The OMA has a new collection: the Marie Norris Papers! The collection consists of materials documenting Norris’ life as a Native American activist and is made up of a letter, newspaper clippings, publications, a sound recording, and two copies of the manuscript “Along Klamath Waters.”
Born in 1920 in Modoc Point, Oregon, Marie Norris pursued a life of active service for her Klamath community. In addition to founding the Organization of Forgotten Americans in 1969 to address the effects of tribal termination, Norris also served on the Klamath Tribal Executive Committee on Claims, the Klamath Indian Game Commission, the state Civil Rights Committee, the Klamath County Juvenile Advisory Council, and the Committee of Oregon Rural Opportunities. Norris spoke frequently about Native American culture and was one of the last people able to speak the Klamath language. Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh declared Norris as one of the most outstanding women in Oregon history. She died in 1981.
Roger Weaver, an OSU professor who taught English literature and poetry from 1962 to 1996, met Norris in 1974 during a storytelling event and was inspired by Norris to develop a course on Native American literature in which he featured some of her stories as part of the curriculum. Weaver, in turn, inspired Norris to compile and write her stories as a book.
Prepared for publication as a book, the manuscript “Along Klamath Waters” is an autobiographical narrative written by Norris. Describing her life as a member of the Klamath tribe in Southern Oregon, Norris interweaves stories reflecting Klamath culture and history throughout the narrative. One of the major subjects in the manuscript is the government’s termination of the Klamath tribe in the 1950s and its impact upon the culture, economy, and lands of the Klamaths. One of the manuscript drafts is an abridged version edited for submission to a publisher while the other is unabridged. The letter is from Norris to Roger Weaver. Published materials include a journal article by Weaver about Norris’s interpretation of Klamath chants and a biographical sketch about Norris in the publication “Notable Women in the History of Oregon.” The sound recording is a cassette tape of an interview between Roger Weaver and Norris in 1974, and it is available online: “On Klamath Life and Singing in Klamath”, 1974, Part 1 and Part 2