Malki-Ballena Press Books

George Laird’s World of Chemehuevi Mythology


Mirror and Pattern: George Laird's World of Chemehuevi Mythology

by Carobeth Laird

Harcover: $44.95

Product Details

Hardcover: 373 pages
Publisher: Malki Museum Press (June 1984)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 093904630X
ISBN-13: 978-0939046300

Description

Born in 1895, Carobeth Laird was married in 1916 to the brilliant but eccentric anthropologist John Peabody Harrington; in her memoir Encounter with an Angry God (Malki, 1975), she had told how they combed rural California for surviving speakers of little-known American Indian languages. In 1923 she divorced Harrington to marry George Laird, a Chemehuevi Indian from the lower Colorado River, with whom she lived a full life until his death in 1940.

Carobeth Laird’s book The Chemehuevis (Malki, 1976), based on information provided by her husband, was the first description ever published of aboriginal Chemehuevi culture. In the present volume, Mrs. Laird presents the myths of the Chemehuevi, as transcribed from her husband’s telling and accompanied by her own detailed analyses. These narratives of the days “when animals were people”, when Coyote and Wolf ordained the paths to be followed by the human species which was to come after them, is one of the richest collections of Native American traditional literature which has yet appeared. The book contains a glossary of Chemehuevi words and a bibliography.

Carobeth Laird, one of Malki’s beloved authors, wrote with clarity and grace, and this book published after her death in 1983 remains one of the most comprehensive discussions of a southern California mythology. “The myths are saturated with wonder and magic; they contain dream-like mutations and transitions,” she writes in this powerful book. “On the other hand, they mirror the natural world and its inhabitants with the greatest clarity and contain detailed descriptions of the manufacture of artifacts, of hunting, food gathering, social intercourse, and all the ordinary pursuits of mortals. These myths are the repository of the experience and spirituality of a people whose mode of thought is not inferior, but in many dimensions wholly alien, to the modern mentality.” This book is, in many ways, her greatest monument.