Native American Oral Tradition

SachemThe native people of this land did not pass their stories down through books and letters, but rather through the sharing and memorizing of stories by word-of-mouth, also know as the oral tradition. Native American tribes across the Americas had a rich tradition of storytelling that served to explain the natural world around them, define their relationship with nature, and record and remember their tribal history. Interestingly, it was the role of the women in the tribes to preserve this history, tell these stories, and pass this knowledge down to the next generation of the tribe.

As we begin our study of American Literature, we will start with the traditions of this country’s native people and discuss how their traditions fit into the larger context of global literary traditions, and examine how their literary and oral traditions were affected, changed, and unfortunately in many cases, eradicated by the influx of explorers and settlers.

We will be reading three creation stories –Click here to access the Native American Creation Myths

Additionally, the video below provide an overview of the literary oral tradition of the Native Americans. We will be taking notes over this in class, and you may re-watch the video as many times as needed below:

While watching this video you need to practice the Cornell Note-taking methods we reviewed in class today. If you forgot how to do this, please see the post on how to take these notes.

Click here to access the example notes over Native American Literary Tradition in the Cornell Note style.

Also, remember that we’re not just examining the oral tradition of the Native Americans, but also how their storytelling tradition fits into the larger context of literature. You should hopefully remember your study of archetypes from 9th grade, but in case you have forgotten please visit the link below to view a Prezi I have put together for you to review.

Click here to view the Prezi on Archetypes.

As you review the story, be sure to answer the question: How does ‘The Earth on the Turtle’s Back’ represent the themes of Native American storytelling?

Also, be sure to consider how the settings (Skyland, The Great Tree, Earth as a lush land of plants and animals) and characters (The Great Chief, the pregnant Wife, the Muskrat and all the other animals) are archetypes.

Please click here to access the Cornell Notes we took together over the creation myths ‘The Navajo Legend’ and ‘When Grizzles Stood Upright’. 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Pre-Colonial: Native Americans Prior to European Settlement

We’re starting out this semester by looking at the very beginning of American culture – Native American culture.

In class we discussed the stereotypes and preconceptions we have about Native Americans and their culture, as well as our perceptions of the first interactions between explorers and the Native people. You pointed out that it seems, in the stories you’ve read prior, that Natives we either described as helpful and kind (Pochahontas, Squanto, Sacagawea, The First Thanksgiving) or savage and violent (savages, scalping, Sioux warriors). You also discussed how perceptions of the Native people of America are limited to images of teepees, tomahawks, headdresses, buffaloes and buckskins. A part of this course is to read the voices of past Americans and understand how all of these come together to create the great country we live in today. Over the course of the semester we will continually revisit the voice of Native Americans and how they contribute to the melting pot of America.

First, we watched a brief video discussing the rich history of the Native people of America prior to European settlement – a 14,000 year old culture, with lots of diversity, innovations and history.

We then read a brief excerpt from a 1560’s explorer’s journal title ‘De Orbo Novo’. In this journal we examine the author’s use of figurative language and descriptive, and discussed how the purpose was to highlight and celebrate the diversity of skincolors, flora, and fauna in the New World.

Please click here to access your copy of ‘De Orbo Novo’. 

Next, we examined the ancient city of Cahokia – a massive metropolitan Native American city in what is now Missouri. We discussed the difference between primary and secondary and tertiary sources, pointing out that our journal excerpt ‘De Orbo Novo’ would be a primary source document, but the article about Cahokia would be a secondary source document.

Click here to access your article about Cahokia.

In the article over Cahokia, we learn about the complexity of their social systems, class system, architecture, trade and religion. In our class discussion we highlighted ways that life at Cahokia differed from our preconceived ideas, and practices good traits of active listeners and communicators. You also wrote a constructed response to the questions associated with the article, practicing citing textual evidence.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Welcome to American Literature

Over the course of this semester we will explore the America’s literary history through fiction, poetry, speeches, legal documents and other primary source manuscripts from various periods, locations and times.

I look forward to our journey through American Literature together!

Click here to access your syllabus

You also need to make sure to sign up for our Remind 101, as well as our Google Classroom! 🙂


11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019