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Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1979, English Literature: Opening up the Canon, ed. Leslie A. Fiedler and Houston A. Baker, Jr. Pp. 54-72.


LESLIE MARMON SILKO

TALES WITHIN TALES WITHIN TALES


A long time ago, back in the world when I was professor, director, of Medieval Studies, one night with colleagues in Colorado we fell to
discussing the African writer Apuleius, and his novel in Latin, the Golden Ass, written he says with a Nilotic reed on papyrus. And I remembered Marlow on the Thames Ebankment talking about how my England, too, had been one of the Dark Places to the Romans, as he began to narrate the tale within the tale, in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, of the Belgian Congo, and of the white man's descent into utter barbarism. So we decided on first a conference, then a book, a Festschrift for our Chaucerian, Richard Schoeck, which became Tales within Tales: Apuleius through Time. In that one evening we all pledged our essays, academic in style, with Erasmian laughter, mine to be on the Ass playing the Harp.

But I remembered a
shy young speaker in 1979, at Harvard's English Institute that Leslie Fiedler and Houston A. Baker, Jr., organized on Opening up the Canon. It was Leslie Marmon Silko, of Ceremony and before her Almanac of the Dead. She told a tale of her Laguna Pueblo Mesa, a consolation tale in the face of great loss, a tale of the flight of butterflies from clothes cast off the Mesa in despair, a tale that parallels Lucius Apuleius' tale of Psyche and Cupid overheard by his donkey hero within his tale of the eponymous Golden Ass, of Lucius magicked by error into a beast who then sees the underside of society. Its beggar woman teller, having both cooked the meal and told the tale to the two young abducted, then murdered, lovers, next hangs herself by the robbers' den, the robbers then callously eating her cooked meal. I discussed this in our February 1922 Academia Bessarion 18 discourse. The book's final section gives three oral tales, by the Laguna Pueblo Leslie Marmon Silko, by the Penitente Rose Cordova, and by the English gypsy orphan, Rose Lloyds. The voices of eight women to those of five white males. Affirmative Action!

Esther Cajero of Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, made this Story-Teller sculpture:

       

Leslie Marmon Silko
Language and Literature from a Laguna Pueblo Perspective

Where I come from, the words that are most highly valued are those which are spoken from the heart, unpremeditated and unrehearsed. Among the Pueblo people, a written speech or statement is highly suspect because  the true feelings  of the speaker remain hidden as he reads words that are detached  from the occasion and the audience. I have intentionally not written a formal paper to read to this session because of this and because I want you to
hear  and to experience English in a nontraditional structure, a structure that follows patterns from the oral tradition. For those of you accustomed to the structure that moves from point A to point B to point C, this presentation may be somewhat difficult to follow because the structure of Pueblo expression resembles something like a spider's web--with many little threads radiating from a center, criss-crossing each other. As with the web, the structure will emerge as it is made and you must simply listen and trust, as the Pueblo people do, that meaning will be made.

I suppose that the task that I have today is a formidable one because basically I come here to ask you, at least for a while, to set aside a number of basic approaches that you have been using and probably will continue to use in approaching the study of English or the study of language: first of all, I come to ask you to see language from the Pueblo perspective, which is a perspective that is very much concerned with including the whole of creation and the whole of history and time. And so we very seldom talk about breaking language down into words. As I will continue to relate to you, even the use of a specific language is less important than the one thing--which is the
"telling," or the story telling. And so, as Simon Ortiz has written, if you approach a Pueblo person and want to talk words or, worse than that, to break down an individual word into its components, oftimes you will just get a blank stare, because we don't think of words as being isolated from the speaker, which, of course, is one element of the oral tradition. Moreover, we don't think of words as being alone: words are always with other words, and the other words are almost always in a story of some sort.

Today I have brought a number of examples of stories in English because I would like to get around to the question that has been raised, or the topic that has come along here, which is what changes we Pueblo writers might make with English as a language for literature. But at the same time I would like to explain the importance of
story telling and how it relates to a Pueblo theory of language.

