We Will Dance Our Truth: Yaqui History in Yoeme Performances

By MacDougall, Pauleena | Western Folklore, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview
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We Will Dance Our Truth: Yaqui History in Yoeme Performances


MacDougall, Pauleena, Western Folklore


We Will Dance Our Truth: Yaqui History in Yoeme Performances. By David Delgado Shorter. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. Pp. xiii + 373, acknowledgments, notes, references, index, 12 photographs, 1 table. $45.00, cloth.)

David Delgado Shorter's fascinating reflexive ethnographic study of Yoeme (also known as Yaqui) expressive culture weaves together the concepts of the construction and representation of knowledge, performance, naming, and identity with perceptions of history. This well-written and well constructed book will interest students and scholars in folklore, history, Native American studies, anthropology, and cultural geography. Shorter constructs an ethnography of the Yoeme with particular attention to Yoeme religious beliefs and practices, but he also draws extensively from earlier ethnographic and historical accounts, which he deconstructs with the help of his Yoeme collaborators. Shorter's main goal is to write an ethnographic account that is acceptable to the Yoeme and draws upon their knowledge rather than relying on anthropological theory. I cannot attest to the success of its acceptance by the Yoeme, but he does reach his goal of presenting the Yoeme perspective on their history. As someone with an interest in the knowledges of indigenous people, I found the work fascinating and highly detailed.

The Yoeme (Yaqui) people live in eight pueblo villages in the Sonora and Arizona borderlands along the Yaqui River. Much of the book examines Yoeme world-view in detail and reinterprets previous studies of Yoeme history by incorporating Yoeme perspectives. By examining and questioning Yoeme elders about the central narrative of the Talking Tree and the Testamento, for example, Shorter is able to review and revise previous historical accounts of the Yoeme that foreground western colonial perspectives on Yoeme history by presenting a new, Yoeme-generated narrative of history. The book provides deep insight into Yoeme belief and customs in juxtaposition to the more traditional "colonial history" accounts of earlier scholars. It becomes clear, for example, that the Yoeme do not view themselves as conquered and Christianized peoples as they are often described in the literature.

The book is divided into six chapters and each chapter is interspersed with ethnographic dialogue vignettes. The titles of each chapter are: Geography of Yoeme Identity, Putting Worlds into Words, Listening to the Tree and Hearing History, Our History of Nuestros Triumfos, Hunting for History in Potam Pueblo, and Yoeme Place-Making. There is also an extensive introduction and a conclusion. The fieldwork vignettes are especially rich and wonderful additions to the book. They provide the reader with insight into the Yoeme cosmology and help to illuminate the way Üiat Shorter conducted his analysis by using his fieldwork findings to understand, critique, and enhance the work of earlier researchers.

Beginning with the geography of Yoeme identity, Shorter discovers that Yoeme storytelling reveals the relationship the Yoeme have with the places around them.

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