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OpenEdition Books

Stories from Quechan Oral Literature

 | 
A. M Halpern
, 
Amy Miller

Foreword

Mark Turin

Texte intégral

1New forms of collaboration have become central to the documentation, protection, and dissemination of endangered oral traditions. Indigenous communities who in the past shared their traditional knowledge with outside scholars are now exploring how to connect the narratives of their ancestors with a global public in ways that are respectful and ethical. This rich collection of Quechan oral literature is one such undertaking, and as readers, we have Quechan community members to thank for their generosity in sharing these extraordinary stories with us through this new anthology.

2Collaboration is not easy, and itʹs rarely fast. As the ‘story’ of the eleven stories that came to be published in this volume demonstrates, partnerships can emerge almost accidentally, and may take half a century to be realized. When the young Abraham Halpern, under the auspices of the California State Emergency Relief Administration, visited Fort Yuma Indian Reservation for the first time in 1935 to compile a dictionary of the language, neither he nor the Quechan tribal members who entrusted their words to him could have predicted the sequence of events that would one day result in this book. With the outbreak of World War II and subsequent professional reassignments that would take Halpern in different directions, transmission of these treasures of Quechan oral literature was interrupted. Perhaps only the insightful Kwayúu, ‘The One Who Sees,’ could have foreseen the twists and turns that would one day result in this publication.

3And then, in the 1970s, Halpern returned to the community. Through a second period of research and recordings, he reconnected with his earlier work, with elders, and with the oral traditions of the Quechan people of which he had become an almost accidental curator. In Stories from Quechan Oral Literature, Amy Miller builds powerfully on these various stages of work to make a lasting contribution to a deepening conversation between members of the Quechan community, outside scholars, and the historical archives and linguistic collections to which they have access.

4Part of the complexity of collaboration is that it involves many people. As the names of the partners in this collection attest, there are many voices and contributions that must be acknowledged. As readers, we must foremost acknowledge the contributions of the many Quechan people who, over generations, have so generously shared their time, voices, and stories; organizationally, thanks go to the Tribal Council and the Language Preservation Program for their guidance and support. It is also important to recognize the translators, fieldworkers, linguists, and other partners who worked together so effectively to shape this work, and Amy Miller in particular for her passion and commitment in seeing this collection through to publication. Collaborations can be challenging because they bring many contributors into the conversation, and yet this is also why collaborations are so inherently exciting and necessary.

5As readers will discover in the first few pages, the oral literature of the Quechan people is great literature and an expression of the enduring creative capacity of humanity. The depth, sophistication, and timeless quality of these stories allow them to be read by, and to, people of all ages who will be drawn in and challenged by the insights that they bring. And most importantly, the oral literature of the Quechan people is an enduring living tradition: these stories have existed and persisted through voice, in community, on cassette, and now in print. As readers, we are the richer for these stories and must show our appreciation to all those who preceded us — ancestors, elders, mentors, and scholars — for all that they have done to bring the oral literature of the Quechan people to us.

6Vancouver, Canada September 2014

Auteur

Director, World Oral Literature Project Chair, First Nations Languages Program. University of British Columbia

Acheter