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Native American Literature


The author used symbolism in the literature. The corn was placed facing east and west, relating to the passage of the sun The man and woman were created from the corn ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Native American Literature

Native American Literature
  • Many of us have formed negative stereotypes of
    Native Americans based on Hollywood depictions
  • Who owns the land? Native Americans saw
    themselves as caretakers of the land. Tribes did
    not understand the European concept of land
  • There were more than 300 different Native
    American cultures in North America and more than
    200 languages.
  • Common Activity storytelling
  • Common Theme reverence to nature
  • Due to European diseases, some tribes lost as
    much as 90 of their people

(No Transcript)
  • Myths
  • Creation Myths
  • The purpose of myths is to seek to explain or
    rationalize one or more aspects of the world or a
    society. Myths usually have religious or
    supernatural elements and have a character that
    is immortal Origin myth a myth that explains how
    something began
  • Many cultures around the world have stories about
    creation. Three Native American creations myths
  • The World on Turtles Back Onondaga
  • When Grizzlies Walked Upright Modoc
  • Navajo Origin Legend Navajo

Types of Stories
  • Descriptions of natural processeswater cycles,
    inter-species relationships, life cycles of
    plants, earth movements and soil types
  • Survival accountshunting, gathering farming
    stories talk about how to collect, prepare eat
  • Oral maps for traveldescribe historic on-going
    migrations of tribe for subsistence holy
  • Magical tales of transformationarticulate the
    mystery complexity of being human
  • Symbolicrefer to larger bodies of oral
  • Lessonsdescribe how why things are the way
    they are
  • Instructions from spirit mentorsexplain how to
    conduct ceremonies
  • Adventures in love, romance marriage

  • These myths had to come from somewhere. There
    were Native Americans that wrote these myths many
    years before the English arrived. Most of these
    myths are not believed today but many of there
    moral points still relate to our society.

Oral Language
  • Oral language The languages of Native American
    tribes were never written down before the English
    arrived from Europe. Their stories were passed
    verbally through the generations.
  • The tradition of storytelling in Native American
    culture serves many purposes. In most instances,
    these stories are meaningless without
    understanding the story's significance and
    purpose. Stories have been used to entertain, to
    teach moral lessons, to pass on personal family
    stories, and to teach tribal beliefs. Many
    stories were--and still are--the personal
    property of families.
  • Traditionally, myths were spoken or sung. This
    created an attentive respectful relationship
    between the storyteller the listeners.

Language of North America
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Forgotten Languages
  • The population of the native civilizations of the
    current territory of the United States fell from
    about 20 million to the present level of less
    than 2 million. Beyond the shrinking size of the
    ethnic populations, the languages have also
    suffered due to the prevalence of English among
    those of Native American ancestry. Most Native
    American languages have ceased to exist, or are
    spoken only by older speakers, with whom the
    language will die in the coming decades.

Remaining Speakers
  • Only 8 indigenous languages of the area of the
    continental United States currently have a
    population of speakers in the U.S. and Canada
    large enough to populate a medium-sized town.
  • Only Navajo still has a population of greater
    than 25,000 within the U.S. Remaining Speakers

Code Talkers in WW II
  • During World War II, bilingual Native Americans,
    mainly Navajo, transmitted messages through codes
    for the United States Army.
  • The codes were never broken by the enemy. The
    Navajos could encode, transmit, and decode a
    threeline message in 20 seconds.
  • Machines used at that time to perform the same
    operation took 30 minutes.

The World on the Turtles Back
  • Onodaga -- Iroquois Creation Myth

  • The Onondaga (Onöñda'gega' or the People of the
    Hills) are one of the original five constituent
    nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Their
    traditional homeland is in central New York
  • In the American Revolutionary War, the Onondaga
    were at first officially neutral. After an
    American attack on their main village on April
    20, 1779, the Onondaga made an alliance with
    theBritish. Thereafter, many Onondaga followed
    Joseph Brant to Six Nations, Ontario, after the
    United States was accorded independence.
  • On November 11, 1794, the Onondaga Nation signed
    the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States,
    in which their right to their homeland was
    acknowledged by the United States in article II
    of the treaty.
  • Those Onondaga remaining in New York are under
    the government of traditional chiefs nominated by
    clan mothers, rather than elected.
  • On March 11, 2005, the Onondaga Nation of, filed
    a land rights action in federal court, seeking
    acknowledgment of title to over 3,000 square
    miles (7,800 km2) of ancestral lands centering in
    Syracuse, New York. In doing so they hope to
    obtain increased influence over environmental
    restoration efforts at Onondaga Lake and other
    EPA Superfund sites in the claimed area.

