Southeastern Native American Literature

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Southeastern Native American Literature

Native American literature from the Southeastern United States is deeply rooted in the oral traditions of the various tribes that have historically called that region home. While the tribes most integrally associated with the Southeastern U.S. in the American popular mind--the FIVE CIVILIZED TRIBES (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole)--were forcibly relocated to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) from their ancestral territories in the American South, descendents of those tribes have created compelling literary works that have kept alive their tribal identities and histories by incorporating traditional themes and narrative elements. While reflecting profound awareness of the value of the Native American past, these literary works have also revealed knowing perspectives on the meaning of the modern world in the lives of contemporary Native Americans.

Much of the literature written by Native Americans from the Southeastern U.S. draws from traditional tribal myths. Many of these myths have been transcribed and translated into English by various ethnographers and folklorists, and, in the case of the Cherokee, myths have been collected and published in acclaimed books. Anthropologist James Mooney, an employee of the federal government at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, collected a large number of mythological stories from informants during his years of fieldwork among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee in western North Carolina; Mooney incorporated that material into the important compilation Myths of the Cherokee (1900). A century later, folklorist Barbara R. Duncan, a researcher employed by the Museum of the Cherokee...

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...Booksellers Book of the Year (ABBY) Award. That same year, several scholars identified that the book’s author was in fact Asa Carter (1925-1979), a white supremacist who in the 1960s had scripted speeches for segregationist Alabama Governors George and Lurleen Wallace. Subsequent public doubt about the moral legitimacy of The Education of Little Tree was challenged when African American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., in a New York Times article, asserted that a work of fiction--which Little Tree was by then known to be--should be judged separately from the societal reputation of its author.


Andrew Wiget, Native American Literature (1985).

James M. Crawford, ed., Studies in Southeastern Indian Languages (1975).

Dorothea M. Susag, Roots and Branches: A Resource of Native American Literatures--Themes, Lessons, and Bibliographies (1998).

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