Native American Literature

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Native American Literature

Native American literature is made up of two different types of literature, the oral traditions and the newer written traditions. From these two types are many different styles that make up the many different tribes of the Native American culture. Storytelling has long been an important aspect of all Native American cultures. It is through storytelling that the Native Americans are able to pass down their traditions and cultural identities. Oral traditions as well as the newer written traditions play an important part in understanding the cultural make-up of a tribe as well as establishing the historical significances of each individual tribe.

The oral traditions of a tribe provided the heritage and memories of the tribe. It contained the actions, behaviors, relationships, and practices that encompass the social, economic, and spiritual identities of the people. These stories were related to each generation, keeping intact the beliefs and important aspects of the tribe. Storytellers learn their stories from other storytellers and from experience. Their stories change with the speaker and with time and with circumstance. Each story is told from a subject-position which affects the telling of the story (Leen, 1995).

Storytelling is an event in which the people gather and information is shared through orations for both social and educational purposes. The same tale told in different tribes will be significantly different because each tale contains the important beliefs and stylistic differences of the individual tribe. An example of this can be found in the Trickster tales. Throughout just the Plains Indians, the Trickster takes many forms, such as the spider for the Dakota tribe or the coyote for the Kiawa tribe. However, the story or the moral of these stories is often the same, serving to teach or provide information necessary to keep the beliefs of the tribe intact.

Oral traditions of storytelling change not only...