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December's Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives
Collected by J.P. Harrington, edited by Thomas C. Blackburn, 1980. Paperback, 359 pages.
Nearly a century ago, Smithsonian ethnologist J.P. Harrington gathered this collection of 111 Chumash stories in an effort to preserve the language and oral literature of this rapidly disappearing culture. Working with a handful of Chumash elders still fluent in the language, he collected their oral traditions and intended to publish them as part of a book on California Indian folklore. The stories include accounts of the making of man, of the sky and sea people, of shamans who turn themselves into bears and of the ubiquitous coyote.
Now, editor Thomas C. Blackburn brings these stories together, organizing and analyzing Harrington's notes and manuscripts. His analysis is designed to illuminate previously obscure facets of the Chumash people, to honor their culture, and reflect on our region's indigenous roots. The book is arranged in two parts—Analysis and Narratives—so that the reader can absorb the myths, legends, and anecdotes apart from the scholarly appraisal. It also includes a glossary of the Chumash and Californian-Spanish terms that appear in the stories.