CLARK, Ella E.




Author Tags: First Nations

Ella Elizabeth Clark (1896-1984) was an American folklorist who collected stories and published various collections of Aboriginal material. Born in Summertown, Tennessee, she grew up and taught high school in Illinois, received her B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern University, and came to teach writing and literature at Washington State University from 1927 to 1961. She began her ethnological travels in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. During World War II she was a fire lookout for the United States Forest Service in the Cascade Mountains during the summers, leading to her subsidiary interest in writing about the prevention of forest fires. The Ella E. Clark papers were donated to the Washington State Library in Pullman, Washington between the years 1959 and 1968. Ella E. Clark died in 1998. She was Professor Emerita of English at Washington State University.

In her classic anthology entitled Indian Legends of Canada, often reprinted for more than half a century, Clark provided the following truncated version of the story of first contacts between Europeans (Moon People) and the Cowichan tribe in the late eighteenth century. "A chief believed he was about to die, so he climbed a mountain by his village. He wanted to look at the ocean one last time. A moon appeared on the horizon and in the moon's path a large white canoe sailed towards his island. The chief thought the moon children must be coming down to earth because this large canoe had the white wings of a bird. He believed it was a prophecy and ran to the village to warn his people. None of the Cowichan believed the chief's claims and scoffed at his story. The following day the large canoe off shore neared the village. A council was called and twelve men were chosen to approach the canoe. They set off and were welcomed aboard and offered blood and bones on a plate. Men of the ship admired their sea otter fur clothing and the Cowichan offered the clothing as a gift. A fire-stick was aimed at a flying duck which was shot out of the air. The captain of the ship gave the Cowichan shiny dishes, which were hung over the chief's doorway. According to the narrative this was the first time the Cowichan people encountered Europeans, handled a gun and ate molasses and biscuits."

BOOKS:

Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest (University of California Press, 1953).

Indian Legends of Canada (McClelland & Stewart, 1960; Random House, 1991).

Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies (University of Oklahoma Press, 1966; 1988).

Guardian Spirit Quest (Council for Indian Education, 1974; 1997).

Sacagewea of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (University of California Press, 1979; 1983) [with Margot Edmonds].

Voices of the Winds: Native American Legends (Facts on File Publications, 1989; Barnes & Noble Books, 2003). [with Margot Edmonds].

[BCBW 2004] "First Nations" "Indianology"