Via time travel, Charlotte Makee, a 21st century anthropologist, meets an elderly Coast Miwok curer named Sekiak in the hills near Olompali in Marin County, California. Charlotte wishes to learn about Coast Miwok life before their society was disrupted and then destroyed by Catholic priests, Spanish soldiers, settlers, and other foreigners over less than 100 years. Once Sekiak decides to work with Charlotte, she administers a potion that renders her visitor invisible to all but Sekiak and one or two others. That potion also allows Charlotte to comprehend Miwok speech, and she embarks on ethnographic fieldwork, listening and observing in the nearby settlements with Sekiak as her primary teacher of local customs and history. As the two women move back and forth through time, Charlotte fills dozens of notebooks with data about Coast Miwok life that she intends to draw upon to tell the story of what happened to the people of Coyote’s Land. But as Margery Wolf’s “novel ethnography” unfolds, an ominous air settles over the research enterprise, comparable to the ominous air of death and devastation that demolish a oncethriving society. This experimental ethnography joins fiction to historical and cultural data, helping us to feel and see what happened as the Coast Miwok world turned upside down and then was altered beyond recognition.
MARGERY WOLF COYOTE’S LAND A Novel Ethnography Margery Wolf was a professor of anthropology and women’s studies, as well as chair of women’s studies at the University of Iowa from 1985 to 2001. Prior to that, she was a visiting faculty member at Duke University. She attended Santa Rosa Junior College and San Francisco State University, focusing on fiction writing.
After marriage, she worked as a research assistant for social scientists involved in the Six Cultures Project. She and husband Arthur Wolf conducted extensive ethnographic field research in Taiwan and in the People’s Republic of China.
Margery based The House of Lim: A Study of a Chinese Farm Family on her research in Taiwan, launching her career as a feminist cultural anthropologist. She followed it with Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan and Revolution Postponed: Women in Contemporary China. Another scholarly book, A Thrice-Told Tale: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Ethnographic Responsibility, followed her marriage to anthropologist Mac Marshall. She also wrote three novels: The Orchards, What the Water Buffalo Wrought, and Trouble at the U. The retiree lived in Santa Rosa, California, until her death in April 2017.