The remarkably accurate original translations of Native American myths from one of 19th-century America's foremost linguists.
Ishi, the last Yana, died in 1916, working in San Francisco's Anthropological Museum as a de facto living anthropological exhibit. But Yana mythology did not die with him. Decades before, Jeremiah Curtin, a remarkable American linguist, had collected many Yana and Wintu myths and preserved them for posterity and future scholars.
Native American mythology shows vestiges of religious concepts already old when the Egyptians evolved their form of worship. This volume offers an unusual collection of myths from two Native American cultures, the Wintu and Yana, recorded and translated in the 1880s by Jeremiah Curtin, one of the outstanding American linguists of the later 19th century. Because Curtin sought out storytellers who were not influenced by other cultures, his translations offer remarkably accurate accounts of the fundamental beliefs of Native Americans. In his introduction Curtin explains the profound antiquity of these myths of creation, which preserve some of the earliest religious expression. He also provides an unflinching account of the appalling genocidal attacks on the peaceful Yana by white Californians in the 1860s. Because the Yana became extinct, Curtin's rendering of some of their important myths is an especially valuable contribution to contemporary understanding of Native American mythology.