Know Myth: Jarold Ramsey and Native American Legends

Posted By:  Tina Walker Davis
Date Posted:  1/28/2015

Jarold Ramsey “When the first settlers reached Oregon in the 1840s and the occupation of the land began, there were at least forty independent [Indian] tribes on that land, speaking an estimated 25 distinct languages,” notes author Jarold Ramsey in his classic book Coyote Was Going There: Indian Literature of the Oregon Country. Since that time, whole tribes and their languages have vanished without leaving a trace of their mythological heritage behind.

Saturday, February 7, 2015 • 3:00 p.m.
Downtown Bend Library

Ramsey has made it much of his life’s work to collect and anthologize Oregon Indian myths in a way that is accessible to the general public as literature. “These are in most cases truly mythic stories,” writes Ramsey. “Assuming a fixed present reality, they carry us back to beginnings, to a time before time when the natural and human world we know was being irrevocably established, feature by feature, through the decisions and actions of the first beings.”

Ramsey will discuss these myths—and the story of The Hunter and the Elk in particular—on February 7 at the Downtown Bend Library. This talk is free and open to all. Ramsey says that the Wasco Chinookan story The Hunter and the Elk—collected in 1885 at Simnasho on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation—is a compact masterpiece of Native American storytelling, exemplifying both the narrative artistry of such stories, and their social purposes. “As a story that dramatizes a set of what we would call ‘familial’ and ‘ecological’ conflicts,” says Ramsey, “it has a direct appeal for modern readers.”

Jarold Ramsey is Professor of English Emeritus, University of Rochester, and author of Coyote Was Going There: Indian Literature of the Oregon Country and Reading the Fire: The Traditional Indian Literatures of America. His poetry collections include Love in an Earthquake, Hand-Shadows and Where the Wind Comes to Play. His honors include the Lillian Fairchild Award, NEA and Ingram Merrill Grants, the Helen Bullis Award for Poetry and the Quarterly Review of Literature International Poetry Prize.

For more information about this or other library programs, please visit the library website at People with disabilities needing accommodations (alternative formats, seating or auxiliary aides) should contact Tina at 541-312-1034.

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