So first I would like to go back to the Pueblo Creation story. The reason I go back to that story is because it is an all-inclusive story of creation and how life began.
Tséitsinako, Thought Woman, by thinking of her sisters, and together with her sisters, thought of everything which is, and this world was created. And the belief was that everything in this world was a part of the original creation, and that the people at home realized that far away there were others-other human beings. There is even a section of the story which is a prophecy--which describes the origin of the European race, the African, and also remembers the Asian origins.

Starting out with this
story, with this attitude which includes all things, I would like to point out that the reason the people are more concerned with story and communication and less with a particular language is in part an outgrowth of the area (pointing to a map) where we find ourselves. Among the twenty Pueblos there are at least six distinct languages, and possibly seven. Some of the linguists argue--and I don't set myself up to be a linguist at all--about the number of distinct languages. But certainly Zuni is all alone, and Hopi is all alone, and from mesa to mesa there are subtle differences in language--very great differences. I think that this might be the reason that what particular language was being used wasn't as important as what the speaker was trying to say. And this, I think, is reflected and stems or grows out of a particular view of the story--that is, that language is story. At Laguna many words have stories which make them. So when one is telling a story, and one is using words to tell the story, each word that one is speaking has a story of its own too. Often the speakers or tellers go into the stories of the words they are using to tell the story so that you get stories within stories, so to speak. This structure becomes very apparent in the storytelling, and what I would like to show later on by reading some pieces tht I brought is that this structure also informs the writing and the stories which are currently coming from Pueblo people. I think what is essential is this sense of story, and story within story, and the idea that one story is only the beginning of many stories, and the sense that stories never truly end. I would like to propose that these views of structure and the dynamics of storytelling are some of the contributions which Native American cultures bring to the English language or at least to literature in the English language.

First of all, a lot of people think of
storytelling as something that is done at bedtime--that it is something that is done for small children. When I use the term storytelling, I include a far wider range of telling activity. I also do not limit storytelling to simply old stories, but to again go back to the original view of creation, which sees that it is all part of a whole; we do not differentiate or fragment stories and experiences. In the beginning, Tséitsinako, Thought Woman, thought of all these things, and all of these things are held together as one holds many things together in a single thought.

So in the
telling (and today you will hear a few of the dimensions of this telling) first of all, as was pointed out earlier, the storytelling always includes the audience and the listeners, and, in fact, a great deal of the story is believed to be inside the listener, and the storyteller's tale is to draw the story out of the listeners. This kind of shared experience grows out of a strong community base. The storytelling goes on and continues from generation to generation.

The
Origin story functions basically as a maker of our identity--with the story we know who we are. We are the Lagunas. This is where we came from. We came this way. We came by this place. And so from the time you are very young, you hear these stories, so that when you go out into the wider world, when one asks who you are, or where are you from, you immediately know: we are the people of these stories. It continues down into clans so that you are not just talking about Laguna Pueblo people, you are talking about your own clan. Within the clans there are stories which identify the clan.

In the Creation story, Antelope says that he will help knock a hole in the earth so that the people can come up, out into the next world. Antelope tries and tries, and he uses his hooves and is unable to break through; and it is then that Badger
says, "Let me help you." And Badger very patiently uses his claws and digs a way through, bringing the people into the world. When the Badger clan people think of themselves, or when the Antelope people think of themselves, it is as people who are of this story, and this is our place, and we fit into the very beginning when the people first came, before we began our journey south.

So you can move, then, from the idea of one's identity as a tribal person into clan identity. Then we begin to get to the extended family, and this is where we begin to get a kind of story coming into play which some people might see as a different kind of story, though Pueblo people do not. Anthropologists and ethnologists have, for a long time, differentiated the types of oral language they find in the Pueblos. They tended to rule out all but the old and sacred and traditional stories and were not interested in family stories and the family's account of itself. But these family stories are just as important as the other stories--the older stories. These
family stories are given equal recognition. there is no definite, pre-set pattern for the way one will hear the stories of one's own family, but it is a very critical part of one's childhood, and it continues on throughout one's life. You will hear stories of importance to the family--sometimes wonderful stories--stories about the time a maternal uncle got the biggest deer that was ever seen and brought back from the mountains. And so one's sense of who the family is, and who you are, will then extend from that--"I am from the family of my uncle who brought in the wonderful deer, and it was a wonderful hunt"--so you have this sort of building or sense of identity.

