These stories, shared with my semi-mythic sidekick Coyote, send us sauntering through landscapes filled with Old Time traditions and characters from native myths. Our adventures dramatize a native world brimming with wisdom.
Narratives include traditional myths, folklore, history and other cultural traditions that might otherwise have been lost following the arrival of Europeans and the removal of native peoples from their homelands.
For me, this has been a decades-long process of research, talking with elders, and much mythological detective work ... piecing together once fragmented cultural materials in ways that make sense to the reader and respects the sacredness and authenticity of our native traditions. From Mythtime itself, storytellers have created new stories from time to time, adding them to the basket of folklore. My Doty & Coyote stories are my new native stories.
These stories have been commissioned by sponsors who care about preserving as well as perpetuating our native traditions. These stories are used by teachers, students and scholars, and they provide accurate sources for our native storytellers of the future.
Please contact me if you're interested in commissioning a story. They range from 3,000 to 5,000 words, and include drawings inspired by native rock carvings and paintings. I work closely with each sponsor to create a story that excites us both, set in a landscape that we both care about. Sponsorships include performances and readings that get our new story out into the wild and wonderful world.
Evening Star kindles himself in the sky and sends his reflection to the surface of the river. On the eve of the spring salmon run, he flares in the purple twilight. He glances toward the growing light on the eastern horizon, anticipating the rising of the full moon. For centuries beyond remembering, native Takelmas have called this moon, When the Salmon Have Sore Backs. Evening Star listens to the drumming of the falls swelled with snowmelt and the barking of geese as they glide in and settle for the night. The moon clears the ridge and sends light flooding up and down the river, calling the sore-backed salmon home.
From All Night Salmon Leap the Falls
The wind has howled for days, a strong, January wind out of the south, warming southern Oregon with California heat, bending fir trees, prodding manzanita bushes to twist and dance, and changing the shapes of clouds as they sweep the sky.
Coyote sniffs the wind. "Whoever is causing this big breeze must be nearly out of air."
Coyote and I walk up Ashland Creek through Lithia Park, beyond where the tourists go, deep into the canyon, and out of the wind.
We sit by the creek and listen to the wind howl over our heads.
From Breath of the Earth
This ancient creek crossing is a place where stories linger after people have left. Without words, a story survives as a ghostly presence in the place where it lived. Stories find a voice in the crash of a waterfall, a fall breeze that twirls leaves into the creek, the night steps of deer browsing through a meadow. As people cross the creek, they carry their stories with them. Where they settle for a spell, their stories find a home. They mingle with the varied voices of the landscape. They mix with the lingering tales of generations of people who passed through before. They are retold by those who stop by for a visit. After the words are silent, a few of the stories remain. This crossing is such a place.
From Waiting for Rock Old Woman
In my home, there is a photograph of me sitting on a log in a forest next to a blazing fire. It is twilight. There is a silhouette of firs and pines behind me, and through the trees is the purple shimmer of Lake of the Woods, and beyond that the wild wilderness of the Cascades. I am long-haired and long-bearded. I am wearing a muslin shirt and jeans faded in the knees, and I am barefoot. It is July, and I am just a few months old as a storyteller.
The fire flares and sends sparks dancing whirligigs. My eyes shine wild. A few feet beyond the circle of firelight, nearly invisible in the shadows of the forest, is Coyote. He whispers to me, "Are you sure you want to do this? In a few minutes an entire Scout troop of adolescent boys will clamor into this picture and plop themselves down and expect to be, at the least, entertained with stories. One will make some sort of noise that only boys think is funny, and the rest will snicker. I hear they can be a tough audience."
"No problem," I say. "I'll just give them what they want."
"Something about girls, of course. And you're in it!"
"All right!" howls Coyote. "I'm all ears. Quiet now, I think I hear them coming."
In a cloud of trail dust and flashlights and shouting, thirty boys roar into the firelight. They mostly settle into silence -- save a few snickers -- and the photograph comes alive as I start my story.
From Doty Meets Coyote
June twilight brings long shadows to the juniper and sage country around Lower Klamath Lake. To the west, moonlight brushes the snowy summit of Mount Shasta. On the lake, ducks and geese gather into flocks for the night.
Coyote and I wander along the twists of Sheepy Creek near where it flows into the lake. Here is the site of the Old Time village of Shapasheni and, looming behind, the crescent-moon-shaped ridge made famous in Modoc myths as the home of the sun and moon. After lighting the world, the tellers say, the sun and night-sun nap in their lair inside the ridge. When they awake, they travel east underground through lava tubes to rise again and begin their journeys across the sky. My mind whirls with the possibilities of what lurks beyond the shadows of the approaching night. I see some hollow place deep inside the ridge. As I walk, my thoughts are wrapped in the words of ancient myths and the ageless chirping of night critters.
From Where the Sun and Moon Live
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