Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Our Voices: Native Stories of Alaska and the Yukon

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Our Voices: Native Stories of Alaska and the Yukon

Article excerpt

James Ruppert and John W. Bernet (eds), Our Voices: Native Stories of Alaska and the Yukon (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001), 394pp. Paper. $29.95. ISBN 0-8032-8984-7.

This delightful and moving collection of stories from the diverse Native people of Alaska and Yukon Territory assembles some of the best oral traditions, legends and transformations of the Athabaskan communities of the Far North. These far-flung communities, often isolated from each other by severe winter, have preserved their history through revered master Storytellers who remember with fidelity the way and manner in which the story was told to them. There are allegories of seals, bears, wolverines, the hunt, and the challenge of a surprise encounter with the unseen. There are also tales of unexplained transformations of humans into animals and back again, of ice, and murders and lovers' trysts.

These stories are not just chronicles of past events, but lessons on how to live, currently, within the paradoxes of the unexplained. Through the use of repetition, evasion and a dwelling on seemingly irrelevant details, a whole past and lineage can be illuminated. Catherine Atta, an especially vibrant orator in this compilation, shares her stories with guarded suspense that rivals any good mystery writer.

The blunt, no-nonsense style of Peter John cuts against the nerve of expectation. …

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