Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural


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He was a figure of great power in most Native American cultures.

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Both the Southwest and North Coast people overflow with tales of the supernatural, so if you are feeling low, see your local Shaman! I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children. View all posts by kaytisweetlandrasmussen Legs stiff … from age?

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Western American Literature

Skip to content. Like this: Like Loading Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment. Cancel reply Enter your comment here Most of us choose stories closer to contemporary life.

Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural

If it's adventure we're after, a good Cold War or crime thriller promises satisfacton. For insight into human nature or the meaning of it all, modern novels range from those planted firmly in the here-and-now to big, thick historical tomes. Should you then bother with two little books that retell stories of the Haida and Tlingit tribes of Southeastern Alaska?

In the case of "Gyaehlingaay," which in Haida means stories, there's little to recommend to the ordinary reader beyond the illustrations. Duane Pasco, an uncommonly accomplished interpreter of the complex and sophisticated art forms of the Northwest Coast tradition, has drawn 12 panels that tell as much about Haida culture as the stories in the book. Pasco, who lives near Poulsbo, is known as a carver. His stylized drawings have a three-dimensional quality, each representing a key phrase in one of the stories.

Human figures seem to emerge from the cedar itself, their faces as compelling as any of his deservedly famous masks. And they are more human than ceremonial objects, which usually combine characteristics of animals and mystical beings. The book is intended not only to pass along the mostly oral reminiscences and tales of the Haidas, who live on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. About half of it is taken up with re-telling each piece in Kaigani Haida and comparing it to the English version for those who want to know more about the language, its narrative structure, and linguistic characteristics.

But as the anthropologist authors note, the book is also intended for speakers or aspiring speakers of the native dialect who want to expand and enrich what remains. The languages of most native tribes were lost during the course of white cultural domination. The unadorned tales and stories stand on their own as accurate depictions of native thought. But a told tale assumes an audience already steeped in tribal tradition and values.

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Its written version must fill in the blanks for an audience of strangers. For an everyday reader without background in Northwest native culture, the pieces are novel but essentially meaningless. They are more puzzling than illuminating. On the other hand, "Shamans and Kushtakas" can be read and enjoyed as pure entertainment as well as savored for its cultural insight.

Human imagination at the tribal level is no less juicy and intriguing than the machinations of modern soap opera life. As native artist Bill Reid observed, Tlingit and Haida tales were filled with "bestiality, adultery, violence, thievery, and assault. That richness is conveyed with drama, dark implications and ambiguous resolution -- like any wellwritten modern story. Thank Beck for being able to re-interpret native tales, adding layers of practice and belief to the simple tales to enlighten and hold the reader.

With a classical education and 30 years of teaching literature, she has the skill to write as compellingly as the fireside storytellers who once mezmerized their tribal audiences. Native cultures are animist.

The Green: Mythological Booklist

They invest animals and objects with the same spiritual power as humans, and often the two exchange places -- hence the bestiality in Reid's observation. Like ancient Greek and Roman stories, there is a lot of contact between human and non-human beings -- some animal and some spirit only or ghosts.

Most intriguing of all are the kushtakas, beings who had been transformed by the Land Otter People.

Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural
Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural
Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural
Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural
Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural
Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural
Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural

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