The Animal People and Plant People participated in a history before and after the arrival of humans, and this history was kept through the spoken word.
There was a similar relationship with the geographical features of the earth. Telling a story and writing a story, even if they are the same story, remembered from generation to generation, are not the same way of preserving the story. The teller and the writer use different faculties of mind, and have different habits and disciplines of language, memory, tradition. Each has a different responsibility to the story, and to the listener or the page. The writer wrestles with the page, with the story, in solitude. The history of literature written in English by American Indians parallels the history of white migration across the continent.
White exploration and settlement were followed by the arrival of missionaries who converted Indians to Christianity and educated them in religious schools. Although raised as a typical Mohegan boy, at 16 he began to study English, was converted to Christianity, became a schoolmaster to Indians and then served as a missionary among New England Indians. The genre in which most Native American authors of the 19 th and 20 th centuries have written is autobiography.
This choice represents a break with oral tradition because the personal narrative is not part of American Indian oral literatures. Many Native cultures consider talking about oneself inappropriate.
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William Apes Pequot, b. Written by Himself New York, Author, , expanded and revised His final work was the eloquent Eulogy on King Philip , which traces white abuse of New England Indians in the 17 th and 18 th centuries. After publication of this book, Apes disappeared from public view, leaving no record of his later life and death. Ridge chose to deal indirectly with the injustices suffered by Indians by focusing on the Mexican folk hero Murieta--a social outcast who defeats his enemies by using both his keen mind and blazing pistols.
Pokagon was determined to educate a white audience about traditional Potawatomi life before the coming of whites and about the tragic changes in this life suffered by the people after whites dispossessed them and debauched them with alcohol. For many Native Americans the turn of the century marked their dispossession of ancestral lands, the nadir of the populations, and confinement to reservations. Fearful that their oral traditions would disappear forever as the tribal communities became more and more fragmented under the demoralizing conditions of reservation life, some native Americans began to write down the legends and folktales of their tribes, as well as their own personal narratives, in an effort to preserve their history and culture for posterity.
Writing became a means to perpetuate tradition in the face of cultural disintegration. Two of the early 20 th century Indian writers who attempted to make the transition from oral to written form and to bridge the gap between tradition and assimilation were:. Much of the middle portion of the 20 th century is characterized by Native narratives as told to Anglo writers.
As actual Native presence visibly waned, public and academic interest in native testimony grew. Among the best of these are:. John G. Neihardt Anglo-American, was a poet and writer who traveled to South Dakota in to meet Black Elk and other Lakotas in order to check the facts for his epic poem of the American West.
Black Elk and Neihardt became close friends and their collaboration became Black Elk Speaks , a text which gradually won worldwide attention. In Neihardt again interviewed Black Elk about Lakota culture. Some scholars suggest that native American literature did not exist before N. The text won the Pulitzer Prize. Although authors of American Indian descent had published novels and short fiction before Momaday was even born, they hardly received a substantial critical response to their works. House Made of Dawn triggered off a host of publications by Native American authors.
The corpus of texts by Native Americans has since been expanding in two directions. Not only are authors constantly adding new texts, but other, earlier texts are also being republished and published for the first time. Final point: the are problems in identifying the corpus of literary texts called Native American literature. Armstrong, Virginia, comp.
Bartlett, Mary Dougherty, ed. Beck, Peggy A. Brant, Beth, ed. Capps, Walter, ed. Seeing with a Native Eye Chapman, Abraham, ed. Literature of American Indians: Views and Interpretations Clements, William M. Clifton, James A. Deloria, Vine, Jr. The Institute of American Indian Arts, or IAIA, is an embodiment and encouragement of Native art — from sculpture to music to poetry — and a concentrated community of Native American voices and artists learning from teachers and from each other. In , it became one of 37 tribal colleges in the United States, and, in , became one of only a few congressionally chartered universities.
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Their success has ignited much excitement among other writers and students, and inspired some in the literary community to, somewhat controversially, call this the beginning of a "new Native renaissance. You can be who you are with your own tribal identity. However, some Native American writers feel uncomfortable being boxed into a particular group based on their cultural or racial background. The designation of a "new Native renaissance" might seem positive, but the connotations are complicated, much like the writing of the authors themselves.
While Orange and Mailhot come from similar perspectives, their writing is very different from each other.
How to Write a Literary Analysis on Native American Literature
Orange brings his view of life as an "urban Indian" in Oakland, California. He is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, as is his father; his mother is white. But they decided to go for it, encouraging each other. Terese Marie Mailhot, left, and Tommy Orange, right. Jason S. His father told him many stories growing up, some he thinks of as "never-forget" stories, invoking Holocaust survivors. He does a lot of research for his writing, and while he did not go to powwows as a child, he decided to make a powwow in Oakland the center of his book as it merges his two worlds, both of them home.
Part of that difference for Orange is placing his characters in settings beyond the reservation and making the inner city the natural environment. And to not have had any representation of that story was pretty mind-blowing to me.
Native American Literature - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature
So, I'm not necessarily writing against reservation experience but there was just a big void of story. We're already an invisible population in this country or were misrepresented, and the urban Indian doubly so because there's no representation in movies or literature or TV.
Mailhot said she wrote "Heart Berries" for a related reason — she did not see a book anywhere that represented her modern life growing up on a reservation, the Seabird Island Band in British Columbia. Mailhot would rather we simply read her writing for what we see on the page, rather than the broader context around it. The text is forever for me. The text will outlive you," she said. Beyond Orange and Mailhot's personal misgivings, there are other reasons to be averse to a label like a "Native American renaissance.
Emory College professor and Native American literature scholar Craig Womack wrote the term disregards two centuries of oral tradition , in addition to decades of writing in varying styles and addressing a wide range of Native experiences. In some cases, it creates less desirable connections between otherwise unrelated works.
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