An Introduction to Native American Literature

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AN INTRODUCTION TO NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE
Native American literatures embrace the memories of creation stories, the tragic wisdom of native ceremonies, trickster narratives, and the outcome of chance and other occurrences in the most diverse cultures in the world. These distinctive literatures, eminent in both oral performances and in the imagination of written narratives, cannot be discovered in reductive social science translations or altogether understood in the historical constructions of culture in one common name. (Vizenor 1) Since the end of the 15th century, the migration of Europeans to America, and their importation of Africans as slaves, has led to centuries of conflict and adjustment between Old and New World societies. Europeans created most of the early written historical record about Native Americans after the colonists' immigration to the Americas.3 Many Native cultures were matrilineal; the people occupied lands for use of the entire community, for hunting or agriculture. Europeans at that time had patriarchal cultures and had developed concepts of individual property rights with respect to land that were extremely different. The differences in cultures between the established Native Americans and immigrant Europeans, as well as shifting alliances among different nations of each culture through the centuries, caused extensive political tension, ethnic violence and social disruption. The Native Americans suffered high fatalities from the contact with infectious Eurasian diseases, to which they had no acquired immunity. Epidemics after European contact caused the greatest loss of life for indigenous populations. In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the government to relocate Native Americans from their homelands within established states to lands west of the Mississippi River, accommodating European-American expansion. Perhaps the most important moment of governmental detribalization came with the passing of...
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