Over uncounted generations the Tlingits and Haidas of Southeast Alaska developed a spoken literature as robust and distinctive as their unique graphic art style, and passed it from the old to the young to ensure the continuity of their culture. Even today when the people gather, now under lamplight rather than the flickering glow from the central fire pit, the ancient myths and legends are told and retold, and they still reinforce the unity of the lineage, and clan and the culture. Mary Beck has selected nine of the ancient myths and legends from the oral literature that are authentic for one group or another from this region.
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Mary G. Beck is a classical scholar (M.A. from Stanford) who has lived in Ketchikan, Alaska beginning in 1951 when she married a third-generation Alaskan. Besides rearing a family, she taught literature and writing courses for thirty years at Ketchikan Community College, a branch of the University of Alaska. Mary has an abiding interest in the Native culture of Southeast Alaska and a commitment to recording its oral literature. She is also the author of two other related titles, Heroes and Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, and Potlatch: Native Ceremony and Myth on the Northwest Coast as well as articles on Native mythology and on travel by small boat to towns and Native communities in Southeast Alaska. She and her husband currently reside in Bellevue, Washington.
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