WEEK TWO--Traditional Legends
Legends, as recorded by Zitkala-Sa and Mourning Dove
Zitkala-Sa and Mourning Dove recorded traditional legends, for publication, in the early decades of the twentieth century (1901 and 1934, respectively). Both women recognized that the traditional legends of their home communities would be read by white audiences. Zitkala-Sa, in the prefatory pages to her text, make a reference to this. What is that reference? Why is it significant?
Consider the image of Mourning Dove on the frontispiece of Coyote Stories. Is this image employed to convey a sense of "Native authenticity" to the book's audience? How/why? Further, what role does the letter by Standing Bear serve in authenticating (and valuating) Mourning Dove's text?
In class, you worked in groups to determine the key features of the traditional legends recorded by Zitkala-Sa and Mourning Dove. Recall this group work. I asked each group to identify the "subject themes" of particular legends as well as attributes of the legends that expressed the "language-performance" history of the legends. What do Mourning Dove's "The Spirit Chief Names the Animal People" and Zitkala-Sa's "Iktomi's Blanket" have in common, thematically? What indications of orality do the stories express? Since these legends were traditionally passed from generation to generation orally, can a reader detect, in Mourning Dove's and Zitkala-Sa's renderings, "imprints" of orality?
How are Coyote and Iktomi "Native tricksters"? How are these women authors, in their own way, tricksters?
Andrew Wiget, of New Mexico State University, wrote "myths are about boundary-setting, establishing distinctions." How does this claim apply to these stories?