Myths and Tales from the San Carlos Apache/Introduction

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These narratives are the translations of texts recorded during several visits to the San Carlos Apache. The first of these was made for the University of California in 1905 with only moderate success because of the difficulty in finding proper interpreters. The larger amount of material was secured early in 1910 for the American Museum of Natural History and supplementary texts were recorded during the summer of 1914 for the same institution. In the main, then, this publication, together with Volume 8 of this series, forms part of the work inaugurated in the Southwest in 1909 under the yearly grants made by Archer M. Huntington. The two chief informants were Antonio, a very well informed man of advanced age who dictated freely; and Albert Evans, a man of middle age speaking sufficient English to translate his own texts.

The myths of the Apache are of two sorts: First, there are several important narratives, the most typical of which explains the origin of the earth, and of its typography, the birth of the Culture Hero and his activities in freeing the world of monsters. To the second class belong the myths explaining the origin of definite ceremonies. These myths in their more complete versions are known only to those who celebrate the ceremonies in question and are perhaps integral parts of the rituals. The myth of the woman who became a deer is typical of this class.

The tales are divided into those which are wholly native and those that, in part at least, are of European origin. The Apache themselves recognize some of the tales as "Mexican" but claim other such stories as Apache. Without a knowledge of European folklore a complete segregation of the European elements is impossible. The footnotes point out the more obvious foreign tales or incidents.

When the literature of all the Southern Athapascan tribes has been published in considerable quantity, a characterization of it as a whole and a comparison with that of the Pueblo peoples and the neighboring tribes will be of interest.

Resulting as a by-product from linguistic work these myths and tales are not to be considered as exhaustive of those known to the Apache. Long tales, European in origin, have been heard at the camp fire which are not included in this series. It is probable that important native myths have also been missed.


August, 1918.