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Stories from Quechan Oral Literature

Stories from Quechan Oral Literature Linguistic work by A.M. Halpern and Amy Miller
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The stories are presented here in a bilingual format, with the original Quechan on the even-numbered pages and a line-matched English translation on the facing (odd-numbered) pages.
Of the digital editions available above, the PDF and the fixed layout epub best reproduce the prosodic rendition of the Quechan text, and readers can select a two-page view of the document to display both the original and the translation at the same time.

The Quechan are a Yuman people who have traditionally lived along the lower part of the Colorado River in California and Arizona. They are well known as warriors, artists, and traders, and they also have a rich oral tradition. The stories in this volume were told by tribal elders in the 1970s and early 1980s. The eleven narratives in this volume take place at the beginning of time and introduce the reader to a variety of traditional characters, including the infamous Coyote and also Kwayúu the giant, Old Lady Sanyuuxáv and her twin sons, and the Man Who Bothered Ants.

This book makes a long-awaited contribution to the oral literature and mythology of the American Southwest, and its format and organization are of special interest. Narratives are presented in the original language and in the storytellers’ own words. A prosodically-motivated broken-line format captures the rhetorical structure and local organization of the oral delivery and calls attention to stylistic devices such as repetition and syntactic parallelism. Facing-page English translation provides a key to the original Quechan for the benefit of language learners. The stories are organized into "story complexes”, that is, clusters of narratives with overlapping topics, characters, and events, told from diverse perspectives. In presenting not just stories but story complexes, this volume captures the art of storytelling and illuminates the complexity and interconnectedness of an important body of oral literature. Stories from Quechan Oral Literature provides invaluable reading for anyone interested in Native American cultural heritage and oral traditions more generally.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program grant no. MN-00-13-025-13 has generously contributed towards the publication of this volume.

Stories from Quechan Oral Literature is the sixth volume in our World Oral Literature Series. The Series is produced in conjunction with the World Oral Literature Project.

Stories from Quechan Oral Literature
Linguistic work by A.M. Halpern and Amy Miller | November 2014. Version 1.1. Minor edits made, April 2015
xii + 535 | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
World Oral Literature Series, vol. 6 | ISSN: 2050-7933 (Print); 2054-362X (Online)
ISBN Paperback: 9781909254855
ISBN Hardback: 9781909254862
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781909254879
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781909254886
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781909254893
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0049
BIC subject codes: JHMC (Social and cultural anthropology, ethnography), JFHF (Folklore, myths and legend), 2J (American indigenous languages);  BISAC subject codes: SOC002010 (Cultural & Social anthropology), SOC005000 (Social science / Customs & Traditions); OCLC Number: 960769237.

Notes on Contributors
Foreword by Mark Turin
Introduction by Amy Miller
    Part I: The stories and their cultural context
    Part II: How this volume came about

1. The Man Who Bothered Ants
    The Man Who Bothered Ants, told by Jessie Webb Escalante

2. Two Stories about the Orphan Boy and the Monster
   ‘Aréey, told by an anonymous Quechan elder
    Tsakwshá Kwapaaxkyée (Seven Heads), told by John Comet

3. Xarathó
    Xarathó, told by Jessie Webb Escalante

4. Three Stories about Kwayúu
    Kwayúu, told by Mary Kelly Escalanti
    Kwayúu, told by Josefa Hartt
    Púk Atsé, told by Rosita Carr

5. Three Stories about Old Lady Sanyuuxáv
   ‘Aakóoy Sanyuuxáv, told by an anonymous Quechan elder
   ‘Aakóoy Sanyuuxáv, told by Josefa Hartt
    Shakwatxót, told by John Comet

6. ‘Aavém Kwasám
   ‘Aavém Kwasám, told by Tom Kelly

In deference to traditional views, biographies of contributors who are no longer living (including narrators and one translator) have been withheld from this page. Biographical information which has been released by the relevant families may be found in the book.