There are also other
stories, stories about the time when another uncle, perhaps, did something that wasn't really acceptable. In other words, this process of keeping track, of telling, is an all-inclusive process which begins to create a total picture. So it is very important that you know all of the stories--both positive and not so positive--about one's own family. The reason that it is very important to keep track of all the stories in one's own family is because you are liable to hear a story from somebody else who is perhaps an enemy of the family, and you are liable to hear a version which has been changed, a version which makes your family sound disreputable--something that will taint the honor of the family. But if you have already heard the story, you know your family's version of what really happened that night, so when somebody else is mentioning it, you will have a version of the story to counterbalance it. Even when there is no way around it--old Uncle Pete did a terrible thing--by knowing the stories that come out of other families, by keeping very close watch, listening constantly to learn the stories about other families, one is in a sense able to deal with terrible sorts of things that might happen within one's own family. When a member of one's own family does something that cannot be excused, one always knows stories about similar things which happened in other families. And it is not done maliciously. I think it is very important to realize this. Keeping track of all the stories within the community gives a certain distance, a useful perspective which brings incidents down to a level we can deal with. If others have done it before, it cannot be so terrible. If others have endured, so can we.

The
stories are always bringing us together, keeping the whole together, keeping the family together, keeping this clan together. "Don't go away, don't isolate yourself, but come here, because we have all had these kinds of experiences"-- this is what the people are saying to you when they tell you these other stories. And so there is this constant pulling together to resist what seems to me to be a basic part of human nature: when some violent emotional experience takes place, people get the urge to run off and hide or separate themselves from others. And of course, if we do that, we are not only talking about endangering the group, we are also talking about the individual or the individual family never being able to recover or to survive. Inherent in this belief is the feeling that one does not recover or get well by one's self, but it is together that we look after each other and take care of each other.

In the
story telling, then, we see this process of bringing people together, and it works not only on the family level, but also on the level of the individual. Of course, the whole Pueblo concept of the individual is a little bit different than the usual Western concept of the individual. But one of the beauties of the story telling is that when something happens to an individual, many people will come to you and take you aside, or maybe a couple of people will come and talk to you. These are occasions of storytelling. These occasions of storytelling are continuous: they are a way of life.

Storytelling lies at the heart of the Pueblo people, and so when someone comes in and says, "When did they tell the stories, or what time of day does the storytelling take place?" that is a ridiculous question. The storytelling goes on constantly--as some old grandmother puts on the shoes of a little child and tells the child the story of a little girl who didn't wear her shoes. At the same time somebody comes into the house for coffee to talk with an adolescent boy who has just been into a bit of trouble, to reassure him that he got into the kind of trouble, or somebody else's son got into that kind of trouble too. You have the constant ongoing process, working on many diferent levels.

One of the
stories I like to bring up about helping the individual in crises is a recent story, and I want to remind you that we make no distinctions between the stories--whether they are history, whether they are fact, whether they are gossip--these distinctions are not useful when we are talking about this particular experience with language. Anyway, there was a young man who, when he came back from the war in Vietnam, had saved up his Army pay and bought a beautiful red Volkswagen Beetle. He was very proud of it, and one night drove up to a place right across the reservation line. It is a very notorious place for many reasons, but one of the most notorious things about the place is a deep arroyo behind the place. This is the King's Bar. So he ran in to pick up a cold six-pack to take home, but he didn't put on his emergency brake. And his little red Volkswagen rolled back into the arroyo and was all smashed up. He felt very bad about it, but within a few days everybody had come to him and told him stories about other people who had lost cars to that arroyo. And probably the story that made him feel the best was about the time that George Day's station wagon, with his mother-in-law and kids in the back, rolled into that arroyo. So everybody was saying, "Well, at least you mother-in-law and kids weren't in the car when it rolled in," and you can't argue about that kind of story. He felt better then because he wasn't alone anymore. He and his smashed Volkswagen were now joined with all the other stories of cars that fell into that arroyo.

