John Edwards Nance

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NANCE John Edwards Nance, writer and photographer, who chronicled the Tasaday tribe of the Philippines, died Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 74. Nance spent 40 years photographing and writing about the Tasaday, a group of cave-dwelling people discovered living in the Philippine rainforest in 1971. He authored three books and took tens of thousands of photographs of the tribe. He also established Friends of the Tasaday, a foundation that helped preserve their rainforest home, provided them with education and health care, and taught them sustainable agriculture. A graduate of the University of Oregon, where he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and pitched for the university baseball team, Nance left Oregon in the late 1950s to travel the world, and eventually landed a job with the Associated Press, covering the war in Vietnam with an outstanding group of journalists and photographers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Horst Faas, Nick Ut and Eddie Adams. His work took him throughout Asia, and in 1968 he was assigned to Manila as AP Bureau Chief. It was there that he covered a story about aviator Charles Lindbergh on an expedition to meet a group of 26 people discovered by a trapper living in isolation in the rainforest. John's articles and his subsequent book, The Gentle Tasaday, published in 1975, helped catapult the group to worldwide attention. The peaceable Tasaday, whose unique language did not include words for enemy or war, were studied in the caves by dozens of social scientists, who determined that they lived a stone-age-like existence, subsisting on roots and tadpoles. Nance eventually left the AP, moved back to Oregon, and authored two more books, The Mud-Pie Dilemma, and a history of the Philippines. In addition to The Gentle Tasaday gaining worldwide acclaim, his children's book, Lobo of the Tasaday, was a Horn Book Award Honor Book of 1982. His photographs were represented by Magnum and he designed a curriculum for the Oregon schools, based on the Tasaday story. In the late 1980s, the Tasaday fell victim to political intrigue, when interests eager to claim their rainforest for mining and logging exploitation engineered an elaborate scheme to declare them a hoax. Despite the fact that the Aquino government conducted an official inquiry and eventually declared the tribe authentic, worldwide media and scientists using second-hand studies pronounced them fake. Linguists eventually proved their authenticity. Nance spent the next 25 years working in behalf of the Tasaday, whose rainforest preserve shrank from 45,000 to 4,000 acres. Most recently, Friends of the Tasaday was successful in a many-year effort to have the preserve mapped and government-certified as an Ancestral Domain, protecting it in perpetuity for the indigenous people who live there. In addition to his work for the Tasaday, Nance continued to write and take pictures and gave lectures for several organizations and institutions, including Esalen Institute, the Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation and the Pacific Program. John loved sports, and particularly favored the Blazers, the Cavs, and the Yankees; this year's Rose Bowl was a tough call for him. In the late 1990s, he moved to Ohio, where he had been a Writer in Residence at the Thurber House literary center and where he met his second wife, Sally Crane. In addition to Crane, Nance is survived by his children Gillian Nance (Robert Lyons) of Portland, Oregon, and Christopher Nance of San Diego; his stepchildren, Cameron MacPhail, Alastair MacPhail and Elinor MacPhail of Columbus; his first wife, Joyce Nance, of Portland; and numerous loving in-laws. Calling hours will be held Friday, March 12, from 4-7 p.m. at the Thurber House, 77 Jefferson Avenue, in Columbus; a memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, March 13 at SCHOEDINGER MIDTOWN CHAPEL, 229 E. State Street. Another celebration of John's life will be held in Portland on Sunday, March 28, at 2 p.m. at the Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Highway. In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to make a donation in John's memory to the Tasaday Archive Program, c/o So-Hum Foundation, 4894 Lone Mountain Road, #170, Las Vegas, NV 89130. Visit www.schoedinger.com to send condolences.
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