George Bryant was born in 1921 and grew up speaking Quechan. He attended school on Fort Yuma Reservation, at Phoenix Indian School, Yuma High School, and the Sherman Institute.He joined the Marines as a young man and was awarded numerous decorations during World War II and the Korean War.Later he served on the Quechan Tribal Council and was instrumental in persuading the federal government to restore tribal lands, and in implementing many of the policies that have made the tribe successful today. George Bryant follows a family tradition of working with linguists to preserve the Quechan language; his father and grandfather worked with Abe Halpern in the 1930s, and he himself has worked with Amy Miller since 1998. His book Xiipúktan (First of All):Three Views of the Origins of the Quechan People was published in 2013 by Open Book Publishers.

Barbara Levy grew up speaking Quechan. She learned English at school and as a student at Santa Monica City College. She also attended the American Indian Language Development Institute in 2004 and 2005. Barbara Levy is well known as an artist, doll-maker, and storyteller.After teaching the Quechan language for many years as a volunteer, she was named Director of the Quechan Language Preservation Program in 2010. Her essay "My Uncle Sam — The Storyteller” was published (under her former name, Barbara Antone) in Circle of Motion, edited by Kathleen Mullen Sands (Arizona Historical Society, 1990), and her story "Coyote and Hen” appears in Behind Dazzling Mountains: Southwestern Native Verbal Arts, edited by David Kozak (University of Nebraska Press, 2012).

A.M. Halpern received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1947. He began documenting the Quechan language in 1935 and continued (with lengthy interruptions for World War II and a thirty-year career in Far Eastern policy research) until his death in 1985. His numerous publications in linguistics include "Yuma Kinship Terms” (American Anthropologist, 1942), "Yuma I-VI” (a six-part grammar of the Quechan language, in the International Journal of American Linguistics, 1946-1947), "Quechan Literature” (in Spirit Mountain: An Anthology of Yuman Story and Song, 1984), and Kar'úk: Native Accounts of the Quechan Mourning Ceremony (1997).

Amy Miller earned her Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of California, San Diego and has devoted the past 30 years to documenting Yuman languages. In 1998 she began to work with Quechan tribal members on projects which include not only the present volume but the forthcoming Quechan Dictionary and Xiipúktan (First of All): Three Views of the Origins of the Quechan People, co-authored with George Bryant. She and her teacher Margaret Langdon completed the writing of A.M. Halpern’s book Kar’úk: Native Accounts of the Quechan Mourning Ceremony in the decade following his death.Amy Miller’s other books include A Grammar of Jamul Tiipay (2001) and the Barona Inter-Tribal Dictionary (with Margaret Langdon, 2008).

1. The Man Who Bothered Ants

Told by Jessie Webb Escalante

This story was told to Abe Halpern by Jessie Webb Escalante on April 22, 1980. Halpern later reviewed his transcript of the story with Ernest Cachora. The main character in this story is a person who has a habit of annoying ants by poking their nest with a stick. Eventually an angry ant pulls both the man and his horse into the nest. Man and horse are held captive for such a long time that the man’s family and friends begin to mourn his death. Finally, the man and his horse are released and return home. The horse, once pure white, is now covered with red spots which are the handprints of ants.

In some ways, this is a simple story explaining a fact of nature: how the appaloosa got his spots. At a deeper level, however, the story is revealing about Quechan literature, culture, and worldview. It takes place at the beginning of time, and its characters are among the First People. It features a theme favored in Quechan oral literature: the main character’s love of

his home and people. No explanation is given for the man’s behavior, and none is needed: in Quechan culture, people are the way they are, and others around them accept this. In the end, the man understands that what has happened to him is the consequence of his own actions.


2. Two Stories About the

Orphan Boy and the Monster


Told by an anonymous Quechan elder

This chapter presents two narratives about an orphan boy and a seven headed monster. These stories appear to have been influenced by European folklore (as discussed below), yet they are nonetheless very much Quechan stories. For readers who are unfamiliar with Quechan literature, they provide a relatively simple plot while introducing Quechan themes, literary devices, and rhetorical style. Readers who are already expert in Quechan oral literature will appreciate the ingenuity with which these stories integrate European and traditional Quechan ideas. The two narratives in this chapter focus on different events: ‘Aréey on the difficult journey the boy must make in order to reach the monster, and Tsakwsha Kwapaaxkyée on the details of the fight between the two main characters and the events which unfold after the monster is killed.