Category Archives: Training Materials

Richard Cutter in Peru & Morocco

Country of Service: Peru & Morocco
Service Type: Urban UCD/Architect
Dates in Service: 1966-1968 (Peru), 1968-1969 (Morocco)
Keywords: Architecture, Business, Community Development, Education, Urban Planning

Accession Date: November 10, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1 linear foot

Document Types:

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Publications
  • Reports

“To Whom It May Concern”: The Peace Corps, Public Health, and COVID-19

In his capacity as tour manager for the University of Ibadan’s Shakespeare Traveling Theatre troupe, Tom Hebert brought renowned productions—like Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet among others—to audiences throughout Nigeria. The pictures above illustrate a core tenet of Shakespearian performance: audience interaction, which was anything but lacking in West Africa during the 1960s. In a recent blog post, Hebert recalls that millions of Nigerian students were required to study Shakespeare as part of their secondary education; consequently, audiences numbering in the “thousands would mouth the lines in an audible susurrus” during shows. [1] Hebert also came to understand that British colonialism and an entrenched caste system overshadowed the educational merits of theater: “literate African kids wandering the streets with nothing to do, and nowhere to go.”

In 1964, after two years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), the time had come for Hebert to return to the United States. Addressed “To Whom It May Concern,” a disease identity card (pictured below) marked Hebert’s return:

Disease Identity Card, April 1963, Shelf: 12.03.05, Box: “Tom Hebert,” Folder: “Hebert, Thomas L, Nigeria 1962-1964, Training Materials–Supplies and Medical Information,” Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Library, Washington, D.C.

In another example, an unnamed PCV received a similar card upon their return from India in 1968:

Disease Identity Card, 1968, Shelf: 12.03.02, Inquire for Box & Folder Information, Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Library, Washington, D.C.

These cards were a reminder to PCVs as to the prevalence of disease in their country of service. They were also ostensibly a precautionary measure—designed to warn physicians that the returning PCV might well be a public health risk, in which case subsequent isolation, treatment, contact tracing, and the like would become necessary. [2] Thus, in addition to coping with “reentry, readjustment, and reverse culture shock,” returning PCVs further faced the (remote) reality that they themselves might inadvertently bring lethal pathogens—for which there was little protection against—home to friends and family. [3]

An example: there was no vaccine to combat Dengue Fever—one of several diseases that Tom Hebert was potentially exposed to in Nigeria—in the 1960s. To this day, a “safe, effective, and affordable vaccine” for Dengue Fever remains elusive. [4]

This is not to say that the Peace Corps only took steps to protect PCVs on the back-end of their service. Additional evidence from the Peace Corps Community Archive is revealing; even in the 1960s, the fledgling Peace Corps had a robust front-end health program. It featured preventive medicine (where possible) and pre-departure education designed to reduce disease transmission:

Vaccination Appointment & Record Card, Shelf: 12.03.02, Inquire for Box & Folder Information, Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Library, Washington, D.C.

PCV Medicine Book, Shelf: 12.03.05, Box: “Tom Hebert,” Folder: “Hebert, Thomas L, Nigeria 1962-1964, Training Materials–Supplies and Medical Information,” Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Library, Washington, D.C.

In the case that preventive measures such as vaccination and sanitation failed, the Peace Corps also offered active PCVs reactionary treatment in the form of a standard medical kit:

Peace Corps Medical Kit with Health Guide, ID # 2011.0228.36, Transfer from the Peace Corps, National Museum of American History, https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1412958

Medical Kit Inventory, Shelf: 12.03.05, Box: “Tom Hebert,” Folder: “Hebert, Thomas L, Nigeria 1962-1964, Training Materials–Supplies and Medical Information,” Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Library, Washington, D.C.

On balance, the health measures enacted by the Peace Corps—from pre-service medical training and vaccinations, reactionary treatment options during service, and disease identity cards upon return—were largely successful. From 1962-1983, 185 PCVs died during their service; of those 185, 40 died due to illness. For context: some 235,000 PCVs have served in hundreds of countries since the Peace Corps’ inception in 1961.

Relative to the Nigerians for whom he organized Shakespearean performances, Hebert enjoyed a position of privilege in terms of access to healthcare. For many PCVs, the prospect of becoming ill during service or bringing illness back to loved ones upon return was remote; indeed, the public health infrastructure of their home country, the United States, was robust compared to many countries where the Peace Corps operated.

However, what if the opposite were true? What if returning home was seemingly just as dangerous—if not more dangerous—to the well-being of PCVs? In March 2020, following the onset of COVID-19, this seeming impossibility came to fruition as all active PCVs were evacuated back to the United States. [5]

In a blog post for the Pacific Citizen, Kako Yamada—an evacuated PCV who had been serving in Comoros—recounts the abruptness of being evacuated due to COVID-19: [6]

Our plans for the remaining months or years of service vanished as we collected what we could of our belongings — some able to say their good-byes, others not so lucky.

I had been allotted one hour to pack and say my farewells to my host family — leaving my friends, students, teammates and co-workers in the dust.

Yamada did not fully grasp the gravity of the situation until she embarked on the long flight from Comoros—an island country off the coast of Africa—to her home in New York City:

On my layover in Addis Ababa, I saw people in full body suits; on the subsequent plane, flight attendants wore gloves and asked passengers not to help one another. Upon arrival at Newark Airport in New Jersey, a hollow silence echoed. Welcome home.

She also remembers questioning whether the evacuation was justified, especially because the situation in Comoros appeared much less dire (in terms of infection case numbers) than it did in the United States. It wasn’t until May 1 that the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Comoros; by then, in the month and a half since she had returned to New York, “there had been 304,372 reported COVID-19 cases in New York, a number that equated to half the population of Comoros.”

Moreover, in the United States, a crisis of public trust emerged—only compounding the threat posed by COVID-19. The situation rapidly devolved into a multifaceted culture war, one which pinned public health experts against conspiracy theorists and their sympathizers in government leadership. Anecdotal evidence and misinformation were disseminated to discourage mask wearing and promote unproven miracle cures, among other flashpoints of the culture war.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, for example, were frequently touted by right-wing conspiracy theorists as miracle drugs in the fight against COVID-19. With the benefit of hindsight, and given that credible public health experts have historically warned of the untested efficacy of these drugs, we are now certain that neither chloroquine nor hydroxychloroquine are safe to administer to COVID-19 patients. [7] Records from the Peace Corps Community Archive do show, however, the historical—and empirically proven—use of chloroquine as an antimalarial drug in locales such as Senegal:

Chloroquine Program Document, Shelf: 12.04.02, Box: “Cherie Lockett,” Folder: “Cherie Lockett, Senegal 1979-1981, Health Care N.D.,” Peace Corps Community Archive, American University Library, Washington, D.C.

 Yamada grappled with guilt, for although the situation in the United States appeared dire upon her departure from Comoros, her evacuation ensured a better chance of survival:

It came down to privilege. After months of integrating — through language, food and dances — in the end, I am privileged. In a pandemic, I, as an American citizen and Peace Corps Volunteer, got to fly out to a country with better health care.

I could not escape the fact that I was a volunteer that would disappear if things got bad.

People often ask: how will the history of COVID-19 be written? What will history tell us about our response to a global pandemic? Historians and public historians themselves are asking different, more pointed questions: how will we remember our global response to COVID-19? Who gets to shape the memory of the American experience with COVID-19? Is it the historian’s place to weigh the immeasurable suffering and loss of human life against the resilience and moments of unity that will get us through this? Likewise, who and what dictates how Comorians remember COVID-19? What are the stakes if we omit the lived experiences of those who were and are the most vulnerable to COVID-19? Do public historians have a responsibility to interpret/challenge those actors who downplayed and mismanaged the crisis from its outset? For Yamada, her answer is fairly straightforward:

The situation of a country miles away, often labeled as one of the poorest in the world, is very much mirrored here in the United States.

The characteristics of denial, governmental inadequacies and systematic vulnerabilities of certain social groups over others are paralleled. However, one quality is certainly different: we have the resources, and yet, we dared to fail.

[1] Tom Hebert,  “Shakespeare and the Ins and Outs of Education Reform,” Peace Corps Writers, n.d., http://www.peacecorpswriters.org/pages/2001/0109/109cllkheb1.html.

[2] Amy Lauren Fairchild, Lawrence O. Gostin, Ronald Bayer, “Contact Tracing’s Long, Turbulent History Holds Lessons for COVID-19,” The Conversation, July 16, 2020, https://theconversation.com/contact-tracings-long-turbulent-history-holds-lessons-for-covid-19-142511

[3] Peace Corps, RPCV Handbook: You’re on your way Home (Office of Third Goal and Returned Volunteer Services, n.d.), 10, https://files.peacecorps.gov/resources/returned/staycon/rpcv_handbook.pdf

[4] World Health Organization, “Questions and Answers on Dengue Vaccines,” Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, April 20, 2018, https://www.who.int/immunization/research/development/dengue_q_and_a/en/

[5] Jody K. Olsen, “Peace Corps Announces Suspension of Volunteer Activities, Evacuations due to COVID-19,” Peace Corps, March 15, 2020, https://www.peacecorps.gov/news/library/peace-corps-announces-suspension-volunteer-activities-evacuations-due-covid-19/

[6] Kako Yamada, “Welcome Home? From Peace Corps Service to COVID-19 America,” Pacific Citizen, May 22, 2020, https://www.pacificcitizen.org/welcome-home-from-peace-corps-service-to-covid-19-america/

[7] United States Food and Drug Administration, “FDA Cautions Against Use of Hydroxychloroquine of Chloroquine for COVID-19 Outside of the Hospital Setting or a Clinical Trial due to Risk of Heart Rhythm Problems,” July 1, 2020, https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-cautions-against-use-hydroxychloroquine-or-chloroquine-covid-19-outside-hospital-setting-or

