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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Swanton - 2 Tlingit tales - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

 recording for B.A.E. of a Blackfoot chief
For the next several weeks I expect to be quite busy, so I want to work ahead.  Public Domain stories from two recent acquisitions let me easily offer storytelling here.  I'm a fan of Better World Books for their prices, selection, environmental responsibility, and funding world literacy.  There always seems to be a sale on their horizon, some better than others, and recently I went prowling.  More and more the books I want are being replaced by reprint publishing.  Unfortunately not all do a faithful job, so when I found used original editions of Tlingit Myths and Texts by John R. Swanton for the Bureau of American Ethnology , (later B.A.E. fully merged with the Smithsonian Institution), I bought it and a little known book by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey -- who was always a dependable author and anthologist.

While I have some books of Alaskan folklore, the Tlingit people weren't as familiar to me as some of the other people of the Northwest coast of the U.S. and Canada.  Besides Alaska, the Tlingit also are among Canada's First Nations. There's an excellent site, Native Languages of the Americas, a HUGE effort by Orrin Lewis, who is Cherokee with a dash of Muskogee, aided by Laura Redish, that works to protect and preserve Native American languages and culture.  I suggest starting there with the Facts for Kids: Tlingit Indians for an easy but thorough overview.  From there, the adult page of Tlingit Indian Culture and History is a page of link resources if you want even more.

Another page, unrelated to Orrin's site, you might check for an overview is The Indians of American Northwest Coast.  It covers the entire coastal area, starting with the Columbia River (which forms most of the border between Oregon and Washington).  The article comes from .  The site never explains its origin nor provide its sources, but the article shows the variety of the many cultures indigenous to the northwestern coast of our two countries.  The site itself seems to provide depth to a wide assortment of historical topics, as well as genealogical articles and historical book reviews.

The B.A.E. stories were collected in Alaska's Sitka and Wrangell in 1904.  Each area opens with a lengthy cycle of stories about the Northwest's trickster figure, Raven, who is always interesting, but I chose today's stories because here in Michigan winter is trying to end and bears are starting to wake up.  I'm going to give two versions of the same story, first the shorter Sitka tale and then the other from Wrangell.
Tlingit man outside a traditional house and totem pole
The back of the book gives abstracts of each story and adds something not in the story, but probably implied in footnote "b": Since that time the Grass people have owned Iceberg House.

So far, nowhere in the book have I found anything more about the "Grass people."

The other footnote tells us to: See story 64.  It's the Wrangell version, which is a little longer and more fleshed out.
Next week I have a story from Wrangell that might interest adults following this year's Library Summer Reading Program's astronomical theme.  After that I'll give two stories from the Carolyn Sherwin Bailey book I purchased with this Bureau of American Ethnology book.

In the meantime I don't advise inviting any bears into your house.  They might think you are the feast.
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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