Native American Literature--selected bibliography, compiled by K.L. MacKay

A Brief History of Native American Written Literature

The first native American literary texts were offered orally, and they link the earth-surface people with the plants and animals, the rivers and rocks, and all things believed significant in the life of America’s first people. The texts tie Indian people to the earth and its life through a spiritual kinship with the living and dead relatives of Native Americans. Coyote, raven, fox, hawk, turtle, rabbit and other animal characters in the stories are considered by many Native Americans to be their relatives. In the same way, the Plant People are related to Indian people. Oak, maple, pine, cedar, fir, corn, squash, berries and roots are viewed as relatives. The Animal People and Plant People participated in a history before and after the arrival of humans, and this history was kept through the spoken word. There was a similar relationship with the geographical features of the earth.

Telling a story and writing a story, even if they are the same story, remembered from generation to generation, are not the same way of preserving the story. The teller and the writer use different faculties of mind, and have different habits and disciplines of language, memory, tradition. Each has a different responsibility to the story, and to the listener or the page. The teller’s relationship to the story and the listener, both at once, is direct. The writer wrestles with the page, with the story, in solitude.

The history of literature written in English by American Indians parallels the history of white migration across the continent. White exploration and settlement were followed by the arrival of missionaries who converted Indians to Christianity and educated them in religious schools.

The first Native American writer to be published in English was Samson Occom (Mohegan, 1723-92). Although raised as a typical Mohegan boy, at 16 he began to study English, was converted to Christianity, became a schoolmaster to Indians and then served as a missionary among New England Indians. His 1771 A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian went through 19 editions.

The genre in which most Native American authors of the 19th and 20th centuries have written is autobiography. This choice represents a break with oral tradition because the personal narrative is not part of American Indian oral literatures. Many Native cultures consider talking about oneself inappropriate. William Apes (Pequot, b. 1797) published the first autobiography written by an Indian, A Son of the Forest, The Experiences of William Apes, A Native of the Forest. Written by Himself (New York, Author, 1829, expanded and revised 1831). His final work was the eloquent Eulogy on King Philip, which traces white abuse of New England Indians in the 17th and 18th centuries. After publication of this book, Apes disappeared from public view, leaving no record of his later life and death.

George Copway (Ojibwe, 1818-69)
Life, History and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (1847)

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins (Paiute, 1844-91)
Life Among the Piutes: Their wrongs and claims (1883)

The first novel published by a Native American was The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta (1854) by John Rollin Ridge (Cherokee, 1827-67), son of the highly respected Cherokee leader John Ridge. Ridge chose to deal indirectly with the injustices suffered by Indians by focusing on the Mexican folk hero Murieta--a social outcast who defeats his enemies by using both his keen mind and blazing pistols.

The first Native American novel devoted to the subject of Indian life is O-gi-maw-kwe Mit-I-gwa-ki (Queen of the Woods) (1899) by Simon Pokagon (Potawatomi, 1830-99). Pokagon was determined to educate a white audience about traditional Potawatomi life before the coming of whites and about the tragic changes in this life suffered by the people after whites dispossessed them and debauched them with alcohol.

For many Native Americans the turn of the century marked their dispossession of ancestral lands, the nadir of the populations, and confinement to reservations. Fearful that their oral traditions would disappear forever as the tribal communities became more and more fragmented under the demoralizing conditions of reservation life, some native Americans began to write down the legends and folktales of their tribes, as well as their own personal narratives, in an effort to preserve their history and culture for posterity. Writing became a means to perpetuate tradition in the face of cultural disintegration.

Two of the early 20th century Indian writers who attempted to make the transition from oral to written form and to bridge the gap between tradition and assimilation were:

Zitkala Sa (Gertrude Bonnin) (Dakota Sioux of Yankton band, 1876-1938)
Old Indian Legends (1901)
American Indian Stories (1921)

Hum-is hu-ma or Mourning Dove (Christal Quintasket) (Okanogan, 1888-1936)
Co-ge-wea; the Half Blood (1927)
Coyote Stories (1933)

Much of the middle portion of the 20th century is characterized by Native narratives as told to Anglo writers. As actual Native presence visibly waned, public and academic interest in native testimony grew. Among the best of these are:

Frank Bird Linderman (Anglo-American, 1869-1938) who spent much of his adult life in Montana among Native people. His collaborative studies include: Plenty-coups, Chief of the Crows (originally published as American: The Life Story of a Great Indian,....)(1930) and Pretty-shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows (originally published as Red Mother) (1931).