Again there is a very beautiful little story. It comes from far out of the past. It is a story that is sometimes told to people who suffer great family or personal loss. I would like to read that story to you now, and while I am reading it to you, try to
listen on a couple of levels at once. I want you to listen to the usage of English. I came from a family which has been doing something that isn't exactly standard English for a while. I come from a family which, basically, is intent on getting the stories told; and we will get those stories told, and language will work for us. It is imperative to tell and not to worry over a specific language. The imperative is the telling. This is an old story from Aunt Suzie. She is one of the first generation of persons at Laguna who began experimenting with our notion of English--who began working to make English speak for us--that is, to speak from the heart. As I read the story to you, you will hear some words that came from Carlisle. She was taken from Laguna, New Mexico, on a train when she was a little girl, and she spent six years at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in an Indian school, which was like being sent to prison. But listen and you will hear the Carlisle influence. This is a story that is sometimes given to you when there has been a great loss.
This took place partly in old Acoma and Laguna. Waithia was a little girl living in Acoma. One day she said, "Mother, I would like to have some yastoah to each." Yastoah is the hardened crust of corn meal mush that curls up. The very name yastoah means sort of "curled up," you know, dried, just as mush dries on top. She said, "I would like to have some yastoah," and her mother said, "My dear little girl, I can't make you any yastoah because we haven't nay wood, but if you will go down off the mesa, down below, and pick up some pieces of wood, bring them home and I will make you some yastoah." So Waithia was glad and ran down the precipitous cliff of the mesa. Down below, just as her mother told her, there were pieces of wood, some curled, some crooked in shape, that she was to pick up and take home. She found just such wood as these.

She went home and she had them in a little wickerlike bag. First she called to her mother as she got home and
said, "Mother, upstairs." The Pueblo people always called "upstairs" because long ago their homes were two or three stories, and that was their entrance, from the top. She said, "Naya, deeni! Mother, upstairs!" And her mother came. The little girl said, "I have brought the wood you wanted me to bring." She opened her little wicker basket and laid them out and they were snakes. They were snakes instead of the crooked pieces of wood and her mother said, "Oh, my dear child. You have brought snakes instead." She says, "Go take them back just where you got them." The little girl ran down the mesa again. Down below to the flats. And she put those snakes back just where she got them. They were snakes instead, and she was very much hurt about this, and she said, "I am not going home. I am going away to the beautiful lake place and drown myself in that lake. Kakwik bunyanah, to the west. I will go there and drown myself."

So she started off, and as she came by the Enchanted Mesa, Kàtsima, she met an old man, very aged, and he saw her running, and he
said, "My dear child, where are you going?" She said, "I am going to Kawaik and jump into the lake there." "Why?" "Well, because," she says, "my mother didn't want to make any yastoah." And the old man said, "Oh, so, you must not go my child. Come with me and I will take you home." He tried to catch her, but she was very light and skipped along, and every time he would try to grab her she would slip farther away from him.

So he was coming home with some wood on his back, strapped to his back and tied with yucca. He just let that strap go and let the wood fall. He went as far as he could up the cliff to the little girl's house. When he got to the place where she lived, he
called to her mother, "Deeni! Upstairs!" "Come on up." And he says, "I can't. I just came to bring you a message. Your little daughter is running away. She is going to Kawaik to drown herself in the lake there." "Oh, my dear little girl!" the mother said. So she busied herself around and made her the yastoah she loved so much. Corn mush, curled at the top. She must have found enough wood to boil the corn meal and make the yastoah.

And while the mush was cooling, she got the little girl's clothing, she got the little dress and all her other garments, little buckskin moccasins that she had, and put them in a bundle, too-probably a yucca bag. And she started down as fast as she could on the east side of Acoma. there used to be a trail there, you know. It's gone now. But it was accessible in those days. And she followed, and she saw her way at a distance-saw the daughter--she kept
calling: "Tsumatusu, my daughter, come back. I have got your yastoah for you." But the little girl did not turn. She kept on ahead, and she cried. And what she cried is the song: "My mother, my mother, she didn't want me to have any yastoah. So now I am going to go away and drown myself." Her mother heard her say and said, "My little daughter, come back here." "No,"and she kept a distance away from her.

