B side. Reading Navano myths

20 Jul

Aileen O’Bryan.  The Dîné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians.  Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 163.  1956.

Book plate: Withdrawn, [portrait of Collis Huntington], Huntington Free Library and Reading Room [Bronx]. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation.

Frontis by Gerald Nailor, “First Man, pine tree and white corn; First Woman, yucca and yellow corn.”  Wouldn’t you like to see this in color!

Gerald Nailor, First Man...First Woman

How did this book end up for sale on Amazon.com?  Collis Huntington founded the library in 1892; his adopted son Archer added the Museum and Heye Foundation in 1930.  The Library gave the Museum’s collection of artifacts to the Smithsonian in 1990.  In 2004, after several years of legal wrangling, the library of the Museum and Foundation went to Cornell University.  Dispite the small-minded law suits, the Smithsonian hasn’t been particularly bookish for decades.  In March 2011, the modest library in the Museum’s Washington, D.C., Reading Room was disbanded.   The Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian still doesn’t have a on-line catalogue of books.

The text was narrated by Sandoval to the author and San Ahkeah, Sandoval’s nephew, who interpreted.   O’Bryan quotes Sandoval in the Preface: “So you must write down all that I will tell you; and you must have it made into a book that coming generations may know this truth.” In Australia, these sorts of texts are only available to people who have been initiated; they are said to be “sacred and secret.”

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