How do Native American writers deal with the displacement of their people in their writings?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the challenge of Native American writers is to express a complex reality in complex literature.  Native American writers struggle to conceptualize what it means to be displaced in different ways through their literature.  Some of the more profound examples of Native American literature reflect a certain amount of pain at being displaced, one that is pivoted towards a resistance in the survival of their people.  Native American writers like James Welch and Leslie Marmon Silko approach the displacement of their people in this light, as one in which the survival of the group is a reflection of the resistance they display.  In the work of Gerald Vizenor, there is a call for a “literature of survivance” to go against the cultural norm to not speak out about the displacement of the people, something he terms  “manifest manners.”  These thinkers reflect the idea that the displacement of an entire population is not something that can be put aside or deferred.  Rather, it must be spoken and articulated.  An answer in terms of solving it is not possible.  Yet, the paths through which Native American writers deal with the displacement of their people in their writings reflects how they recognize that there is a need to talk and to articulate their feelings about a condition that binds all Native Americans together.


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