The rich oral traditions of the Athabaskan Indians from southwestern Oregon are showcased in these pages for the first time. This volume features vivid and humorous tales of familiar Tricksters: Coyote, known for his unusual sexual prowess and escapades that often go awry; the vain and gullible Grizzly Bear; and Raccoon, often greedy and ever elusive. The collection also includes the less familiar but all-too-human stories of Pitch Woman, Little Man, the unicorn-like Hollering-Like-a-Person, and other local figures, all of which add to the wealth of Native oral literature in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1935 Elizabeth D. Jacobs conducted ethnographic fieldwork with survivors of several Athabaskan cultures living on the Siletz Reservation. Her work preserves the forty-seven stories recorded here as recounted by Upper Coquille consultant Coquelle Thompson Sr., an accomplished storyteller who lived through the Rogue River Wars of 1855–56. His tribal community was evicted from its homeland and resettled with other Athabaskan groups on the Siletz Reservation, where he lived for ninety years.
This volume offers a behind-the-scenes look at the collection of oral accounts, a sketch of Upper Coquille Athabaskan culture, an examination of Thompson’s storytelling, and extended analyses of four stories, including “Pitch Woman.” The reader is encouraged to “listen” to the stories with an ear attuned both to the storyteller himself and to the stories’ own cultural context.