 

 

David Baum in Uzbekistan

Name: David Baum
Country of Service: Uzbekistan (with training in Guatemala)
Service Type: English Teacher
Dates in Service: 1992-1993
Keywords: Community Development, Education, Literacy, Youth

Accession Date: September 22, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types:

  • Correspondence
  • Newspapers & Newsletters
  • Publications
  • Training Materials

Performing the Peace Corps Way

 

During the fall of 1965, Anne Williams was part of a group training for service in India at Columbia University. Two of her trainers, Murray Frank and Peggy Gruenbaum, had just gotten married, and of course, the trainees and staff of India Urban Community Development Group XXIII wrote and performed a play to express their congratulations—and worries over the coming assessments.

The play contained six scenes—with volunteers playing the parts of other volunteers—and several original musical numbers. Various scenes played off of common tropes about the Peace Corps, anxiety over placement, and teasing of other volunteers. Some scenes are reproduced here:

Scene 1
Opening Song (sung by the entire cast) to the tune of Hello Dolly.

Hel-lo trainees, and hel-lo staffers,
It’s so nice to have you both with us tonite,
We’re so tired, but we’re still tryin,
Speaking Hindi till we’re just about to drop.
We feel the room swayin, with the trainees stayin,
‘til assessment sends them on their way back home,
Sooooh, grab a seat fellas, ready yourself for a treat fellas,
Training will never be like this again.

Hel-lo Murray, and hel-lo Peggy,
Its so nice to surprise you both this very nite
You’re still smiling, with your wedding brewin’,
And the trainees wish to toast to you tonight.
While Murray Franks livin, we’ll have a short Thanksgiving,
While he’s away on his long honeymoon.
So take your wife Murray, it’s late in life Murray,
Bombay will never be the same again!

Cast

Roles Actors
Narrator Taradash
Barda Loren
Linas Falstein
Langdon Kevin
Ryan Nelson
Ladd Grear

Narrator: Sets scene, composite room introduces characters. Scene opens as the alarm goes off. Ladd, Ryan and Linas come staggering in, wine bottles in hand, singing “Irish Eyes.”

Barda: Jumps up with a start and says “Ap kaun hair? (Short pause, then) No good man, no good.”

Meanwhile Ryan, Linas, and Ladd staggering and trying to sing “Irish Eyes.”

Ladd: “Gotta go to goddam Hindi class.”

Linas: “No let’s go get another beer.”

Barda: “No good man, no good.”

Langdon: “Reaches in the laundry bag, pulls out a shirt, smells both pits, grabs the can of Right Guard and sprays it down, and says while putting the shirt on “cough, cough, mumble, mumble.”

Everyone sings Sixteen Words and Exits.

Sixteen Words”
You learn sixteen words,
And whaddya get;
Another day of Hindi
Another day of sweat.
Don’t push us Mr. Carr
‘Cause last night we spent in a bar.
We hope you don’t expect us to get very far.

“Officer Doris”
Chorus:
Gee Officer Doris, we’re very upset
We never had the chances that the others did get
And now that assessment’s about to take place
Now is the time to set forward our case. 

Solo:
Dear Officer Doris, you must understand, 
My local draft board is getting way out of hand.
They want me to fight, the Vietnam way, 
Ho-ly Mo-ses, must get to Bombay!

Chorus:
Gee loveable Doris, there’s much more to say,
There are other reasons we must get to Bombay.
So therefore you mu-st heed our pleas,
And when selection comes, no ginahis.

Solo:
Well Officer Doris, I’m sure up a tree
The girl I thought I’d left behind is now chasing me.
I don’t want to marry her, she’s really a pig,
Ho-ly, Je-sus, my plight you must dig!!

Solo:
Dear Officer Doris, we’ve had all our shots
Our arms are all aching, and hurting a lot
What good will the typhoid, plague and jaundice do,
If we’re all cut and sent back to school?

Chorus:
Well Officer Doris, our fate’s In your hands.
We’ve tried to get across, our various stands
Have nothing left to say that we feel we should, 
Gol-ly Do-ris, you must believe we’re good.

Scene VI

Cast

Roles Actors
Murray Loren
Peggy Morey


Narrator-
sets scene, after a hard day’s work Peggy and Murray finally get a chance to relax together.

Peggy: “Ho, Murray, I love to sit her and run my fingers thru your head.”

Murray Frank: “Yeah, they used to call me Furry Murray.”

Peggy: “Murray, do you think we’re too old?”

Murray Frank: “No, we’re not too old. (Pause) Too old for what?”

Peggy: “Well let me articulate it for you.”

Murray Frank: “Oh, no, I can’t stand it when you articulate it.”

Peggy: “Well, let me try anyway. I love you…hmmm?”

Murray Frank: “You love me? Hmm. I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

Peggy: “Will you Murray me? (Wistfully)

Murray Frank:  Let me ask the Panchayat [village council, in Hindi]. I usually let them make the important decisions.”

