I like to look at archival photos every once in awhile. There’s something about seeing images from the past that grips me. The long dead faces, and old–almost foreign–landscapes tell stories.


I was interested in this photo from 1909 instantly, two Filipino indigenous men, captives of colonized Filipino soldiers working for the Americans. One of the bound men had a look that seemed to me fearful, while the other seemed proud and defiant. The caption under the photo only told me that they were the killers of Dr. William Jones.

Who was this Dr. Jones? What was he a doctor of? What was he doing in the Phils and, presumably indigenous territory? And, of course, why was he killed?

I found more photos:


Note that they are already in chains. I presume they are posed by one of their homes. The caption under the photo read “Igorot warriors responsible for taking Dr. William Jones’ head.”



The guy to the right (with the shorter hair) really draws me in. He looks so proud and strong–despite the injuries he seems to have sustained to his arm and ankle.

If you’ll endulge me, I discovered an interesting story when I followed the trail left by these photos.

I googled Jones and found a description of him on the Minnesota State University site (http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/fghij/jones_william.html).

Apparently he was the first Native American to get a PhD in anthropology in the States. Jones was an Oklahoman Fox native. Pretty amazing, I thought.

“Jones was said to be a student of the Indian and Filipino races, and a friend to all indigenous peoples despite the conditions surrounding his premature death.”

According to this site he died because of “a dispute over transportation… Jones was [apparently promised a number of boats], but despite his efforts, the balsas came in late and in insufficient numbers, which wore his patients thin. An angry Jones yelled and screamed at the Ilongots for not going through with their agreement. One day William exploded with rage and he did the unthinkable. He grabbed the arm of Takadan, the respected elder, and threatened to detain him until the promised balsas arrived. Soon after he was visited by 3 native men, Palidat, Magueng, and Gacad who approached him in a friendly matter about the balsas. Without warning Palidat struck Jones over his left eye with a bolo, Magueng pierced his right arm with a spear, and Gacad speared him in the abdomen. Romano, Jones’ assistant, fended off one of Palidat’s bolo blows, and Jones pulled out his revolver and fired some shots, scaring off the assassins. Jones was thankful and as a token of his appreciation he gave Romano his wristwatch and gave instructions for the preservation of his notes and specimens. Jones took medicine for his wounds and he even bandaged the hand of Romano. Despite the effort, he died four hours later.”


First of all that’s really shitty writing. Minnesota State University. Wow.

Something about that article didn’t ring true to me. Why would a “friend” to indigenous people be killed over a transport dispute? The tone of the piece is also insanely one sided and makes Jones seem like a saint. But despite the problems, the little info really started to help flesh out those individuals in the photos.

So I googled some more and found: http://www.okara.com/html/headhunting.html [*text in quotations below by Collis Davis]

“Born of mixed parentage, ‘more white than Indian’ as Jones was heard to say while a student at Hampton University.” With a good bit of self hate he earned his PhD. Soon afterward however he discovered that “more White than Indian” still made one an ‘Indian’ in American society. He failed to find work in his field in the US and was forced to work in the Philippines.

The following is a journal entry written about Dr. Jones about the Filipino natives he studied,

“Since the foul weather set in (October 10, 1908), this house has been a general gathering place for the greater part of Tamsi. The people come out of their shelters and lounge about in here until after the morning meal. When their bellies are filled they depart. Their aspect is most repelling. Hands, faces, and their bodies are smeared with blotches of various kinds of dirt; and their stiff hair is disheveled. As they sit and scratch their lousy (a reference to lice) selves they seem more like beasts than human beings. (Jones 1908, VII: 52 )”

This page concludes that,

“In terms of biography, while William Jones’s stellar success in educational achievement was touted as an affirmation of the U.S.’s Federal Indian educational policy, his failure to distinguish between his highly judgmental moral views of his Ilongot hosts and that of purely scientific observation as an ethnologist reveal character flaws in the scientist that eventually cost him his life.”

An interesting character this Dr. Jones eh? A Native that made good, but was still rejected, so he in turn goes and becomes a coloniser in mind and action in another land. All this results in his death from other natives who just couldn’t tolerate his disrespect of their culture.

It says alot about what self-hate, and denial of cultural realities, can do to a man.

* * *

Now what became of the captured men you might be asking? Well… they escaped. The Americans, of course, hunted after them.

As far as the story reads they were originally sentenced to death, only to be commuted to a lifetime of hard labour because their being “savages” did not give them enough moral competency to judge right from wrong.


Want more info?

Bernabe Amirol, a Filipino journalist I’ve worked with actually was forwarded the link to this page and it inspired him to also write about Jones, the Illongot tribe, and American interests during that period.


He had visited the region himself and he presents more questions surrounding Jones’ purposes. Abe asks “Did Americans use the anthropological data gathered by Dr. Jones to complete the conquest of the Ilongot people?”

Check it out!

* * *

I met Abe just before I came back to Toronto from my last trip to the Phils last january. We were sent to cover events at an Australian-owned future gold mine in Didipio, Nuevo Vizcaya. Another story of a foreign interest in indigenous territory


For more archieval images during the American colonial period, check out my earlier blog entry: Post Independence Day.