Podcast–Crow Recovers the Arm of Marten Girl

Crow Recovers the Arm of Marten Girl

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“Among the Native People of the Tanana, Koyukuk, and Yukon valleys, the person who could tell stories well has always been admired. Before adequate lighting made it possible to work indoors at night, storytelling was a way of passing the long winter evenings. When all the occupants of the house had wrapped themselves warm in their fur sacks or sleeping skins, and when the last feeble flame of the earthenware lamp had been extinguished, someone would call for a story, and anyone who had one might volunteer it. The narrator would pause politely after the first sentence, until encouraged by the the cries of ‘ANNI !!’ from the audience.” –Frederica de Laguna.

TALES FROM THE DENA–Indian Stories from the Tanana, Koyukuk, and Yukon Rivers

Forty–one Alaskan Indian tales, transcribed in 1935 as nearly as possible in the narrators’ own words, are included in this beautifully illustrated collection. A lively individualism characterizes variant versions of the exploits of the roguish Crow (Raven) and the intrepid Man Who Traveled Among All the Animals and People. The stories, set in Distant Time when animals and birds were ‘human,’ range from serious myths to slyly humorous misadventures that convey their truths with laughter. The already considerable appeal of the tales have been enhanced by artist Dale DeArmond’s brilliant wood engravings, seventy–one in all, created especially for the book.

This collection of remarkable tales provide a rich trove of ethnographic material that is virtually irreplaceable. In 1935 Frederica de Laguna led a small party that set out downriver in open skiffs to make an archaeological reconnaissance of the middle and lower Yukon River valley. En route they stopped briefly in Native villages and fish camps, where they took the opportunity to write down a sampling of folk tales from various narrators in each of five localities: Nenana, Tanana Mission, Ruby, Koyukuk Station, and Nulato.

The strikingly illustrated tales are supplemented by an introduction providing the historical and ethnographic context necessary for understanding the Native Culture in which the stories functioned. A commentary offers insight into the oral literature tradition, including an analysis of the several versions of the Raven cycle and the Traveler cycle and comparisons with similar tales told by the Eskimo and the Tlingit of the coast. Two maps also show Alaskan rivers and towns and different tribal/linguistic groups.

Frederica de Laguna is a professor emerita of anthropology at Bryn Mawr College. She was a student of Franz Boas and is one of today’s most eminent anthropologists. Her many publications include her monumental edition of G. T. Emmon’s The Tlingit Indians. She is a recipient of the Before Columbus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dale DeArmond is an artist widely known throughout Alaska for her imaginative renderings of Native themes.

Cited From: TALES FROM THE DENA–Indian Stories from the Tanana, Koyukuk, and Yukon Rivers, Edited by Frederica de Laguna & Illustrated by Dale DeArmond. Published by University of Washington Press in 1995.

Tales From the Dena Book

Dale Burlison DeArmond


Dale Burlison DeArmond
“Self Portrait with Birds ”
Woodcut, 1975.
Used with permission from the artist.

Fine Arts Collection DeArmond works: 1Biography
Dale Burlison DeArmond was born on July 2, 1914, in Bismarck, North Dakota, but moved to Tacoma, Washington, at a young age. On July 29, 1935, she married Bob DeArmond, whom she met during high school. After their marriage in Alaska, they lived on a 37-foot troller for two years before moving to the small village of Pelican. In 1944, she moved to Ketchikan with her husband and from there back to Sitka in 1949. In Sitka, she began her career as an artist, illustrating a book published by the Sitka Printing Company. The success of these illustrations prompted DeArmond’s husband to give her the Famous Artists correspondence course, after they moved to the capital city, Juneau, in 1953. Dale completed the course in three years and was doing pen and ink drawings and zinc plate lithographs when she attended a demonstration by a woodcut artist, Danny Pierce. Dale immediately became interested in woodcuts although ultimately found her favorite medium in wood engraving. She participated in numerous workshops in these latter media saying later that her art training had been catch-as-catch-can. Dale also worked with the Alaska Territorial Library moving eventually to the Juneau Public Library where she was director from 1958 until her retirement in 1979. The DeArmonds moved to the Alaska Pioneer Home in Sitka in 1991 where Dale continued to produce art for several years before her death on November 28, 2006. They are the parents of two children, Jane Donnelly and Bill DeArmond.
Dale DeArmond is an exceptionally prolific artist who has not only created many art works but also illustrated numerous books, several intended for a juvenile audience. These include illustrations for adaptations of Eskimo and Indian folktales, a book of woodcuts about Juneau, an Alaska bestiary, stories of the first Russian voyages to Alaska, accounts of early visitors to southeastern Alaska, and a collection of her own prints. She is known especially for her illustrations of the mythology and folklore of Alaska Native Americans, noting that a childhood fascination with myths, legends, and fairy tales led her in this direction. Her art works have included images of Alaska wildlife, historical scenes, and wildflowers as well as Native myths and legends. When questioned at the time of her retirement about the number of works she created, she responded it numbered in the hundreds.
DeArmond’s works have been exhibited at the Charles and Emma Fry Museum, Seattle, WA, the Alaska State Museum, the Anchorage History and Fine Arts Museum, and the Museum of Science in Boston. They are in the permanent collections of the Alaska State Museum, the Anchorage History and Fine Arts Museum, and Alaska Methodist University among other institutions.
The Fine Arts Collection contains six wood engravings of Alaska Native ceremonial hats created by DeArmond in1994. They were inspired by old photographs in the collection of the Alaska State Museum. These engravings were donated to the Collection by the artist at the time the Jane Kemp Endowment for the Visual Arts was established in 1998. Kemp had worked as a librarian at the Juneau Public Library under DeArmond’s direction in the early 1970’s.
Ref: &Dale, Bob DeArmond Mark 70th Anniversary,” Daily Sitka Sentinel (Friday, July 29, 2005); “Hello and Goodbye Reception for DeArmond.” Juneau Empire (April 4, 1991); Whipple, Barbara. “Dale DeArmond: Legends in Woodcuts.” American Artist, 46 (April 1982), 42-46; “Dale DeArmond and the Ancient Art of Woodcuts.” Alaska Journal, 6 (Autumn 1976), 217-229; Contemporary Authors,138 (1993), 124-126; Who’s Who in American Art. 26th ed. (2005-2005), 301.

Updated 03/04/2008

Dale De Armond’s Biography

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2 responses to “Podcast–Crow Recovers the Arm of Marten Girl

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