Sally Mcbeth, Professor & Department Chair, Anthropology
Sally McBeth is Professor of Anthropology and Department Chair. Sally’s areas of expertise include Native American Studies, Multicultural and Women’s Studies, Folklore/Oral History/Performance/Life History, Field Methods in Cultural Anthropology, Religion, and Cultural Interpretation. She earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Washington State University in 1982.
Sally has authored two books: Ethnic Identity and the Boarding School Experience (1984) and Essie’s Story; the Life and Legacy of a Shoshone Teacher (1998). She has also authored three major grant-funded reports: Native American Oral History and Cultural Interpretation in Rocky Mountain National Park (on-line publication 2007), Ute Ethnobotany Project (2008), and “Talking About a Sacredness” an Ethnographic Overview of Colorado National Monument (on-line 2010) in addition to numerous journal articles and encyclopedia entries.
In 2006 Sally traveled around the world on a ship, teaching anthropology for Semester at Sea and exploring ports with 800 undergraduate students. In 2008 she worked in a refugee camp on the Burma-Thai border and she has been giving sewing lessons to Burmese refugees in Greeley since 2009. In what spare time she has she enjoys playing her great highland bagpipes!
What is your own research background?
Currently I am working with the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service (Rocky Mountain National Park and Colorado National Monument) to integrate Ute perspectives into the cultural interpretation of these government agencies' lands. I have worked with Native peoples in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Minnesota, Vermont, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah.
For the last 7 years, I have been researching pilgrimage and sacred sites in the Plains area. The purpose of this research is to examine and analyze the ways that humans understand manifestations of the sacred in landscape and place. The focus of this research project is to personalize the topic by asking pilgrims and visitors (Native and non-Native) to selected sacred sites in the Northern Plains what has brought them to these places.
I am doing research on the Ute Bear Dance. Based on years of fieldwork with the Ute and attendance at numerous spring Bear Dances, this article will focus on the 21st century Northern Ute Bear Dance. A uniquely Ute spring social dance, the Bear Dance has seen little change in the past 200-plus years. Based on a mythical encounter between a she-bear and a male hunter, the Bear Dance includes music, dance, story-telling, joking, courting, and gambling. The Ute say they have been Bear Dancing for millennia—the dance may well be over 1000 years old. For the Nuche [Ute], dance is believed to have power that is critical to the continuation of Ute culture. It is a socially integrating force that connects Utes with their traditions, their land, their past, their heritage. The Bear Dance is a celebration of survival and as such is a mnemonic of tradition, history, and cosmology.
Please discuss one significant and/or noteworthy undergraduate research project where you served as a fellow researcher and/or mentor.
My work with Ryan Lambert, double major in Anthropology and English, was particularly enjoyable. Ryan’s interest in folklore dovetailed significantly with my own research and interests. His Honors Thesis,The (Anti) Structure of Greeley Folklore was grounded in the theoretical perspectives of Victor Turner and included original research and the collection of Greeley urban legends, ghost stories, miracle stories, and latrinalia (bathroom wall graffiti).
How many undergraduate students are doing research in your department?
Our department offers many opportunities for undergraduates to do research with our faculty. We do not have a graduate program, and so work closely with our undergrads. Twenty-one students are currently involved: 6 students are doing independent projects in Archaeology (with Brunswig and Creekmore), 3 in Medical Anthropology (with Duncan), 6 in Biological/Forensic Anthropology (with McIlvaine) and 6 in Cultural Anthropology (with McBeth, Kimball, and DeWitt). Almost 25% of undergraduates in Anthropology (we have 85 majors) are being mentored by our faculty.
What is most rewarding about working with undergraduate students on original research projects?
We love seeing the completion and sophistication of their final research projects as well as celebrating their accomplishments with them.