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Stories from Quechan Oral Literature

A. M Halpern
Amy Miller


Amy Miller

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1This book is a collection of eleven traditional stories from Quechan oral literature, presented in the Quechan language with English translation.

2Part I of this introduction sets the stories in their cultural and cross-cultural context. Part II describes how this volume arose through the collaborative efforts of tribal elders and linguists. It explains the translation process and the format in which the stories are presented. It also outlines the Quechan writing system and the conventions used in this volume.

3Summaries and notes on the stories may be found at the beginning of each chapter.

Part I: The stories and their cultural context

  • 1 Bee (1981: viii) points out that Spanish records of the late seventeenth century are the first to (...)

4The Quechan are a Yuman people who have traditionally lived along the lower part of the Colorado River in California and Arizona.1 At the time of first contact with whites, Quechan territory extended from around Needles, California to the Gulf of California (Forde 1931: 88). Today, the Quechan Indian Nation occupies a portion of the tribeʹs former territory along the Colorado River, on Fort Yuma Indian Reservation in Winterhaven, California and extending into Yuma, Arizona.

5Traditional Quechan culture is described in detail by Forde (1931). Further information may be found in Forbes (1965), Bee (1981, 1983), Halpern (1997), and Miller (1997).

6The Quechan language, also known as Kwatsáan Iiyáa or Yuma, belongs to the Yuman language family. Recent work shows that the Yuman family is older and deeper than linguists had previously recognized; see Miller (in press). Within the Yuman family, Quechan is closely related to Mojave, Maricopa (Piipaash), Hualapai, Havasupai, and Yavapai (including Tolkapaya, Northeastern Yavapai, and Southeastern Yavapai), and somewhat more distantly related to Cocopa, Koʹalh, the Kumeyaay languages (including ‘Iipay, Campo/Imperial Valley, Los Conejos, Jamul Tiipay, Nejí/Jaʹaa Wa, La Huerta, and San José de la Zorra), and Kiliwa.

Quechan storytelling

7Until the second half of the twentieth century, storytelling was a vital part of Quechan culture. As Abraham Halpern (1980: 51) explains:

Traditionally, stories were told always at night — never in the daytime — in an atmosphere of intimacy and affection. [One elder] recalls as a very young child being held in the arms of her maternal grandfather while he put her to sleep by telling stories. [Another] recalls that after work in the fields everybody gathered around the campfire to be amused by Coyote stories told by his maternal grandfather.

8By the 1970s, storytelling was “not yet a lost art, but… well on the way to becoming one” (Halpern 1980: 51). At that time,

Even people in their 30s, as well as those older than that, remember with pleasure being put to sleep by tales told by their elders, and when a storyteller is now available who will narrate such tales, there are always eager listeners to hear him… however, the number of narrators who are confident of their ability to tell the stories is small indeed.

9Quechan elders in the 1970s and early 1980s were well aware that the storytelling tradition was in danger, and their oral literature along with it. They trusted Halpern with their tales, convinced that it was preferable to transmit their oral literature in the foreign format of a book than to let it vanish.

10Today a few Quechan people still tell stories. However, the stories that are told today represent a small fraction of the Quechan oral tradition, and they are typically told on occasions in which the narrator is an honored guest at an educational or inter-tribal artistic gathering rather than in the traditional context of late-night familial or social interaction.

11The stories in this volume are no longer widely known, even among Quechan elders. This book is intended to make them accessible in a bilingual format for the benefit of present and future generations.

The stories in this volume

12Most of the stories in this volume take place at the beginning of time and are best understood in the context of the Quechan Creation myth (see for example Harrington 1908, Wilson 1984, Bryant and Miller 2013, and the 2010 film Journey from Spirit Mountain). Their characters are the First People, that “race of beings who occupied the world in the mythic times before humans came into existence” and who “have names that we now associate with animals, or occasionally with plants and other natural phenomena” (Bright 1993: 20). In Quechan oral literature, the First People typically have the same cognitive and communicative abilities as todayʹs humans, and the same moral worth. Many have the characteristics that are now associated with their animal namesakes; for instance, Buzzard has wings and a taste for rotten flesh, while Spider travels down a silken thread. Some of the First People are endowed with spiritual powers which allow them to change size, form, or location at will, and some are able to use their powers to influence the actions of others and even to influence natural phenomena.

