Jack D. Forbes 1934-2011

Jack D. Forbes 1934-2011

March 1, 2011

Seven Stories Press celebrates the life of Jack D. Forbes. From the Sacramento News:

Jack D. Forbes, a prominent American Indian activist, author and scholar at UC Davis who co-founded D-Q University as the first tribal college in California, died Wednesday. He was 77.

A family spokeswoman, Melissa Johnson, said he died after three days at Sutter Davis Hospital but added that his family was uncertain about the precise cause of death.

Mr. Forbes was a leading figure among Indians and scholars for his activism and research establishing indigenous people, history and culture as an academic subject. He also envisioned alternative colleges focused on serving American Indians and preserving indigenous cultures and values.

He joined UC Davis in 1969 as one of the founding professors of a Native American studies program. He also influenced the start of similar programs at UC Berkeley, UCLA and University of Minnesota.

He was instrumental in elevating UC Davis’ interdisciplinary program to a full academic department in 1993 and helped lay the groundwork for a graduate program. He retired in 1994 after serving as department chairman at UC Davis, which is regarded as having one of the country’s top Native American studies programs.

“Jack Forbes’ passing is not only a loss for UC Davis but for the Native American studies academic community across the country,” Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a written statement.

“He was an inspirational and determined leader whose voice influenced the creation of Native American studies programs at UC Davis and around the country.”

Mr. Forbes helped launch a tribal college movement with papers he wrote in the 1960s calling for an indigenous people’s university. In 1971, he joined other American Indian activists in starting Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University at a former Army facility several miles west of UC Davis.

He served on the board and taught as a volunteer at D-Q University for more than 25 years. Although its board still exists, the college lost its accreditation and stopped functioning in 2005.

Mr. Forbes was born in 1934 in Long Beach of Powhatan-Renapé and Delaware-Lenápe heritage.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a master’s degree in history and a doctorate in history and anthropology at the University of Southern California. He taught at San Fernando Valley State College and the University of Nevada, Reno, before joining UC Davis.

He was a prolific author of academic books and articles about tribes from regional and global perspectives, including Columbus and Other Cannibals, Apache, Navaho and Spaniard, and Africans and Native Americans. He was a visiting scholar at top universities in England and the Netherlands, and received many honors, including the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.

Mr. Forbes lived in Davis. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and two children from a previous marriage.

“Sometimes scholars can become isolated within the confines of a college because it’s a comfortable place, but Jack went out of his way to meet Native American people,” UC Davis professor Steven Crum said. “He was always involved in Native American organizations and gatherings.”

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