December’s Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives

March 7, 2020 - Comment

As Reviewed by Eugene N. Anderson, University of California, Riverside in The Journal of California Anthropology, Vol. 2, No. 2 (WINTER 1975), pp. 241-244:A child born in December is “like a baby in an ecstatic condition, but he leaves this condition” (p. 102). The Chumash, reduced by the 20th century from one of the richest

As Reviewed by Eugene N. Anderson, University of California, Riverside in The Journal of California Anthropology, Vol. 2, No. 2 (WINTER 1975), pp. 241-244:A child born in December is “like a baby in an ecstatic condition, but he leaves this condition” (p. 102). The Chumash, reduced by the 20th century from one of the richest and most populous groups in California to a pitiful remnant, had almost lost their strage and ecstatic mental world by the time John Peabody Harrington set out to collect what was still remembered of their language and oral literature. Working with a handful of ancient informants, Harrington recorded all he could–then, in bitter rejection of the world, kept it hidden and unpublished. After his death there began a great quest for his scattered notes, and these notes are now being published at last. Thomas Blackburn, among the first and most assiduous of the seekers through Harrington’s materials, has published her the main body of oral literature that Harrington collected from the Chumash of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Blackburn has done much more: he has added to the 111 stories a commentary and analysis, almost book-length in its own right, and a glossary of the Chumash and Californian-Spanish terms that Harrington was prone to leave untranslated in the texts.