Hailing from Hampton, VA, the home of historically black institution of higher learning, Hampton University, originally known as Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, I grew up on the campus of the Institute where both of my parents were professors. But it wasnít until 1994, while doing research on the Indians at Hampton, a prospective documentary video project that I learned of the William Jones story. Jones was an exemplary Native American student who studied under Hamptonís Indian education program started in 1878. Of mixed parentage, consisting of one-fourth Indian blood, Jones was to have identity conflicts much of his short life. Although an African-American, I, too, could relate to Jonesís identity conflicts as a person of a mixed blood myself. I understood Jonesís anger at the sight of his own downtrodden Indian folk.
Reporting on momentous historical events that transpired over a century ago is a daunting task indeed. As the director and writer of "Headhunting William Jones", I assumed the role of a headhunter myself as I've tried to understand William Jones's conduct during his 10-month sojourn among the Ilongot community of headhunters of northern Luzon, Philippines, just 10-years after the US Annexation of the Philippines.
Actually, very little is known among anthropologists and historians of today about the William Jones story except for the efforts of anthropologists Renato and Michelle Rosaldo, historian Paul Kramer, Fr. Pedro Salgado, the Late William Solheim, the Late Pepito Dumaliang, the son of Romano Dumaliang, Jones's assistant and an Ilongot elder, the Late Olympio Toledo.
The 1912 biography, "William Jones: Indian, Cowboy, American scholar and Anthropologist in the Field", by Henry M. Rideout, a former Harvard classmate of Jones provided me with an overview of Jones's life, but avoids a more critical view that Jones died due to his own failings. And finally, there is Jones's own field diary, never intended for publication, that reveals another side of the scientist as a judgemental Victorian which is most likely the result of being an assimilated Native American. Unfortunately, as reviewer Michael Gonzalez deftly observed, "Neither does it (the film) expound much on Jones's reflection on 'wild' peoples, himself being a Fox Indian." Yes, this is an important insight by the reviewer and one that I have been ever-mindful of in thinking about the irony that Jones himself is an aboriginal who lost sight of his origins as a Native American. There are no writings of Jones in either his diaries or letters about this self-reflection. Tragically, Jones's fiancee, Caroline Andrus, burned all of his letters in 1948 which might have addressed this self-reflection, including photos of Jones while in the Philippines. Such is the luck of research into antiquity!
Collis Davis, March 29, 2017