We Will Dance Our Truth


We Will Dance Our Truth

Yaqui History in Yoeme Performances

David Delgado Shorter

394 pages
14 photographs, 1 table, index


May 2014


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2009


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In this innovative, performative approach to the expressive culture of the Yaqui (Yoeme) peoples of the Sonora and Arizona borderlands, David Delgado Shorter provides an altogether fresh understanding of Yoeme worldviews. Based on extensive field study, Shorter’s interpretation of the community’s ceremonies and oral traditions as forms of “historical inscription” reveals new meanings of their legends of the Talking Tree, their Testamento narrative of myth and history, and their fabled deer dances, funerary rites, and church processions.

Working collaboratively with Yoeme communities, Shorter has produced a scrupulous investigation that challenges received wisdom from both anthropological and New Age perspectives, demonstrates how Yoeme performances provide a counterdiscourse to earlier understandings of colonialism and conquest, and updates our knowledge of contemporary Yoeme society. Shorter’s vivid descriptions and penetrating analyses vividly show how today’s Yoeme peoples navigate the tribulations and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Author Bio

David Delgado Shorter is a professor and vice chair in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles.


"I strongly recommend this book. It will break new ground and revive old ways of viewing narrative, religion, performance, and ethnography. It is a wonderful contribution to the literature of Native American and Indigenous studies and should prove incredibly useful in graduate (and some undergraduate) courses everywhere. I for one cannot wait to introduce my students to We Will Dance Our Truth."—Jeffrey P. Shepherd, Studies in American Indian Literatures

"While the work is centrally about the Yoeme of Potam . . . it is also about how we might conduct anthropological work with indigenous peoples who are concerned more than ever that whatever we write be of use to them."—Kathleen Fine-Dare, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Shorter breaks new ground in relating history and ethnography, in contributing to the study of Native American religions, and in emphasizing the significance of spatial relationships to cultural realities. The book will be appreciated as a contribution to Yoeme ethnography, but also for its general importance in religious studies, performance theory, ethnicity, and ethnohistory. Shorter's interests cross many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences; this is a book worth reading."—Raymond J. Demallie, Journal of Folklore Research

"We Will Dance Our Truth: Yaqui History in Yoeme Performances is an engagingly written and important book. . . . I enthusiastically recommend this book for those concerned with colonialism and conversion, ritual performances, indigenous epistemologies, religious studies, and Native American verbal art and performance."—Anthony K. Webster, Journal of American Folklore

“An extraordinary work of engaged ethnography, We Will Dance Our Truth questions familiar oppositions of myth and history, orality and writing. . . . He writes with poetic sensitivity, intellectual rigor, and a deep commitment to Yoeme sovereignty.”—James Clifford, author of The Predicament of Culture

“Detailed and nuanced. David Shorter appropriately and impressively tips the balance in favor of the people whose stories he tells as he grapples with their history and how scholars can most effectively be in conversation with those they write about.”—Robert Warrior, author of Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions

Table of Contents

Introduction:  Talking About Where Yoeme History Begins 

Chapter 1. Geography of Yoeme Identities

Ethnographic Dialogue I   

Chapter 2. Putting Worlds into Words: The Testamento as Storying Space into Place    

Ethnographic Dialogue II    

Chapter 3. Listening to the Tree, Hearing History    

Ethnographic Dialogue III    

Chapter 4. Our History of Nuestros Triunfos    

Ethnographic Dialogue IV    

Interchapter:   Reconsidering “Writing” and the Proof of History    

Chapter 5. Hunting for History    

Ethnographic Dialogue V    

Chapter 6. Yoeme Place Making: Cosmography, Topogeny, and Territory    

Ethnographic Dialogue VI    

Conclusion:  Potam Pueblo Enacted    





Winner of the 2010 Chicago Folklore Prize, from the American Folklore Society and the University of Chicago
Named one of the 2010 Southwest Books of the Year by the Pima County Public Library


Also of Interest