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Luke Lyon papers

Identifier: Ms-0511

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the Luke Lyon papers span the 1970s and 1980s, the time he was conducting field research at various pueblos in New Mexico and the Southwest. The materials have been divided into six series: research files; book projects; publications/speeches; oversize materials; audiovisual materials;, and photographs.

Research files include extensive information regarding Lyon's field notes from observations he conducted at various Native American ceremonies held primarily in the New Mexico, but with some coverage of Arizona, Colorado and northern Mexico. The field notes cover information about dances, costumes, ceremonial attire/equipment, diagrams of dance steps and ceremonial grounds. Also included are historical materials from other observers and anthropologists, as well as some native interpretation utilized by Lyon during his research. The research files series contains six subseries: New Mexico Pueblo and Indians; Southwest region; dance; religion; newspaper clippings; and miscellaneous publication material. An effort was made to retain Lyon's original order of the material, which categorizes the groups by their language family. These were placed in alphabetical order.

The book projects series includes unpublished material on proposed books and book chapters, correspondence with publishers and scholars, research notes and articles. This series has four subseries: Zuni Trip East; Ceremonies in Indian Southwest; Burke at Zuni; and fictional writing projects.

The publications/speeches series includes collected published material, not created by Lyon, from peer-reviewed journals, American and British publications, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and ceremonial calendars. The speeches include information regarding lectures Lyon gave to various historical societies and at regional professional conferences. Also included are articles written by Fern Lyon. The material is arranged by format, then chronologically.

Oversize series includes maps of Native American land in the Southwest, sketches and drawings, and event posters.

The audiovisual series includes slides, VHS video tapes and audiocassette tapes. The slides depict ceremonial events in the United States and Great Britain as well as the New Mexico landscape. The VHS video tapes , audiocassette and slides include both recordings and images, which depict his observations after he departed from ceremonies as well as participant interviews. Lastly, microfilm include research materials Lyon utilized when researching.

Photographs include negatives, prints (color and black and white) captured during his observations in Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Great Britain over several years. The images are arranged by tribe/language family. Photographs that make up this series are made up of images found throughout the collection. Original images have been removed and photocopied and placed into the series they are located.


  • 1960 - 1987

Biographical / Historical

Luther Lawrence (Luke) Lyon, Jr. was born in 1918 in Greenburg, Kansas. He graduated from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, then received his master's degree from the University of Kansas at Lawrence. He went on to receive a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California. He served in the United States Navy during World War II. After the war, he taught in the chemistry department at the University of Wichita and was director of research staff of the Wichita University Foundation for Industrial Research. In April 1942, he married Margaret Fern Meuschke in Los Angeles, California. Fern was born in Lake City, Kansas, in 1915. She taught English at the University of Wichita where they apparently met. The couple had three children.

In 1955, along with a fellow researcher, Lyon received a patent for the Closed Vessel Curing of Concrete. In 1961, Luke, Fern and their children moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where he was employed as a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. While at Los Alamos National Laboratory, he worked on Project Rover as a nuclear chemist. Project Rover, 1955-1973, was an effort to build rockets powered by nuclear reactors. Lyon retired in 1973, when the Project Rover program ended.

After retirement, Lyon devoted his spare time to researching Native American ceremonies and rituals, primarily in New Mexico. He travelled around the state to observe and study Native American ceremonies and events. He recorded the practices and customs of different groups, researched the history of New Mexico's Native American populations and wrote about his findings. He was interested in comparing contemporary Native American dance and customs to those reported historically and to folk dance and rituals practiced in Great Britain. Fern often accompanied him as they worked as a research team in later years. Fern also was interested in history and she wrote a monthly book review column for New Mexico Magazine for nearly 20 years and published articles in Santa Fe newspapers. Both Luke and Fern were involved in historical societies in New Mexico.

Luke Lyon contributed articles to a variety of historical journals and was considered by many to be an expert on Native American ritual dance and customs. He also served as a member and contributor to various organizations, including the Congress on Research in Dance, the English Dance and Song Society, and the Historical Society of New Mexico, the Los Alamos Historical Society, the Los Alamos Arts Council, and the Gran Quivera Conference. Professionally, he was a member of the American Chemical Society and Sigma Xi.

Lyon passed away April 5, 1988, and nine years later, Fern passed away July 22, 1997. They both are buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.


20 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Luke Lyon papers contain extensive research materials collected and created by Mr. Lyon on the subject of Native American dance ceremonies and rituals in New Mexico and the Southwest. There also is material on folk dance of England. The collection includes background research files, Mr. Lyon's field notes and analysis from attendance at dances and ceremonies, published and unpublished writing, original drawings, audiovisual materials, maps and photographs.

Related Materials

Deidre Sklar papers. Ms 0510. Archives and Special Collections, New Mexico State University Library.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Terry Reynolds and under the direction of Jennifer Olguin, 2017-2018.
Guide to the Luke Lyon papers
In Progress
Finding aid by Terry Reynolds and Jennifer Olguin
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA