Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians

Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians

Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians

Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians

Synopsis

The publication of Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians by the American Folk-Lore Society in 1938 illustrated the richness of the material on the tribes of the Southwest. Still a treasure-house of information, it appears with a new introduction and for the first time in paperback.

Excerpt

By Scott Rushforth

In 1938 the American Folk-Lore Society published Morris E. Opler Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians. This compilation made available approximately 140 English-language versions of Jicarilla stories and contributed significantly to a growing knowledge of Apache folklore. It remains a fundamental source for anyone interested in traditional Jicarilla Apache culture or in Native American oral literature.

The Jicarilla Apaches are related linguistically and culturally to other Apache peoples of the American Southwest, including Lipan, Mescalero, Chiricahua, Western Apache, and Kiowa Apache. These peoples are also closely related to the Navajos. the Jicarilla language, with all other Apache languages and Navajo, belongs to the Southern or Apachean branch of the Athapaskan language family. the Athapaskan family, with Tlingit, Eyak, and Haida, belongs to the Na-Dene linguistic phylum. Other major subgroups in this language family include Northern Athapaskan and Pacific Coast Athapaskan. As implied by the geographical names for Athapaskan subgroups, these peoples live throughout Alaska and northwestern Canada, in Oregon and California on the Pacific Coast, and in the American Southwest (see figure 1). Based on linguistic, archaeological, and ethnographic evidence, anthropologists suggest that Alaska was the original homeland of Athapaskan-speaking peoples in the New World. There is much more linguistic diversity among the twenty-three Northern Athapaskan languages than among the eight Pacific Coast Athapaskan languages or among the seven Apachean languages (Krauss and Golla 1981:67). Excluding Kiowa Apache, which was spoken on the plains, Apachean languages are "more or less homogeneous" (Cook and Rice 1989: 2). Linguists interpret this linguistic homogeneity to mean that Athapaskan-speaking peoples have occupied the Southwest and Pacific Coast for less time than Alaska and Canada. Researchers believe that the ancestors of Pacific Coast Athapaskans and Apachean peoples migrated to their present locations within the past several hundred years (see Perry 1991).

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