13The narratives in this volume are arranged in order of increasing complexity and are divided into chapters according to topic. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to some of the themes and devices important in Quechan literature, as well as to Quechan rhetorical style and structure. They prepare the reader for the longer and more challenging stories which begin in Chapter 3.

14Chapters 2, 4, and 5 are devoted to what I call “story complexes,” that is, sets of narratives which share topics, characters, and events, but which are told from different perspectives and focus on different aspects of a story. Chapter 2 presents two narratives about an orphan boy who saves his community by killing a seven-headed monster. The story complex in Chapter 4 consists of three narratives, each offering a different perspective on the life and death of a giant named Kwayúu. The story complex in Chapter 5 similarly presents three very different narratives concerned with the twin sons of Old Lady Sanyuuxáv. The first half of the story of ‘Aavém Kwasám in Chapter 6 is unlike any other in this volume, yet its second half has much in common with stories of Kwayúu and of Old Lady Sanyuuxáv, leaving the reader with an appropriate sense that much if not all Quechan oral literature is interrelated.

15The stories and story complexes in this volume form just a small part of the intricate web of interconnected stories that make up Quechan oral literature. Even in the small sample presented here, it is clear that the Quechan oral tradition is enriched not just by the artistry and imagination of its storytellers, but by the diversity of perspectives from which its stories are told.

Why these stories are important

16In a culture where material possessions have traditionally been burned at death, language and oral literature are among the few things that have been passed down from ancient times. Of course, language and oral literature are dynamic: they change over time, adapting to new circumstances and enriching themselves with new ideas. They nonetheless remain important repositories of the traditions, values, knowledge, and beliefs of past generations.

17The stories in this volume may be appreciated on many levels. From one perspective, they are self-contained and entertaining. From another, they are instruments of what Millie Romero described as “powerful teaching”: they provide information about traditional society and its values, and lessons about life and people, that stands to benefit modern readers as well as traditional listeners. As Halpern (1980: 56) observes,

The Quechan, nowadays as well as a generation or two ago, state that stories are told with the specific intent of educating the young concerning both good and bad behavior. […] Some have commented to the effect that the story shows the young that there are people who behave in certain ways, good or bad, but that one doesnʹt lecture the young concerning the meaning of the story. It is rather for the listener to reflect on the story and search out its meaning for himself. It is as if by exposing the listener to the total aspect of the human comedy one defines for him models or behavioral types, leaving it to him to choose his way in accordance with his natural gifts.

18From yet another perspective, many of the stories are part of a mythology that once spread across much of southwestern North America. Certain aspects of the story Xarathó, for instance, parallel the “Bird Nester” myth, widespread in the American Southwest, as outlined by Bierhorst (2002: 86-91). The three stories of Old Lady Sanyuuxáv presented in Chapter 5 are reminiscent of the Southwestern myth known as “Flute Lure” (see Bierhorst 2002: 94-96). Within Yuman literatures, Quechan stories of Old Lady Sanyuuxáv are closely related to the Mojave story of Satukhota (Kroeber 1972: 99-116), the Halchidhoma story of Flute Lure (Spier 1933: 367-396), and the Kumeyaay (Diegueño) story of Chaup (DuBois 1904).

19This volume contributes to Yuman and Native American literature in important ways. First, as representatives of the oral literature of the Quechan, its stories fill a tribal gap in Southwestern literature and mythology. Second, while the major studies of Yuman mythology by Kroeber (1948, 1972) and Spier (1933: 345-422) take the form of ethnographersʹ summaries, the stories in this volume are presented in the original language and in the storytellersʹ own words. Third, and perhaps uniquely, this volume presents multiple stories about certain characters and events told from a variety of perspectives, giving the reader a vivid appreciation of the complexity and interconnectedness of Quechan oral literature and also of the fact that the narratives which make up this literature are not fixed entities but are as vibrant and diverse as the Quechan people themselves.

Part II: How this volume came about

A. M. Halpernʹs work on Quechan language and literature

  • 2 This passage from Halpernʹs unpublished writings is quoted by Langdon (1997: xvi).

