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Introduction Native American oral narratives have been collected, written down, and published for several centuries. In Alaska and the Yukon Territory, the collection of such material has proceeded for somewhat less than two hundred years, but an exceptional body of written material has been produced during the last twenty-five years by Native storytellers and writers, working with linguists, school districts, and community organizations. Some of the material transcribes and translates oral tradition for use in communities or classrooms, some of it documents and archives the achievements of Native oral literature, and some of it extends the range of oral tradition by regenerating verbal creativity in print. At the center of much of this activity has been the dedicated involvement of the Alaska Native Language Center and the Yukon Native Language Centre. Common to their work is the high degree of collaboration between the linguists and the storytellers, the authenticity and reliability of the English translations created by bilingual publications , and the significant level of community support. Moreover, current work recognizes the performance dimension of oral narrative and its nature as dialogic discourse. Sparked by the theories and practices of such scholars as Dell Hymes, Dennis Tedlock, Robin Ridington, and Julie Cruikshank, this work has been completed in an era of much greater awareness of the literary value of oral narratives and of their spiritual and social roles. Consequently , these contemporary publications have been able to reveal the valuable contributions that Native peoples from south central and interior Alaska and from the Yukon Territory have made to world literature. As map  shows, the Alaskan Athabaskan peoples represented in this book are bordered by Eskimo-speaking peoples to the north and the west and even to the south, along part of the Gulf of Alaska. Also to the south lived the Eyaks, not Athabaskans themselves but distantly related. To the southeast, the major cultures bordering both Alaskan and Yukon Athabas-  introduction kans are Tlingit and Tsimshian. Map  shows the distribution of Athabaskan groups within the Yukon Territory, bordered on the north by Inuit. But in Canada, Athabaskans inhabit territory far beyond the drainage of the Yukon , both to the east and to the south. In lifestyle, culture, and narrative tradition , Athabaskan peoples have much that is similar. In organizing this book, we have arranged our selections to follow the major rivers in Alaska and the Yukon Territory because they organize the lives of the people there. We move up the Yukon River from Alaska into Canada and the river’s headwaters and then return to Alaska. After following the Tanana River downstream, we enter areas whose lifelines are three other important rivers. We conclude with a group of Eyak narratives. Though the Eyaks are not Athabaskan, their traditions tell of a migration from the interior , and their language has been traced back to an ancestral language common to both Eyak and Proto-Athabaskan. To show the diversity of material in the oral tradition, we have chosen from a variety of genres and forms. While most of the material in this book has been previously published, much of it has been in small publications with limited circulation; and we are pleased to be able to offer two hitherto unpublished narratives and two others in a new format prepared by the translator especially for this edition. We are certain that this volume will bring this rich literary tradition to a larger readership. We have decided to focus most of our sections on one representative storyteller . Some sections, however, will present the work of more than one verbal artist. All these storytellers together have produced a significant body of traditional narrative both on tape and in print, and their work has been accepted by their communities. Eight sections comprise stories narrated orally in Native languages and translated into English. Three present stories narrated orally in English (no less authentically Athabaskan in character, however, for this choice of language by the Native storytellers). And three others feature narratives written in Native languages and translated into English by the writers themselves; these testify to the creative power of Native verbal artists and their desire to move onto the printed page with the same authority and force as a commanding oral storyteller. context of storytelling In south central and interior Alaska and the Yukon Territory, distant-time stories were told almost exclusively during the winter, especially in early and midwinter. While other genres might be told at other times – – mountain stories only during the summer or...


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