The Federated Indians of California (FIC) formed in 1946 to press a land claims case before the federal government. Inspired by the Indian Claims Commission Act (1946) and the failures of the CA Indians Jurisdictional Act (1928), they sought (unsuccessfully) to unify all California Native nations and landless Indians under a single claim. Although this goal proved unattainable, their political activism fostered important mid-century strides in cultural revivification and self-representation.
Jerry Gambill (aka Rarihokwats), Managing Editor of Akwesasne Notes, was the first recipient of the Marie Potts Journalism Award, an honor created and bestowed by the pioneering American Indian Press Association (AIPA). The inaugural ceremony took place at the Denver Indian Center on November 16, 1972. The Rocky Mountain News covered the story, reporting that "The Award includes a $500 prize and is the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. Mrs. Marie Potts, the award's namesake is the 77-year-old editor of 'Smoke Signals' [sic], a Sacramento, Calif. monthly news magazine. She was instrumental in the founding AIPA." Note: The Smoke Signal was often, and continues to be, inaccurately referred to in the plural; and while Potts was indeed one of approximately 10 co-founders, the driving figure behind development of the AIPA was Charles "Chuck" Trimble.)
Marie Mason Potts often wrote Smoke Signal stories based upon news she found in the national press about Native Americans of note. This column is based on an announcement that Mrs. Henry Roe Cloud had been named "Oregon Mother" for 1950. It seems likely that the story was particularly important to Potts as both women had connections to the Carlisle (and may well have been there at the same time).
While working on a chapter about Marie Potts's participation in the American Indian Chicago Conference, I ran across this front page story about the FIC celebrating its 15th anniversary with a dance at the VFW Memorial Hall in Bryte on March 18, 1961 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Reading the directions made me wonder what the Mecca Club was like. Is it still there?
Apologies for the poor quality of this 2nd generation copy
Marie Potts lost her youngest daughter, Kitty Marie "Pumpkin" Potts Flores, on April 1, 1951. Bertha Stewart (Tolowa), Secretary of the FIC, had worked closely with Kitty for many years and wrote a touching tribute to her as founding editor of the Smoke Signal. Marie Potts, who was elected to the position of Smoke Signal editor in March 1949, added biographical information about her daughter just beneath Bertha Stewart's typescript signature.
Kitty--beloved daughter, wife, and aunt--was laid to rest in East Lawn Cemetery. Her untimely death was clearly a tremendous loss not only to her family, but to the larger world of California Indian activism.
Had a great time this past Saturday night (March 21) at the opening reception and lecture for a small exhibit I was invited to install out at the Maidu Museum, in Roseville. The exhibit is called The Lettered Life of a Mountain Maidu Woman: An Archival Portrait of Marie Mason Potts. I was especially pleased that some of her daughter Pansy Marine's descendants were there and that I was able to chat with them afterwards. The flyer for the show is posted below.
In conjunction with this year's University One Book Program, which features Sherman Alexie's book Blasphemy, the University Library is featuring an exhibit I co-curated with Dr. Brian Baker, entitled Before 'The Search Engine': Education, Identity and Tradition. Our exhibit was inspired by the short story The Search Engine, and includes four exhibit cases. Two feature Americana Indian artifacts from Dr. Baker's collection, and two (shown below) feature my research on Marie Potts--her years at the Greenville Indian Industrial School and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and the period of her land claims activism here in Sacramento. The exhibit is up through December 12, 2014.