John G. Neihardt (Anglo-American, 1881-1973) was a poet and writer who traveled to South Dakota in 1930 to meet Black Elk and other Lakotas in order to check the facts for his epic poem of the American West. Black Elk and Neihardt became close friends and their collaboration became Black Elk Speaks, a text which gradually won worldwide attention. In 1944 Neihardt again interviewed Black Elk about Lakota culture. These interviews became part of Neihardt’s 1951 book When the Tree Flowered. Their friendship continued until Black Elk’s death in 1950 at age 87.

Some scholars suggest that native American literature did not exist before N. Scott Momaday ((Kiowa and Cherokee, 1934-) published House Made of Dawn in 1968. The text won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize. Although authors of American Indian descent had published novels and short fiction before Momaday was even born, they hardly received a substantial critical response to their works. "Native American literature" was not perceived as an interrelated corpus of texts. House Made of Dawn triggered off a host of publications by Native American authors. The corpus of texts by Native Americans has since been expanding in two directions. Not only are authors constantly adding new texts, but other, earlier texts are also being republished and published for the first time.

Final point: the are problems in identifying the corpus of literary texts called Native American literature. Arnold Krupat suggests that Indian writers "must be culturally Indian, with such cultural ‘identity’ not wholly a random or arbitrary choice (e.g. the Indian person having some actual heredity link ro persons native to American)." Brian Swann suggests: "Native Americans are Native Americans if they say they are, and"--and this appears to be the crucial point in a societal form that stilll relies more on the community than on the individual--"if other native Americans say they are and accept them."

Sources: Paula Gunn Allen, Voice of the Turtle, American Indian Literature 1900-1970 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994); Laura Coltelli, Winged Words, American Indian Writers Speak (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990); Arnold Krupat, ed., New Voices in Native American literary Criticism (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993); Andrew Wiget, ed., Critical Essays on Native American Literature (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1985).

Writers (prose and poetry) and Anthologies

Alexie, Sherman/ Spokane-Coeur d’Alene (1966- )
Reservation Blues (1993)
   Indian Killer (1996)
The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Poems

Allen, Paula Gunn/Laguna Pueblo/Sioux/Lebanese (1939- )
    ---ed. Voice of the Turtle, American Indian Literature 1900-1970 (1994)
    --- ed. Studies in American Indian Literature (1983)
    The Woman Who Owned The Shadows (1984)
The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (1986)
Spider Woman's Granddaughters (1989)

Armstrong, Jeannette/ Okanagan (
Breath Tracks (poetry)

Armstrong, Virginia, comp.
I Have Spoken: American History Through the Voices of the Indian (oratory) (1971)

Astrov, Margot
American Indian Prose and Poetry: An Anthology (1962)

Bartlett, Mary Dougherty, ed.
The New Native American Novel: Works in Progress (1986)

Baylor, Byrd/ Tohono O’Odham
Yes is Better Than No (c. 1977)
--with Carol Brown, A God on Every Mountain Top: Stories of SW Indian Sacred Mountains (1981)

Beck, Peggy A. and A.L. Walters
The Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life (1977)

Bell, Betty Louise/ Cherokee (
Faces in the Moon (1994)

Bird, Gloria/ Spokane (
Full Moon on the Reservation

Black Elk/ Lakota (1863-1950)
with John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks (1932; 1961)
----- , The Sacred Pipe

Blue Cloud, Peter/Mohawk
Elderberry Flute Song (poetry) (1989)

Brandon, William
The Magic World: American Indian Songs and Poems
The Last Americans: The Indian in American Culture (1974)

Brant, Beth, ed.
A Gathering of Spirit, A Collection by North American Indian Women (1984)

Brown, Joseph Epes
-- ed. The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (1971)
The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian

