Molina and Evers analyze a talk by a Native American "deer singer," Miki Maaso, who links knowledge and responsibility in the work of oral composition (Molina & Evers 1998, 15). Research into the process by which such poetry is created, and any attempt at cooperative efforts, suggesting "collaboration," is viewed with suspicion on the part of the native poet/performers. Molina and Evers observe that there is a deep fear that non-Native Americans will do damage to some essential element of the work (Molina & Evers 1998, 16).
Molina and Evers had been interested in the native deer dances and songs since the 1970s, and sought to bring singers together in such a way as to enable conversation and understanding (Molina & Evers 1998, 18). This conference idea was brought to fruition in December of 1987, at Yoem Pueblo in Marana, Arizona. Evers observes that the participants, mostly ages 12-26, "talked, performed, and worked with interested members of the Yaqui communities almost every hour during the four day visit" (Molina & Evers 1998, 19). Some material was recorded, but much was not. The researchers transcribed a sermon and one or more songs as well. However, they showed considerable sensitivity as they recognized that the sermon and the singing and dancing were of a religious nature and needed to be treated as such, rather than as a spectator event (Molina & Evers 1998, 20).
Evers expresses that he was hesitant about the project. Molina was more interested in it and was the one who procured the funding. Evers was uncertain how the deer singers would be motivated to explain their work and how it would be appropriate to discuss it (Molina & Evers 1998, 23). This was made more difficult because, in Evers' opinion, historically such discussions have not occurred. Rather, the Native Americans have done their performances and the non-Native Americans have engaged in interpretation. This has resulted in dissatisfaction on the part of the native participants. Evers preferred to identify intellectuals who would be recognized as authoritative within the native community and who would also be able to speak within the higher education system (Molina & Evers 1998, 24).
The deer singers learn in particular and traditional ways, from elders who essentially lead in an apprenticeship. It is considered a sacred practice and a holy obligation to carry on the tradition correctly (Molina & Evers 1998, 25). The teachers and performers were not willing to tell how they gained their knowledge or what the particular knowledge was. They consider their work to be something which comes from the spiritual world. Use of the "rasper" - the instrument which will accompany the dance, is likewise considered a matter of sacred trust (Molina & Evers 1998, 27). The knowledge of the rituals is treated as a special and secret matter. Evers notes that the singer who assisted with the research did the work as part of a religious observance, not as a conference or lecture (Molina & Evers 1998, 28).
Molina observes that the sermon is a genre in this tradition which may not always be recognizable. The sermon, however, has a change of tone, a different rhythm, and mentions God, saints, and ancestors, normally at the start. In the Yaqui tradition it will always be entirely positive in nature (Molina & Evers 1998, 29). Evers compares the sermon to a lecture in a conference. Stylistically it is at least slightly elevated and elegant. However, in a Yaqui sermon the truth is located in the heart, not in the head (Molina & Evers 1998, 30). The sermon will frequently emphasize the responsibility of the adults to teach children. Molina quotes and translates a portion of the end, in which there is a traditional statement of the truth staying in the hands, through Jesus, Mary, the saints, and the angels (Molina & Evers 1998, 31).
The article continues with a transcription and annotated translation of the sermon by Miki Maaso from December 22, 1987, as translated by Molina and Evers (Molina & Evers 1998, 32-53). Their notes indicate that the transcription was broken into lines when the speaker paused. There are numerous references to supernatural experiences, which Molina and Evers understand to be within the experience of the singers.