Legends of the Northern Paiute: as told by Wilson Wewa (Paperback)
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Legends of the Northern Paiute shares and preserves twenty-one original and previously unpublished Northern Paiute legends, as told by Wilson Wewa, a spiritual leader and oral historian of the Warm Springs Paiute. These legends were originally told around the fires of Paiute camps and villages during the “story-telling season” of winter in the Great Basin of the American West. They were shared with Paiute communities as a way to pass on tribal visions of the “animal people” and the “human people,” their origins and values, their spiritual and natural environment, and their culture and daily lives.
The legends in this volume were recorded, transcribed, reviewed, and edited by Wilson Wewa and James Gardner. Each legend was recorded, then read and edited out loud, to respect the creativity, warmth, and flow of Paiute storytelling. The stories selected for inclusion include familiar characters from native legends, such as Coyote, as well as intriguing characters unique to the Northern Paiute, such as the creature embodied in the Smith Rock pinnacle, now known as Monkey Face, but known to the Paiutes in Central Oregon as Nuwuzoho the Cannibal.
Wewa’s apprenticeship to Northern Paiute culture began when he was about six years old. These legends were passed on to him by his grandmother and other tribal elders. They are now made available to future generations of tribal members, and to students, scholars, and readers interested in Wewa’s fresh and authentic voice. These legends are best read and appreciated as they were told—out loud, shared with others, and delivered with all of the verve, cadence, creativity, and humor of original Paiute storytellers on those clear, cold winter nights in the high desert.
About the Author
Wilson Wewa, a Northern Paiute/Palouse is well known throughout the northwest plateau and the Great Basin as a spiritual leader and keeper of traditional culture. He is a frequent speaker on Great Basin history and culture who has presented at Archaeology Days at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon, the Grant County Public Utility District in Washington State, the University of Oregon, and the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
James A. Gardner graduated from Harvard College in 1965 and Yale Law School in 1968. He was president of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, from 1981 to 1989, and has since been President of Gardner Associates, creating and developing historic conservation ranches in Central Oregon. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Oregon since 2013 and frequently writes about Native American and settlement history in Oregon.
"Legends of the Northern Paiute seems to me to be a true breakthrough, not only for the Paiute people, who have survived a lot of ugly Western history over two centuries, but in terms of our understanding and appreciation of Native American storytelling, our nation's oldest literature. Wewa's achievement here is to create a way of presenting his tales in print so that reading them seems like hearing them aloud, as they should be."
-Jarold Ramsey, Agate IX