A Brief History of Native American Written Literature

Holland, Jeanne.

Swann, B. On the translation of Native American literatures. 1992.

Special Topicsin Native American Studies

Over the course of the semester, we will touch on many topics within our general study of Native American Literature. Here is a preview of a few of these topics:

Walker, C. Indian Nation: Native American Literature and Nineteenth-Century Nationalisms. 1997.

Swann, Brian & Arnold Krupat, eds. Native American Literature

S. 016.8108 C883n
Native North Americans in Literature for Youth: A Selective Annotated Bibliography for K-12. Alice Crosetto and Rajinder Garcha. 2013.
This guide presents annotated entries for fiction and non-fiction books featuring Native American characters and culture, emphasizing works published from 1995-2013 and selecting books with realistic and authentic portrayals of native culture. Each entry provides a citation for the work, ISBN number, grade levels of audience, a brief annotation, and relevant review quotations and awards. The chapters group the citations by geographic region, history, religion, social life and traditions, nation, oral literature, biographies, fiction, and reference. The book offers resources for educators, media and internet resources, as well as a list of books featuring Native Americans that have won awards. Author and editor, illustrator and photographer, title, nations, series, subject, book award, and grade/level indexes are included.

Walker, C. Indian Nation: Native American Literature and Nineteenth-Century Nationalisms. 1997.

There are several themes found in Native American literature. One common theme is the characterization of the American nation, a particularly troublesome topic given the history of colonization in North America and the disparity in justice and equality for many Native Americans. The essence of what makes one a Native American, as opposed to just native, is an elusive concept to express. The notion of nationhood in general was a foreign concept. In PrairyErth (A Deep Map): An Epic History of the Tallgrass Prairie Country, the author, William Least Heat-Moon explains the incongruity:

Hobson, G. The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature. 1981.


This special issue of Modern Fiction Studies commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of N. Scott Momaday’s winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1969. The acclaim given to House Made of Dawn (and Momaday’s next published work, The Way to Rainy Mountain) not only provided Momaday well-deserved recognition, but, just as importantly, it helped to put Native American literature and Native American authors on the American cultural map.• Native American Literature was viewed mainly as folklore. Oral tradition, the telling of the tale may change with each speaker and the words are almost sure to change overtime.Final point: the are problems in identifying the corpus of literary textscalled Native American literature. Arnold Krupat suggests that Indian writers"must be culturally Indian, with such cultural ‘identity’ not wholly arandom or arbitrary choice (e.g. the Indian person having some actual hereditylink ro persons native to American)." Brian Swann suggests: "NativeAmericans are Native Americans if they say they are, and"--and this appearsto be the crucial point in a societal form that stilll relies more on thecommunity than on the individual--"if other native Americans say they areand accept them."Native American literature is comprised of a collection of oral and written works that express the history, philosophy and culture of any one of the different groups of indigenous peoples of North and South America. The literature of Native Americans, as in other culture, is an expression of how one sees the world and one's role in it. In the Native American culture, particularly, there is a strong inclination to mesh the life of the individual with the greater cycles of nature and the greater powers believed to be responsible for creating and sustaining the world. 810.9 Su81r
Roots and Branches: A Resource of Native American Literature Themes, Lessons, and Bibliographies. Dorothea M. Susag. 1998.

This resource offers teachers an opportunity to learn and to teach Native American literature in context. Lessons, units, and activities keyed to grade level offer practical support. Detailed annotated bibliographies direct the teacher to a wealth of other historical, cultural, and educational resources.Other topics prevalent in 20th century Native American literature range from assimilation, messianism and apocalypticism. Native American assimilation and cultural transformation arose as a direct result of European immigration and Christian evangelism, with Indian boarding schools established as early as 1879 in the attempt to bring Native Americans into Western society. Native American resistance, through religious and cultural movements, has historically led to repercussions as evidenced by the Massacre at Wounded Knee (1890). The sentiment behind the movements was often echoed in Native American writing in the first half of the 20th century.Another topic of interest in Native American literature is the concept of personal identity and definition. Again the struggle between the external view and the internal view is stressed. The question of exactly who is classified as Native American is a controversial subject since classifications vary based on the criteria. People are classified by their family, their community or the government, and labels are distributed: "full-bloods" and "half-bloods" or even "one-fourths" and "one-eighths." More than merely a genetic categorization, a person is generally considered who they are by cultural, linguistic and religious standards. Ultimately racial definitions are inadequate, and it is one's way of life that predominates in identification. As Native American writer Geary Hobson states, "A person is judged as Native American because of how he or she views the world, his views about land, home, family, culture, etc."Although there is continuing need for humor in Native American literature to celebrate survival and
to provide a release and a means to see things alternatively, Lincoln's celebration of humor as
ethnic glue breaks down under the weight of suffering recorded by Kinsella's work. If, as Lincoln
suggests, 'tribal humor stitches the frayed cross-cultural fabric of multiethnic America', then
Kinsella's work reveals those stitches unravelling. In the face of ongoing colonialism, Kinsella's work
reminds us to be wary of being comforted into complaisance by the use of humor in contemporary
Native American fiction.