Bruchac, Joseph/ Abenaki, ed.,
    Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets
Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back (poetry)
Bowman’s Stone: A Journey to Myself (1997)

and Michael J. Caduto,
    Keepers of the Earth (1988)
    Keepers of the Animals

Capps, Walter, ed.
Seeing with a Native Eye (1976)

Castro, Michael
Interpreting the Indian: Twentieth Century Poets and the Native American (1983)

Chapman, Abraham, ed.
Literature of American Indians: Views and Interpretations (1975)

Chrystos/ Menominee
Not Vanishing (1988)
Dream On (1991)

Clark, Ella
    Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest (1953, 1981)
Speaking of Indians (1944)

Clements, William M. and Francis M. Malpezzi
Native American Folklore, 1879-1979 -- bibliography (1984)

Clifton, James A. ed.
Being and Becoming Indians: Biographical Studies of North American Frontiers (1989)
The Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government Policies (1990)

Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth/ Crow-Creek Sioux (1930-
Seek the House of Relatives
Then Badger Said This (1983)
Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner: A Tribal Voice (essays) (1996)

Crow Dog, Mary (now called Mary Brave Bird)/ Lakota
--with Richard Erdoes, Lakota Woman (1990)

Curtis, Natalie
The Indian's Book, An Offering on Indian Lore, Music, and Narrative (1907; 1987)

Day, Grove A.
The Sky Clears: Poetry of the American Indian

Deloria, Ella Cara/Yankton Sioux (1899-
Speaking of Indians (1944; 1979)

Deloria, Vine, Jr./Standing Rock Sioux (
Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties (1974)
Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1969)
God is Red (1973)
--comp., Of the Utmost Good Faith (1971)
We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf (1970)
American Indians/American Justice (1983)
-- with Clifford Lytle, The Nations Within: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty (1984)

Dorris, Michael ( - 1997)
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (1987)
The Broken Cord (1989)
Cloud Chamber: A Novel (1997)

--with Louise Erdrich, The Crown of Columbus (1991)

Eastman, Charles A./Wahpeton Sioux (1858-1938)
From the Deep Woods to Civilization: Chapters in the Autobiography of an Indian
Indian Boyhood (1902, 1971)
Old Indian Days (1907, 1970)
The Soul of the Indian: An Interpretation (1911)

Edmunds, R. David/ Cherokee
The Shawnee Prophet (1983)

Erdrich, Louise/Turtle Mountain Chippewa
The Beet Queen (1986)
Jacklight (1984)
Love Medicine (1984)
Tracks (1988)
The Bingo Palace (1995)
Tales of Burning Love (1996)

Erdoes, Richard, and Simon Ortiz, eds.
American Indian Myths and Legends (1984)

Farmer, David and Rennard Strickland
A Trumpet of Our Own: Yellow Bird's Essays on the North American Indian (1981)

Green, Reyna, ed.
The Remembered Earth (1981)
That's What She Said: contemporary Poetry and Fiction y Native American Women (1984)

Grinnell, George Bird
Blackfoot Lodge Tales (1892; 1962)

Harjo, Joy/Muscogee (
She Had Some Horses (poetry)
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (poetry)
with Gloria Birdpokane, eds., Reinventing the Enemy's Language, Contemporary Native Women's Writings of North America (1997)

Hale, Janet Campbell/Skitswish
The Owl's Song (1974)
The Jailing of Ceclia Capture (1985)
Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter (1993)

Hogan, Linda/Chickasaw (1947-)
Calling Myself Home (poetry)
That Horse
Solar Storms
Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World

Howe, LeAnne/Choctaw (1951-)
Coyote Papers (1985)
A Stand Up Reader (1987)
The Sewage of Foreigners (1996)

Humishima (Morning Dove)/Okanogan (1888-1936)

Cogewea, the Half-Blood (1912, 1988)
Coyote Tales

Jaskoski, Helen, ed.
Early Native American Writing: New Critical Essays (1994)

Johnson, E. Pauline/Mohawk (1861-1913)
The Legends of Vancouver (1911; 1961)
The Moccasin Maker (short stories)(1913; 1987)
Flint and Feather (poetry)