Peggy: Pats him on head. “Oh, angel lambie pie cutie, honeydoll.”

Murray Frank: “Oh moonie Grunie”

Peggy: Pats him on belly. “How’s your tankie  Frankie?”

Murray Frank: “Listen Peggy, I understand your name is Gruenbaum.”

Peggy: “That’s right, Murray, but I’ll be Frank with you.”

Entire cast comes out and sings “Tonight.”

Tonight
Tonite, Tonite, is not just any nite,
Tonite, is the eve of assessment.
Tonite, tonite, our fates with you tonite,
And for some, dreams will stop where they are.
Sometimes the reading goes so slowly,
The Hindi drags along, yet still our hopes are high,
Peace Corps, our life, and the goals we
Seek tonite, may go-on, to-nite.

So thus tonite, we hope you like tonite,
Cause tonite, we had to let off some steam.
And Peg and Murray, we toast with you tonite,
For your love, to go on, for ever more,
Now we’ll end our little skit, and
Drink and dance along, with
Our hopes in our hearts,
O staff, think twice, and let
Our goals to go to Bombay, Gi Ha!

Before donating her materials to the Peace Corps Community Archive, Williams briefly noted where her fellow volunteers ended up.

Most of the cast members finished their training and departed for Bombay (now Mumbai), including Joseph Barda, Richard Falstein, Daniel Grear, Linas Jurcys, Kevin Kane, Michael Ladd, David Langdon, Kathleen Morey, Joseph Ryan, and Alan Taradash. In India, they did a mix of urban community development and traditional social work.

For information about all the the India 23 trainees see the Biographical Sketches booklet (kindly scanned by Eric Souers).

“Project Peace Pipe”: In Practice

In theory, Project Peace Pipe intended to attract Native American applicants, diversify Peace Corps volunteers, and build the skills and confidence Indigenous trainees needed to serve two years in Colombia. However, in practice, twenty-nine volunteers arrived for training, five received placements, and only two completed full service. In the final project evaluation report, surveyors attributed the program’s failure to “racism…bungling…bureaucratic deafness [and] …sheer ignorance” of program administrators, leading training officials to wonder if Project Peace Pipe was doomed from the start.[1]

Recruitment

During the 1960s, Peace Corps recruitment featured advertisements stressing adventure, personal growth, and building international relationships—things that appealed to many Americans, but failed to consider other barriers to entry. As mentioned in “Project Peace Pipe”: Developing the Program, the project was one of the first attempts by the Peace Corps to specifically draw individuals from disenfranchised groups. Officials determined that a targeted enrollment campaign and adjusted application requirements would help these efforts.

Looking at retention rates from earlier groups, Peace Corps officials found that volunteers aged 20 or older were more likely to complete service than their younger counterparts. Therefore, recruiters for Project Peace Pipe focused on older volunteers—making the average age of trainees around 23 years old. They also voted to give personal interviews more weight than written references, as previous statistics reported that lower socio-economic class applicants had more difficulty obtaining written references.[2]

Application Requirements
Project Peace Pipe Peace Corps
At least 20 years old At least 18 years old
High school diploma; some college High school diploma; some college; bachelor’s degree
Personal interviews Written references

Recruiting efforts focused primarily on colleges with a high population of Native students, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools, and areas with large American Indian populations. The BIA funded a grant for new brochures and hired BIA education officials to identify possible candidates. Yes, the federal agency that sponsored boarding schools for Indigenous children under the motto, “Kill the Indian…save the Man,” also supported efforts to train American Indian Peace Corps volunteers. [3]

Donald Broadwell recalls the recruitment process in a 1998 letter to Friends of Colombia President Robert Colombo:

I was atypical of the Project Peace Pipe volunteers, having had little real identification with Native American culture prior to my entry into the Project…Although I grew up in Mahnomen County, Minnesota, which is part of the White Earth Reservation, it is an “Open Reservation,” i.e., one which transferred the property to individual tribal members…The Project Peace Pipe recruiters took the attitude of “close enough!” and signed me up.

The other 29 applicants came from clusters of the West around South Dakota, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Arizona—with varying levels of involvement with their Indigenous culture. Despite the initial prerequisite to recruit volunteers over twenty, six were between eighteen and nineteen years old, although the rest ranged in age between twenty and twenty-nine.

Photo of biographical excerpt about Sammie Chischilly. It reads: "Sammie, 25, is a Navajo Indian from Pinon, Ariz. He graduated from Phoenix Indian High School, where he trained for building construction. After graduation, he went into the army and trained for "paratrooper", and went to Viet Nam for 13 months. During the 3 years of his military career, he travelled and visited Hawaii, Wake Island, the Philippines, Thailand, and Japan. His hobbies include oil painting, fixing and patching things and automobiles to electrical equipment. English is his second language; he has spoken Navajo all his life. Now he is learning Spanish. His favorite sports are rodeo, wrestling and football. Before joining the Peace Corps, he got married.

