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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
- Chippewa Songs
- Louise Erdrich
- Ghost Dance Songs
- Thomas Harriot
- Black Elk & John G. Neihardt
- Simon J. Ortiz
- Leslie Marmon Silko
- Stories of the Beginning of the World
- Luci Tapahonso
- Roger Williams
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities


The information for each author includes biographical and contextual materials and activities.

Chippewa Songs
Frances Densmore collected these Chippewa songs between 1907 and 1909. The songs reflect the culture of the Chippewa peoples who once lived along the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior, across Minnesota, and west to North Dakota. The Chippewa are Algonquian Indians; that is, they speak a language that is related to those others... Go

Louise Erdrich (b. 1954)
Born in Little Falls, Minnesota, Louise Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe of North Dakota. The Chippewa are also called the Ojibwa, or, in their own Algonquian language, the Anishinabe, both of which terms appear in Erdrich's work. Erdrich's French-Chippewa mother and her German-American father were teachers for the Bureau of Indian Affairs... Go

Ghost Dance Songs
One of the most tragic events in Native American history was the massacre of some two hundred Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge reservation, on December 15, 1890. The slaughter of the Sioux was provoked in part by the Seventh Cavalry's reaction to a multiday ceremony known as the Ghost Dance. A combination of traditional... Go

Thomas Harriot (1560-1621)
Born in England and educated at Oxford, Thomas Harriot was employed as a young man by the explorer Sir Walter Ralegh. In 1585 he accompanied Ralegh's New World expedition to Roanoke, where, as a naturalist, he collaborated with painter John White to study the landscape and its inhabitants. Although Harriot must have kept notebooks, none survives. The existing... Go

Black Elk (1863-1950) and John G. Neihardt (1881-1973)
Born into the Oglala Lakota, Black Elk was an important Sioux visionary and religious leader. As a young man he received a Great Vision in which the Six Grandfathers—powers of the West, the North, the East, the South, the Sky, and the Earth—appeared to him. This vision was powerful enough to remain an important part of his consciousness as he grew up, and he became... Go

Simon J. Ortiz (b. 1941)
Simon J. Ortiz's world is one of mixtures and doublings, of multiple identities: he has an American name and an Acoma name, Hihdruutsi; he is from the Southwest but lives in Toronto, Canada. Born and raised in the Acoma Pueblo community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ortiz received his early education from the Bureau of Indian Affairs school on the Acoma reservation. He later... Go

Leslie Marmon Silko (b. 1948)
Leslie Marmon Silko was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the house where her father was also born. She grew up in Old Laguna, a town formed several centuries ago by Pueblo tribes. Her family is of mixed descent, with Plains Indian, Mexican, and European ancestors. She has both Laguna and white ancestors on her father's side and Plains tribe blood from her... Go

Stories of the Beginning of the World
Myths-deeply traditional stories that explain the origins of a phenomenon or cultural practice—serve as some of the foundational narratives for the stories told by a people. When authors re-create or adapt these myths for their own purposes, their audience must have a firm understanding of the myths in order to understand the stories that retell them. For instance... Go

Luci Tapahonso (b. 1953)
A Navajo woman born in Shiprock, New Mexico, Luci Tapahonso grew up on a farm within the largest Indian reservation in the United States. For the Navajo, or Dine, as they call themselves, kinship and lineage define one's sense of self: Tapahonso's father was from the Bitter Water clan, her mother from the Salt Water clan. Tapahonso emphasizes the importance of... Go

Roger Williams (c. 1603-1683)
Although we do not have written texts by Algonquian Indians from the very early contact period, we can learn about their language and culture from the way it is presented by such Europeans as Roger Williams, who lived among native communities. A Puritan whose unorthodox views alienated him from both the Massachusetts Bay and the Plymouth colonies, Williams has been... Go

Suggested Author Pairings   Go

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An online collection of 3000 artifacts for classroom use. Go

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Download the Instructor Guide PDF for this Unit. Go


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