Maud Oakes Biography

Maud Oakes




Maud Van Cortlandt Oakes, ethnologist, writer, and artist, was born on 25 May 1903 in Seattle, Washington and grew up in Manhattan, New York. Beginning as a painter, Oakes developed an interest in ethnology while vacationing on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound in Washington state. She chronicled the cultures of indigenous tribes in the American Southwest and the Mam of Guatemala.

"Where the Two Came to Their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial," is a collaborative work based upon the ceremonial sand paintings of the medicine man, Jeff King, was published in 1943 by Pantheon Books, New York. Oakes spent three years on the Navaho Reservation through the support of a grant from the Old Dominion Foundation. She replicated in gouache on deer hide the ceremonial paintings executed in sand, pollen, corn meal, or ground flowers.

Oakes spent seventeen months from late 1945 to early 1947 as the only outsider living in Todos Santos, a remote village in the Guatemalan highlands, where she studied the pre-Columbian roots of the indigenous population. In 1951 she published two books about her findings, ''Beyond the Windy Place,'' about life among the Mam, and ''The Two Crosses of Todos Santos,'' detailing the survival of Mayan religious ritual.

She also authored ''The Stone Speaks: The Memoir of a Personal Transformation,'' published in 1987. An honorary member of the C. G Jung Institute of San Francisco, Oakes became a student of Jungian psychology, and collaborated with Joseph L. Henderson on "The Wisdom of the Serpent: the Myths of Death Rebirth and Resurrection," published in 1990.

Maud Van Cortlandt Oakes died in Carmel, California on June 10, 1990.