“This is an animal story of the old days. They lived there at Forest Depths. Many animals of different kinds lived there. They played games…”
When my Fall semester students – Courtney Bautista, Chelsea Carner, Danny Perdomo and Sarah Presno – in the Nature & World Cultures course I teach at San José State University presented their book during our final class, everyone’s jaw dropped to the floor.
The illustrations are gorgeous: as in crazy-amazing gorgeous. The story, told by Eric Wilder’s (Kashia Pomo) relative Herman James to ethnographer Robert Oswalt in 1958, languished quietly for almost fifty years in a mimeographed text and audio file, deep in the University of California at Berkeley library archives.
Three years ago, as part of class assignments to actively contribute to biocultural diversity conservation, my students began interviewing elders and excerpting stories from archival records to bring them back to life: as animated story-films and animated texts. The original Native (in this case, Kashia Pomo) text is juxtaposed next to the English translation, allowing for language learning.
The second in a series of open-access books published on Issuu, “The Skunk Brothers and the Elk Doctors” is a fascinating, laugh-out-loud story about the innate nature of beings and their appetites, of inter-relationships and co-dependence in native ecosystems.
Read it to yourself, read it to a child. Read it again and again, today, tonight and for many nights to come.