Sammie Chischilly served three years in the army as a paratrooper in Vietnam prior to joining the Peace Corps. He and his wife Cynthia left training while in California. Sammie Chischilly, Peace Corps Escondido, Summer 1968. Colombia Rural Community Development Group B, August 28-October 14, 1968.

Training Programs

Project Peace Pipe applicants joined “Colombia- Rural Community Development- Group B,” (RCD-B) however, the Project Peace Pipe program was a sub-category within this larger Peace Corps group. These volunteers attended six extra weeks of training in Arecibo, Puerto Rico before joining volunteers from the general group. The pre-training operated under the assumption that “lack of confidence was a major barrier for Indians interested in Peace Corps Service,” and so the program was devoted more towards developing Native “self-awareness” and skills for service overseas.[4]

To do so, OIO (Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity) inverted the Peace Corps’ cross-cultural training model by designing a pre-training that sought to reverse “psychological effects of internal colonization, [and instead] emphasize the racialized and economic inequalities within the United States rather than impending culture shock abroad.”[5] Like the typical Peace Corps training, Peace Pipe trainees received intense Spanish language training; however, in place of Colombian history and practical skills training, they received “communication” and “attitudinal” training directly focused on changing the temperaments of Peace Pipe volunteers. One component consisted of a week “imaginal education” course and discussion groups three times a week for self-confidence counseling.[6]

Project Peace Pipe recruits speaking with Senator Fred Harris during training in Puerto Rico, 1967. Featured in Alyosha Goldstein, Poverty in Common: The Politics of Community Action during the American Century, Duke University Press, 2012. Courtesy of the National Archives, Washington, D.C. (490-G-63-82068-C2-19)

The Project Peace Pipe pre-training seemed to be a success, with close relationships formed between the trainees and staff, and most of the volunteers transitioning into the general Peace Corps training. However, Donald Broadwell describes the altered atmosphere following the arrival of other Peace Corps volunteers:

Most of the Project Peace Pipe volunteers were, like me, young and without college educations. Most of us had had some college experience, but most had not completed a degree. We were a group who were interested in an adventure, but most of us did not have the inner resources to be fully independent. We enjoyed our Pre-training experience in Puerto Rico, where we received intensive training in Spanish and a little bit of training in establishing cooperatives.

Many of us found the transition to the training program in California to be a difficult one to make, and many volunteers began opting out of the program. Other volunteers joining us for RCD-B were largely college educated and a few years older than the Project Peace Pipe volunteers. Many of us felt we couldn’t “measure up” to the other volunteers joining us, and began to feel overwhelmed with the prospect of being independent in a foreign country, whose language we spoke only haltingly.

The issue of retaining Peace Pipe trainees continued throughout training and service. An article by LaDonna Harris and Dr. Leon H. Ginsberg, social work professor at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, reported: “In addition to the pressure of selection for Peace Corps service…, the composition of the training group itself was perceived as potentially threatening for some American Indian trainees.”[7] Whereas the middle-class Ivy League and large state university volunteers experienced culture shock overseas, the psychologists within the RCD-B training reported adjustment issues with Native volunteers once merged with the predominantly white trainees.

The language used by Broadwell, Harris and Ginsberg attribute this issue to intimidation from the superior experiences of other volunteers; however, a survey of the group’s biographical pamphlet reveals something else. While the project evaluators described Peace Pipe volunteers as lacking confidence and skills in communication, the pamphlet reported that most had attended some higher education schooling, spoke two or more languages fluently, and already performed leadership roles within their local communities. Several had traveled around Mexico, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and one woman served as a Congressional intern on Capitol Hill.[8] While many may have felt that they didn’t “measure up” as Broadwell suggests, others felt suffocated by rigid expectations. One unidentified Peace Pipe trainee complained in an interview with the Washington Post, “Peace Pipe seems like an effort to make us nice little WASPS so that we can fit in…”[9] Ironically, the fears that Peace Corps officials had regarding the agency’s “lily-white” composition destroyed their intentions to appeal to minority group volunteers.

The Results

Project Peace Pipe ran for three years—just long enough to train and place 2 groups of volunteers—before termination. By 1970, only six trainees from Project Peace Pipe served full terms in Colombia. The Washington Post, who wrote about the results in November 1970, reported that undercurrents of racism marked the program and the instructors believed the program was doomed to fail:

The report charges the Indians were not trained for Colombia, were discriminated against on draft deferments, were lied to about assignments, and got such miserable medical care that many were ill for weeks…

…An outside consultant, according to the evaluation office, viewed the program with open disgust. Said the consultant, “Anyone who doubts there was racism can look at what Peace Corps did to help the two Indians who had draft problems. Nothing at all—while everyone was killing themselves for some of the white trainees.” [10]

Jack Anderson, “Peace Corps Indiana Project Fails,” Washington Post, 4 November 1970.

