The Jesup North Pacific Expedition


[Information from the American Museum of Natural History]


"Tundra Yukaghir on sled pulled by reindeer, Siberia, 1897–1902," ID: 11099. Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History Library

The Jesup North Pacific Expedition took place between 1897 and 1902. Financed by Morris K. Jessup, the president of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York (the sponsor of the trip), the Expedition was led by noted anthropologist Franz Boas. The goal of the Expedition was to find evidence of the Bering Strait migration theory—that North America had been populated by migrations of people from Asia across the Bering Strait. The Expedition focused on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, with both a Siberian team and a North American team studying “the cultural, racial, and linguistic attributes of peoples living in the Greater North Pacific Region.”

Boas himself was more concerned with cultural documentation of peoples he soon thought would be gone as a result of colonialism. Also part of the Expedition were Waldemar Bogoras, who “worked among the Chukchi, Even, Maritime Koryak, and Yupik; Livingston Farrand, who studied the Chilcotin and Quinalt, as well as Salish basketry; George Hunt, who worked closely with Boas on Kwakwaka’wakw transcriptions; Dina Jochelson-Brodskaya who worked on physical measurements, medical work, and photography, along with husband Waldemar Jochelson, who led the Siberian leg of the Expedition; Berthold Laufer, who researched the peoples of Sakhalin Island; Harlan I. Smith, an archaeologist on the Expedition staff; John R. Swanton, who studied the Haida; and James Teit, who wrote on the Nlaka’pamux, Lillooet, and Shuswap.

Further details on the Jesup Expedition can be found on the AMNH website, along with the thousands of photographs taken during the expedition.

"Roof planks on a wall, Lummi Reservation, 1899," ID: 12132. Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History Library

"Woman, Bella Bella, British Columbia, [1897]," ID: 42844. Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History Library