20The history of this volume can be traced back to 1935, when a 21-year-old student named Abraham Halpern visited Fort Yuma Indian Reservation for the first time. “I was assigned,” Halpern later wrote, “as supervisor of a project to compile a dictionary of the Quechan language by the California State Emergency Relief Administration, working with a crew of tribal members.”2 He also taught some Quechan tribal members to write their language so that they could record stories told by the elder generation. The project lasted only three months, however; it ended when SERA was dissolved. Halpern made a second trip to Fort Yuma Reservation in the summer of 1938, this time supported by the University of Chicago.

21During these two trips, Halpern mastered the language and gathered material for a grammar which was later published as a series of articles in the International Journal of American Linguistics (1946-1947) and which remains one of the finest descriptive grammars ever written.

22Halpernʹs work on Native American languages was interrupted by World War II, when he was recruited to develop intensive language courses for the military. After the war he was invited to join General MacArthurʹs staff as Advisor on Language Revision in Japan, and later he returned to the U. S. to pursue a career in Far Eastern political analysis, research, and teaching.

23In 1976, at the urging of his wife, Katherine Spencer Halpern, Halpern returned to Fort Yuma Reservation. Many people remembered him from his visits in the 1930s. Those who were too young to remember him were impressed with his command of the language. Several people have told me how they once heard a man telling Coyote stories in the community center and how surprised they were when they entered the room and saw that the storyteller was a white man. “I thought it must be old man C —,” said Barbara Levy, “but it was Halpern.” Halpern also taught tribal members to sing the song cycle known as Uuráv (Lightning), which he had learned in the 1930s and which since that time had been forgotten by most people. A modern performance of Uuráv by Quechan tribal singer Preston J. Arrow-weed may be seen in the film Journey from Spirit Mountain.

24At the time of Halpernʹs return, many Quechan elders recognized the importance of preserving their knowledge for the benefit of future generations. Between 1976 and 1983, dozens of elders collaborated with Halpern, making tape recordings of traditional stories, songs, local history, vocabulary, and personal reminiscences. These elders included Howard Allen, Mabel Brown, Rosita Carr, Ignatius Cachora, Lorey Cachora, Pete Cachora, Amelia Caster, Henry Collins, John Comet, Lee Emerson, Jessie Webb Escalante, Mary Kelly Escalanti, Peter D. Escalanti, Josefa Hartt, Mina Hills, Stewart Homer, Preston Jefferson, Lavina Kelly, Tom Kelly, Lawrence Levy, Ethel Ortiz, Anona Quahlupe, and Isabel Rose, among others. Some of their stories, songs, and personal reminiscences have been published in Spirit Mountain: An Anthology of Yuman Story and Song (see Emerson 1984, Escalante 1984a, b, c, Escalanti 1984a, b, c, Caster 1984a, b, and Ortiz 1984), and some of their important teachings about Quechan culture were included in Karʹúk: Native Accounts of the Quechan Mourning Ceremony (Halpern 1997). The present volume represents one more installment in the ongoing effort to complete the work that Halpern and tribal elders began in 1976.

25The stories in this volume were told in private homes to small, Quechan-speaking audiences which included Abe Halpern, often an interpreter, and sometimes friends and relatives of the narrator. They were recorded on cassette tape. Cats, dogs, chickens, and airplanes may be heard, and electricity generators are ubiquitous.

  • 3 Not all of Halpernʹs marginal notes identify the person who helped him, so it is possible that som (...)

26Since he spoke and understood Quechan very well, Halpern was able to follow most of the stories as they were being told; the depth of his understanding is made clear by the questions he asked (in Quechan or through an interpreter) at the conclusion of the story. Halpern later transcribed the stories by hand, and a study of his papers shows that he listened to recordings of the stories in the company of Quechan speakers, including Ernest Cachora, Tessy Escalante, Mina Hills, Barbara Levy, Eunice Miguel, and Millie Romero, in order to verify the accuracy of his transcriptions.3 His transcriptions are interspersed with notes on the proper interpretation of difficult passages and glosses of words and expressions unfamiliar to him.

