Sterling Robbins Papers, 1962-1965 (MSS 767)

Restrictions: Original audiovisual formats are restricted. Listening copies may be available for researchers.

Extent: 6 Linear feet (13 archives boxes and one shoebox)

The Sterling Robbins papers contain his research and observations of the indigenous Auyana people in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea between 1963 and 1965.

Sterling G. Robbins was born in Dodge City, Kansas in 1936. Robbins attended the University of Washington for his graduate studies, earning a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1970. His dissertation, "Warfare, marriage, and the distribution of goods in Auyana" met mixed reviews in the anthropology community and was later revised, expanded and published as Auyana: Those who Held onto Home (1982). After he earned his Ph.D. Robbins was associated with the University of California, Los Angeles in the early 1970s and after some time became associated with the University of Hawaii.

The Sterling Robbins papers contain his research and observations of the indigenous Auyana people in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea between 1963 and 1965. His work there was part of the Micro-Evolution Project led by Professor James B. Watson at the University of Washington, and focused on documenting social movements and social structure of highland societies.

The collection includes handwritten field note journals with observations about Auyana valley villages and their inhabitants from approximately September 1963 to September 1965. Robbins created an extensive set of vocabulary cards with Awiyaana to English translations, and conducted a variety of interviews and psychological and cognitive tests.

The collection also includes a sizable audio-visual component with approximately 70 reel-to-reel tapes with recordings of songs, rituals, and autobiographies. Also included are several dozen 35mm film slides and photo prints with scenes of marriages, funerals, surgery, religion, cultural events, landscapes and portraits.

Arranged in three series: 1) LANGUAGE, 2) RESEARCH, and 3) AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS.

Container List


Box 1 Folder 1
Awiyaana language cards
Box 1 Folder 2-4
Awiyaana vocabulary cards
Box 1 Folder 5-8
Translation book - Myths; tales about going to coast; some on initiation and curing


Field Notes

Box 2 Folder 1-3
AsG (Asuwair gardens) - Notebooks 1-3

Notes are predominately about crops, gardens, and livestock, possibly in Asuwair.

Box 2 Folder 4-7
AG (Auyana gardens) - Notebooks 1-4
Box 2 Folder 8-9
AQ (Auyana questions) - Notebooks 1-2
Box 2 Folder 10-15
AT (Auyana themes) - Key, and books 1-5

Notes documenting a series of question and answer interviews; mostly in Awiyaana.

Box 2 Folder 16
Daily activities
Box 2 Folder 17
Kawaina field notes
Box 3 Folder 1-8
Field notes (by month) - Notebooks 1-8, 1963 February-December

Notes labeled "B1" through "B8."

Box 4 Folder 1-11
Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 1-11, 1963 September-December
Box 5 Folder 1-9
Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 12-20, 1963 December-1964 March
Box 6 Folder 1-10
Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 21-30, 1964 March-June
Box 7 Folder 1-12
Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 31-42, 1964 May-August
Box 8 Folder 1-5
Field notes (daily) - Notebooks 43-47, 1964 August-September
Box 8 Folder 6
"M" notes (maps)
Box 8 Folder 7
Population through time
Box 8 Folder 8
"TB" notes

TB abbreviation unidentified

Box 8 Folder 9
"Te" notes

Te abbreviation unidentified.

Surveys, Interviews and Tests

Box 11 Folder 4
Origin myth of the Auyana - English transcription from recording with Anu, 1969 December 9
Box 11 Folder 5
Autobiography of Anu - Awiyaana transcription, 1965
Box 11 Folder 6
Tests - Tracking document
Box 11 Folder 7
Village maps
Box 8 Folder 10
Diet and animals
Box 8 Folder 11
Animal ownership inventory cards
Box 8 Folder 12
Survey responses regarding presence of white people ("white questionnaire")
Box 8 Folder 13
Drawing practice: house, self, tree
Box 11 Folder 8
Drawings of self and family
Box 9 Folder 1-2
"Conscience test" interviews
Box 9 Folder 3
"TAT tape" interviews in Awiyaana, 1965
Box 9 Folder 4-6
Goldstein-Scheerer Cube test
Box 10 Folder 1
"Helpers" interviews
Box 10 Folder 2
Dog/cat identification test
Box 10 Folder 3
CEFT (embedded figures test)
Box 10 Folder 4
Block changing test
Box 10 Folder 5
Pillbox test
Box 10 Folder 6-7
Blacky Pictures test, 1965 November-December
Box 10 Folder 8
Ethnocentrism questionnaire



Box 11 Folder 1
Photographic prints - Portraits/events/Lutherans at Waipina, includes valley and landscape
Box 11 Folder 2
Photographic prints - Daily life/scenery/inter-group interactions/men's initiation
Box 11 Folder 3
Slides, 1963; 1965

Includes scenes of marriage, death, burials, surgery, religion, cultural events, landscapes, and people. Named places include Anokampa (Anokafa), Poznampa, Hagan Valley, Okapa, Okasa, Markam Valley, Tairora, Garoka Airstrip, etc.


Box 12 Folder 1-3
Sound recording - Anu's story, 1965
Box 12 Folder 4
Sound recording - Songs and singing, undated
Box 12 Folder 5-6
Super8 films - no label or identification, undated
Box 13
Assorted small reel-to-reel recordings, in rough number sequence, with notes, 1962, 1965

Topics inscribed in brief notes on some containers. Includes songs and singing, myth telling, Kawaina funeral, initiations, and more.

Box 13
Sound recording - Tanmwe's autobiography tapes 1-8, 1965
Box 13
Sound recording - "Offenses" tapes 1-3, 1965
Box 14
Unidentified reel-to-reel recordings, undated