With Rudolph Kane
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Larry Evers, Producer
Dennis Carr, Director
Michael Orr, Post Production Supervisor
Erwin Miller, Studio Engineer
Catherine Davenport, Translator
John Crouch & Andy Peterman, Field Engineers
Thanks to The White Mountain Apache Cultural Center, Jim Crouch & Billy Kane
In Cooperation with the University of Arizona Radio-TV-Film Bureau
© Arizona Board of Regents 1978
This program was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities
Apache elder Rudolph Kane told the stories recorded on this videotape in his home at Cedar Creek, Arizona, the evening of November 30, 1977. Mr. Kane's audience included four generations of his immediate family (the baby pictured is his great-granddaughter) as well as other children from the village of Cedar Creek. The setting is typical of a Western Apache storytelling session in several respects: the season, stories are told only during the winter months; the time of day, stories should be told only when the sun goes down; and the teller, usually stories are told to children by their maternal grandmother.
Cedar Creek is one of nine small communities on the one and one-half million acre Fort Apache Indian Reservation in south central Arizona. The Apache people who live there are primarily descendants of the White Mountain Band of a larger group anthropologists call the Western Apaches. Western Apaches include such other groups as the Kiowas, the Mescalero and Jicarillo Apaches.
The opening sequence of shots on this videotape offers glimpses of the landscape around Cedar Creek: a shallow, relatively narrow river valley lined with homes and small farm plots and rimmed on the east and west by long timbered ridges and an occasional prominent butte. Western Apaches have probably lived in this valley since before the coming of Europeans to this continent, and many of their narratives betray their long association with this place. The gaan narrative Mr. Kane tells in Part One of this videotape is one such narrative. It is important for us to note that it is set in the real space around the Cedar Creek valley. All the locations mentioned in the narrative are in an area immediate to Rudolph Kane's house. The most important, łetso gohéyo, is located some four miles north of Rudolph Kane's house on a bluff beside Cedar Creek. These places and the names by which they are called serve as ever-present reminders of the narrative to Apache people.
The place names in the narrative are sometimes descriptive:
Others refer to mythic activities associated with them:
It is probably hard to over-estimate the wealth of associations -- cultural, familial, and personal—that these places hold for Cedar Creek Apaches. Mr. Kane's commentary on łetso gohéyo at the end of his gaan narrative gives us a powerful glimpse at how a place is made important, even sacred, by an event and the repeated tellings of that event.
Apache religion is cure oriented. It is based on the notion that a series of powers exist in the universe which may be acquired and used by man. One of the most potent of these powers is the power of the gaans. The gaans are supernaturals who live inside mountains and caves throughout Apache country and who manifest themselves as masked dancers during the gaan ceremony. They are often compared to pueblo kachinas who appear in much the same way.
The five masked dancers who are imaged on videotape after Mr. Kane completes his first narrative are gaan dancers. They are known popularly as "Crown Dancers" because of their dramatic headdresses. They dance to songs sung by Rudolph Kane from the corpus sung at a gaan ceremony. Rudolph Kane sings another gaan song at the opening of the videotape. The opening song translates:
The language of gaan songs is compressed and extremely powerful in that they are seen as belonging to the gaans themselves. A Western Apache man once told an anthropologist Keith Basso: "If you don't sing songs, a power won't know where to find you, and it won't want to work for you."
Each of the Western Apache communities seems to have its own variation of the story of the origin of the gaans and of the curing ceremony in which they appear. These stories are generally told on two occasions: the night before a gaan ceremony and at night during the winter months for the instruction of children. The stories are usually long, complex, and very sacred. The Crown Dance narrative which Mr. Kane relates on this tape is told only in the village of Cedar Creek. It is sometimes called "The Man Who Became a Gaan." The narrative tells how the people of Cedar Creek came to have a close and personal connection with the supernatural. The narrative reminds listeners of the reality of the supernatural and of the necessity of recognizing and respecting its manifestations. Note the ways in which Mr. Kane makes these points to his audience at the end of the narrative.
