Native American Literature

  • Historical Events

    • 1492 - Columbus "discovers" America and encounters the Native American people, whom he infers as an "inferior race". Columbus writes, "They all go around as naked as their mothers bore them; and also the women." However, he noted that "they could easily be commanded and made to work, to sow and to do whatever might be needed, to build towns and be taught to wear clothes and adopt our ways."
    • July 8, 1524 - First kidnapping in America takes place. Florentine explorers take and Indian baby back to France.
    • 1546 - "New Law" was repealed to allow Native Americans to be taken as slaves
    • 1607 - Jamestown settlement becomes first permanent European settlement in North America
    • 1616 - Smallpox outbreak in New England disseminates the native population there
    • 1620 - Plymouth Colony is founded in Massachusetts
    • May 26, 1637 - Captains John Mason and John Underhill attacked and burned Pequot forts at Mystic, Connecticut, massacring 600 Indians and starting the Pequot War.
    • 1675 - King Phillips War- 600 English killed, 3000 Native Americans
    • 1715 -Yamasee tribes attack and kill several hundred Carolina settler
    • 1718 - City of New Orleans founded by the French
    • 1721 - Smallpox epidemic breaks out in Boston

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0902417.html
http://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-timeline.html
  • New and/or Existing Laws

United States Constitution (based on the) Articles of Confederation - Congress is granted the power to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes, President empowered to make treaties with the consent of the Senate.

General Allotment Act of 1887 or The Dawes Act; 24 Stat. 388. Allottees become United States citizens. The Secretary of the Interior can negotiate with tribes, disposition all "excess" land remaining after allotments for the purpose of non-Indian settlement.

Indian Removal Act of 1830, 25 U.S.C. 1988 § 174. Tribes east of the Mississippi were moved to the west under a "voluntary" program.
The Citizenship Act of 1924, 8 U.S.C.A. § 1401(b) (1924). Confers citizenship upon all Indians born within the United States.

Indian Reorganization Act (1928) or the Meriam Report, "The Problem of Indian Administration, 48 Stat. 984. Tribes should exist indefinitely. This law protected the Indian land base and ended the process of allotment and extended the trust period indefinitely.

Freedom from Federal Supervision Act (1953), 67 Stat. B132 (1953) - August 1, 1953, saw the end of Indians as wards of the U.S. Several tribes were "terminated" by statute.

Criminal Offenses and Civil Causes, State Jurisdiction Act. (1953); P.L. 280, 67 Stat. 588 (1953) Extended state civil and criminal jurisdiction to Indian country in five states (California, Nebraska, Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin, Arkansas (1950).

Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, 82 Stat. 77. Imposed upon tribes the Bill of Rights, amended under P.L. 280. States could no longer assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian country. This reversed the policy to tribal self-determination, which continues today.

Indian Financing Act of 1974, 25 U.S.C.A. § 1451. This act provided a revolving loan fund to aid in the development of Indian resources.

Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, 25 U.S.C.A. § 450. Authorized the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to enter contracts with tribes assuming responsibility for the administration of federal Indian programs.

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/profiles/stancel/indian.htm
  • Technological Advances/Inventions

    • Toboggan: made of bark and used to carry game across the snow
    • Snowshoes
    • Kayak: created by the Inuit people who used an outer layer of animal skin to create them
    • Lacrosse: Huron and Iroquois Indians living in New York and Ontario; considered good military training and a rite sacred to Thunder
    • Moccasins
    • Bow and Arrows

http://inventors.about.com/od/famousinventions/a/Native_American.htm
  • Political and Social Issues

  • Economic Status


With the exception of tribes who run casinos, a majority of the Native American tribes today struggle financially.
"There are an estimated 2.1 million Native Americans, and they are the most impoverished of all ethnic groups.
According to the 2000 Census, an estimated 400,000 Native Americans reside on reservation land.
While some tribes have had success with gaming, only 40% of the 562 federally recognized tribes operate casinos."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Americans_in_the_United_States
http://www.indiangaming.org/library/indian-gaming-facts/index.shtml

"According to a 2007 survey by the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 1 percent of Native Americans own and operate a business."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Americans_in_the_United_States
http://www.america.gov/st/diversity-english/2007/December/20071221175918ABretnuH0.3369257.html
  • Popular Interests

    • Poems and Songs:
In traditional Native American cultures, poems (more properly called "songs") were usually created for tribal occasions such as initiation rites, healings ceremonies, and planting or hunting rituals. The songs could also be used to pass on tribal history, standards of ethical conduct, and religious beliefs to other members of the tribe. Usually the songs were rhythmically chanted or sung in a tribal context to drums or musical accompaniment.

To tribal singers, words could magically connect them with the supernatural forces in all of nature. Rather than describing a present-tense scene, the singers often projected themselves into the future by "visualizing" the outcome they hoped to produce or by identifying with, for example, the rain cloud or the buffalo irresistibly attracted (hopefully) to the singer's powerful song-words.

The precision of tersely worded images like this one can sometimes remind modern readers of imagist poetry or a Japanese haiku, but in a performance context, those lines--repeated over an extended period of time--would have a very different effect as the speaker invoked and anticipated the warmth and fullness of summer after a winter of hardship.

The commonly-used parallelisms and repetitions of similar or contrasting phrases often create the effect of "rhyming thoughts" rather than the rhyming sounds of western non-Indian poetry, according to Spinden (cited in A. Grove Day, The Sky Clears: Poetry of the American Indian, 1951). What may sometimes seem like unnecessary repetition to non-Indian readers can become, in the context of performed tribal ceremonies, a powerful and mesmerizing technique. The commonly-used parallelisms and repetitions of similar or contrasting phrases often create the effect of "rhyming thoughts" rather than the rhyming sounds of western non-Indian poetry, according to Spinden (cited in A. Grove Day, The Sky Clears: Poetry of the American Indian, 1951). What may sometimes seem like unnecessary repetition to non-Indian readers can become, in the context of performed tribal ceremonies, a powerful and mesmerizing technique.

http://members.cox.net/academia/songs.html

"The most widely practiced public musical form among Native Americans in the United States is that of the pow-wow." At these pow-wows, a group of drummers sit in a circle around one large drum. This drum group provides a unison beat as they sing traditional pow-wow songs of welcome, going-home, war, honor, etc. The dancers, adorned in colorful and feathered dress, dance around the drum circle.

Bierhosrt, John (1992). A Cry from the Earth: Music of North American Indians. Ancient City Press.

Here is a video of two Native American dancers performing in Colorado, similar to what the dancing would be like at a traditional pow-wow:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfNiSKrKdaM&NR=1
  • International Relations

  • Literature and Major Writers

Ben Franklin about the Native Americans -
Tewa Tribe -
  • Other media and artists


Poetry-




Founding Documents -
Questions: