Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub, Volume 1 & 2

  • Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub, Volume 1: Snohomish Texts as told by Martha Williams Lamont, Elizabeth Krise, Edward Sam, and Agnes Jules James
    by David Beck, Thom Hess
  • Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub, Volume 2: Tales from the Skagit Valley as told by Susie Sampson Peter, Dora Solomon, Mary Sampson Willup, Harry Moses, Louise Anderson, Martin Sampson, Dewey Mitchell, and Alice Williams
    by David Beck, Thom Hess

Reviewed by Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins

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The two volumes of tusyəhub ʔə tudiʔ tusluƛ̓luƛ̓ čəl--Tellings from Our Elders are the latest additions to a significant body of published dxʷləšucid syəyəhub or stories. dxʷləšucid, or Lushootseed as it is known in English, has perhaps the most extensive published collection of narratives and literature of any Salishan language. The previous publications include several bilingual collections of stories (e.g., Sampson 1995, Shelton 1998), a bilingual volume of stories with discussion, commentary and annotation (Bierwert 1996), three Lushootseed Reader volumes with audiotapes which teach grammar needed to read the stories (Hess, 1995, 1998, 2006), and several publications of stories in Lushootseed and English translation with accompanying commentary and notes (e.g., Moses and Langen 1998).

The new volumes, like all the previously published materials, are selected from stories recorded by the last generation of Elders who spoke dxʷləšucid as a mother tongue and who worked in the 1950s with Leon Metcalf (a high school music teacher) and in the 1960s with linguist Thom Hess, who in turn later worked on transcribing and translating the stories with shudubš- (Snohomish-) speaking Elders and with Vi taqʷšəbluʔ Hilbert, who was a speaker of the sqaǰət (Skagit) variety of dxʷləšucid. The latest volumes are themselves the result of collaboration between Hess and linguist David Beck (Hess's former student), and were completed and published after Hess's death in 2007.

Volume 1 is a collection of 18 stories (two of them in two tellings each) from the southernmost shudubš (Snohomish) variety of dxʷləšucid, spoken on the Tulalip Reservation on Puget Sound. It begins with a foreword from the Tulalip Tribes Language Department that, amongst other things, addresses the meaning of the word 'syəhub' (story). The stories in Volume 1 are the most narratively complete and accessible of the Snohomish syəyəhub, and are told by səswix̌ab Martha Williams Lamont, Elizabeth Charles (Charley) Krise, sʔadacut Edward "Hagan" Sam, and lalacut Agnes Jules James. Volume 2 is a collection of nine stories from the sqaǰət (Skagit) variety of dxʷləšucid, spoken in communities located on the Skagit River. The stories are told by 8 Elders, Susie gʷəqʷulc’əʔ Sampson Peter, Dora Solomon, Mary Sampson Willup, Harry Moses, Louise Anderson, Martin ʔalataɬ Sampson, Dewey Mitchell, and Alice Williams. Four are tellings from the Star Child saga, a Lushootseed "version of the pan-Northwest Coast story of how daylight was stolen" (2: 5) and four are tellings of the Basket Ogress story. Volume 2 includes a foreword by Jay Miller about Vi taqʷšəbluʔ Hilbert -- teacher, translator, linguist, storyteller, Washington State Living Treasure (1989) and founder of Lushootseed Research -- who was involved in the initial translation of all but one of the stories in the volume. Both volumes include Introductions written by Beck providing clearly laid out and explained information about the dxʷləšucid language, about the texts themselves, and about the transcription, translation, analysis and form of presentation of the texts. Each volume includes, in addition, short biographies of the tellers, a glossary of terms, and references.

The publication of the Tellings from our Elders volumes has occurred at approximately the same time as another significant collection of nsíylxcən (Colville-Okanagan) stories by the Colville storyteller, Peter J. Seymour (Seymour 2015). The publication of two such magnificent sets of collections alongside previous publications of dxʷləšucid stories and collections from other Salish languages, such as the St'at'imc (Lillooet) narratives edited by Matthewson (2005) for instance, opens up comparative possibilities and questions: about the format used to present stories and who they are intended for; about the representation of "authorship" or "editorship", about the value of different types of translation, and also about the name(s) used to talk about the stories themselves (e.g., what kinds of connotations do the various terms “stories,” “traditional stories,” “tellings,” “narratives,” “texts,” and “myths” hold?).

