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Monsters, Disaster, and Organic Balance: Digesting History Through Oral Traditions



This paper examines “Coyote, Whirlwind, and Ravine,” a long tale told in the Northern Paiute language by McDermitt storyteller Pete Snapp and recorded by folklorist Sven Liljeblad in the early 1960’s. It weaves in traditional episodes of western Numic folklore to narrate the history of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone community as witnessed by an elder born shortly after the beginning of the colonization of this area of the Northwestern Great Basin in the western United States. This paper explores how the bodies of certain characters who emanate from landscape, mainly monsters, are tools for the narrative expression of social change, for the telling of history, and the expression of Indigenous spiritual frameworks. It places the experience of the Indigenous social body, embodied by Coyote, through the grinds of the ultra-material Ravine and confronts it to ethereal nefarious powers. Poetics of materiality applied to the body of Coyote operate a structural transformation. Mythical turmoil expresses social experiences and change in the colonial context, but also makes manifest the transformation of the social body that result in the contemporary form of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone community.

Frequenza di pubblicazione:
2 volte all'anno
Argomenti della rivista:
Social Sciences, Anthropology, Social Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology