cover image

World-Making Stories

Maidu Language and Community Renewal on a Shared California Landscape

M. Eleanor Nevins

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 12/2017
Pages: 318
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496202086


Published through the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation  World-Making Stories is a collection of Maidu creation stories that will help readers appreciate California's rich cultural tapestry. At the beginning of the twentieth century, renowned storyteller Hanc'ibyjim (Tom Young) performed Maidu and Atsugewi stories for anthropologist Ronald B. Dixon, who published these stories in 1912. The resulting Maidu Texts presented the stories in numbered block texts that, while serving as a source of linguistic decoding, also reflect the state of anthropological linguistics of the era by not conveying a sense of rhetorical or poetic composition. Sixty years later, noted linguist William Shipley engaged the texts as oral literature and composed a free verse literary translation, which he paired with the artwork of Daniel Stolpe and published in a limited-edition four-volume set that circulated primarily to libraries and private collectors. Here M. Eleanor Nevins and the Weje-ebis (Keep Speaking) Jamani Maidu Language Revitalization Project team illuminate these important tales in a new way by restoring Maidu elements omitted by William Shipley and by bending the translation to more closely correspond in poetic form to the Maidu original. The beautifully told stories by Hanc'ibyjim are accompanied by Stolpe's intricate illustrations and by personal and pedagogical essays from scholars and Maidu leaders working to revitalize the language. The resulting World-Making Stories is a necessity for language revitalization programs and an excellent model of indigenous community-university collaboration.


M. Eleanor Nevins is an associate professor of anthropology at Middlebury College in Vermont. She is the author of Lessons from Fort Apache: Beyond Language Endangerment and Maintenance.  


"A stellar example of Native language pedagogy and scholarship and thus of critical importance to the fields of both linguistic anthropology and Native American studies."—Sean O'Neill, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and author of Cultural Contact and Linguistics Relativity among the Indians of Northwestern California  

"This book makes a meaningful contribution to the fields of Indigenous studies, language revitalization, and California Indian history. But, more important, by making these stories available to Maidu language learners, it makes a valuable contribution to the Maidu people."—Boyd Cothran, associate professor of U.S. indigenous and cultural history at York University in Toronto