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Native American Literature

Challenges + Ideas + Resources






Teachable Texts


Ceremony is a novel by Leslie Marmon Silko most appropriately taught in an advanced high school or college course. This article discusses the challenge of entering into sacred cultures in literature, as well as helping students comprehend Silko's style of writing and the importance style plays within the novel. by Lindsay Steenbergen

I, Rigoberta Menchu is 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu's personal account of the tragedies of the genocide during the Guatemalan civil war. The teaching possibilities this book brings of opening students' minds to the world around them and the history of that world are endless; this article looks closely at the challenges of bringing this text into the classroom and offers some ideas and resources to help meet those challenges. I, Rigoberta Menchu is most appropriately taught to upper level high schoolers and college-level students in a variety of disciplines--several areas of English, World Language, Anthropology and/or Women's Studies. by Nicole Ziegler

Lakota Woman is an autobiography that deals with the various struggles Native Americans face in modern times. Concentrating on the idea of Sioux reservation life and racism, the book describe the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), from an insider and woman's perspective. by Kyle Krol

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven an award winning collection of related short stories by Sherman Alexie addressing contemporary reservation life. Resources for high school teachers helpful to teaching a unit on Native American literature. by Jeff Patterson

Smoke Signals Sherman Alexie's book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistifght in Heaven comes to the big screen providing us with a glimpse of Native Indian culture -- one of the few feature films scripted, directed, and portrayed by Native Americans. Smoke Signals takes us on a journey with two young Native Americans in search of a father's troubled past. This is a terrific resource for high school students. by Peter VanGorp

Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival is a novella by Velma Wallis that deals with difficult decisions associated with survival in the face of diminishing resources. It would be appropriate for use in grade 5 to adult.
by Christy Yingling

Two Old Women - Academic Service Learning This novella addresses various themes of survival, abandonment, courage and respect through authentic experiences with Native American cultures, the elderly, nature and storytelling. Upper El - College by Michelle Ringle-Barrett

Waterlily is a novel that emphasizes behavioral patterns and expectations from Dakota Sioux society in the late 19th century. The novel concentrates mainly on Dakota society and only features white Americans in periphery, further underlining the novel's focus on relationships and mannerisms within the featured tribes. Appropriate for either high school or college level. by Mandy Browning


Also Recommended


Life Among the Piutes, Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins (1883)
Cogewea, Morning Dove (1927)
Fools Crow, James Welch (1986)
The Lakota Way, Joseph M. Marshall III (2001)
The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday
Mean Spirit, Linda Hogan (1991)
Morning Girl, Michael Dorris (1999) (Read with Chapter I of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn)
Growing Up Native American, Bill Adler, Ines Hernandez (1995)
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of WWII, Joseph Bruchac (2006)
Film: "In Whose Honor: American Indian Mascots in Sports, A Documentary," dir Jay Rosenstein (1997)

Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans a collection of poetry and short narratives written by Native Americans from all over the United States, ranging in age from elementary to high school students. The pieces are thematically grouped under the categories of Identity, Family, Homelands, Ritual and Ceremony, Education, and Harsh Realities. Many of the poems would be a valuable addition to the above novels.

Michigan Materials
Oak Openings, James Fennimore Cooper (1848) (stereotyped portrayals but historically interesting)
Journal of an Emigrating Party of Pottawattomie Indians, 1838, Continuation of the Journal
People of the Three Fires (1986)
Rites of Conquest: The History and Culture of Michigan's Native Americans, Charles Cleland (1992)
Film: Black Robe (1991)