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Standing Ground

Standing Ground: Yurok Indian Spirituality, 1850–1990

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 337
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  • Book Info
    Standing Ground
    Book Description:

    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."

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93644-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction and Note on Orthography
    (pp. 1-36)

    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 nephew and student of Robert Spott, a Yurok man from the village of Requa, at the mouth of the Klamath River in northwestern California. By 1973 I was spending time in the Klamath region myself, eventually coming...

  5. Part One CONTEXTS

    • 1 The Yurok Reservation
      (pp. 39-49)

      Once I saw a bunch of red currants that were just so perfect

      I couldn’t pick them. That’s when I first began to see

      all of my jewelry, for those red currants are rubies

      and I leave them all for my children.

      And I want to leave my children all of my garnets

      the wild strawberries. I leave my gold

      which is the gold in salmon berries, and my silver

      the raindrops seen in the moonlight.

      There are opals, too, when the moon shines on the water

      which has been ruffled by the wind. The diamonds I leave

      are the...

    • 2 Double Helix
      (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 theirownlife if they don’t have any stories?”

      Captain Spott of Rekwoy and Omen Hipur was an ambitious man of no mean talents, with the high self-regard of a real gentleman,numi pegrk: “an independent man who others can depend on.” His enemies said he wassyałew, “just rich,” but no one could deny that he was a boss,poyweson, and however they felt, he...

    • 3 Native Authors
      (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 McKinleyville, a federally funded Indian service organization, where I spoke with Christopher Peters (Yurok), who was on the agency’s staff. I told him about my plans to do anthropological research in the area.

      “I won’t try to stop you,” Chris...

  6. Part Two TESTIMONY

    • 4 Seeing with Their Own Eyes
      (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 “life” itself, is also her “spirit” (weweceḱ, wewoloceḱ). It comes directly from “the Creator” or “creation,”ki ?wes?onah, “that which exists,” “the world.” Some people think that a person’s body comes from the mother, this life through the father: “that’s the...

    • 5 Doctors
      (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 what we now call “power” was once perceived as no more or less than the integral energy of “creation,”ḱi ?wes?onah, a movement at the heart of “the spiritual.” As part of its essential nature or functioning, “power” was once inseparable as a unique thing...

    • 6 The GO-Road
      (pp. 170-202)

      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 Norris, together with several other native people in full command of the Yurok language, was teaching a lively and popular Yurok language class at an Indian center in the town of Klamath, California. She told me this story first in...


    • 7 The One Who Flies All around the World
      (pp. 205-212)

      Wealth, like human lives, comes fromwes?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 1988). What “interrupts” (to use Calvin Rube’s term) the flow of such beneficence “from the Creator” is people’s greed and selfishness. All wealth, each item of which itself has a “life” or “spirit,” weweceḱ, is “a person,” attracted by generosity and purity, repelled by stinginess and pollution. (Dance regalia moves around...

    • 8 The World
      (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 record is shallow and incomplete. We know, however, that the people who were to be known as the Yurok Indians are relative newcomers, probably entering from the north between one and two thousand years ago, settling in the lower forty miles of the river and along...

    • 9 Melancholy
      (pp. 221-244)

      Essentialized, integrated cultures, like “the Yurok,” hypothesized by the salvage ethnographers, weresui 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’sPatterns of Culture(1934) “seemed to carry the doctrine of relativity to its logical conclusion in the ultimate incommensurability of each human mode of life” (Stocking 1992: 162). Cultures that were ethnological objects had come to be “shadowed by coherence, timelessness, and discreteness,” as Lila Abu-Lughod writes, and...

    • 10 The Shaker Church
      (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 California in 1926. Early scholars viewed it as a minor crisis cult or revitalization movement, as opposed to a “real”—that is, pre-contact—American Indian religion. While converted elders quietly defended the Church as a “continuation” of traditional ways (in Gould...

    • 11 Jump Dance
      (pp. 261-280)

      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 dance on either side of a center man interweave, bound together by a rock-steady chorus of men ranged symmetrically beside the singers, forming a line. The two lead singers sing two different songs, and their singing is more dialogue than duet....

  8. Notes
    (pp. 281-294)
  9. References
    (pp. 295-312)
  10. Acknowledgments of Permissions
    (pp. 313-314)
  11. Index
    (pp. 315-325)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-326)