Time period and literary style
  • This story is a legend that was told by the
    Onondaga Tribe. It displays the emphases they
    placed on dreams It was most likely written
    before the Europeans came to America in the late
    1400s. There is no exact time period in which it
    was written.
  • This legend was passed down from generation to
  • Today more than 25 versions of this story exist

Authors purpose
  • Origin myth which describe the creation of the
    earth. Shows that weaker and smaller animals can
    accomplish things that larger and stronger
    animals have failed to complete teaches that you
    have determination nothing will stand in your
  • Sometimes it is good to be curious. If no one was
    ever curious than we would not have the newer,
    better things in the world today.

  • Imageryimages formed in readers mind relating
    to story example tree, water world, turtle
  • Repetitionrepeating something over and over
    example, when the Muskrat was swimming, the
    author repeated the idea of swimming deeper to
    show how much determination the Muskrat had
  • Twins play a central role in many Native American
  • Transformation of a character to explain a
    natural phenomena

  • In this myth, the "earth" refers to the land (the
    North American continent) rather than to the
  • This myth has been abridged, meaning that it has
    been shortened parts of the story left out. The
    descendants of the ancient chief his wife will
    create humans later in a part of the story that
    is not included in our textbook.
  • Native American myths often include
    two-dimensional characters--characters whose
    names, personalities, and motivations are generic
    rather than fully defined. For example, the
    ancient chief has a generic name rather than a
    specific one, there is little information given
    about his thoughts or personality. A
    three-dimensional character will have doubts, a
    specific name, internal conflicts.
  • Many Native American tribes referred to North
    America as "Turtle Island due to a belief in
    this or a similar creation myth.

  • According to this myth, what existed before the
  • What part does nature and the natural world play
    in this creation? (i.e. What natural elements
    appear in this story, and what do they do?)
  • Why are the twins in conflict even before their
  • How do the twins create balance in the world?
  • Analyze a Creation Myth Complete the chart
    listing three differences between the
    right-handed twin and the left-handed twin.

Right-Handed Twin Left-Handed Twin

  • List three major animal characters in this myth.
    Beside each animal, write an adjective that would
    appropriately describe this character's traits.
    (You should answer this item as a list rather
    than as a complete sentence.)
  • From this myth what do we learn about the
    Iroquois (a) attitude toward nature, (b) view of
    their gods, (c) important food, games and rituals
    (d) beliefs about good and evil?

Coyote and the Buffalo
  • Retold by Mourning Dove of the Salish People

  • Lands were the Pacific Northwest in Washington
  • Part of the First Nations in Canada
  • Lands encroached on as settlers panned for gold
    and looked for land to farm
  • Many of the tribe now live on the Colville Indian

Authors Purpose
  • Trickster Tale many times are contradictory as
    both a creator of order out of chaos and a
    destroyer of order which represses creative
  • Mythic explains how something came to be

  • What are the consequences of Coyotes
    disregarding Buffalo Bulls warning?
  • Does Coyote get what he deserves at the end of
    the story? Why or why not?
  • Trickster tales endure, in part, simply because
    they are fun to read. But they also often serve
    to teach a lesson or moral. What does Coyote
    and the Buffalo teach or explain? Support your
    answer with evidence from the text.
  • This trickster tale gives clues about a societys
    way of life. Name three things that were
    important in the Okanogan culture.

Elements of a Trickster Tale Examples
Involves Deceit
Includes Violence
Uses Magic
Explains an Aspect of Human Nature
Main Character Displays Contradictory Qualities
When Grizzlies Walked Upright
  • Modoc

  • The Modoc tribe is a group of Native American
    people who originally lived in the area which is
    now northeastern California and central Oregon.
    They are currently divided between Oregon and
  • Modoc County, California and Modoc, Indiana are
    named for this group of people.

Time period and literary style
  • Time periodBefore the Europeans came to American
    in the late 1400s by the Modoc tribe Origin myth
    explaining The Sky Spirit creates the earth,
    and the creation of the Native Americans. Time
    period and literary style

Authors purpose
  • Explains the creation of Mount Shasta and the
    land and animals nearby. Tells how the daughter
    of the Sky Spirit marries a bear and their
    children become the first Native Americans. The
    Native Americans living around the mountain would
    never kill a grizzly bear because of this story.
  • This myth teaches us that when you disobey
    someone, such as your parents, you can get other
    people punished for your mistake.

  • The Sky Spirit had cursed the grizzlies by
    saying, Get down on your hands and knees. You
    have wronged me, and from this moment all of you
    will walk on four feet and never talk again. The
    Sky Spirit Chief behaved like a human when he
    used anger to punish the grizzlies.