27Halpernʹs command of Quechan was great enough that his annotations and glosses are relatively few, and for many of the stories — including those in this volume — he never got around to writing out full English translations. He did, however, translate passages from several for quotation in his article “Sex Differences in Quechan Narration” (Halpern 1980), and he wrote summaries of “The Man Who Bothered Ants” and “Púk Atsé” as well as extensive notes on the interpretation of the first half of Josefa Harttʹs story “Old Lady Sanyuuxáv.”

28Halpern died in 1985, before he was able to finish his work. He was mourned by the Quechan Tribe and honored with an anniversary ceremony a year after his death. A headstone bearing his Quechan name, Quechan Iiyáa (Quechan Language), has been placed in the tribal cemetery.

Translation, the bilingual presentation, and the broken-line format

29I came to this project armed with copies of Halpernʹs recordings and copies of his transcriptions. In order to translate the stories, I worked individually with three fluent Quechan speakers: Barbara Levy, George Bryant, and Millie Romero. We began the translation process by listening to a story and discussing it in English. Then we returned to the beginning and the real work began: we went over the story again, this time very slowly, and I asked about each unfamiliar word and phrase and gradually came to understand the story at the morphological and syntactic levels as well as at the level of the narrative. Translation was never easy; sometimes it was necessary to repeat a passage dozens of times before its meaning became clear. I went over each story at least twice, with at least two speakers. I am grateful to Barbara Levy, George Bryant, and Millie Romero for their insights into the stories and into Quechan language and culture, and also for their patience and for the dedication and enthusiasm with which they approached the work. Without them the stories in this volume would never have been made available to an English-speaking audience.

30The stories are presented here in a bilingual format, with the original Quechan story on the even-numbered pages and a line-matched English translation on the facing (odd-numbered) pages.

31The Quechan text is divided into lines motivated by prosodic criteria, including melody, rhythm, and pauses, as outlined by Miller (1997). Each line of Quechan is given a coherent English translation. Since native speakers prefer to translate at the levels of the word and the theme, responsibility for translation at the level of the prosodic line fell to me, and the line-by-line translations in this volume incorporate not only the insights of Barbara Levy, George Bryant, and Millie Romero but also my own understanding of Quechan morphology, syntax, and discourse. For a detailed discussion of the process used to arrive at line-by-line translations, see Miller (1997: 19-24) and Miller (2013: 7-11).

32The primary goal of the translation presented here is to convey in English the intended meaning of each line of Quechan. In some cases it was necessary to add lexical information to an English line in order to capture information conveyed either implicitly or grammatically in the corresponding Quechan. For instance, since English lacks a switch-reference system, it was sometimes necessary to add a noun phrase to the translation to help the reader keep track of reference. Since English lacks overt case markers for lexical noun phrases, it was sometimes necessary to add a verb to a line consisting solely of a postposed noun phrase in order to clarify that noun phraseʹs function. Added information appears between parentheses.

33Groups of lines are divided into sentences based upon their intonational and/or syntactic characteristics and punctuated accordingly. Certain grammatical morphemes unambiguously indicate major syntactic boundaries, but such morphemes are relatively rare, and in order to make the English translation more readable I have divided the texts into sentences of manageable length on the basis of intonational cues. A line falling to a low pitch, for instance, is presumed to end a prosodic “sentence” and is punctuated accordingly.

34Lines are also organized into groups on the basis of prosodic information; typically, a group of lines ends, and a blank line appears, whenever the narrator brings his narrative to a full stop, typically identified by a relatively long unfilled pause, audible intake of breath, and/or a fall to an especially low pitch.

  • 4 This format bears a superficial resemblance to the “ethnopoetic” formats of Tedlock (1972, 1983), (...)

35The resulting broken-line format4 is intended to allow the English translation to capture as much as possible the rhetorical structure and local organization of the oral delivery, to highlight stylistic devices such as repetition and syntactic parallelism, and to call attention to affective factors such as emphasis and uncertainty. It also regulates reading pace, encouraging the reader to give due attention to each idea as it is expressed as the story unfolds. Language learners will find that each line of English provides the key to a the corresponding line of Quechan, resulting in units of meaningful language small enough to be digested by beginners, while each text provides a model of both syntax and rhetorical structure for advanced students of language and storytelling.

