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Indians in Overallsby Jaime De Angulo
Synopses & Reviews
The best-known work by the eccentric anthropologist Jaime de Angulo, Indians in Overalls is a fascinating account of his first linguistic field trip—in 1921—to the Achumawi tribe of northeastern California. The Pit River tribe had lived in the barren high country for thousands of years and, despite the harsh climate and difficult living conditions, they had developed an extraordinary complex language and a rich mythology.
As he traveled with the tribe and learned the spoken language, he observed gambling games and shamanistic practices, and he collected some of the marvelous stories told around the fire in the winter lodges. Of all the people he worked with, he felt closest to the Achumawi, among whom he discovered “the spirit of wonder, the recognition of life as power.”
About the Author
Jaime de Angulo (1887-1950) was born in Paris of Spanish parents. He came to America in 1905, found work as a cowboy and ended up in San Francisco the day before the Great Earthquake in 1906. A picaresque life followed as a homesteader in Big Sur, medical doctor, psychologist, renowned linguist, and novelist. As a linguist, de Angulo contributed to the knowledge of many Northern Californian languages, as well ethnomusicological investigations. He lived among the tribes he studied and tried to become integrated into their daily lives. Much of his life and work exemplifies his recognition of the trickster wisdom in their native "coyote tales." Invited by Mabel Dodge Luhan to visit Taos, he turned out to be a vivid chapter in her artistic circle. Brilliant and eccentric, Ezra Pound called him "the American Ovid." Bohemian to the core, he was friend and colleague to poets, composers, and scholars such as Harry Partch, Henry Miller, Robinson Jeffers, Henry Cowell, Franz Boas, Carl Jung, D.H. Lawrence, and many others. Renderings of Pit River lore in his book Indian Tales had a distinct influence on Beat literature, especially Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac. Besides prose, there exists an abundance of poetry which is collected in Home Among the Swinging Stars and includes the out-of-print Coyote's Bones, versions of Shaman Songs, translations of Federico Garcia Lorca, and unpublished poems.
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