Wisdom Sits in Places

Links Between Language, Wisdom, and Location for the Western Apache

Anthropology 119: Language and Culture
Dr. D. Brinneis
Copyright © B. Collie Collier 1996, 2000

This intro gives a little background concerning this paper. Feel free to simply jump to the paper itself -- I won't tell. :-)

This is the first paper I handed in for my Language and Culture class. I found it an interesting window on what the professor expected.

I was really worried about it, before handing it in, for several reasons. Firstly, I had no real idea of what the professor expected in a good paper. Secondly, it was near the beginning of my first 4-year college quarter (after 2 years in a junior college), and I had a really bad inferiority complex about my potential ability to keep up with all these students who were tossing around terms and concepts I just didn't understand (it took me a few weeks to realize they didn't understand them either -- at which point I got my confidence back ;-). Finally, I was worried because the book the paper was supposed to be based on (Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith Basso -- very worth reading, BTW!) was about the connections between location and wisdom -- and the paper was supposed to be about the language. There wasn't a whole lot in the book about language per se... so what the hell was I supposed to be writing about?!

With great trepidation I decided to write the paper as if I were a speaker of the culture being examined. The Apache favored plain speaking -- using that technique, I could potentially hide my lack of knowledge of 'academia nut babble.' The italicized paragraphs are my attempt to demonstrate the story-telling techniques of the Apache, within the paper. I tried as best I could, but I was miserably certain the professor would consider this substandard work, when I handed it in.

The professor loved the paper! He referred to it as "Thoughtful and nifty!" In fact, even when he disagreed with the premises I was putting forth, he loved all my papers -- including the ones I didn't think were that good! The only conclusion I could come to was that either I was doing better work than I realized -- or he was so used to indifferent, sloppy work that anyone coming up with anything innovative, or giving any real thought to what was going on in class, and into the papers was such a delight and surprise to him that he was automatically thrilled by it. Either way, I'm happy. ;-)


The paper: First Essay Assignment

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 27, 2000