Native Americans in Literature

November 13, 2015

Hello, it’s been a very busy week here at Shadowbox….anniversary, Veteran’s Day….I’m up to the challenge! November is Native American Heritage Month and Shadowbox is taking a look at Native Americans in art, literature, music and film. Monday we saw four Native Americans that have made a statement in art, now lets look at the writers…..


Sherman Alexie

A poet, writer and filmmaker, much of Alexie’s writings draws on his experiences as a Native American with ancestry of several tribes, growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. His best-known works such as The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1995), a book of short stories, and Smoke Signals (1998), a film based on that collection, which he wrote the screenplay. Alexie’s works addresses difficult themes like despair, poverty, alcoholism, and Native American identity with humor and compassion. Alexie’s influences for his literary works do not rely solely on traditional Indian forms. He “blends elements of popular culture, Indian spirituality, and the drudgery of poverty-ridden reservation life to create his characters and the world they inhabit,” according to Sarah A. Quirk from the Dictionary of Library Biography.



Leslie Marmon Silko

A Laguna Pueblo writer, Silko is a key figure in the first wave of the Native American Renaissance. Her most notable work is Ceremony (1977), about a WWII veteran of Laguna Pueblo mixed ancestry who returns home to a poverty-stricken Laguna reservation and overcomes a series of challenges. Ceremony remains Silko’s most critically acclaimed literary masterpiece. She has also written a collection of poems and short stories, other novels, essays, such as Storyteller (1981), and Sacred Water (1994). Her last novel was Gardens In the Dunes (2000). Silko remains a powerful figure in American literature.



Paula Gunn Allen

She was not only a novelist, but a poet, literary critic, and lesbian activist. She made an impact in fiction and poetry. Even though Allen was of mixed race with European-American and Native-American, she identified more with the Laguna Pueblo culture she grew up with, where she drew on its traditions in her all her works. Her anthropological writings include The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (1986), which  she argued that the central role for women played in many Native American societies were recorded by patriarchal Europeans. Other works include The Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1986) which was her only novel, Life is a Fatal Disease: Collected Poems 1962-1995 (1997), and  As Long As the Rivers Flow: The Stories of Nine Native Americans (1996).



Vine Delores Jr.

Open Education Data Base (OEDB) calls this late author, theologian, historian, and activist as one of the most outspoken voices in Indian affairs. Deloria’s writings redefine Native activism in the 60s and 70s. He was known for his book Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1969), which generated unprecedented attention to Indian issues. He wrote more than 20 books, from God Is Red: A Native View of Religion (1994), Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact (1995), addressing stereotypes, challenging accepted ideas of American history, and helping the American Indian Movement to gain momentum. He served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1964-1967, which increased tribal membership.


Just wanted to give a glimpse of Native American writers who have made a mark into the literary world and continue to do so through their works. Come back tomorrow, I gotta a few things to share with you. Enjoy your Friday! Be blessed!





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