The article also indicated that the failure resulted in the creation of the Peace Corps’ first Office of Minority Affairs, as part of the agency’s “New Directions” initiative. Peace Corps Director Joseph H. Blatchford appointed the former director in Tanzania and Black American, William Tutman, as the office’s new head.[11] Tutman resigned the following April, writing that “while dedicated to cross-cultural understanding abroad, [the Peace Corps] has failed to deal with the subcultural misunderstanding in its midst.”[12] An article in the New York Times reported that Tutman pointed to specific examples of discriminatory hiring practices and preference given to “white males.” The article also cited Blatchford’s statement regarding the resignation, asserting, “the record of the Peace Corps in minority affairs has been outstanding,” and promised to name a “prominent black American” to fill the post.

The Peace Corps’ reputation regarding racial and cultural sensitivity has improved since the ’70s. Today, volunteers from a variety of backgrounds share how their identities impact their service on the official Peace Corps blog. Here, you can read reflections by several Indigenous volunteers serving in the 2010s—Madiera Dennison, Anthony Trujillo, and Dennis Felipe Jr.

References:

Peace Corps Honors American Indian Volunteers, October 31, 2008.

Peace Corps Celebrates National Native American Heritage Month, November 5, 2009.

Peace Corps Escondido, Summer 1968. Colombia Rural Community Development Group B, August 28-October 14, 1968.

Sterling Fluharty, “Harris, LaDonna Vita Tabbytite,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=HA035.

Fritz Fischer, Making Them Like Us: Peace Corps Volunteers in the 1960s (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998), 102 –3.

[1] Jack Anderson, “Peace Corps Indian Project Fails,” Washington Post, November 4, 1970, B19. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

[2] Harris, Mrs. Fred R. and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe: Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968, 23.

[3] Charla Bear, “American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many,” NPR, May 12, 2008. npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16516865

[4] Harris, Mrs. Fred R. and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe: Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968, 23.

[5] Alyosha Goldstein, Poverty in Common: The Politics of Community Action during the American Century, Duke University Press, 2012, 104.

[6] Harris, Mrs. Fred R. and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe: Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968, 25.

[7] Harris, Mrs. Fred R. and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe: Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968, 23.

[8] Peace Corps Escondido, Summer 1968. Colombia Rural Community Development Group B, August 28-October 14, 1968.

[9] Jack Anderson, “Peace Corps Indian Project Fails,” Washington Post, November 4, 1970, B19. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

[10] Jack Anderson, “Peace Corps Indian Project Fails,” Washington Post, November 4, 1970, B19. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

[11] “Director Blatchford Names New Peace Corps Program For Minorities and Women,” The Harvard Crimson, November 7, 1970. https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1970/11/7/director-blatchford-names-new-peace-corps/

Joseph H. Blatchford, “The Peace Corps: Making it in the Seventies “Foreign Affairs, October 1, 1970. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1970-10-01/peace-corps-making-it-seventies

[12] “Peace Corps Aide Quits In Protest,” The New York Times, April 19, 1971. Page 41. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/04/19/archives/peage-corps-aide-quits-in-protest-minority-affairs-director-charges.html

“Project Peace Pipe”: Developing the Program

What makes a good Peace Corps volunteer? Is it experience and compassion, leadership or flexibility? Or, is it confidence? What does it mean to be a Peace Corps volunteer, and what do we expect to gain from volunteering abroad? These were the questions that Peace Corps officials mulled over as they prepared a special training program directed at young Native American volunteers.

Ladonna Harris is speaking to a group of people out of the frame, wearing a blazer and carrying a hat in her left hand. Her right hand is raised as she speaks.

LaDonna Harris in 1976. (2012.201.B0250.0666, photo by P. Southerland, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS).

Developing the Program

“Project Peace Pipe” was created in 1966, as a collaborative program between the Peace Corps and a Native-led organization called Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity (OIO). The project specifically recruited and trained Indigenous adults for service in the Peace Corps, following OIO’s mission to improve the lives of American Indians by offering programs for community development, work experience and placement, and youth activities.[1] Comanche political activist and OIO founder LaDonna Vita Tabbytite Harris hoped that Peace Corps service would help the volunteers develop “talents for organization and skill in mobilizing community action…applicable to the problems of Indian communities in all parts of the United States where skilled Indian leadership is needed, but often unavailable.”[2] Not only would these volunteers return with practical skills, OIO envisioned that American Indian RPCVs would have greater opportunity to work in federal agencies and provide healthy role models for other Indigenous youths.

Photograph of Donald I. Broadwell with biographical data, reading "Donald, 19, born in Park Rapids, Minnesota, is from Fosston, Minnesota. He studied at Bemidji State Collece, Bemidji, Minnesota, majoring in English and French. He has extensive experience in library materials circulation. He has experience in grounds maintenance and with pre-sensitized photographic plate processing. He also has general farm background. He attended Peace Corps pre-training program in Peurto Rico. Don has held various leadership positions in 4-H and other school and college organizations. He has done volunteer teaching in remedial reading. Hobbies include skiing, swimming, hiking and other individual sports."

