Charlotte Wilson Heth Receives AFS Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award

AFS News, Annual Meeting News, Prizes
Charlotte Wilson Heth standing at a podium waving

Charlotte Wilson Heth received the 2022 AFS Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award.

The AFS Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award aims to acknowledge and recognize the extraordinary sustained work of folklorists in various contexts throughout our discipline, as they labor, often over the course of many decades, and in diverse situations, to accomplish the goals of the American Folklore Society, i.e., “examining and affirming the diversity of human creativity” and “advocating for respect and mutual understanding of the world’s diverse cultures.”

The 2022 honoree, Prof. emerita Charlotte Wilson Heth, has exemplified these ideals through her long and distinguished career. Through her scholarship, scholarly products, devoted teaching, and innovative public programing, Dr. Heth has advanced knowledge of and appreciation for the rich and profoundly meaningful musical and dance traditions of Indigenous North Americans, including musicians of her own nation, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

With a BA and MM from the University of Tulsa, prior to her doctoral work at UCLA, Charlotte Heth served as a junior high school and high school teacher of English and music in California, Oklahoma, and New Mexico and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia. With a PhD in Music (Ethnomusicology) from UCLA, Dr. Heth held appointments as an assistant, associate and full professor at UCLA from 1974 until her retirement in 1999. Her time at UCLA included terms as Chair of the Department of Ethnomusicology and Systematic Musicology, Director of the American Indian Studies Center, and Associate Dean of the School of Arts. She also held visiting and summer appointments at a wide range of other universities, including Cornell University, UC-Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, University of West Virginia, and Utah State University. From 1993-95 she served as president of the AFS sister organization the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Dr. Heth’s scholarly production includes a rich array of articles, books, edited journal issues and  volumes, films, and albums, the latter under the New World Records and Smithsonian Folkways labels. From her seminal dissertation The Stomp Dance Music of the Oklahoma Cherokee,  through her 1992 edited volume Native American Dance: Ceremonies and Social Traditions, and 1994 Smithsonian Folkways album Creation’s Journey: Native American Music, Dr. Heth has led generations of scholars as well as Native artists and community members to appreciate the complexities and nuances of Native American music, dance, and cultural ceremonies.  She has inspired generations of students. Her depth of understanding, and first-hand knowledge has informed her curated exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute and Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix, and her leading role from 1994-1999 as Assistant Director for Public Programs at the National Museum of the American Indian. 

The Award Committee concurred with the praise offered by Dr. Heth’s nominator:  that as a pioneering Native American scholar of traditional music, dance, and expressive culture, one who has provided intellectual, methodological, and ethical leadership, as an administrator who has worked to strengthen Native American studies and its connections to Native American communities, and as a public-facing scholar concerned with cultural educational work and programming for K-12, museum-visiting, and general audiences, it is fitting to recognize and honor one of our elders, Dr. Charlotte Heth, with the Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award in Oklahoma, a very important place at the heart of Indian Country.

charlotte heth and marilyn white

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