And they came nearer and nearer to the lake that was there. And she could see her daughter now, very plain. "Come back, my daughter, I have your yastoah." And no, she kept on, and finally she reached the lake, and she stood on the edge. She tied a little feather to her hair, which is traditional: in death they tie this little feather on the head. She carried a little feather, the girl did, and she tied it in her hair with a little piece of string, right on top of her head she put this feather. Just about as her mother was to reach her, she jumped into the lake. The little feather was whirling around and around in the depths below.

Of course the mother was very sad. She went, grieved, back to Acoma and climbed hermesa home, and the little clothing, the little moccasins she brought, and the yastoah. She stood on the edge of the mesa and scattered them out. She scattered them to the east and west, to the north and to the south--to all directions and where every one of the little clothing and the little moccasins and shawls and yastoah, all of them turned into butterflies, all colors of butterflies! And today they say that Acoma has more beautiful butterflies: red ones, white ones, blue ones, yellow ones. That came from this little girl's clothing.
Now that is a story that anthropologists would consider to be a very old story. the version I have given you is just as Aunt Susie tells it. You can occasionally hear some English she picked up at Carlisle--words like "precipitous." You will also notice that there is a great deal of repetition, and a little reminder about yastoah and how it was made. There is a remark about the cliff trail at Acoma--that it was once there, but is there no longer. This story may be told at a time of sadness or loss, but within this story many other elements are brought together. Things are not separated out and put into separate categories; all things are brought together. So that the reminder about the yastoah is valuable information that is repeated, a recipe, if you will. The information about the old trail at Acoma reveals that stories are, in a sense, maps, since even to this day there is little information or material about trails that is passed around with writing. In the structure of this story the repetitions are, of course, designed to help you be able to remember. It is repeated again and again, and then it moves on. There is a very definite pattern that you will hear in these places.

The next
story that I would like to read to you is by Simon Ortiz from Acoma Pueblo. He is a wonderful poet and works also in narrative, and one of the things that I find in this piece of short fiction to be very interesting is that if you listen very closely, you being to hear what I was talking about in terms of a story never beginning at the beginning. And they certainly never end. As the Hopis sometimes say, "Well it has gone this far for a while." But there is always that implication of a continuing. The other thing that I want you to listen for is within one story there are many other stories together again. There is always, always this dynamic of bringing things together, of interrelating things. It is an imperative in Pueblo oral literature, it seems to me, and it occurs structurally in narrative and in fiction. Listen to the kinds of stories contained within the main story. Through the narrative you can begin to see a family identity and an individual identity, while at the same it addresses a particular incident. "It was that . . . " Listen to this and see if you can hear things. This is called "Home Country," a short piece that Simon Ortiz has recently completed.
Well, it's veen a while. In think in 1947 was when I left. My husband had been killed in Okinawa some years before and so I had no more husband, and I had to make a living. Oh, I guess I could have looked for another man, but I didn't want to. It looked like the war had made them into a bad way. I saw some of them come home like that. They rather got drunk or just stayed around a while or couldn't seem to be satisfied any more with what was there at home. I guess now that I think about, that happened to me too, although I wasn't in the war, in the army, or even much off the reservation: just those years at Indian school. Well, there was that feeling, things were changing not only them men and the boys, but things were changing. One day the home nurse, the nurse that came from the Indian health service was at my mother's home. My mother was getting near the end, real sick, and she said that she had been meaning to ask me a question. I said, "What is the question?" And the home nurse said, "Well, your mother is getting real sick and after she is not longer around for you to take care of, what will you be doing? You and her are the only ones here." And I said, "I don't know." But I was thinking about it. What she said made me think about it. And the next time she came she said, "Eloise, the government is hiring Indians now in the Indian schools to take care of the boys and girls. I heard one of the supervisors say that Indians are hard workers, but you have to supervise them a lot. And I thought of you. Well, because you have been taking care of your mother real good and you followed all my instructions--" She said, "I thought of you because you are a good Indian girl and you would be the kind of person for that job." I didn't say anything. I had not even thought about a job, but I kept thinking about it.

Well, my mother died and we buried her up on the cemetery. It is real nice on the east side of the hill, where the sun shines and the wind does't blow too much sand around right there. Well, I was sad. We were all sad for a while, but, you know how things are. One of my auntys came in and advised me and warned me about being too sad about the end. She wished me that I would not worry too much about it because old folks go along pretty soon. Life is that way and then she
said maybe I ought to take in one of my aunty's kids or two because there was a lot of them kids and I was all by myself now. But I was young and I thought that I might do that, you know, take care of some one. But I had been thinking, too, about what the home nurse had said to me about working. Hardly anybody at our house was working at something like that. No woman, anyway. And I would have move away.

