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5 Kaska Speakers of Kaska may define their territory in relation to the high mountains at the borders of their traditional homeland: Steamboat Mountain in the south, Three Aces in the west, the Mackenzie Mountains in the east, and Keel Peak in the north, the mountains where the animals left their rafts in mythical times after the earth was flooded. Kaska territory also coincides with the drainage of the upper parts of the Pelly and Liard Rivers in the southern Yukon and northern British Columbia. The name that the people use to refer to themselves is Dene or Dane, a term that means ‘‘person’’ or ‘‘people’’ and is also the self-designation of many groups in the Northwest Territories and Prairie Provinces. The name Kaska seems to have originated from the name of a creek in the Cassiar region of Kaska territory. The name came to be used in English for all the speakers of Kaska in the Liard drainage , and eventually for all Kaska speakers in accordance with the European ideology that a people, the ‘‘Kaska people,’’ should be identified with a language , with ‘‘the people who speak Kaska language.’’ The term Dene was not as limited in this way when applied either to groups of people or to languages , but could refer outward to what are now considered other languages or groups of people. In the Kaska language, nouns and verbs are often related in form and meaning, a characteristic of Athabaskan languages generally. The word for ‘‘story,’’ gudech or gudeji, is the same or nearly the same as the verb for ‘‘he/ she is telling a story,’’ gudech. A Kaska person might ask a storyteller, ‘‘Esdał gundech,’’ ‘‘Tell me a story.’’ There are two main Kaska genres that may each be used in a single performance. The genre of gudech, ‘‘story,’’ includes any narrative that is performed by means of spoken language and gesture. It might include a speech, an account of some current event, or oral history, as well as stories about mythical times. The other main genre associated with  Kaska stories is song, hin (meyiné’, ‘‘his/her song’’; ejin, ‘‘he/she is singing’’), and in some stories the storyteller becomes a singer. Although some writers have proposed that Yukon Native people distinguish between stories of actual events and stories of mythical times – – the ‘‘long ago’’ stories – – this distinction is problematical. Accounts of recent historical events may include elements relating to the supernatural, while storytellers may assert that stories describing mammoths or other extinct animals occurred only recently. Storytellers may provide contradictory clues about whether they believe a story to be an actual historic event or a ‘‘long ago’’ story. Maudie Dick begins her account of ‘‘Dzo ˛hdié’ and the Giant Worm’’ with ‘‘Long ago,’’ and concludes with, ‘‘It must be getting to be a long time, on this earth,’’ which would seem to place it securely with the ‘‘long ago’’ stories. She provides a contradictory comment, though, when she says the story took place in ‘‘recent times, they say.’’ John Dickson, a well-known Kaska elder and storyteller, was born around the turn of the century. He learned many stories, including ‘‘The Girl Who Lived with Salmon,’’ from his grandfather, Siwash Tom, while growing up with his family in the Pelly Banks region of the Yukon. His family followed the Kaska traditional round of activities, fishing in the larger lakes and in the Pelly River for salmon and traveling seasonally to the high mountain country for large game such as caribou. As a young man he worked as a special constable for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, serving as an interpreter, guide, and cook for the first police officer stationed in the Ross River area, Sergeant Claude Tidd. While working as a special constable and on boat crews, John Dickson practiced speaking English. Although English was his second language, it was also a source of pride and status for him since it opened many job opportunities. Mr. Dickson used both English and Kaska in telling ‘‘The Girl Who Lived with Salmon.’’ It would have been possible for him to tell the story either in Kaska or in English exclusively if he were addressing an audience with limited abilities in either language. On this occasion, however, in May  at his home in Upper Liard, he was addressing Ann Mercier, a fully bilingual Native-language teacher, and Pat Moore, a non-Native linguist with some facility in the Kaska language, so he chose to use both...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780803202368
MARC Record
OCLC
607194129
Pages
394
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-10
Language
English
Open Access
No
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