Native American Storytelling November 12, 2012 ENG/301 Native American Storytelling Native American literature is the root of cultural storytelling, which is told through oral tradition, this consist of stories and songs verbally. Native American literature use literary conventions in the root of myth and symbolic examples in storytelling. The book “Native American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology” gives good insight into the Native American ways of life and how storytelling is a part of that life.
Short stories by Simon Oritz and Luther Standing Bear share life experience and cultural diversity. The reader can see how historical, social and political, and cultural ways play a role in the Native Americans storytelling. Storytelling is important in Native American literature. It began through “…both oral performances and in the imagination of written narratives, cannot be discovered in reductive social science translations or altogether understood in historical constructions of culture in one common name” (Vizenor, 1995, p. 1).
Storytelling is the verbal source of stories; a well told story takes its reader on a quest or journey and well descriptive. “The metaphors in oral stories are mundane, abstruse, mysterious, unnamable, and more, but few collections in translation reveal the rich context of the songs and stories” (Vizenor, 1995, p. 7). Native American culture uses stories and songs to entertain as well as a way to teach the youth and inspire. Storytelling is an important tool in the Native American society. Storytelling is how Native Americans passed down the history, heritage, and traditions of their culture. Tragic wisdom is the source of native reason, the common sense gained from the adverse experience of discovery, colonialism, and culture domination” (Vizenor, 1995, p. 6). Native American literature use different types of literary conventions in storytelling traditions. According to Sinnaeve (2012) website, the Native American literary conventions are trickster, death, creation myths, and spiritual relationship to the land. “The trickster is an important literary and critical presence in contemporary Native American studies” (Cox, 2005, p. 252). Tricksters come in many forms “such as Raven, Spider and Coyote are haracters in Native American mythology who represent the underside of human nature” (Sinnaeve, 2012). “In this literary critical context, a trickster uses sleight of hand and tongue to evade, manipulate, and subvert the colonial world” (Cox, 2005, p. 252). In the poem “My Father’s Song” written by Simon Ortiz, the poem speaks of the importance of creation. The creation of life, land, and plantation, the story is about a boy who is learning to planet corn. “We planted corn one spring at Acu – we planted several times but this one particular time I remember the soft damp sand in my hand” (Ortiz, 1981/1995, p. 260).
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Within the field the boy and his father found a nest of mice, the father showed the boy how to gentle pick them up, and take them to the end “of the field and put them in the shade” (Ortiz, 1981/1995, p. 260). The purpose of literary conventions in storytelling helps to educate the new generation, “These stories have been carried down orally for generations, often by parents teaching their children about fundamental cultural truths” (Sinnaeve, 2012). The Native American people went through many changes throughout history, social and political, and cultural events. A social and political event was the education of young Native Americans.
In 1879, many Native American children were put into the United States Government schools, to teach the youth of the White man’s ways and language. In the story “My People, the Sioux,” written by Luther Standing Bear, one learns of the hardship the children had to go through. “It is my desire that all people know the truth about the first Americans and their relations with the United States Government” (Bear, 1975/1996, p. 33). In this story Bear tells the reader how Native American schools began. A man name Captain Pratt though, to better the White people he should “…get some young Indians children and educate them” (Bear, 1975/1996, p. 4). The United States government approved the education of Native American children. Captain Pratt was not prepared to start school, “He brought some of the Indian prisoners from Virginia with him, and they remained in the Carlisle Barracks until Captain Pratt could go to Dakota and return with his first consignment of ‘scholars’” (Bear, 1975/1996, p. 34). When the young Native Americans first arrived they had to sleep on the cold hard floor, later on they were given bags to fill up with straw to sleep on, but the children had to fill them up themselves.
The children only had the blankets they brought from home. For breakfast the children had bread and water, and lunch meat, bread, and coffee. The children were all renamed with a white man’s name, but they were not taught how to pronounce the names. The author, Bear, was one of the first Native American boys to learn his name; in the story the reader can see how proud he was of his accomplishment. The children had their haircut as a White man’s haircut and soon after wore clothing as the White man. Bear and his cousin, although, bought White man’s clothes with the money their parents sent them.
The Native American children choose a religion for themselves then attended Sunday school for those religions. “I did these duties all the time I was at Carlisle School, so in the early part of 1880, although I was a young boy of but twelve, I was busy learning everything my instructors handed me” (Bear, 1975/1996, p. 44). The root of storytelling is through the Native American culture. Storytelling takes the reader or listener on a journey of the culture and life experience of the people within the culture. Native Americans use literary convention, such as trickster, death, creation myths, etc. to create more allusion.
It gives the story more purpose by teaching the reader through the story of the trickster character. Storytelling shares life experience, such as learning to read and write in Bear story “My People, the Sioux. ” Although the reader can see how the White man treated the Native American children a bit harshly, the Native American children overcame it and received an education out of the experience. Native Americans use storytelling for different events and ways of life, such as pass down and education on the cultural history, traditions, knowledge, cares wisdom, morals, and lessons. Reference Bear, L. (1995). My People, the Sioux. In G.
Vizenor (Eds) Native American literature. A brief introduction and anthology. New York, NY: Addison-Wesley. (Original works published in 1975) Bridges, K. (2011). South Ark: South Arkansas Community College. Retrieved from http://www. southark. edu/index. php/dr-ken-bridges/1392-united-states-since-1876 Cox, J. H. (2005). Living Sideways: Tricksters in American Indian Oral Traditions. Melus, 30(2), 252. Oritz, S. (1995). My Father’s Song. In G. Vizenor (Eds) Native American literature. A brief introduction and anthology. New York, NY: Addison-Wesley. (Original works published in 1981) Sinnaeve, V. (2012). Wise Geek. Retrieved from
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