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Open Access Publications from the University of California

On the Ethnolinguistic Identity of the Napa Tribe: The Implications of Chief Constancio Occaye's Narratives as Recorded by Lorenzo G. Yates


About 1876, Lorenzo G. Yates interviewed Constancio Occaye, described as the last "Chief of the Napas," and recorded several items of folklore from his tribe. Yates included Constancio's recollections about the use of charmstones in his classic article on that subject, but he does not appear to have ever published Constancio's account of Napa oral traditions regarding the Land of the Dead, creation, and the acquisition of fire. Anthropologists, although not without some uncertainty, have long considered the Napa tribe to have been of Southern Patwin affiliation. The narratives themselves, and the native words recorded parenthetically by Yates, appear to be mostly of Coast Miwok derivation, which suggests that a reconsideration of Napa ethnolinguistic identity is in order.

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