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

1. Native Voices

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Activities: Author Activities

Leslie Marmon Silko - Selected Archive Items

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[5741] Anonymous, Two Navajo Shaman Dry Painting to Cure an Illness (n.d.),
courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.
Navajo sand paintings, or "dry" paintings, are meant to summon and embody the spirits of the holy people and are therefore wiped away immediately after the Night Chant ceremony.

[5882] Boyd Norton, Orange Mallow, Showe Desert Flower (1972),
courtesy of Still Pictures Branch, National Archives and Records Administration.
The desert is home to a surprising variety of plants and animals. Much of Leslie Marmon Silko's work examines the relationship of humans to the natural world, which she sees as holding the key to spiritual renewal and regeneration.

[5970] Nancy Crampton, Leslie Marmon Silko Portrait (n.d.),
courtesy of Nancy Crampton.
Leslie Marmon Silko is a writer of mixed heritage—European, Mexican, and Native American—and she grew up in the ancient Pueblo town Old Laguna.

[6113] Rudi Williams, Korean War Army Veteran Ted Wood, an Abenaki Indian, in Full Dress Uniform (1998),
courtesy of DefenseLINK News, U.S. Department of Defense.
Abenakis originally come from New England and Canada. Ceremonies honoring veterans are common at Native American powwows, and many communities have adapted special ceremonies (like the Navajo Enemyway Chant) to help heal veterans. Leslie Marmon Silko's novel Ceremony portrays the recovery of a mixed-blood Indian who fights in World War II and returns to Laguna physically intact but psychologically shattered.

[6532] Kenji Kawano, Navajo Navy Vet (2001),
courtesy of Kenji Kawano.
A sizable proportion of the Native American population served in World War II. In her best-known work, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko tells the story of Tayo, a WWII veteran whose horrific war experiences intensify the estrangement he feels because of his mixed background.

[6626] Joel Grimes, Yeibichei Rocks at Monument Valley (1992),
courtesy of Joel Grimes.
The beauty of a sunset at Monument Valley, a part of the Navajo Nation, is captured in this photograph. The traditional Native American reverence for the land is a cornerstone of the thinking of many contemporary writers as well as conservationists.

[6635] Skeet McAuley, Fallout Shelter Directions (1984),
courtesy of Sign Language, Contemporary Southwest Native America, Aperture Foundation, Inc.
Nuclear weapons were tested throughout the Southwest. Such weapons testing, for writers like Leslie Marmon Silko, does not accord with the respect that humans should show to the natural world if we are to retain our hopes for renewal and regeneration.

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