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Standing Ground

Yurok Indian Spirituality, 1850–1990

Thomas Buckley

Publication Year: 2002

This colorful, richly textured account of spiritual training and practice within an American Indian social network emphasizes narrative over analysis. Thomas Buckley's foregrounding of Yurok narratives creates one major level of dialogue in an innovative ethnography that features dialogue as its central theoretical trope. Buckley places himself in conversation with contemporary Yurok friends and elders, with written texts, and with twentieth-century anthropology as well. He describes Yurok Indian spirituality as "a significant field in which individual and society meet in dialogue—cooperating, resisting, negotiating, changing each other in manifold ways. 'Culture,' here, is not a thing but a process, an emergence through time."

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xii

This book offers my present understandings of Yurok Indians and of the neighboring native peoples with whom the Yuroks continue to be richly intertwined, culturally and historically. I write about them as they were between 1850, when the California gold rush erupted in their midst, and 1991, when I last did formal anthropological research in northwestern ...

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Introduction and Note on Orthography

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pp. 1-35

The eleven chapters of this book came together over the past decade, although the idea of writing a book about the Yurok Indians goes back to my first meetings with Yurok people, in 1971. The year before, I had met Harry Kellett Roberts, then living in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. From about 1912 until the mid-1930s, Harry had been the adoptive ...

Part One: Contexts

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1. The Yurok Reservation

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pp. 39-49

Non-Indians first settled in Yurok territory during the gold rush of 1849. Varied white interests defeated ratification of an 1851 treaty that would have created a large reservation. The ensuing armed conflict between Yuroks and whites extended into the mid-1860s. In 1855 President Franklin Pierce, by executive order, established the Klamath River Reservation in ...

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2. Double Helix

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pp. 50-61

A friend thought her life was a mess and tried a little psychotherapy to straighten it out. She went only once. “He didn’t have any stories!” she exclaimed, indignantly. “How can anyone even live their own life if they don’t have any stories?” ...

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3. Native Authors

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pp. 62-84

In 1976 I returned to northwestern California to undertake my first formal field work as a graduate student of anthropology. Since I was there, now, as a professional-in-training, I thought it best to announce myself formally. The Yurok Indians that were my first interest had no tribal council in the 1970s. I went instead to the Tri-county Development Agency in ...


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4. Seeing with Their Own Eyes

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pp. 87-126

According to the (always slightly different) accounts of Yurok speakers in the 1970s, every individual has a “purpose in life.” People are “born for a reason.” After a child is six weeks in the womb (or ten), its “fire” or “spark” enters its “heart,” where it forms the individual’s “foundation,” which is also his “purpose.” This purpose, a person’s ...

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5. Doctors

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pp. 127-169

There is no single word in Yurok that can reasonably be translated as “power,” in the sense of a person’s acquired, spiritually based potential to accomplish a desired end. What is today called “power” was formerly an unspecified, generalized presence (cf. Kroeber, in Elmendorf 1960: 522.2). My own understanding, gained through various elders, is that ...

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6. The GO-Road

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pp. 170-201

In 1958 A. L. Kroeber told Claude Lévi-Strauss that, several years earlier when he had last traveled to the Klamath River to see Yurok Indians, he visited “one lone person who still speaks the native tongue, and who remembers the myths and legends” (in Valory 1966b: 42). Lévi-Strauss and Kroeber both overstated the case. In 1976, eighteen years later, Ella ...


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7. The One Who Flies All around the World

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pp. 205-212

Wealth, like human lives, comes from wes?onah, “the sky”: “creation,” “the world.” People today usually concur that dance regalia, especially, simply “comes” to people who are “good,” although traditionally wealth was a principal object of men’s sweathouse training, particularly packing sweathouse wood, and of elite women’s menstrual austerities (Buckley ...

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8. The World

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pp. 213-220

The Klamath River has perennially flooded, sometimes with devastating effects along its margins where villages have always been built. Winter rains loosen slides in the canyons, and tidal waves occasionally rise at sea, running inland. Earthquakes are not uncommon. Because of the massive changes in the land that such events have brought, the archaeological ...

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9. Melancholy

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pp. 221-244

Essentialized, integrated cultures, like “the Yurok,” hypothesized by the salvage ethnographers, were sui generis, “with discrete boundaries, not unlike species” (Biolsi 1997: 136). It was a model of differences. By the 1920s, these sorts of “billiard ball” cultures (Eric Wolf, in ibid.: 139) prevailed among the later Boasians. Books like Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture ...

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10. The Shaker Church

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pp. 245-260

The yearning for a unified community reemerged in a climate of discouragement and anomie on the lower Klamath in 1926, with the coming of the Indian Shaker Church and what seemed, then, to be the failure of world renewal and traditional doctoring alike. The Indian Shaker Church originated on Puget Sound in 1882 and was brought into native northwestern ...

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11. Jump Dance

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pp. 261-279

At Pecwan, in the ten days following September’s full moon, every other year men dance with beautiful regalia from morning to evening in the pit of a dismantled semi-subterranean plank house. The dancers represent two complementary and competing “sides,” taking turns in the pit, and as each side dances, the deeply felt songs of the two lead singers who ...


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pp. 281-294


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pp. 295-312

Acknowledgments of Permissions

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pp. 313-314


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pp. 315-325

Production Notes

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p. 326-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780520936447
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520233898

Page Count: 337
Publication Year: 2002