How this volume was edited

36The project of translating Abe Halpernʹs vast collection of Quechan language material has been under way since 1998. My fellow translators and I soon discovered that Halpern recorded multiple versions of certain stories. Each version offered a unique perspective on mythic events, and each was astonishingly different from other versions of the same story. Although it was generally expected that I should seek out the “best” or “most correct” narrative to represent each story, I could not bring myself to do so: not only would a great deal of valuable material be neglected, but Quechan oral literature would be misrepresented and much of its richness lost. It was clear to me that the only way to do justice to Quechan oral literature would be to allow multiple narratives on a given topic to coexist in the written volume, just as they have traditionally coexisted in the oral sphere. The concept of the “story complex” was born of this necessity.

37Most of the stories in this volume were told as free-standing narratives, but Josefa Harttʹs story of Kwayúu and John Cometʹs story of Shakwatxót were extracted from longer narrations.

38Within each story, omissions are few. Omissions of just a few words are indicated with a convention of three asterisks (***), as are brief interruptions. Omissions of more than one prosodic line of material, and major interruptions, are indicated by three sets of three asterisks (*** *** ***). Pause fillers (of great frequency and usually in the form of the syllable áa), as well as false starts, have been omitted in order to conserve space and allow fluent reading of the narratives.

Sound system and orthography

39In this volume, Quechan is written phonemically, using a practical writing system developed in consultation with tribal elders at numerous orthography sessions in 1998 and 1999 and a forum on Quechan writing at the 2004 Yuman Languages Summit in Parker, Arizona. This writing system is also used in Xiipúktan (First of All): Three Views of the Origins of the Quechan People (Bryant and Miller 2013), in Kwatsáan Iiyáa Mattkuuʹéeyk! (Learn the Quechan Language!), and in the forthcoming Quechan Dictionary. Symbols used in the Quechan alphabet are given in the left-hand column below, and the sound is described in a non-technical way in the righthand column. In the middle column, each phoneme is rendered in the phonetic symbols used by Halpern (1997).

Quechan alphabet

á, à


like the a in about.


/a /

a longer sound, like the a in father.



unaccented a represents the “disappearing vowel”; its pronunciation is discussed below.



like the e in pet.



the same sound, but held for a longer time. For some speakers, in some contexts, ee is lowered and sounds almost like the a in mad, only held for a longer time.



this symbol represents the “disappearing vowel” in poststress position; see below.



like English f. This sound is found only in loan words.



like English g. This sound is found only in loan words.



like the i in pit.



like the i in machine, but held for a longer time.



like the k in sky.



the same sound, but made with rounded lips. It sounds like the kw in backward.



like the ky in backyard.



is like English l as in list.



this sound is not found in English and is rare in Quechan. To make it, touch the tip of your tongue to your upper teeth, and blow air out along the sides of your tongue.



this sound is not found in English and is rare in Quechan. To make it, touch the tip of your tongue to your lower teeth, and blow air out along the sides of your tongue.



like the lli in million.



like the m in mom.



like Spanish n, as in bonito.



like the ng in sing. This sound is rare in spoken Quechan but found in many song words.



like the ny in canyon.



like the English p in spin.



similar to k, but pronounced further back in the mouth.



the same sound, but made with rounded lips.



a tapped or slightly trilled r, like the r in Spanish María.



like Spanish s, as in peso.



this sound is not like English sh; instead, it is a “whistling sound” made with the tip of the tongue at the roots of the teeth and slightly curled back.



like Spanish t, as in bonito. This sound is made with the tip of the tongue touching the upper front teeth or even between the teeth.



like the th in English this.



like the ts in outside, but a single sound rather than a sequence of two sounds.



like English t, as in stuck, or slightly farther back in the mouth.



like the ty in got ya!



like Spanish u; somewhere between the u of put and the oo of hoop.


/u /

like the oo in moon, but held for a longer time.



like the v in very.



like the w in wet.



like the ch in German ach or the j in Spanish joya.



the same sound, but made with rounded lips.



like the y in yes.



this sound, known as “glottal stop,” is actually a brief period of silence made by closing the vocal cords. In English it is found in the negative expression uh-uh and the warning uh-oh.

