Indian Myths and Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America


702 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88922-458-7
DDC 398.2'089'970711






Edited by Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy
Translated by Dietrich Bertz
Reviewed by Christine Hughes

Christine Hughes is manager, Policy Coordination, Developmental Services
Branch, Ontario Ministry of Community, Family and Children’s Services.


This important contribution to the history of North American
anthropology provides the first English translation of Franz Boas’s
1895 German publication, Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen
Kьste Amerikas. In his first four trips to British Columbia
(1886–1890), Boas collected more than 200 myths and legends from 25
First Nations located along the Pacific Coast and in parts of the
interior. The Sagen drew together the complete sections of mythology
that had been published separately in German periodicals between 1891
and 1895.

In 1973, the B.C. Indian Language Project commissioned Dietrich Bertz
to translate the Sagen. He completed an initial draft in 1974 and a
revised draft in 1977. These English translations were made available to
researchers; however, the present compilation is significant for its
careful footnoting and detailed annotation, which was completed
intermittently over a 20-year period. In his foreword, Claude
Lévi-Strauss commends the editors for making accessible to English
readers “one of the richest collections of mythological texts
available for the whole of the American continent” and for their
“brilliant homage to the memory of a great ethnologist.” Annotations
clarify various indigenous terms, explain Native personal names,
translate phrases and songs that appear in the texts, identify flora and
fauna, and comment on Boas’s use of specific German terms that were
not easily translated.

The stories are listed in an appendix and grouped by First Nation, with
brief introductions to each section added by the editors. The volume
includes a translation of the Sagen’s final chapter, “The
Development of the Mythologies of the North Pacific Coast Indians,”
more than 40 black-and-white archival photographs, three historical maps
(including Boas’s original drawing that accompanied the Sagen), and a
detailed list of references used in the editors’ research, some of
which is summarized in their 30-page introduction describing Boas’s
field trips and methodology.

Ethnographer/linguist Randy Bouchard and sociocultural anthropologist
Dorothy Kennedy are directors of the B.C. Indian Language Project, which
is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of First Nations
languages, cultures, and histories in British Columbia through the
involvement of First Nations members.


Boas, Franz., “Indian Myths and Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,