In Harmony with Nature The first American literature was created by the first people to live in North America, the Native Americans Inhabited the land thousands of years before the first Europeans Didnt consider the land to be a single nation Belonged to more than 300 distinct groups Spoke more than 200 languages Lived a life connected with nature Had complex religious beliefs, sophisticated political systems, and strong social values
Native American literature was oral Passed down from generation to generation in the form of storytelling and performances Pictographs, knotted strings, and coded wampum belts aided in memorization All stories and songs were attributed to the Great Mystery The Great Mystery gave the words to the singer or storyteller Words possessed magic and power Could help the hunter capture game, influence the crops to
grow, etc. Native Americans also believed the living could communicate with inanimate objects Example: People could assume the form of animals and vice versa There is an emphasis in Native American lit. on the importance of living in harmony with nature They believed humans had a kinship with animals, plants, the land, the heavenly bodies, and the elements
They believed human beings did not have control over nature and was actually a part of nature that needed to maintain a proper relationship with the surroundings Types of Native American Lit Myth A traditional story, religious in nature, that explains a belief, ritual, or natural phenomenon Most myths contain archetypes
Archetype a pattern that appears in literature across cultures and is repeated throughout the ages Can be a character, a plot, an image, a theme, or setting Creation myths Explain the beginning of the world Types of Native American Lit Ritual Songs and Chants
Performed as part of ceremonies Hunting songs, love songs, spiritual songs, etc. Helped N.A. communicate with the Great Mystery Types of Native American Lit Tales of Heroes and Tricksters tell of people who transformed the world into its present state Animals act like humans Include magical
transformations Explain natural phenomena The hero of a trickster tale can play several roles Cultural hero Clever deceiver Numbskull The stories/works in our text are different from their original form They have been translated into English
They would have been performed, not read They still, however, expose the reader to the beauty, wisdom, and humor of the literature Native Americans and their traditions have not disappeared from this country Some cultures were lost due to disease and violence or European invasions Others did survive and change Forced religious conversions Forced relocation Forced education They still keep oral traditions alive by singing songs
and telling stories Most of the new generation of writers deal with the problems of harmonizing the old and the new Reconciling old traditions w/ the new practices Mixing together mythology, oral history, & personal reflections
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