Interest in enlightened works about and by American Indians (and other minority groups) began in the 1970’s when intellectuals began challenging the traditional literary canon, which was primarily made up of white, male, American and British writers. A substantial body of literature within this canon, including the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, celebrated the American frontier and in doing so depicted the decline of the “red man” and the triumph of the “white man.” Reenvisioning the literary canon has had two results: the publication of anonymous American Indian writings and stories (handed down orally), which have survived from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the publication of contemporary American Indian writers, such as N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, and James Welch.
This reformation of the canon eventually affected the juvenile and young adult literature. North American Indian Ceremonies, with its enlightened, nonstereotypical portrait of American Indians, is a product of the literary academy’s embracing of multiculturalism. This book and other works by Karen Liptak in this field—such as North American Indian Medicine People (1990), North American Indian Sign Language (1990), North American Indian Survival Skills (1990), and North American Indian Tribal Chiefs (1992)—mark the author as an important spokesperson for American Indians.