What makes Native Am. literature ethnic literature and what qualities & issues are reflected in their literature?Please discuss the social, political, and philosophical issues.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Originating as folktales and following an oral tradition, Native American literature, composed of stories, poems, songs, oratory, and chants, was not even recognized until the late 1800s.  Until then, the assumption was made that Native Americans had no literature.  Of course, a problem occurred with the translating of such literature into English. Such American Indian writers as N. Scott Momaday, Louise Erdrich, Simon J. Ortiz, and Leslie Marmon Silko have brought to life the Native American literary venture by combining their fluency in Englsh with a natural and deep cultural understanding.

Native American literature incorporates stories that teach moral lessons and convey practical information about the natural world.  This literature also reflects a view of the natural world that is more inclusive that the one typically viewed in Western literature.  For, the Native American universe is not dominated by human beings; instead, animals and humans ae often interchangeable in myths and folk tales.  Origin myths may even feature animals as the instruments of creation.

All Native American literature exhibits a keen awareness of the power of metaphor as words are as powerful and alive as the person who utters them.  Songs and chants can make things happen, such as calling game, bringing rain, curing the sick, or destroying an enemy.  Speech, or oratory, is highly developed and respected as a literary form.

The cyclical nature of existence is a prevalent theme in Native American literature; the worldview is of an endless circle rather than on a progressive straight line.  Thus, the literature and cultural experiences are passed on generation after generation.