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Native american lit

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Native American Lit PowerPoint from Madison County Schools (

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Native american lit

  1. 1. We had to start somewhere . . . Early American Literature
  2. 2. 2 Native Americans Native American Literature has been a living oral tradition, but it was never treated with the same respect as European or Western literature. The vast body of American Indian oral literature was not even recognized by Western scholars until the late 1800s - assumed that Native Americans had no literature. Part of the problem in recognizing the literature was due to it needing to be translated. 2
  3. 3. Native Americans • Oral Traditions: the process of passing down sayings, songs, tales, and myths from one generation to the next by word of mouth; preserve historical continuity • Native Americans lived lives close to the land. Traditional literature related to tribal knowledge, customs and rituals.
  4. 4. 4 Native Americans Types of oral literature:  Myth: traditional story, rooted in a particular culture, that deals with gods, goddesses, and other supernatural beings, as well as human heroes; often embody religious beliefs and values and explain natural phenomena  Creation Myth: explains how the world came about  The Trickster Tale: familiar character in Native American storytelling challenging the established order of things, bending others to his will  Song: contains the wisdom of a people compressed into a lyrical performance
  5. 5. Native Americans Native American cultures use stories to: 1. teach moral lessons 2. convey practical information about the natural world. Their universe is not dominated by human beings. 1. Animals and humans are often interchangeable in myths and folk tales. 2. Origin myths may even feature animals as the instruments of creation.
  6. 6. Native Americans All American Indian cultures show an awareness of the power of metaphor: a figure of speech that makes a comparison between 2 unlike things without using like, as, than, or resembles. They believed words are powerful and alive. Songs & chants could make things happen – call game animals, bring rain, cure the sick, or destroy an enemy.
  7. 7. Native Americans They used striking similes: figure of speech that makes an explicit comparison between two unlike things, using a word such as like, as, than, or resembles. The American Indian worldview is not that of a progressive straight line, but of an endless circle.
  8. 8. 8 Themes & Characteristics 7 1. Words are powerful & magic. They enable the speaker to grab power. 2. Dreams are messages from the spirit world, conferring power on the dreamer. 3. Animals and objects, as well as humans, possess a personifying spirit such as deer, water, wind, even hunger and disease. 4. Things in nature, colors, and words are thought of in pairs which can be seen as an extension of sexuality - male and female and thus “completeness.” 5. Sun and sky represent the father; rain and sunlight are seen as life- giving and fertile when they reach the body of female earth. 6. The four directions (east, west, north, south) correspond to the four faces of the human body (front, back, front, left). The number 4 is sacred. 7. Anonymity - the Indian poet does not consider himself to be the “author” of his song; the poetry is of all people in his culture. 8. New spirits and gods, rituals and prayers were borrowed from other tribes and cultures. Christianity was also embraced.
  9. 9. Native Americans • Pictographs – used to help with their memory when telling stories.
  10. 10. Native Americans Iroquois Constitution: 1st Constitution of North America Up until 1400, warfare was very important to the Iroquois and was considered their chief activity, but in the 1400s Hiawatha, a man who had lost all in war (family, children, possessions, friends, etc.), encountered a supernatural being (Dekanawidah) in a vision.
  11. 11. Native Americans Hiawatha was given the cultural ideals of peace. He was also directed to tell everyone this “good news.” Despite their history of warfare, the Iroquois had a maternal society. Husbands were useless and unimportant; sons were raised by the mother’s brother. Orphaned boys also become heroes in their stories.
  12. 12. Native Americans Maid Ideas in the Constitution are: 1.Begin all councils with a prayer of thanks. 2.Urge honesty and respect for authority. 3.Avoid gossip and do not lead others into “trivial affairs.” 4.Be slow to anger. 5.Advocate peace, tenderness, calm deliberation, and patience. These are feminine, nurturing traits. The constitution de- emphasizes masculine aggression in its total effect.
  13. 13. Native Americans There is also a great sense of the responsibility of proper stewardship of the earth (ecology) and an optimistic vision for the future. The tree is an image of peace in the beginning—the eagle a warning as to how fragile that peace is at all times.