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Stories from Quechan Oral Literature

A. M Halpern
Amy Miller

Notes on Contributors

Texte intégral

Jessie Webb Escalante in the 1970s.

1The storytellers who contributed to this volume were respected elders at the time the stories were recorded, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most had learned the stories from their own parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, who in turn learned them from even earlier generations. They entrusted their stories to Abe Halpern because they believed that it would be better to pass them on in the admittedly untraditional format of a book than to let them be forgotten. Had it not been for the foresight, generosity, and courage of these storytellers, it is likely that many of the stories in this volume would by now have been lost.

2The translators and linguists who participated in the preparation of this volume hope to have honored the wishes of the past generation of elders by conveying their stories, and all the traditional knowledge contained within them, to present and future generations of Quechan people.

3Some families prefer not to share information about relatives who are no longer living, and their wishes are respected here. Other families have chosen to share biographical information as a way of making sure that it is passed on, along with the stories themselves, to future generations. We are very grateful for the contributions of all the storytellers and translators, including those whose biographies have been withheld.


4Anonymous. One storyteller was born in 1923 and lived into the twentyfirst century. She asked to remain anonymous.

5Rosita Carr was born in the spring of 1884 on Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. She passed away on May 13, 1983.

6Jessie Havchat Webb Escalante Etsepoiquarque was born on Fort Yuma Reservation on September 17, 1903. She grew up in a very traditional Quechan family and was well known as an expert on stories, songs, and Quechan traditions. She was a major contributor to Spirit Mountain: An Anthology of Yuman Story and Song, edited by Leanne Hinton and Lucille Watahomigie (University of Arizona Press, 1984). She passed away on February 1, 1998.

7Mary Kelly Escalanti was born in 1905. She was the sister of Tom Kelly and the youngest child of one of the last great Quechan medicine men. She contributed a story and songs to Spirit Mountain: An Anthology of Yuman Story and Song.

8Tom Kelly was born late in 1891, at a time when Quechan territory extended across the border into Mexico. His family moved to the U. S. side of the border during the Mexican Revolution. He was the son of one of the last great medicine men, and he himself was a highly regarded expert on ceremonial matters and a major contributor to the book Karʹúk: Native Accounts of the Quechan Mourning Ceremony, by A. M. Halpern, edited by Amy Miller and Margaret Langdon (University of California Press, 1997). He passed away in 1982.

Translators and Linguists

9George 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.

10George 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. George Bryant is the primary contributor to the forthcoming Quechan Dictionary . His book Xiipúktan (First of All): Three Views of the Origins of the Quechan People was published in 2013 by Open Book Publishers.

11A. M. Halpern, called Abe by his friends, was born in 1914 and received his Ph. D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1947. He began work documenting the Quechan language in 1935 and continued (with lengthy interruptions for World War II and a thirty-year career in international relations) until his death in 1985. Further information about his work among the Quechan is provided in the Introduction to this volume, and a detailed biography may be found in Halpernʹs book Kar ′ úk: Native Accounts of the Quechan Mourning Ceremony.

12A. M. Halpernʹs other publications include numerous articles on anthropology and linguistics, the most famous of which are “Yuma Kinship Terms” (American Anthropologist, 1942) and a grammar of Quechan published as a series of articles in the International Journal of American Linguistics (1946-1947). He transcribed, translated, and edited the section on “Quechan Literature” in Spirit Mountain: An Anthology of Yuman Story and Song.

13Barbara 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).

14Amy 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 George Bryantʹs book Xiipúktan (First of All): Three Views of the Origins of the Quechan People. She and her teacher Margaret Langdon completed the writing of A. M. Halpernʹs book Kar′úk: Native Accounts of the Quechan Mourning Ceremony in the decade following his death. Amy Millerʹs other books include A Grammar of Jamul Tiipay (Mouton de Gruyter, 2001) and the Barona Inter-Tribal Dictionary (Barona Museum Press, 2008).

Table des illustrations

Légende Rosita Carr.
Fichier image/jpeg, 34k
Légende Jessie Webb Escalante in the 1970s.
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