Jaime de Angulo

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Jaime de Angulo
Paris, France
Died1950 (aged 62–63)
OccupationLinguist and novelist
SubjectNative Californian Tribes

Jaime de Angulo (1887–1950) was a linguist, novelist, and ethnomusicologist in the western United States. He was born in Paris of Spanish parents. He came to America in 1905 to become a cowboy, and eventually arrived in San Francisco on the eve of the great 1906 earthquake. He lived a picaresque life including stints as a cowboy, medical doctor and psychologist.[1] He survived a suicide attempt after cutting his throat from ear to ear in Berkeley. He became a linguist who contributed to the knowledge of certain Northern California Indian languages, as well as some in Mexico.


He began his career at the University of California, Berkeley in the early 1920s, shortly after his marriage to L. S. ("Nancy") Freeland.[2] During this period he and his wife lived among many native Californian tribes, often becoming fully integrated into their daily lives, in an attempt to study their cultures, languages and music. As a linguist he contributed to the knowledge of more than a dozen native Northern Californian and Mexican languages and music-systems. De Angulo was particularly interested in the semantics of grammatical systems of the tribes he studied, but he was also a skilled phonetician and a pioneer in the study of North American ethnomusicology, particularly in his recordings of native music. Much of his fieldwork was funded in part through A.L. Kroeber, head of Berkeley's Department of Anthropology, which published some of it and archives some of his notes. De Angulo corresponded with Franz Boas, Alfred L. Kroeber, and Edward Sapir, and received considerable support for his fieldwork from Boas's Committee on Research in American Native Languages.[3]

In the end, de Angulo's Bohemian lifestyle kept him from pursuing a normal academic career, and his involvement in Native American research effectively came to an end following the death of his son Alvar in an automobile accident in 1933 and his retreat to an isolated hilltop ranch at Big Sur.[4] At this point his writings took a turn into fiction and poetry, much of which he justified as alternative techniques of presenting the ethnographic detail he had collected in accessible format.[5] This was especially true for his bestseller, Indian Tales. Much of his fictional work attempted to recognize and embrace the native "coyote tales", or the trickster wisdom inherent in native storytelling. Ezra Pound called him "the American Ovid" and William Carlos Williams "one of the most outstanding writers I have ever encountered." de Angulo also went on to tutor numerous famous authors including Jack Spicer in linguistics, and Robert Duncan in North American shamanic sorcery; he appears as a character in Jack Kerouac's books.

Perceptions of de Angulo swing wildly; he is seen alternately as a gifted but irresponsible and failed amateur, to an ‘‘Old Coyote,’’ an anarchist hero and talented subversive [1]. Some (including Pound and Williams) regarded him as an accomplished poet. De Angulo shaped and diversified the scholarly picture of the native Californian landscape. He was friend and colleague to poets, composers, and scholars such as Harry Partch, Henry Miller, Robinson Jeffers, Henry Cowell, Carl Jung, D. H. Lawrence, and many others and an important participant in the San Francisco bay area's literary and cultural avant garde from his arrival until his death.


  • Coyote Man and Old Doctor Loon (San Francisco, Turtle Island, 1973)
  • Coyote's Bones (San Francisco, Turtle Island, 1974)
  • Indians in Overalls' (San Francisco, Turtle Island, 1973)', "his first linguistic field trip - in 1921 - to the Achumawi tribe" [6]
  • Indian Tales, A.A. Wyn and Hill & Wang (1953)
    • Indian Tales were read live on KPFA radio in the 1949 (prior to book publication), and released as a recording
  • "Home Among The Swinging Stars: Collected Poems," ed. Stefan Hyner (Albuquerque, La Alameda Press, 2006)
  • The Lariat (San Francisco, Turtle Island, 1974)
  • "Don Bartolomeo" (San Francisco, Turtle Island, 1974)
  • Old Time Stories, Volume 1: Shabegok. Turtle Island, 1976
  • Old Time Stories, Volume 2: How The World Was Made. Turtle Island, 1976

Further reading[edit]

  • A Jaime de Angulo Reader, edited by Bob Callahan
  • The Music of the California Indians, edited by Peter Garland
  • Jaime in Taos: The Taos Papers of Jamie de Angulo, by Gui de Angulo (Jaime's daughter)
  • The Old Coyote of Big Sur: The Life of Jaime de Angulo, by Gui de Angulo
  • Tracks Along the Left Coast: Jaime de Angulo & the Pacific Coast, by Andrew Schelling (Berkeley, Counterpoint, 2017).


  1. ^ "Jaime de Angulo". Counterpoint Press. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
  2. ^ Leeds-Hurwitz, W. (1982). A biographical sketch of L.S. Freeland. In H. Berman (Ed.), Freeland’s Central Sierra Miwok myths (pp. 11-26). Berkeley: Dept. of Linguistics, University of California at Berkeley.
  3. ^ Leeds-Hurwitz, W. (1985). The Committee on Research in Native American Languages. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 129(2), 129-60.
  4. ^ "Rolling in Ditches with Shamans: Jaime de Angulo and the Professionalization of American Anthropology (Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology) by Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz". Powell's Books. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
  5. ^ Leeds-Hurwitz, W. (2004). Rolling in ditches with shamans: Jaime de Angulo and the professionalization of American anthropology. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  6. ^ "Indians in Overalls" (City Lights Booksellers and Publishers). Retrieved 2013-01-14.

External links[edit]