As if their near extinction, compulsory attendance at boarding schools, and constant violation of treaty rights by the U.S. Government were not enough, Native Americans were encouraged to leave the reservations for the big city during the 1950s and 1960s. Many did, but precious few were successful in large urban areas. In order to provide needed support and offer hope to these individuals, they formed political groups (Red Power, ARM, AIM, et al.). These organizations encouraged them to reject any sense of shame of their culture and assisted individuals as they waged battles in court, in federal parks, and in towns across America for their rights.
More importantly, these actions coincided with a return of the people to their traditions. Native-American activists inspired young people to learn as many of the old ways as they could. A Laguna woman who was part of this cultural renaissance became its most celebrated author.
Already highly regarded for her poetry collection, Laguna Woman (1974), Leslie Marmon Silko became the first female Native-American novelist with Ceremony (1977). The story illustrates the importance of recovering the old stories and merging them with modern reality to create a stronger culture. In the novel, a young man named Tayo, from the Laguna Reservation, returns from fighting in the Pacific. He is suffering from a battle fatigue that white medicine cannot cure.
Through his struggle back to health, we learn that the way to heal the self, the land, and the people, is to rediscover the neglected traditional ceremonies and our relationship to the earth. Noted technically for her non-chronological narrative and ability to blend poetry with prose, Silko has been praised as a master novelist.