Willard Z. Park Field Notes

Identifier: 96-05

Scope and Contents

The Willard Z. Park Field Notes has been divided into three series. The first relates to Park's 1937 and 1941 trips to study the Kagaba of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Included are records documenting his preparation for the two expeditions, conducted during his summer breaks from the University. These materials include letters of recommendation, correspondence regarding the proper first aid kit, and letters from colleagues in Columbia and Venezuela. Financial records and daily journey observations are contained in small notebooks, as are his field notes on the Kagaba. A few published articles about the region, a report to Park by Paul Meyn on "Indians in the Sierra de Perija" on the western edge of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, and some bibliography cards complete the series.

Series 2 contains field notes from Park's 1933, 1934, 1935, 1939, and 1940 observations of the Northern Paiute Indians of Nevada. The notebooks are arranged first by year, and then numerically by notebook number. They also include two notebooks compiled by Susan Brandenstein Park in 1934 and 1935. These notebooks of both Willard and Susan Park formed the basis for Willard Z. Park's Ethnographic Notes ... compiled by Catherine S. Fowler.

Series 3 is very small and consists of materials related to Park's appointment as chief of the UNRRA mission to Ethiopia (1945-1947). It includes his letter of appointment outlining his duties, his passport, and legal papers filed by Park against John Foster Dulles, U.S. Secretary of State for return of his passport and issuance of a new one.

Park's research notes are important for research among the Northern Paiute of Nevada, since his informants were a link with the then rapidly disappearing traditional Paiute culture and lifeways. They are an significant supplement to Fowler's published edition of Park's notes as they will continue to supply the raw data for new or differing interpretations of Park's observations on Paiute life.


  • 1926-1955


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Willard Zerbe Park was born in Silt, Colorado on October 14, 1906. He received an A.B. degree in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and did a year of graduate study there.

Born Susan Brandenstein in California in 1908, Susan also attended the University of California, Berkley and studied as an anthropologist. She and Williard met during their shared time at the university.

Willard Park began his field research among the Northern Paiute of Nevada during the summer of 1933, following the suggestion of Berkeley Professor Robert H. Lowie. During that first field season, Park filled six field note books of data, mostly on general cultural description.

Similarly, following her graduation Susan B. Park was directed by her advisor H. Robert Lowie, and Alfred L. Kroeber who was another professor to study the Astuge-wi who lived in northeastern California. She spent the 1931 and 1933 studying and interviewing the Astuge-Wi.

Willard entered graduate school at Yale in the Fall of 1933 where he studied under Edward Sapir who had done substantial research among the Indians of the Great Basin. He also studied under Leslie Spier who influenced Park's studies. Park returned to Nevada during the summers of 1934, 1935, 1939, and 1940. In 1936 he completed his Ph.D dissertation of shamanism in western North America; that work was later published as Shamanism in Western North America: A Study in Cultural Relationships (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University, 1938). He also published in numerous professional journals on Northern Paiute and Great Basin anthropology.

Willard taught anthropology at Northwestern University, 1935-1938 and at the University of Oklahoma, 1938-1942. During the summers of 1937 and 1941 he conducted field studies among the Kagaba in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Columbia, South America. His data was published in the Handbook of South American Indians, 1946.

Willard and Susan moved to Washington D.C. during the years of World War II, where Willard worked in the office of Nelson A. Rockefeller, Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. From 1944-1945 Willard served as Chief of the Coordination staff in the Foreign Economic Mission of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and as Chief of the UNRRA mission to Ethiopia (1945-1947). After the UNRRA dissolved he come back to Washington, D.C. but later returned to Ethiopia in 1955 as a lecturer at the University College of Addis Ababa.

In 1963 the Parks came to Nevada where Willard was associated with the Desert Research Institute. He began an extensive ethnohistoric bibliography of the Northern Paiute and planned to edit his remaining Northern Paiute materials for publication. Unfortunately, he died suddenly in April, 1965 before his work was published.

Susan continued to reside in Carson City, dying in 1993 at the age of 85.

Park's Northern Paiute ethnographic notes were compiled and edited by Catherine S. Fowler in 1989 as Willard Z. Park's Ethnographic Notes on the Northern Paiute of Western Nevada, 1933-1940, Volume 1 (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Anthropological Papers, no. 114, University of Utah Press, 1989). The biographical essay on Park by Fowler in that book formed the basis for this note on Willard Z. Park.


1.5 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



Willard Zerbe Park was an anthropologist and professor. Included are Park's field notes from his study of shamanism and the social life and customs of the Northern Paiute Indians of Nevada, 1933-1940 that he created with the help of his wife, Susan; notes on the study of Kagaba Indians of Sierra de Santa Marta in Colombia, South America, 1937 and 1941; and correspondence regarding the UNRRA in Ethiopia. Also included are field notes of Susan B. Park on the Northern Paiute, 1934-1935; and a report to Willard Park from Paul Meyn on Indians of the Sierra de Perija, Colombia, South America. Material between 1926-1955.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Kagaba Notes; 2) Northern Paiute Field Notes; 3) UNRRA Ethiopia

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Catherine S. Fowler of the Anthropology Department, University of Nevada in 1996.

Processing Information

Sources used for Biographical Note:

Wilson, Daryl Babe."The Gift of an Anthropologist: A-Juma-Wi/Atsuge-Wi Lessons and Legends." Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly 17, no. 3/4(December 1992): 85-97. https://doi.org/10.1525/ahu.1992.17.3-4.85

Guide to the Willard Z. Park Field Notes
Susan Searcy
July 2, 1996
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)