  • According to this myth ("When Grizzlies Walked
    Upright"), does the Chief of the Sky Spirits
    discover or create the earth? Explain your
  • Explain why the original audience might have
    considered Mount Shasta to be sacred after
    hearing this story.
  • What does the Sky Spirit tell his daughter not to
    do and why does she disobey him?
  • What did the grizzlies do to be cursed? Was this
    a justified punishment? Explain your answer.
  • Why would the audience feel more respect for the
    grizzlies after hearing this story?

The Navajo Origin Legend
Time Period
  • Navajo woman with her children The time period of
    the story was when the Native Americans lived
    before the English people came to America. The
    Navajo told the myths verbally, passing them from
    generation to generation.

Literary techniques author purpose
  • The author used symbolism in the literature. The
    corn was placed facing east and west, relating to
    the passage of the sun The man and woman were
    created from the corn and the buckskin.
  • The corn deer are basic foods which provide
    life for the Navajo.
  • The four gods represent the four directions of
    the wind which gave life to the humans.
  • The purpose of the story is to examine how the
    Navajo people believed the human race was created
    The Navajo people believed these stories were
    true. It is a origin myth telling how marriage
    began. Author's purpose

  • What purpose does the cornmeal serve in this myth
    ("The Navajo Origin Myth")?
  • What might be the speaker's purpose in telling
    this story? Explain your answer.
  • Why is the wind considered to be sacred and
    important to the continuation of life?

The Iroquois Constitution
  • Six separate tribes Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida,
    Onondaga, Mohawk, and Tuscarora
  • Fighting between the tribes put them at risk of
    attack by the Algonquin tribes
  • The tribes formed the Iroquois League to
    negotiate with foreign nations and resolve
    conflict among the tribes.
  • The tribes have a shared culture and similar
  • Today the tribes fight for environmental
    protection and increased recognition from the US
    and other governments

  • "The Iroquois Constitution" was first thought to
    have been written in the 1500's, but a newer
    theory believes it to be between 1090 and 1150
    A.D. Five Nations that formed the Iroquois
    Confederation included the Mohawk, Oneida,
    Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca tribes. Time Period

  • The author uses imagery to help the reader
    picture what the author is describing. Tree of
    the Great Peace can be picture in your head. The
    author also uses symbolism. The tree symbolism
    the Iroquois Confederate The roots of that tree
    symbolized peace and strength. Imagery

  • The Iroquois Constitution set forth a series of
    laws, forming a government that any could join if
    they wished to obey the laws. At the beginning of
    counsel meetings, the Iroquois gave thanks to the
    Creator for the natural world. Government

  • Explain the comparison between the agreement made
    in this document ("The Iroquois Constitution")
    and the "Tree of Peace".
  • This document mentions several agreements made
    among the people. List the three most important
    agreements in paragraphs four through seven and
    explain why they are important.
  • Explain what characteristics a council Lord must
  • What values does this document advocate (to argue
    in favor of something)?

Review and Assess
  • Respond The Modoc chose grizzly bears, and the
    Navajo chose corn to represent the sources of
    their human existence. What symbol would you
    choose for twenty-first century America? Why?
  • (a) Recall In "The Earth on Turtle's Back," what
    does the chief's wife do to get life started on
    Earth? (b) Draw Conclusions Based on the
    conclusion of the myth, how do you think the
    Onondaga view women in their culture?
  • (a) Recall According to the Navajo myth, what do
    the lines on our fingertips reveal? (b)
    Interpret In what way does this explanation link
    the everyday world with the mythological world?
  • (a) Recall According to the Iroquois, what is
    the Great Law? (b) Hypothesize In what way might
    the Great Law affect not only the living Iroquois
    but also their future descendants?

Literary Analysis - Origin Myths
  • List those who share in the process of bringing
    about human life on Earth in (a) "When Grizzlies
    Walked Upright," (b) "The Earth on Turtle's
    Back," and (c) The Navajo Origin Legend.
  • Each of these origin myths focuses on explaining
    different aspects of human origins or on varying
    natural phenomena. What can you conclude about
    the lives and interests of each culture from the
    focal points in each myth?

Comparing Literary Works
  • Why do you think literature of an oral tradition
    might include repeated words or phrases?
  • Literature of the oral tradition was often
    performed in dramatic formats at group
    gatherings. How do the structure, language, and
    content of the myths lend themselves to dramatic

Reading Strategy -- Recognizing Cultural Details
  • What cultural details concerning Modoc family
    structure does the grizzly bear community suggest
    in "When Grizzlies Walked Upright"?
  • Use cultural details from The Iroquois
    Constitution to determine the qualities that the
    Iroquois believe a lord should possess.

What is your heritage?
  • Interview a classmate about his or her heritage.
    Ask about
  • A family tradition
  • An important belief or value
  • A story about his or her familys roots
  • How has his or her heritage affected his or her