by Franz Boas
U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin no. 20
The Chinook tribes inhabited the salmon-rich lower Columbia river area in the Northwest culture region, in what is now upper Oregon and lower Washington state. As is evident from these texts, fishing was at the center of their culture, and they were also avid traders and gamblers. A creole based on their language and several European languages, the 'Chinook Jargon', was widely used as a trade language in the Northwest. The Chinook practised the 'Potlatch'--the charateristic Northwestern ceremony in which wealth was ritually redistributed.
These unfiltered stories, translated with great care by Franz Boas, one of the founders of modern Anthropology, reflect a rich storytelling tradition which shows a deep understanding of the range of human emotions. The central character in many of these is 'Blue-Jay', a rather dim but heroic figure who, in one memorable tale visits the land of the dead, in a story worthy of the Twilight Zone.
--J. B. Hare