The cycle of stories Mr. Kane tells in Part Two of this tape centers on an Apache trickster character called ba'ts'oosee. "Ba'" means fox, "ts'oosee" indicates something long or narrow and, by extension, sly. Ba'ts'oosee thus is the sly fox. He and his adventures are very like such trickster figures from other native American traditions as coyote, raven, and rabbit. Like them he is alternately benefactor and buffoon, creator and destroyer. It is through Ba'ts'oosee's efforts, these stories tell us, that Apache people have fire, and the deer antlers. Yet the same Ba'ts'oosee later sells his own feces as gold, then creates and hawks a "money tree."
Ba'ts'oosee is a kind of picaresque hero. His adventures, like those of most other tricksters, are told in episodes. Note how Rudolph Kane organizes his Ba'ts'oosee episodes into a cycle which moves in time from the days before men had fire to the days after the coming of white men. The first three episodes occur in mythic time. In the first, Ba'ts'oosee steals fire for the people. In the second, he goes deer hunting and along the way creates deer antlers, falls off the crane-bridge, and loses his venison. In the third, Ba'ts'oosee lowers his cousin Ba'dotłizhe into an eagle's nest to obtain feathers for arrows. His actions in all three are originative. The final four episodes in Mr. Kane's Ba'ts'oosee cycle are set in historic time, after the coming of white men. In them, Ba'ts'oosee eludes the white man's tar baby trap by duping his cousin Ba'dotłizhe, convinces Ba'dotłizhe that the moon's reflection on water is Apache bread, sells his own feces, and then a bare tree to white men for gold. In these episodes Ba'ts'oosee's actions take a sharp turn toward the satiric.
Part I The Origin of the Crown Dance: An Apache Narrative
I will tell you a story that was told to me many, many years ago.
He went to a place called łetso gohéyo.
He had a dog,
The message went out to the elders.
Our ancestors always helped each other.
It happened to him, because he was with them for a few days.
That is how that man turned into a gaan.
They say you should pray at that place they call łetso gohéyo.
That's what he told us people when he was going,
Part II Ba' Ts' Oosee: An Apache Trickster Cycle
They brought the fire down.
He went around the world in one day,
It burned wherever he went.
There's lots of funny stories about
Ba'ts'oosee was going along.
He was one of the hunters.
There was a bird with long legs.
They started walking again.
The other people,
He fell off.
That's how they tell about
It was a bald eagle
He was with another man,
He lowered him down with a yucca rope.
"My mother comes back
"Tse' bikaa" is when it rains hard
As soon as they sat up,
Heee, I don't know how many days
The grandmother and her grandchildren
The man was talking,
The grandmother got up there.
She got up
A big rock was right there.
Now the old lady said,
They were going down like this.
Down there was the man,
The eagle feathers,
Nats' ili sane is an old lady
There are lots of funny stories,
That is the truth.
I'm telling it to you straight.
That's how my yucca bananas hang.
I don't know what I'll talk about.
This is how it was told
He just went like this . . .
And this side too . . .
"I can kick to ..."
He got stuck like a ball in it.
He said, "I can bite too."
That's how he got caught.
They put a chain on him.
This is a łe' go cho.
He was still chained up,
The idea was to put him in there.
They're boiling water."
They were going to scald him in the water.
He tied the other one up,
He tied the other one up,
So they shoved him in the boiling water.
The one who took off returned.
This down here is the reflection of the moon,
They started drinking it.
The other one was just like a ball.
These old men up here,
"I'm working for the big boss,"
"I'm working for the big boss,"
That's how his hat was.
He was just barely tipping his hat.
"I'm watching over the gold,"
(To unruly boy: "Don't do that! Ta. . . .")
I guess the people were kind of crazy then,
"Just wait until I get over there,
He just followed a ridge and
Then they picked it up.
That's how he took off.
They were all going out like this.
He threw something out.
"Buy this from me."
He sold it.
He was telling the people
This story, that's how they made it.
That's how my yucca bananas hang,
Ba'ts'oosee's poop might be under