Well, I did just that. I remember that day very well. I thought my auntys and we were all
crying and we all went up to the highway where the bus to town passes by every day. I was wearing an old kind bluish sweater that was kind of bluish, that one of my cousins had got from a white person--a tourist one summer--in trade for something she had made, a real pretty basket. She gave me that and I used to have a picture of me with it on-- It's kind of real ugly. Yeah, that was the day I left weaing a baggy sweater that someone gave me, too. Well, I think, or maybe it was the home nurse. There wasn't much in it either. I was scared and everyone seemed to be sad. I was young and skinny then. My aunt said (one of them who was real fat), "yYu make sure you eat  now. Make your own tortillas, drink milk and stuff like candy is not good." She learned that from the nurse. "Make sure you got your letter, honey," and I said I had it folded in my purse. Yes, I had one purse, a brown one of my husband's when he was still alive and home on furlough. He bought it on my birthday. It was a nice purse and still looked new because I never used it. The letter said I had a job at Kearns Canyon, at the boarding school there. But I would have to go the Agency first for some papers to be filled. And that's where I was going first, the Agency. And then they would send me out to Kearns Canyon. I didn't even know where it was except that one of our relative said that it was near Hopi. My uncles teased me about watching out for the Hopi men and boys. Don't let them get too close, they said. You know how they are-they're pretty strict about these things. And they were joking, and they really weren't joking. And so I said, "Oh, the won't get near me. I'm too ugly" And I promised I would be careful anyway.

So we all gathered for a while at my last aunty's house, and then the old man, my grandfather brought his horses and wagon to the door. We all got in and sat there for while until my aunty
called her father "Okay, father, let's go," and shook his elbow because the old man was old by then and kind of going to sleep all the time. You had to talk to him real loud. I had about $10.00, I think. this was a lot of money, more than it is now, you know. And while we got to the highway where the Indian road, which is just a dirt road, goes off the paved road, my grandfather reached into his blue jeans and pulled out a silver dollar and put it into my hand. I was so shocked. We were all so shocked. We all looked around at each other. We didn't know where the old man had gotten it, because we were real poor. Two of my uncles had to borrow on their accounts at the trading store for the money I had in my purse. But there it was, a silver dollar so big and shiny in my grandfather's hand. Well, I was so shocked and everyone was so shocked that we all started crying right there at that junction of the Indian road and the paved ighway. I wanted to be a little girl again, running after the old man when he hurried with his long legs to the corn fields or went for water down in the river. He was old then and his eyes were turned grey and he didn't do much anymore, just drive the wagon and chop a little bit of wood. But I just held him and I just held him tightly.

Later on, I don't know what happened to the silver dollar. I guess it had a date of 1907 on it. But I kept it for a long time because I guess I wanted to have it when I remembered my home country. What I had in between then and now is another
story. That's the time I moved away.
There are a great many parallels between Pueblo experiences and the remarks that have been made about South Africa and the Caribbean countries--similarities in experiences so far as language is concerned. More specifically, with the experience of English being imposed upon the people. The Pueblo people, of course, have seen intruders come and intruders go. The first they watched come were the Spaniards, while the Spaniards were there, things had to be conducted in Spanish. But as the old stories say, if you wait long enough, they'll go. And sure enough, they went. Then another bunch came in. And old stories say, well, if you wait long enough, not so much that they'll go, but at least their ways will go. One wonders now, when you see what we've used up most of the sources of energy, you think perhaps the old people are right.

