Lecture Examines Legacy of Captured Apache Children

Darlene Lizarraga
May 5, 2004

When the anthropologist Grenville Goodwin died in 1940 at the age of 32, he left behind a newborn son who would never know him, and a stature that has only continued to grow. A distant and elusive figure, Goodwin's unpublished field notes and diaries gave his son, Neil, a unique way of coming to know his father.

From this journey Neil Goodwin has produced two books. "Like a Brother: Grenville Goodwin's Apache Years" (2004, University of Arizona Press) gives a fuller understanding of the man and his work as it broadens our knowledge of the Apaches. It is a sequel to "The Apache Diaries: A Father-Son Journey" (2000, University of Nebraska Press), a memoir and historical investigation of Mexican Apaches based on a journal written by Grenville Goodwin in 1930 and 1931.

Assembled from thousands of pages of field notes, letters and diaries, "Like a Brother" is divided into thematic chapters. One is the story of the life shared by Goodwin and his wife, Jan, and told in their correspondence and in her powerfully expressive poetry, drawings and paintings.

In another, the dozens of letters written by Goodwin's Apache friends afford an unusually intimate look at their culture, their daily lives and the wrenching problems which reservation life forced upon them.

Grenville Goodwin was powerfully drawn to Apache spirituality. He became steeped in their sacred knowledge and it began to inform his own life as it did the Apaches. His simple description of an Apache family captures the expression of this spirituality in the rhythms of everyday life, whether greeting the rising sun, curing an injury, plowing the earth or simply being good to one's family.

In other chapters Neil Goodwin retraces his father's search for the Sierra Madre Apache, re-discovering abandoned Apache campsites and conveying even more personally than his father's diaries what was for both father and son the adventure of a lifetime.

Neil Goodwin's lecture will focus on his father's search for the history of Apache children captured by Mexican ranchers in the early 20th century and shed light on their subsequent lives.

A special display will feature a rare deck of Apache playing cards that belonged to an Apache girl captured in 1932. The deck is now in the permanent collection of Arizona State Museum.

Neil Goodwin is an architect and an award-winning independent filmmaker. His production company is Peace River Films of Cambridge, Mass. His first documentary, "Following the Tundra Wolf," was broadcast on ABC-TV in 1975. One of several films he made for the PBS series "The American Experience" was "Geronimo and the Apache Resistance." He has produced films on natural history, historical, cultural and Native American subjects for Public Television's NOVA and Smithsonian World, among many other venues. Goodwin can be reached for comment or interview at goodwin@prfi.com

Grenville Goodwin's posthumous landmark monograph, "The Social Organization of the Western Apache," was hailed by the late UA anthropologist Edward Spicer as "one of the most detailed and best-documented studies of Indian social organization." Highly regarded by colleagues, Goodwin himself was largely self-taught, with neither formal training nor academic degrees. More than half a century after his death, Grenville Goodwin continues to be regarded as one of the most enigmatic and romantic figures in American anthropology.

Extra info


Lecture and Book Signing with Neil Goodwin


Lecture: Center for English as a Second Language, Auditorium Reception: Arizona State Museum


Wednesday, May 26, 7-9 p.m.


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