Donald Broadwell, Peace Corps Escondido, Summer 1968. Colombia Rural Community Development Group B, August 28-October 14, 1968.

Donald Broadwell, a PCV recruited through this program, also believed that the project operated under the assumption that Native Americans would have a greater ability to understand with the life experiences and bond with rural Colombians, many of whom were subsistence farmers with strong Mayan backgrounds.

As for the Peace Corps, the project was one of the first attempts to attract volunteers with working-class and marginalized backgrounds. Although the Peace Corps sought to emphasize “self-reliance, racial equality, the right to self-determination, and social justice,” the organization struggled to attract volunteers of color.[3] An article in the Journal of Black Studies reported that in the 1960s, most Black youths considered the Peace Corps to be “an agency for White, middle-class Americans.” While service was possible to many white, middle-class individuals fresh out of college, many people of color and working-class graduates took jobs to support their families or sought to improve their own communities. [4]

Peace Corps officials used the interest in Project Peace Pipe to counter this WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) image and attempted to create more accessible avenues for “socio-economically deprived minority group youngsters.”[5] While there are no available records that mention the origin of the project’s name, the use of the term “peace pipe” traces back to the arrival of European colonists, who applied the term to Indigenous ceremonial pipes.[6] It is likely that the name “Project Peace Pipe” may have just been the result of the Peace Corps’ desire for “peace” imagery, and the irony was not lost on volunteers.

In an article in the August 1968 issue of the Peace Corps Colombia monthly newsletter, Porvenir, one editor commented:

“Regardless of the appropriateness of this name, it is curious that a program, intended to integrate, labels the group in question with a title that differentiates them. Names serve to categorize and tell things apart; why make a distinction when the intent is to show the similarity of different Americans when working toward a common end? Even if the title “Operation Peace Pipe” proved useful in training and recruiting, that should be the extent of its function.”

The unique title was not the only difference that set the group apart from the other volunteers. The OIO and Peace Corps officials designed the program around the idea that Native youths, “because of their lack of self-confidence, felt they had little to contribute to persons overseas.” Working under this assumption, the program designed targeted recruitment processes and a five week pre-training to build confidence and develop communication skills.

Peace Corps-Indigenous Relationships and Red Power

Project Peace Pipe was not the first interaction Native communities had with the Peace Corps. In fact, impoverished conditions on reservations were so similar to underdeveloped areas in Latin America, Africa, and Asia that the Peace Corps used them for preliminary community development training. In at least one instance, in 1962 volunteers stationed at the University of Arizona prepared for service at Gila River Reservations in Arizona. The Peace Corps Volunteer reported other development programs at the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. [7]

Black and white photo of three men dig in dirt with shovels. Another group of men stand along a wooden fence in the background.

Peace Corps Volunteers during training at the Gila River Reservation in Arizona. 1962. University Archives Photographs, Arizona State University Library.

The Project also coincided with the rise of the Red Power movement. Across the country, Native Americans mobilized to protest and rewrite the history of American Indigenous peoples, address high levels of poverty, and bring legal suits against states stealing Indian land and violating federal treaties.[8] During the 1960s, communities formed organizations like the National Indian Youth Council (NYIC) and the American Indian Movement (AIM), leading groups to Washington, D.C. to occupy the offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, called the “Trail of Broken Treaties.”

In fact, three volunteers recruited through Project Peace Pipe were Sioux members from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where the town of Wounded Knee is located. Growing up in Pine Ridge, these volunteers were likely influenced by the violent confrontations between white supremacists and their community, and the increased political militancy of the organized Red Power movement. If the volunteers returned after their service in 1970, they could have been involved with the AIM occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973; however, no available records mention this. To learn more about the history of Wounded Knee, visit Democracy Now and the History Channel.

Landscape color photo of the Pine Ridge road sign, covered in bullet holes.

Pine Ridge Sign, October 17, 2016. posted to Flickr Creative Commons by Orientalizing.

So why did a Native-led organization like Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity join forces with a federal agency at the height of the Red Power movement? The answer lies with activist LaDonna Vita Tabbytite Harris. Harris founded OIO after Oklahomans elected her husband Fred Harris to the Senate. After her family relocated to Washington, D.C., Harris loudly advocated for Native rights and legislation, including championing the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. Her determination and husband’s political networks put her in a place to help Indigenous communities gain federal recognition and push for change. Seeing an opportunity for youth engagement, Harris instigated a partnership with Peace Corps and established authority over the program design from the onset. 

Moving Forward

Only 5 years prior, President Kennedy announced to the nation, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” before establishing the Peace Corps.  Project Peace Pipe also considered what Peace Corps could do for Indigenous youths. But how did the actual volunteers compare with the judgments made by OIO and the Peace Corps?

Project Peace Pipe Part 2 will explore the practical aspects of specialized training, the experiences of volunteers, and the outcome of the program following the merge into the rest of Peace Corps Colombia- Rural Community Development-B.