But anyhow, our experience with English has  been different because the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools were so terrible that we never
heard of Shakespeare. There was Dick and Jane, and I can remember reading that the robins were heading south for winter, but knew that all winter the robins were around Laguna. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on. I worried for quite a while about the robins because they didn't leave in the winter, not realizing that the textbooks were written in Boston. The big textbook companies are up here in Boston and their robins do go south in the winter. [Nor are they the small round cheeky English robins, but the big, not so beautiful, American ones. I was so homesick for my England, for our robins and for my father who was called, as a boy, 'Robin', that I wanted to name my first son, Robin. This was not allowed by his American father. "That is a girl's name here," he said, "and you will make him homosexual". The nostalgia for England deepened. At least my son named his son "Robin", to my husband's fury. JBH] But this freed us and encouraged us to stay with our narratives. Whatever literature we received at school (which was damn little), at home the storytelling, the special regard for telling and bringing together through the telling, was going on constantly. It has continued, and so we have a great body of classical oral literature, both in narratives and in the chants and songs.

As the old people
say, "If you can remember the stories, you will be all right. Just remember the stories." And, of course, usually when they say that to you, when you are young, you wonder what in the world they mean. But when I returned.I had been away from Laguna Pueblo for a couple of years, well more than a couple of years after college and so forth--I returned to Laguna and I went to Laguna--Acoma high school to visit an English class, and I was wondering how the telling was continuing, because Laguna Pueblo, as the anthropologists have said, is one of the more acculturated pueblos. So I walked into this high school English class and there they were sitting, these very beautiful Laguna and Acoma kids. But I knew that out in their lockers they had cassette tape recorders, and I knew that at home they had stereos, and they were listening to "Kiss" and Led Zeppelin and those other things. I was almost afraid, but I had to ask--I had with me a book of short fiction (it's called The Man to Send Rain Clouds [New York: Viking Press, 1974]), and among the stories of other Native American writers, it has stories that I have written and Simon Ortiz has written. And there is one particular story in the book about the killing of a state policeman in New Mexico by three Acoma Pueblo men. It was an act that was committed in the early fifties. I was afraid to ask, but I had to. I looked at the class and I said, "How many of you heard this story before you read it in the book?" And I was prepared to hear this crushing truth that indeed the anthropologists were right about the old tradition dying out. But it was amazing, you know, almost all but one or two students raised their hands. They had heard that story, just as Simon and I had heard it, when we were young. That was my first indication that story telling continues on. About half of them had heard it in English, about half of them had heard it in Laguna. I think again, getting back to one of the original statements, that if you begin to look at the core of the importance of language and how it fits in with the culture, it is the story and the feeling of the story which matters more than what language it's told in.

One of the other advantages that we have enjoyed is that we have always been able to stay with the land. The stories cannot be separated from geographical locationsì, from actual physical places within the land. We were not relocated like so many Native American groups who were torn away from our ancestral land. And the stories are so much a part of these plces that it is almost impossible for future generations to lose the stories because there are so many imposing geological elements. Just as Houston Baker was speaking about the mesas--there are such gigantic bolders--ou cannot live in that land without asking or looking or noticing a boulder or rock. And there's always a
story. There's always at least one story connected with those places. So this is again a kind of--if it's an advantage, or at least, I don't know whether it's fair to call it an advantage--it's just a fact.

I had one other thing to tell you about humor. One of the things about the attitude about language at home is the people are very suspicious of prepared
speeches and preconceived words that someone has to say. And when old men come to pray--praying is also speaking to the people--and of course with the oral tradition, it is almost always a kind of extemporaneous act. And I think I am not one of the better practitioners of this act. But one of the other things I wanted to throw out to you was a little bit on the idea of humor. I mention this simply because a great many of the stories that are told contain within them simultaneously a wide range of emotional dimensions. So when you hear a story, a story that is supposed to be consoling somebody, it will often by a funny story although the occasion is sad. We have quite a number of funeral stories which are very funny. And this, of course, is not peculiar to Pueblo culture alone. One of the things that you will notice is that often in the stories there will be a movement toward a balance--the funny with the serious--and all this goes back, this balance and this inclusion, the all-inclusive dynamic goes back to the Creation, and back to one of the basic Pueblo religious concepts. And what I have for you today is a short exceprt about humor. I mention that this is oftentimes something people from outside the Pueblo will not understand. They will think that something is funny, and it is comedy, and we put it over here; or something is serious and must be put over here [indicating].

