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Native American Literature

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Rohit Nair

on 5 September 2013

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Transcript of Native American Literature

Native American Literature
Religious Beliefs
Various but similar beliefs among tribes.
Each tribe had a guardian spirit for each purpose, shaman, prophet, and various ceremonies.
Believed that gods came to earth in form of shaman and spread the arts.
Priests held public ceremonies.
Prophets did not come into existence until the Europeans arrived.
Ancestors were valued as divine spirits. Usually, associated with animal spirits.
Myths and Legends were the foundation for many ceremonies. They were an integral part of society and induced faith in the people.
Myths and Legends were passed down generation to generation through oral tradition.
Native American tribes had various and similar explanations for the physical phenomena around them; these explanations became their cultural myths and legends.
Myths and Legends:
Physical Phenomena
Social Order
Human Nature
Great Spirit
Used much repetition and archaic language.
Many myths were about the creation of the world. Based on nature.
Memories of ancient ancestors
Symbolism of seasons, weather, plants, animals, earth, water, sky & fire.
Each tribe had its own interpretation.
Myths and Legends were based on religious beliefs and often depicted stories about cultural or trickster heroes, often animal-based, to communicate social values and morals.
Encompassed many themes such as creation and migration.
Early Literature
Later Literature
With the arrival of the Europeans, Native Americans were forced to convert to Christianity and learn English by the missionaries. They were taught how to read and write.
Many Native American stories were published by both Native Americans and Europeans.
The first Native American writer to publish in English was Samson Occom of the Mohegan Tribe - A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian, 1771
The most popular genre written by Native American authors of the 19th and 20th centuries were autobiographies.
This was a break with conventional tradition as it was unethical in Native American societies to talk about oneself.
The first autobiography written by a Native American - A Son of the Forest, The Experiences of William Apes, A Native of the Forest. Written by Himself - was published by William Apes.
Creation Myth
There was once a First World below the World as we know it. Everything was black and it had in it only six beings. They were First Man, the Son of Night and the Blue Sky over Sunset; First Woman, the Daughter of Day Break and the Yellow Sky of Sunset; Salt Woman; Fire God; Coyote and Begochiddy. Begochiddy had blue eyes and golden hair and was both man and woman.

Begochiddy made the plants because there were none. Then a white mountain was made to the east, a blue one to the south, a yellow one to the west and to the north a black mountain. Then Begochiddy made the insects and the ants. Fire God became very jealous and began to bum everything that was made. Begochiddy told First Man to gather everything up that was made and they went to the red mountain that Begochiddy made in the center of the earth. There Begochiddy created the Big Reed that was hollow. They all got inside and up and up it grew until it reached the Second World. The color of Second World was blue. In it Begochiddy created plants, clouds and mountains. In Second World there were also Swallow People and Cat People. Everyone was happy for a time but then things started going wrong. Again Begochiddy planted Big Reed. They all got inside and up and up it grew until it reached Third World which was yellow. The mountains gave the light because there was not a moon or stars. Begochiddy made rivers, water animals, trees, birds and lightening. Then all kinds of human beings were created. Everyone spoke the same language and everyone was happy. All of a sudden, red streaks went across the sky and they represented disease that would come to the people through evil magic. They were put there by First Man.

After a while, Coyote went to Begochiddy and told how unhappy everyone was and how the men and women were fighting each other. Begochiddy separated them by a river. But soon they began to miss each other. Begochiddy told them that they could live together but it there was any more fighting a great flood would come and destroy the Third World.

Coyote was roaming around Third World and heard Salt Woman say that she had seen a baby with long black hair in the river. Coyote quickly went to the river, got the baby, hid it under his coat and told no one. Four days later a black storm came from the east and a great noise was heard around Third World. Then, from the west came a yellow storm, and a white one came from the north. Begochiddy gathered all things that were made. Big Reed again was planted. They put in all things that were made and all human beings. Again it began to grow up away from the rising waters.

This time there was a problem with Big Reed. It stopped growing before it reached Fourth World, The Spider People tried to spin a web that would connect it to Fourth World. That didn�t work. The Ant People tried to dig into Fourth World but that didn�t work because the World was too hard. Finally, the Locust with his hard head broke through and everyone and everything climbed through the hole that he had made. Begochiddy saw water all around and saw Four Great Powers. When Begochiddy waved to them they let the water recede. Begochiddy went back and told them that the water receded but that they needed someone to walk up there to see if it was dry enough. The Badger offered to go. When he walked on Fourth World his feet became black with mud and that is how he got black feet. Begochiddy knew that the Fourth World needed to be dried out. So the winds, the cyclones and the dust devils were called upon. They swirled around and around and dried up the Fourth World. All created things and people followed. When Begochiddy looked down to the Third World and saw the water still rising a question came into mind. Who had angered the Water Monster so? Coyote tightened the blanket around him and Begochiddy knew it was he. He was told to give the Water Monster back the baby so the waters would recede.

Now Begochiddy prepared the Fourth World. Everything was placed in order: The mountains, the plants, the animals, the Sun, the Moon and the Stars were placed in the Sky. Fire God wanted to keep the fire all to himself but Coyote stole some of it. He gave it to the people to cook with and to keep them warm. Begochiddy gave the people different languages and scattered them around the world. They also learned from Begochiddy the right way to live, give thanks, and care for the fruits of the Earth.

It was at this time that Changing Woman came to be. She helped all people, became their friend and destroyed monsters that threatened the people. This is how the Fourth World came to be. But just as the other worlds were destroyed so will this world if people did not live a proper life. That is what the Navajo say to this day �.

Rohit Nair
Daksh Patel
Ishu Bachu
The first immigrants came to North America from Central Asia about 12,000 years ago through the land bridge in the Bering Strait. They were a crude race, dependent on survival
Archaic Period: 4,000 - 5,000 years ago
The Paleo-Indians spread across the Americas, adapting to each type of environment. By the end of the Archaic period, Native American cultures, languages, and societies were flourishing.
Formative Period: 3,000 - 5,000 years ago
Communities were further developed.
Social and Political Relationships were fortified. Non-egalitarian political systems were formed.
More access to goods and services.
Societal Classes were formed - elite, nobles, commoners, and poor.
Myths and Legends developed in culture. Oral tradition developed
After European Arrival:
Diseases spread and population decreased.
Native American tribes became more close-knit.
After colonization, missionaries forced the Native Americans to convert to Christianity and taught them how to read and write in English..
Native Americans started publishing their stories; they translated their myths and wrote much autobiographies depicting cultural differences.

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