Children's Books

WHEN THE WORLD ENDED; HOW HUMMINGBIRD GOT FIRE; HOW PEOPLE WERE MADE -- RUMISEN OHLONE STORIES, written and illustrated by Linda Yamane; Oyate, 2702 Mathews Street, Berkeley, CA 94702; 510-848-6700, FAX 510-848-4815; 1995, 44 pages, paperback, storyteller and ancestral story sources bionotes. $10. 0-96251175-1-8.

A handsome children's book, designed and illustrated by Yamane, herself of Rumisen Ohlone ancestry, who is an artist and desirner, as well as basket weaver and participant in the Monterey Bay Cultural History (and language retrieval) project. In the first of the 3 stories here, the world is drowned in a flood. Some birds -- Eagle, the leader, Crow, Raven, and Hummingbird get Hawk ot use one of Eagle's feathers, dive deep under the water and pull the earth back up. In the second story, Hummingbird steal fire from the Badger people, so the birds can cook food they've found on the retrieved earth. The uncooperative Badgers hide their fire, but it shows through a hole in the deerskin cover they pull over it, and Hummingbird reaches through with his long, narrow beak to grab an ember. The flame turned his throat red. In the last story, the birds re-create people and the other animals from clay (which th Badgers show them). The people come alive after they are given black hair. "in the old timees, this story was very long and very beautiful, and it took a long time to tell. Today we know only this much. And we know that we were made from the earth and when we die we go back to the earth."

Yamane tells of the difficulties and excitements she had retrieving the material that became these stories. The last elders who knew them died before World War II, but she met a descendant of one of the older tellers, and found microfilmed notes made by an anthropologist in the 1930's, in a difficult old form of Spanish that the Ohlone people spoke day-to-day. Alex Ramirez, grandson of one of the older storytellers, knew the special meanings of many of the archaic expressions.

"Unfortunately, that still didn't make the job simple, because there was no one place where a single story was told clearly from start to finish. People were reaching into their memories, and sometimes just remembered part of a story. Then the next time, they remembered something else, and the next time after that a little more. When another person told the story, there were sometimes details the first person hadn't told. So these stories had to be pieced together. I had to make some personal decisions when deciding how to translate into modern English, but I tried to remain faithful to the phrasing and telling style, and chose not to elaborate or fill in the blanks to make the stories satisfy modern logic...They are 2 languages removd from their original -- the remnants, I suppose, of cultural devastation. But they're still with us -- and I believe the essence has remained intact. They are here for us to live with and learn from. They are still here. "

Very highly recommended, a beautiful book. If you want to learn more about the Costanoan Ohlone people, they have an official website which has enormous amounts of historical, current, and cultural information, and various experimental projects such as a virtual song-lodge (with on-line recorded songs you can hear). Webmaster is Canadian Mohawk Russ Imrie, who settled in California and became close to the Ohlone people, and began managing a website for them as a college student. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Thursday, April 25, 1996 - 10:24:03 AM