Honne, the Spirit of the Chehalis: The Indian Interpretation of the Origin of the People and Animals
Honne, the Spirit of the Chehalis embodies a narrative tour de force that interweaves episodes (that stand alone in ordinary tellings) into an integrated series of installments. This collection of Salish stories features the Changer's efforts to successively transform a proto-being or spirit into the present form of a named species (deer, owl, shark, sea otter, and others). Additional stories describe how the Changer allowed Bear or Ant to apportion day and night; permitted Frog to schedule tides; and taught humans how to cook meat and clams, hunt with a bow, dry berries, cure sickness, settle communities, and prepare for the afterworld.
These tales are told by George Sanders, a master storyteller whose family included chiefs of the Nisqually Indian tribe, which lives south of what is now Tacoma, Washington. As part of the oral tradition, these stories were rarely heard by those outside the area until Katherine Van Winkle Palmer, daughter of the local doctor, collected them for posterity.
Jay Miller introduces this new edition with a close look at the linguistic complexity of the region, which testifies to the rich diversity of the Americas before epidemics and dislocations took their devastating toll. By weaving together these masterful installments, Honne, the Spirit of the Chehalis provides an evocative example of interwoven Salish oral literature at its best.
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