Some very important themes evolve from this literature. Native Americanviews of the world as represented in these mythologies contrast stronglywith Euro-American perspectives. Recognizing this is absolutely essentialfor later discussion of the differences between Anglo-Americans and NativeAmericans over questions of land, social organization, religion, and soon. In other words, if one can identify these fundamental differences throughthe literature very early on, then later it becomes easier to explain thedifferences in outlook between Native American peoples and Anglo-Americanpeoples that often lead to tragic consequences.
The question of audience is crucial for Native American literature,in that the original audience for the literature understands the worldthrough its own experience much differently than most of our students do.As a result, it's important to reconstruct as much of that cultural andhistorical context as possible for students, especially when it has a directbearing upon the literature. So, for instance, students need to know indiscussing Zuni material that the Zunis, Hopis, and Navajos are agriculturalpeople and that corn and moccasins figure prominently as symbols of life.Rain, moisture, and human beings are imagined in terms of corn, and lifeis understood as an organic process that resembles a plant growing froma seed in the ground, being raised up, harvested, and so forth. Historicallyit's important to realize too that visions of one's community and its historydiffer from culture to culture. So, for instance, the Hopi story of thePueblo revolt imagines the revolt as a response to a life-threatening droughtthat is caused by the suppression of the native religion by the Franciscanpriest. This way of understanding history is very different from the waymost of our students understand history today. Its very notion of causeand effect, involving as it does supernatural means, is much more closelyrelated to a vision of history shared by Christian reconstructionists,seventeenth-century Puritans, and ancient Hebrews.
Unique among mid-twentieth-century Native American literature was Black Elk Speaks, a collaborative work narrated by Nicholas Black Elk (Oglala Lakota) and fashioned into prose by the German-born poet John Neihardt. The volume presents special problems to readers looking for Black Elk's voice, since he narrated his visions and experiences in his Native language; almost simultaneously, Black Elk's son Ben translated his father's words into English, which Neihardt then rephrased for his daughter Enid to copy down in shorthand. She later typed them into longhand, from which Neihardt then composed the text. Black Elk Speaks is a work of hope perched at the edge of despair, the last-ditch effort of the Oglala holy man to provide spiritual teaching for his people and the world beyond; since the middle of the twentieth century Black Elk Speaks has provided a map for the spiritual seeking of many Native people outside the Oglala, as well as for non-Native people wishing to understand a Native American spiritual perspective.
Gerald Vizenor is one of the most prolific Native American writers, having published more than 30 books to date. In addition to teaching Native American Studies at UC Berkeley for several years, Vizenor has produced numerous screenplays, poems, novels, and essays. His novel Griever: An American Monkey King in China, a story that takes Native mythology overseas into a Chinese setting, won him the American Book Award in 1988. His latest novel, Shrouds of White Earth, also won him the same award, and he continues to be a leading figure in Native American literature today.
David Treuer, a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California, is known for stories that defy the stereotypes of Native American literature. His first novel, Little, was published in 1995, and he has since written several works of fiction, non-fiction essays, and short stories. Treuer gained recognition in 2006 for The Translation of Dr. Appelles. The novel focuses on a Native American scholar who lives alone, translating an unnamed language, and trying to make sense of his own personal history. Truer is also known for a controversial collection of essays titled Native American Fiction: A User's Manual, which challenges the work of great Native American writers like Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich. Treuer argues that the genre of Native American literature should be viewed as part of the larger canon of American literature rather than an artifact of historic Native culture.
Some scholars suggest that native American literature did not exist before N.Scott Momaday ((Kiowa and Cherokee, 1934-) published House Made of Dawnin 1968. The text won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize. Although authors of AmericanIndian descent had published novels and short fiction before Momaday was evenborn, they hardly received a substantial critical response to their works.\"Native American literature\" was not perceived as an interrelatedcorpus of texts. House Made of Dawn triggered off a host of publicationsby Native American authors. The corpus of texts by Native Americans has sincebeen expanding in two directions. Not only are authors constantly adding newtexts, but other, earlier texts are also being republished and published for thefirst time.
In the post-war period, Thomas Jefferson established his place in American literature through his authorship of the Declaration of Independence, his influence on the U.S. Constitution, his autobiography, his Notes on the State of Virginia, and his many letters. The Federalist essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay presented a significant historical discussion of American government organization and republican values. Fisher Ames, James Otis, and Patrick Henry are also valued for their political writings and orations. 1e1e36bf2d