American Indian Literature At Issue

At Issue

(Representations of Race in American Literature)

During the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, most works dealing with Native Americans were written by whites who visited the reservations and wrote about the people they found there and the stories they heard. These accounts may have led the American public to believe that American Indians were more exotic than they actually were. They offered information about the mythology and spiritual beliefs of Native Americans but did not always accurately portray their everyday life. One writer in the early twentieth century who did present a very accurate view of the Native American lifestyle was Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), who wrote many books about Indian life and beliefs, including The Soul of the Indian (1911). Eastman was able to explain Native American life accurately because he himself was a Sioux who spent many years as the doctor on the Lone Pine Reservation in South Dakota. He could compare the Sioux culture to the white culture because he had been educated at Dartmouth College. At the end of the twentieth century, readers were still consulting Eastman’s works for an understanding of Native American beliefs and values.