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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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1. Native Voices   



1. Native Voices

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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Activities
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Activities
- Context
Activities
- Creative Response
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Activities: Author Activities


Luci Tapahonso - Teaching Tips

Back Back to Luci Tapahonso Activities
  • The number 4 is important for Tapahonso's verse. As Tapahonso points out in her American Passages interview, many Navajo songs have four stanzas and ceremonies are structured in fours, as are many ordinary things. Play the excerpt from Tapahonso's interview in which she elaborates on the significance of the number 4, and then have your students read one of her poems that uses repetitions of 4. What meaning does the number bring to the poem?

  • Show your students the segment on the Navajo Reservation from the documentary Winds of Change: A Matter of Promises, narrated by N. Scott Momaday. How do the Navajo strategies for adapting to cultural change compare to the strategies used by Tapahonso? This segment of the video, which introduces Navajo veterans and chantways, is also useful to set up Ortiz and Silko's work.

  • The traditional Navajo dwelling is called the hogan and is constructed out of earth and wooden poles according to instructions given from Talking God. Hogans are a good way to introduce students to some of the basic principles of Navajo oral tradition and chantways; as anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu reflects, the house is "a microcosm organized according to the same oppositions which govern all the universe." The entrances to hogans always face east. As Tapahonso explains, "In Navajo thinking everything begins in the East. So the beginning of day, the beginning of life . . . is seen as being situated in the East. The hogan given by Talking God is also the home of Dawn Woman, or Changing Woman, wife of the sun." Have students look at the image of the hogan in the archive. How is it different from a Western-style house? How does it reflect the values in the poem "A Breeze Swept Through"? Students may also enjoy "Starlore," Tapahonso's poem about a hogan, from Blue Horses Rush In.




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