Thomas Doty – Storyteller
Sources – Native Archives
The Best Sources Available
I have collected in this archives a selection of works on the native people of my homeland of southern Oregon and northern California, and a bit beyond. I have gone back to these again and again as source material for stories I have written and performed, and I share them here in the hope that they are used by teachers and students, storytellers and historians, anyone interested in accessing accurate information on native cultures. I include a selection of my own writing in this Library with a similar hope that they get read and told and retold.
In addition to these sources, I have spent hours and hours listening to elders, and spending time in the places the stories come from. I have a trunk full of notebooks filled with field notes and stories as well as a large physical library with more books, documents, letters, newspapers, maps.... I have spent decades unearthing the best native resources available.
In the Spirit of Sharing Stories,
Source materials on Indians are accurate for specific time periods, and may not represent cultures as they have existed at other times in their long histories. Native cultures, like cultures everywhere, have changed and adapted, and traditions ebbed and flowed, over the course of centuries. For instance, anthropologists Roland Dixon and Catherine Holt present the Shasta people as a patriarchal society. This is only true for after the arrival of Europeans. The newcomers insisted on dealing with headmen in the tribe, both in war and peace. This was how Europeans conducted business, and the local tribes adapted. This was also true of the Takelmas. Though women were in charge for centuries, you won't find a woman's signature on the Table Rock Treaty.
In addition, Holt's Shasta informant insists that storytelling was primarily for children, and that they were forced to repeat the stories afterward, word for word. Some children didn't like this, and had to be threatened to attend. This tradition comes out of life on the reservations. Prior to that, and for thousands of years, storytellings were dramatic dramas attended and enjoyed by native folks of all ages. They included dance, masks at times, and stories were often told all night in the dance lodge, especially during the long winter nights.
Native storytellers are usually generous and tuned-in to their audience. Sharing a story is an act of giving a gift. When asked by an anthropologist to tell a story, often the storyteller gave him a version she thought he wanted to hear. The perfect gift! In researching native stories, it is wise to read different versions of the same story as it appears in different sources. By comparing them, one can get a sense of the true essence of the story. The spirit and intent of each story is often more authentic than any specific presentation of words. Some anthropologists have pointed out that the texts of native stories are always incomplete because they don't contain the subtle art of the storyteller's performance, including gestures, voices, facial expressions, movements, pauses and pacing. Stories, like other cultural traditions, evolve over time. A story told in 1906 might be a bit different than the same story told in 1933, yet both of them are authentic.
Not all sources here agree with each other. For instance, Dorothea Theodoratus, when writing about the 1870 Ghost Dance at Coyote's Paw, states that "Three of the four girdled trees remain standing." Well, I found all five, and have written about them on this website. Among several sources, there is disagreement concerning the boundaries of the traditional homeland of the Shastas. As this continues to be a hotly debated topic, I have included sources with differing points of view. This does not mean that any one source is inaccurate. They are simply different viewpoints from different people at different times in history. As each of these sources contain other material that is vast and valuable it seemed important to make them available here in the archives. However, a booklet that claims that the Takelmas are simply a sub-band of the Shastas and speak the same language is so clearly wrong -- all other sources prove this -- that I have not included it here. I have made choices based on my knowledge and experience, and what native moral compass I may have. But I suspect there are plenty of folks -- including several who have my utmost respect -- who might challenge my choices. To complicate matters a bit more, I have included a few sources I'm not exactly crazy about. For instance, I don't like the way A.G. Walling in his History of Southern Oregon refers to native people as "simple" and their rock writings as "crude" (and on and on), but there is much in Walling's massive work that is valuable if one takes the time to sort it all out. And there are wonderful pictures!
In the end, source materials are accurate for the time when the cultural information was collected, and do not always represent the traditions of native cultures as they were in the Old Time, or any other time. And points of view -- both Indian and European -- are shaped by various attitudes of the time, and of history. All sources are a mixture of how things have been, and how they are at the time they are written. It is our challenge as readers is to find wisdom in all voices, even those that drive us a little nuts!
A writer whose works I cannot include here as PDFs is Jaime de Angulo. Except for short selections included below, his major works are still under copyright. His book Indian Tales (1953) is a brilliant weaving of native myth and culture. In his introduction to the first edition, Carl Carmer said it well: "Here is all the ingenuous wonder, the experienced wisdom, the rollicking humor of the Indian presented with a sureness and a clarity seldom if ever achieved." If you're up to being totally delighted, Indian Tales is available in bookstores and libraries. I carry it with me always.
The works below are print-friendly PDFs. Read them online, or download them. Some of the files are large, so please be patient while they load.
Here are more works I believe accurately represent native people. Since most are not yet in the public domain, they are not available as free PDFs. However, many can be purchased in bookstores, online, or found in libraries.
Website © 1997- by Thomas Doty.