast. His collection of books is an excellent resource for anyone dealing with the subject. Many historical and ethnological works on the Delaware, Lenni Lenape and other nations of the eastern US states are unique items. Of course, this rich collection also includes works on other Indian nations and titles dealing with contemporary problems. A large part of the book collection concerns the cultures of Latin America – pre-Columbian and modern cultures.

The handover ceremony was a particularly touching part of the program. The speeches and memories of Andrzej will remain in the memory of the participants of this event for a long time. We are sure that in such a good home as the OSA Library, the book collection will serve researchers for years.

Great people are leaving, the realities in which you function are changing, but your mission hasn’t changed?

Polish-American Ethnographic Society Bronisław Malinowski – Polish-American Ethnological Society (PAES/PATE) was established in 1976. Its mission from the beginning was to promote and popularize the topics and problems dealt with by cultural anthropology, as well as to expand knowledge about ethnic groups living in the United States, with particular emphasis on Indians and American Polonia. We also try to support and conduct research in this area.

The 28th seminar – according to the opinions of its participants – was very interesting and brought a lot of knowledge. Who helped you – apart from your husband Tomasz – to organize this meeting? Will there be another one in 2023?

Of course. We will want to organize them again at Greenpoint Public Library. There is more and more going on in our organization and interest in indigenous cultures is growing. More and more books by indigenous authors are being translated into English and Polish. Therefore, there is something to talk about.

I took over the management of PAES/PATE after Andrzej Wali and his spirit is still over me. If I hadn’t tried to keep the association functioning normally, moving forward, Andrzej’s ghost would probably start to haunt me at night. Izabela Barry, who has been working at the Brooklyn Public Library for years, and Ewa Sukiennik-Maliga (years ago she worked at Nowy Dziennik) helped me a lot in organizing the 28th seminar. They also supported me spiritually, for which I am deeply grateful to them.

Can people interested in Indian history and culture participate in seminars and other meetings? Who can become a member of your association?

We are open and any interested person can participate in our meetings. We are also willing to cooperate with people who are hungry for knowledge about the nations inhabiting American soil. To become a PAES/PATE member, please contact us. We have been based in Fort Leee, NJ for four years. People interested in cooperation can find us on the website: www.paespate.net. There you can sign up and send me an e-mail. We also have a PAES/PATE profile on Facebook.

He was talking Janusz M. Szlechta

Polish-American Ethnographic Societies

phone (978) 821-3455


e-mail: [email protected]

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