The Gift of Knowledge / Ttnúwit Átawish Nch'inch'imamí
Reflections on Sahaptin Ways
- PUBLISHED: January 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Native American and Indigenous Studies, Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir, Pacific Northwest / History, Anthropology
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 208 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 32 b&w illus.
- ISBN: 9780295751870
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
The Gift of Knowledge / Ttnuwit Atawish Nch’inch’imamí is a treasure trove of material for those interested in Native American culture. Author Virginia Beavert grew up in a traditional, Indian-speaking household. Both her parents and her maternal grandmother were shamans, and her childhood was populated by people who spoke tribal dialects and languages: Nez Perce, Umatilla, Klikatat, and Yakima Ichishkíin. Her work on Native languages began at age twelve, when she met linguist Melville Jacobs while working for his student, Margaret Kendell. When Jacobs realized that Beavert was a fluent speaker of the Klikatat language, he taught her to read and write the orthography he had developed to record Klikatat myths.
After a stint in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, Beavert went on to earn graduate degrees in education and linguistics, and she has contributed to numerous projects for the preservation of Native language and teachings.
Beavert narrates highlights from her own life and presents cultural teachings, oral history, and stories (many in bilingual Ishishkíin-English format) about family life, religion, ceremonies, food gathering, and other aspects of traditional culture.
Authors & Contributors
Virginia Beavert is a member of the Yakama Nation and a native speaker of Sahaptin. She is a recipient of the Washington Governor’s Heritage Award and the Ken Hale Prize of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas. She is the coauthor of Ichishkíin Sinwit Yakama / Yakima Sahaptin Dictionary. Janne Underriner is the director of the Northwest Indian Language Institute at the University of Oregon. Virginia and Janne have been working together for the past twenty years.
List of Illustrations
Map of Hunting, Fishing, and Food-Gathering Sites
1. The Culture That Made Me Who I Am Now / Inmí Tiinwít Wapíitat
2. My Story / Inmí Ttáwax̠t
3. Life Circles / Wyá’uyt Waḵ’íshwit
4. Experiences and Reflections / Pina’ititámat Waḵ’íshwit
Conclusion / Wánaḵ’it
Appendix: Guidance for Academic Researchers
Inspiring and informative. . . . Born in a bear cave in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, raised in a traditional Indian-only speaking household by parents who were shamans, and having served as an Air Force wireless radio operator at a B-29 bomber base during the Second World War, Beavert has spent her adult life tirelessly retrieving, preserving, and sharing Sahaptin knowledge. . . . She began working in her Native language at the age of 12 after meeting linguist Melville Jacobs. Since then she has collaborated with some of the most accomplished linguists and anthropologists. . . . Her passion for and interest in the welfare of her younger readers reverberates throughout every page of The Gift of Knowledge, in which her stated purpose is to record the lifeways taught to her by her family.- Journal of the West
A Colombia Plateau ethnographic study like no other, Beavert’s book shows how her own life story is inextricably connected to the plateau culture and language that she presents. . . . An anthropological text rich in personal biographical detail, context, and warm, vivid prose, this is a must-read for those interested in Indigenous Studies, anthropology, history, and the Columbia Plateau. . . . Adds very important contributions to the fields of sociolinguistics, ethnography, Pacific Northwest history, and cultural anthropology. . . . A shining example of intellectual sovereignty.- Oregon Historical Quarterly
A compelling contribution to the study of Native American cultures and languages. The Gift of Knowledge is a masterfully written work of scholarship that represents the gift of storytelling by the most prolific Yakama scholar, Tuxámshish Virginia Beavert.- Michelle M. Jacob, author of Yakama Rising: Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Activism, and Healing
The Gift of Knowledge addresses topics and issues largely inaccessible to non-Native and younger scholars. It significantly augments and clarifies the existing literature.- Eugene S. Hunn, author of Nch’i-Wána, “The Big River”: Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land
In The Gift of Knowledge, Beavert documents her outstanding life’s work in Sahaptin languages and cultures of the Northwest.- Deward Walker, Jr., author of Nez Perce Coyote Tales: The Myth Cycle