Jack D. Forbes

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Jack D. Forbes (January 7, 1934, Long Beach, CA – February 23, 2011, Davis, CA) was an American writer, scholar and political activist, who specialized in Native American issues. He is best known for his role in establishing one of the first Native American Studies programs (at University of California Davis). In addition, he was one of the co-founders of D-Q University, the first Native American college located outside a reservation.

Life and career[edit]

Jack D. Forbes was born in 1934 in Long Beach, California, to parents of Powhatan-Renapé and Lenape descent from New Jersey. These were both historically Algonquian-speaking peoples of the Atlantic coastal areas. Forbes was raised in neighboring El Monte and Eagle Rock, where he began his writing career at the high school newspaper. He received his Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from University of Southern California in 1953, going on to a Masters in 1955 and a Ph.D. in History and Anthropology (1959).[1]

In the early 1960s, Forbes became active as an organizer in the Native American movement, which asserted the rights to sovereignty and resisting assimilation into the majority culture. Native Americans on the West Coast were active, gaining national attention with such demonstrations as the occupation of Alcatraz Island. They pushed for better education, and departments of Native American studies to be established at major universities, as well as civil rights. In this same era, various tribes filed land claim suits against the federal government or states over long-contested issues.

Forbes first taught at San Fernando Valley State College and the University of Nevada, Reno. He joined the University of California, Davis in 1969, where he helped found a program in Native American studies, one of the first at a major university.[1] Later he developed this subject as a full department and served as its chairman.[2] With an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, he explored the confluence of African American and Native American histories, as well as multicultural people of Indian and European ancestry. He extended his work into African American and Latin American history.[3] After gaining professor emeritus status in 1994, Forbes continued to teach at the university until 2009.[1]

In 1971 Forbes was among the founders of the Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University (commonly referred to as D-Q University), a two-year college located near Davis, California.[4] It was the first tribal college in California and closed for classes in 2005. Forbes taught there for 25 years and served on the board.[1] In 2015 it is continuing to work to re-open.

He was a visiting Fulbright Professor at the University of Warwick in England, where he also spent time at Oxford and the University of Essex. Additionally, he held the Tinbergen Chair at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam.[5]

In the early 1990s, Forbes was involved with David Risling and others in the making of A Free People, Free To Choose, a film by Jan Crull, Jr..[6] It was conceived as a feature-length documentary based on D-Q University's history and an alleged campaign by the federal government to suppress it. Crull was forced to abandon the project when Morrison & Foerster, a law firm closely linked to D-Q U's legal battles, withdrew from the project after the film's subjects filed lawsuits against each other. The hundred-plus hours of footage assembled includes a lengthy interview with Forbes.[7]

Near his retirement, he published Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red- Black Peoples (1993), considered by many to be "his signature work", the product of two decades of study. He studied the fluidity of race in the United States as people came together in colonial times and after the Revolution, remarking on the fact that Native Americans who were part black often lost their culture and were classified arbitrarily as black, while identifying as Indian.[3]

Marriage and family[edit]

He married and had two children, Kenneth Forbes and Nancy (Forbes) O’Hearn.[4] After he and his wife divorced, he later married again. His second wife Carolyn Forbes, children and grandson survived him.[1][4]

Awards and honors[edit]

Selected works[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Cunnane, Sarah (17 March 2011). "Jack Forbes, 1934-2011". The Times. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Seven Stories Press
  3. ^ a b Arica L. Coleman, Ph.D., "The Red and the Black: Remembering the Legacy of Jack D. Forbes", Indian Country Today, 23 February 2014, accessed 12 May 2015
  4. ^ a b c Bailey, Pat (February 25, 2011). "UC Davis scholar Jack Forbes advocated for indigenous peoples". Davis News. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Biographical sketch], Jack Forbes' blog
  6. ^ W.G.A.W. Reg. No. 513853
  7. ^ Four videotapes (VHS format) stored within the Native American Studies Department of the University of California at Davis by Jack Forbes in February of 1994 -
    1. 1 Jack Forbes Interview, titled "Indians' Plight: D-Q University vs. the United States Government" (running time: 2 hrs., 37 min., and 48 sec.): a) opens with the Vigil Film logo/symbol/trademark; b) then "toaster" generated rolling commentary introducing Jack Forbes and the issues in brief, identifying the filmmaker Jan Crull, Jr., giving the time (the afternoon of October 8, 1993) and the locale which all fade into panoramic shots of "Cal-Davis", ending with a centering on one classroom building, next a close up of one of its windows which has a male looking out of it into the camera, followed by a close up of the man's face that transforms into a drawing with letters subsequently appearing individually and horizontally below the drawing and spelling out Jack Forbes; c)the drawing becomes animated (changes into Forbes' actual face) with Forbes facing the camera and raising a question which begins the 2 1/2 hours answer. After approximately a pause of 72 seconds following the interview there is a clip of the interview wherein the filmmaker uses Forbes' voice and relies on insertions of varied mediae germane to what Forbes is relating--e.d. note, probably as a means of experimentation so that the viewer will not see and hear a perpetual talking head (running time: 15 min., and 3 sec.)
    2. 2 and
    3. 3 videotapes are the filming of an interview with David Risling, conducted on October 6 and 7, 1993. The effect which Risling creates before the camera is that of the traditional Native American storyteller: He provides a history of himself, his involvement with Indian rights, and his relationship with and stewardship of D-Q University; and an account is also provided by him of what had occurred with the U.S. government (living while under FBI scrutiny). The Risling interviews show how the history of D-Q University is intertwined with the turbulent 1960's and 1970's Native American struggle to achieve rights (The American Indian Movement, Dennis Banks, Jerry Brown, Peter Mathiessen and other names of individuals and institutions/entities are mentioned). (running times: #2 - 3 hrs., 14 min., and 22 sec.; and #3 - 2hrs.. 56 min., and 41 sec.)
    4. 4 is a video tape (VHS format) of Jan Crull, Jr. explaining why he is making A Free People, Free To Choose and its many problems in spite of there already being distribution in place. (running time - 48 min., and 17 sec.). Following his explanation is a film segment which appears to be a tentative opening for A Free People, Free To Choose.(running time - 11min., and 28 sec.).

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