Notes on pronunciation and spelling

40For many speakers, particularly those of the older generation, a vowel at the beginning of a word is preceded by aspiration (a puff of air, which some people think of as a little h). Aspiration disappears when the word is prefixed; for instance, while aspiration may be heard at the beginning of avʹáak (‘he walked’), it is not heard in nyaavʹáak (‘when he walked’).

41In the 1930s, Halpern (1946a: 31) determined that unaccented ee and oo were allophones (variants conditioned by their surroundings) of ii and uu respectively, and his orthography reflects this analysis. Halpern assumed that his analysis holds true for the 1970s, and the spelling in this volume reflects his assumption. For many Quechan speakers of the present generation, unstressed ee and oo are phonemically distinct from unstressed ii and uu, and consequently there are slight differences in spelling between the modern versions of certain words and the older versions presented in this volume.

42The vowels á and à are pronounced like the a in about . Unaccented a, on the other hand, represents an inorganic vowel: that is, a vowel which may disappear or be relocated when prefixes are added to or subtracted from a given word. Illustrative examples may be found in Kwatsáan Iiyáa Mattkuuʹéeyk!. The pronunciation of an inorganic vowel depends upon the consonants that surround it. For instance, when followed by y or between palatal consonants, unaccented a may be pronounced like the i in pit; when followed by w it is usually pronounced like the u in put; and when followed by glottal stop (ʹ) and an accented vowel, it may echo the sound of the accented vowel.

43The symbol ə represents the inorganic vowel in post-stress position. When an accented vowel is followed by y or w, the sounds are pronounced sequentially. When pronouncing the sequence áay, for instance, first pronounce the aa sound (like the a in father), then pronounce the y sound (as in yes). The resulting sequence will sound something like the English word eye, but held for a longer time. When pronouncing the sequence éw, first pronounce the e (like the e in pet) and then the w (as in wet).

Quechan grammar

44The phonology and morphology of Quechan are described in detail by Halpern (1946, 1947). Further information may be found in Langdon (1977) and Miller (1997).


45The following conventions are used in this volume:

  • Each line of Quechan text represents a prosodically motivated unit.
  • Each line of English presents a translation of the corresponding line of Quechan.
  • If a prosodic line is too long to fit within a graphic line, it is continued on a second graphic line. The second graphic line is indented.
  • A prosodically motivated paragraph is followed by a blank line.
  • A series of three asterisks (***) indicates a brief interruption or the omission of a word or two.
  • Three series of three asterisks (*** *** ***) indicates a more lengthy omission or a major interruption.
  • When the symbol t or the symbol tt (each of which represents a distinct sound, as described above) is followed by the symbol t or the symbol ts, a hyphen is used to separate the relevant symbols.


46This volume is the result of a collaborative effort involving many people. Barbara Levy, George Bryant, and Millie Romero worked with me for years on the translation of the stories. Their talent and dedication have made this volume possible, and their friendship has made the project a pleasure.

47I am grateful to the families of the storytellers for their support. I am also grateful to the family of Abraham M. Halpern for giving me the opportunity to finish Abeʹs work, and to Katherine Spencer Halpern and Margaret Langdon for accompanying me on my first trip to Fort Yuma Reservation in 1998 and introducing me to the Quechan Culture Committee and members of the Quechan community.

48I thank the many Quechan people who have taught me about their language, including Myra Andrews, Preston J. Arrow-weed, George Bryant, Muriel Bryant, Ila Dunzweiler, Arlie Emerson, Perdius Escalante, Tessy Escalante, Della Escalanti, Frank Escalanti, Pearl Escalanti, Cora Hill, Phylis Jones, Bertha José, Olivia José, Shirley Kelly, Barbara Levy, Arnold Millard, Faith Millard, Dorothy Montague, John Norton, Judith Osborne, Linda Rivera, Millie Romero, and Vernon Smith.