As far as presentation format and type of translation are concerned, the Tellings from our Elders volumes are set apart from the other collections of dxʷləšucid stories. The stories in the Tellings volumes are presented in four-line format with interlinear glossing to "represent the full grammatical and morphological structure of the language" (2:16). Each sequence of text is represented in four different forms: the first, transcription, line is in dxʷləšucid itself; the parsing line breaks down the dxʷləšucid words into their lexical and grammatical components; the analysis line translates and glosses each word component; and the gloss line provides an English translation of the whole text sequence. As explained in Beck's introductions, the English translations are not always fully idiomatic, but rather focus on reflecting the morphological and syntactic structure of the dxʷləšucid words and sentences. In contrast, the Lushootseed Research volumes present stories line-by-line, with idiomatic English translations positioned in columns adjacent to the dxʷləšucid. Bierwert's edited volume presents the stories aesthetically as literary forms, in lines that attempt to capture narrative structure and that help the reader to imagine how the stories are told out loud; it lays out dxʷləšucid and English in face-to-face format, with no glossing of individual words. The Seymour collection presents stories in English first, and then provides the stories a second time, in nsíylxcən with interlinear format and glossing. The St'at'imc oral narratives are presented in St'at'imc language first, followed by idiomatic translations, followed by the stories presented in interlinear format.

Each format addresses itself to a different audience and privileges different language and meaning differently. Similarly, the attribution of "authorship" (illustrated below by comparing information provided in references) can list linguist(s) as author, editor, translator, the story teller as author, or collaborator, and so on. In the two Tellings volumes, the presentational format, type of translation, and attribution of "authorship" indicate that the volumes are primarily targeted at users who are interested in the grammatical structure and patterns of dxʷləšucid, whether these users are linguists or language speakers/learners who wish to study and understand Lushootseed grammar. The level of scholarly analysis and structural understanding is exemplary.

As excellent examples of a specifically linguistic form of textual presentation, these volumes definitely achieve what they have set out to do. As such, they are not books that one would pick up simply to read the stories. Nevertheless, it is possible to discern that the stories are rich in teachings, are beautifully told, and, as the Volume 1 foreword by Tulalip Tribes Language Department reminds readers, that "the syəhub is a cumulative unwritten tradition, ….  a gyre of motifs, rhetorical strategies, characters, plots, teachings, commentary, names, formulas, places, histories, customs, songs, specialized knowledge, and much else."(1:ix)

REFERENCES

Bierwert, Crisca. (ed.) 1996. Lushootseed Texts: An Introduction to Puget Salish Narrative Aesthetics, narrated by Emma Conrad, Martha Lamont, Edward (Hagen) Sam; translated by Crisca Bierwert, Vi Hilbert, Thomas M. Hess; edited by Crisca Bierwert; annotations by T.C.S. Langen. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press in cooperation with the American Indian Studies Research Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Hess, Thom. 1995. Lushootseed Reader with Introductory Grammar, Volume 1. University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics No. 11. Missoula: University of Montana.

Hess, Thom. 1998. Lushootseed Reader with Introductory Grammar, Volume 2. University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics No. 14. Missoula: University of Montana.

Hess, Thom. 2006. Lushootseed Reader with Introductory Grammar, Volume 3. University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics No. 19. Missoula: University of Montana.

Matthewson, Lisa in collaboration with Beverley Frank, Gertrude Ned, Laura Thevarge and Rose Agnes Whitley. 2005. When I was Small -- I Wan Kwikws: A Grammatical Analysis of St'at'imc Oral Narratives. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Moses, Marya and Toby C.S. Langen. 1998. “Reading Martha Lamont's Crow Story Today.” Oral Tradition. 13.1: 92-129.

Peter, Susie gʷəqʷulc’əʔ Sampson 1995. x̌əsč̓usədəʔ ʔə gʷəqʷulc’əʔ-Aunt Susie Sampson Peter: The Wisdom of a Skagit Elder. Transcribed by Vi taqʷšəbluʔ Hilbert. Translated by Vi taqʷšəbluʔ Hilbert and Jay Miller. Recorded by Leon Metcalf. Seattle: Lushootseed Press.

Seymour, Peter J. 2015. The Complete Seymour: Colville Storyteller. Compiled and edited by Anthony Mattina. Translated by Madeline DeSautel and Anthony Mattina. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Shelton, Ruth siastənu Sehome siastənu. 1998. x̌əsč̓usədəʔ ʔə siastənu-"Gram" Ruth Sehome Shelton: The Wisdom of a Tulalip Elder. Transcribed by Vi taqʷšəbluʔ Hilbert. Translated by Vi taqʷšəbluʔ Hilbert and Jay Miller. Recorded by Leon Metcalf. Seattle: Lushootseed Press

Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub, Volume 1: Snohomish Texts as told by Martha Williams Lamont, Elizabeth Krise, Edward Sam, and Agnes Jules James
David Beck and Thom Hess
Vancouver: UBC Press. 2014. 616 pp. $165.00 cloth.

Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub, Volume 2: Tales from the Skagit Valley as told by Susie Sampson Peter, Dora Solomon, Mary Sampson Willup, Harry Moses, Louise Anderson, Martin Sampson, Dewey Mitchell, and Alice Williams
David Beck and Thom Hess
Vancouver: UBC Press. 2015. 404 pp. $165.00 cloth.

BC Studies no. 193 Spring 2017