Native American Voices Know the Definition of Native American

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Many school children celebrate a cliché Thanksgiving tradition in class where they play Indians and Pilgrims, and some children engage in the play of Cowboys vs. Indians. It is known that some died when colonization occurred, that some fought the United States government, and that they can be boiled down to just another school mascot. This is what many people understand of the original inhabitants of America. Historical knowledge of these people has been shallow and stereotyped. The past 150 years has given birth to a literate people now able to record their past, present, and future. Native American literature, as it evolves, defines the Native American culture and its status in the world, as an evolving people, more so than any historical account can. Before colonization, the Native Americans used oral traditions to teach, remember, entertain, and pray. Much of this knowledge was lost because of various reasons. After translation became an option some of these were written down. This is the beginning of Native American literature, the becoming of sound into word. A major pattern of distrust for the white man’s words are evident in this beginning of their literature. Cochise, an Apache leader, made a speech in 1872, loosely entitled [I am Alone] that addressed Americans. This was translated by a white man. It is not known how accurate it is, however, it conveys a strong message. Cochise is a proud man, who is always truthful. “I hereby pledge my word, a word that has never been broken” (1463). He has his doubts about the truthfulness of the Whites whom he watched come in small numbers and had welcomed in friendship. Cochise was confused to their behavior, “At last your soldiers did me a very great wrong”(1463). When they ... ... middle of paper ... ...can literature you find the accounts of things such as the slaughtering of buffalo and leaving them to rot on the ground, and the United States government forbidding Indians to practice their religious rites and beliefs (Momaday 2507). The history books do not tell these things. History is written by those who write, and often enough by the ones that find themselves in power by gift or coercion. History has dealt the indigenous cultures of America a hard blow. The culture-shock faced by these people, who have dwindled down in number from the vast and populous tribes, is one that is still being felt today. Fortunately more and more Native American literature is being written and discovered. From these accounts, verse, and prose and insight can be gained into these proud people who are living in another man's world, once theirs, and have paid to do so ever since.

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