49The Quechan Language Preservation Program was instrumental in getting this book published, and I thank its director, Barbara Levy, as well as Quechan language teachers Ila Dunzweiler, Arlie Emerson, Della Escalanti, and Judith Osborne for their assistance. Some of the work for this volume was done at the Quechan Elderly Nutrition Site, and I thank the past and present staff of the Site, including the late Betty Robles, for their hospitality and assistance.

50I am grateful to Quechan Tribal Council member Emilio Escalanti for arranging numerous orthography sessions with tribal elders in 1998 and 1999 and for moral support throughout the past sixteen years. I am grateful to Quechan Tribal Council member Juliana Comet for special assistance. The Quechan Tribeʹs grants writer, Cliff OʹNeill, did much to facilitate the publication of this book, and Quechan Newsletter Coordinator William Isbell provided the cover photo. I thank them both. Special thanks to Della Escalanti and Perdius Escalante for contributing photos for use in the frontispiece.

51An anonymous reviewer for Open Book Publishers made numerous helpful comments on the manuscript, and this book has benefitted from his suggestions. Additional helpful comments were provided by Benjamin Hanser, Matthew Hanser, and Alessandra Tosi. Bianca Gualandi took special care in designing and typesetting this book. I thank all of them.

52The English translation of the anonymous story of Old Lady Sanyuuxáv is an updated version of that published in Voices from Four Directions: Contemporary Translations of the Native Literatures of North America, edited by Brian Swann (© 2004 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska). It is used with the permission of the University of Nebraska Press.

53The material in this volume is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants no. SBR-9728976, BNS-9910654, and BCS-0317783. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. I thank John R. Johnson and Diane Wondolowski of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for administering the National Science Foundation grants from 1997 to 2008.

54Publication of this book is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program grant no. MN-00-13-025-13. I thank the Quechan Tribal Council for prompt approval of the grant budget.

55I am especially grateful to Dr. Alessandra Tosi of Open Book Publishers and Dr. Mark Turin of the World Oral Literature Project for making the publication of this book possible.



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― 1981. Crosscurrents Along the Colorado. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

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Cadic, Francois. 2013. Georgik and Merlin. The Golden Age of Fairy Tales: From the Brothers Grimm to Andrew Lang, ed. Jack Zipes. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. pp. 444-452.

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― 1984b. “Salt Song.” In Hinton and Watahomigie (eds), pp. 320-330.

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― and A. M. Halpern. 1978. “Coyote and Quail.” Coyote Stories, ed. William Bright. International Journal of American Linguistics Native American Texts Series, pp. 145-169.

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― 1984b. “Coyote Travels.” In Hinton and Watahomigie (eds), pp. 306-311.

― 1984c. “Stubborn.” In Hinton and Watahomigie (eds), pp. 306-311.

Escalanti, Mary Kelly. 1984a. “Coyote and Mud Hens.” In Hinton and Watahomigie (eds), pp. 312-313.

― 1984b. “Amo: Mountain Sheep Songs.” In Hinton and Watahomigie (eds), pp. 331-332.

― 1984c. “Lullabye.” In Hinton and Watahomigie (eds), p. 333.

Forbes, Jack D. 1965. Warriors of the Colorado: The Yumas of the Quechan Nation and Their Neighbors. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Forde, C. Daryll. 1931. Ethnography of the Yuma Indians. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 28.4: 83-278.

Halpern, A. M. 1946a. “Yuma I: Phonemics.” International Journal of American Linguistics 12.1: 25-33.

― 1946b. “Yuma II: Morphophonemics.” International Journal of American Linguistics 12.3: 147-151.

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1 Bee (1981: viii) points out that Spanish records of the late seventeenth century are the first to mention the Quechan by name, but Stewart (1983: 1) cites evidence that the ancestors of the Quechan lived in the area for at least a millennium.

2 This passage from Halpernʹs unpublished writings is quoted by Langdon (1997: xvi).

3 Not all of Halpernʹs marginal notes identify the person who helped him, so it is possible that some names have been omitted.

4 This format bears a superficial resemblance to the “ethnopoetic” formats of Tedlock (1972, 1983), Hymes (1981), Luthin (1991), and several papers in Swann (1993), among others. Ethnopoetic formats are often associated with dramatic poetry or measured verse, so it is worth mentioning that the stories in this volume fall into neither category.


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