If you go to Hopi for the summer dances, you will see the clowns, you will see the mud-head clowns carrying on in a most outrageous way and in a delightful risqué manner. People who don't understand the place of humor in Pueblo culture will be very much taken aback by that. The same with the
stories. Many times when I read a narrative like "Home Country," people won't augh at the parts where you should laught because they think the story is basically a sad story. But the humor is always there, even with the most sacred or solemn. Just as serious reminder occur at joyous occasions.This is from an article by Emory Sekaquaptwea about Hopi clowning. It concerns the punning which the Hopi clowns are famous for:
Because the Pueblo vision of language stems out of a world view which is inclusive rather than exclusive, the Hopi clowns do not hesitate to use English or any other language in order to get laughs with elaborate puns. This complex and slightly arcane Hopi pun illustrates one of the manu directions that has been taken by tradition Pueblo people with the English language.
I'll tell you one I heard long ago. When it was time for this young clown man to make his confession, this is a part of the dance in which the clas are mocked or criticized in hopes of bettering them again, he jumped up and said, "Ai Ei, geology, geology. Ai, ei." Then he made a beautiful breakdown of this word so that it has its Hopi meaning.
"You probably think that I am talking about this geology which is a white man's study about something or other. Well that's not it," he says. "What it really is, is that I have a grandmother, and, you know, she being poor and ugly, nobody would have anything to do with her. She running around all summer long out in the fields, doing a man's job. It breaks her down. She would go out there every day with no shoes and so her feet were not very dainty, not very feminine. If you pick up her foot and look at the sole, it is all cracked, and that is what I am talking about when I say geology."
Every Hopi can put that together. "Tsiya" means to crack and leetsi means things "placed in a row." So these cracks are in a row on the bottom of the feet. Geology. Tsiya-leetsi [Emory Sekaquaptewea, "One More Smile for a Hopi Clown", Parabola].

Thus, even in the most sacred of the ceremonies, traditional Hopis see no reason not to use an English word to get a laugh, a laugh being their sacred duty and a part of the whole overall ceremony. Delight in the power of language, and the effect achieved by juxtaposing language and world views is foremost in the Pueblo view. Dennis Brutus talked about the "yet unborn" as well as "those from the past," and how we are still all in this place, and language-- the story telling--is our entryway of passing or being with them, of being together again. When Aunt Susie
told her stories, she would tell a younger girl to go open the door so that our esteemed predecessors may bring in their gifts to us. "They are out there," Aunt Susie would say. "Let them come in. They're here, they're here with us within the stories."

I last visited her about four months ago. She is 106, and so if you walk into the room and try to ask her how many years she was at Carlisle Indian School--a direct question--she
says she doesn't remember. But if you just let her speak her mind, everything that she says is very clear. And while I was there, she said, "Well, I'll be leaving here soon. I think I'll be leaving here next week, and I will be going over to the --cliff House," She said, "It's going to be real good to get back over there." I was listening and I was thinking of her house at Paguate, at Paguate village which is north of Laguna. And she continued on, "Well (and she gave her Indian name) "my mother's sister will be there. She has been living there. She will be there and we will be over there, and I will get a chance to write down these stories I've been telling you." And it wasn't until she said it was her mother's sister who would be there that I realized she wasn't talking about "going over there," and she meant it as a journey, a journey that perhaps we can only begin to understand through an appreciation for the boundless capacity of language which, through storytelling brings us together, despite great distances between cultures, despite great distances in time.


Leslie Fiedler, my friend presenting his book one MLA, The Stranger in Shakespeare, on the Woman, the Jew, the Black, listened where I said he took much of his argument from Joyce's Ulysses Library chapter said 'Yes', and invited me to the Dublin Joyce gathering held on Stephens Green, Univesity College's Aula Magna and the Martello Tower. He spoke next at this English Institute.

But was interrupted by an Afro-American professor who lamented that to include women in the profession would somehow lower its standards. A woman in the front row, exclaimed loudly, 'Shut up, N---!' I, outraged, went to the back of the room where the professor stood, insisting on taking him by the hand down to the stage with Leslie and myself, and said 'We are the Woman, the Jew, the Black, we are to be included in the Canon of Literature'. Solidarity! And spoke with him at length afterwards, he telling me of how the great Milton scholar, Marjorie Hope Nicholson, when he was her student, persuaded him to enter our profession of literature. This was my one experience of Harvard.


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