References:

Amin, Julius A. “The Peace Corps and the Struggle for African American Equality.” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 29, No.6, July 1999, 817. (Accessed January 22, 2019) https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2645886.pdf

Chavez, Aliyah, “LaDonna Harris ‘stumbled’ into a legacy of impact,” Indian Country Today. August 18, 2019.

Harris, Mrs. Fred R. and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe:Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968

Moore, Powell A. (1959). The Calumet Region: Indiana’s Last Frontier. Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved 20 August 2015.

Old Elk, Hunter “127th Remembrance of the Wounded Knee Massacre,” Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Decmber 29, 2016. (Accessed January 27, 2020) https://centerofthewest.org/tag/wounded-knee/

Peace Corps Division of Volunteer Support, The Peace Corps Volunteer, a Quarterly Statistical Summary, (Columbia University: The Division, 1962), 13. https://books.google.com/books?id=mIOKCxx-scUC&pg=RA16-PA13&lpg=RA16-PA13&dq=peace+corps+training+on+indian+reservations&source=bl&ots=grUjRQ3-TY&sig=ACfU3U1fOyhvcjnt_zwg5KA-EumuUzxTaA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwie_rKY7YXnAhWQq1kKHRbRBUMQ6AEwEnoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%20indian%20reservations&f=false

Peltier, Leonard “Wounded Knee II, 30 Years Later,” Democracy Now, May 9, 2003. (Accessed January 27, 2020) https://www.democracynow.org/2003/5/9/wounded_knee_ii_30_years_later

“The Native American Power Movement,” Digital History, 2019. (Accessed January 27, 2020) http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3348

“Wounded Knee,” History, November 6, 2009. (Accessed January 27, 2020) https://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee

[1] Mrs. Fred R. Harris and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe:Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968, 22.

[2] She left OIO in 1968 after President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her to the National Council on Indian Opportunity (NCIO), but the organization’s inaction led her to resign and continue grassroots activism.  Mrs. Fred R. Harris and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe:Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968, 21.

[3] Julius A. Amin, “The Peace Corps and the Struggle for African American Equality.” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 29, No.6, July 1999, 811. (Accessed January 22, 2019) https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2645886.pdf

[4] Julius A. Amin, “The Peace Corps and the Struggle for African American Equality.” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 29, No.6, July 1999, 817. (Accessed January 22, 2019) https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2645886.pdf Marshall, M. (1984, October). The Peace Corps: Alive and well, and looking for Blacks. Ebony Magazine, pp. 48-54.

[5] Mrs. Fred R. Harris and Leon H. Ginsberg, “Project Peace Pipe:Indian Youth Pre-Trained for Peace Corps Duty”, Journal of American Indian Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, January 1968, 22.

[6] Moore, Powell A. (1959). The Calumet Region: Indiana’s Last Frontier. Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved 20 August 2015.

[7] Peace Corps Division of Volunteer Support, The Peace Corps Volunteer, a Quarterly Statistical Summary, (Columbia University: The Division, 1962), 13. https://books.google.com/books?id=mIOKCxx-scUC&pg=RA16-PA13&lpg=RA16-PA13&dq=peace+corps+training+on+indian+reservations&source=bl&ots=grUjRQ3-TY&sig=ACfU3U1fOyhvcjnt_zwg5KA-EumuUzxTaA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwie_rKY7YXnAhWQq1kKHRbRBUMQ6AEwEnoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%20indian%20reservations&f=false

[8] “The Native American Power Movement,” Digital History, 2019. (Accessed January 27, 2020) http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3348

Eric C. Brookens in Panama

Name: Eric C. Brookens
Country of Service: Panama
Place of Service: Cerro Punta, Chiriqui Province
Service Type: Department of Agriculture, Division of Cooperatives
Dates in Service: 1964-1966
Keywords: Agriculture, Community Development, Health

Accession Date: February 4-6, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.75 linear feet

Document Types
• Reports
• Training Materials
• Journals
• Photographs

Martin Hupka in Colombia

Name: Martin A. Hupka
Country of Service: Colombia
Dates in Service: 1963-1965
Keywords: Community Development

Accession Date: January 29, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Publications
  • Training Materials

Anne Williams in India

Name: Anne Williams
Country of Service: India
Place of Service: Bombay and Calcutta
Dates in Service: 1965-1967
Keywords: Community Development, Health

Accession Date: January 24, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1.5 linear feet

Document Types
• Correspondence
• Photographs
• Scrapbooks
• Reports
• Publications
• Sound
Biographical sketches

Additions to Collection:
Accession Date: September 7, 2021
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.01 linear feet

Document Types
• Correspondence
• Documents

Lorelei Christl Robinson and Gary D. Robinson in Colombia

Name: Lorelei Christl Robinson and Gary D. Robinson
Country of Service: Colombia
Service Project Title: Peace Corps Staff, 1965-1971
Dates in Service: 1961-1963-; 1963-1965
Keywords: Education

Accession Date: January 17, 2020 (updated May 7, 2021)
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Training Materials