Katz, Jane B.
--ed., Let Me Be a Free Man: A Documentary History of Indian Resistance
I Am the Fire of Time: The Voices of Native American Women (1977)

King, Thomas/Cherokee/Greek (1943-
Green Grass, Running Water (1993)
Medicine River (1991)
--et. al., The Native in Literature (1987)

Kroeber, Karl et. al.
Traditional Literatures of the American Indian (1981)

Lame Deer, John Fire
with Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer Seeker of Visions (1972)

Landes, Ruth
Objibwa Woman

Lerner, Andrea, ed.
Dancing on the Rim of the World: An Anthology of Contemporary NW Native American Writing (1990)

Linderman, Frank B.
Pretty-Shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows (1932)
Plenty-Coups, Chief of the Crows (1930)

Littlefield, Daniel and James Parins, comps.
A Bio-Bibliography of Native American Writers, 1772-1924 (1981)

Lurie, Nancy, ed.
Mountain Wolf Woman
-- with Eleanor Burke Leacock, North American Indians in Historical Perspective (1988)

Mariani, Giorgio
Post Tribal Epis: The Native American Novel Between Tradition and Modernity (1996)

Marriott, A. and C. Rachlin, eds.
American Indian Mythology (1968)

McNickle, D'Arcy/ Creek; adopted by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (1904-1977)
Wind From an Enemy Sky (1977)
The Hawk is Hungry (short stories) 1996)

Milton, John R., ed.
The American Indian Speaks

Mintz, Steven
Native American Voices, A History and Anthology (1995)

Momaday, N. Scott/Kiowa-Cherokee (1932-
American Indian Authors (c1972)
House Made of Dawn (1968)
The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969)
The Names: A memoir (1976)

Nabokov, Peter
Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior with the U.S. Army (1967)

Neihardt, John G. (1881-1973)
When the Tree Flowered

Nye, Wilbur S.
Bad Medicine and Good: Tales of the Kowas (1959)

Occom, Samson
A Sermon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian (1984)

Ortiz, Simon J./Acoma Pueblo (1941-
--ed. Earth Power Coming: Short Fiction in Native American Literature (1983)
--ed. Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing (1998)
From Sand Creek (poetry) (1981)
Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the land (poetry) (1980)

Oskison, John M./ Cherokee (1874-1947)
Wild Harvest
Black Jack Davy
Brothers Three

Parker, Arthur C./ Seneca (1881-1955)
Seneca Myths & Folk Tales
The Life of General Ely S. Parker

Peyer, Bernd C., ed.
Singing Spirit, early short stories by North American Indians (1989)

Pierre, Chief George/ (1926-
Autumn's Bounty (1972)

Radin, Paul, ed.
Crashing Thunder (1983)
The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian (1963)
The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (1956, 1972)

Regier, Ed and Willis Regier, eds.
Masterpieces of American Indian Literature (1997)

Riley, Patricia
Growing Up Native American: An Anthology (1993)

Rose, Wendy/ Hopi, Miwok (
Now Poof She is Gone (poetry)

Rosen, Kenneth, ed.
    The Man to Send Rain Clouds: Contemporary Stories by American Indians (1974)

Salisbury, Ralph J., ed.
    A Nation Within: Contemporary Native American Writing (1983)

Standing Bear, Luther/ Lakota (1868-19?)
    Land of the Spotted Eagle
My Indian Boyhood
My People, the Sioux

Silko, Leslie Marmon/Laguna Pueblo (1942-)
Storyteller (1984)
    Ceremony (1978)

Silman, Janet
    Enough is Enough: Aboriginal Women Speak Out (1987)

Singer, Beverly R., ed.
    Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans (1992)

Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk
    High Elk's Treasure (1972)
    When Thunders Spoke

Stands In Timber, John and Margot Liberty
    Cheyenne Memories, A Folk History (1967)

Stewart, Irene
    A Voice in Her Tribe: A Navajo Woman's Own Story (1980)

Strete, Craig Kee
    Paint Your Face on a Drowning in the River (1978)
    Death in the Spirit House (1988)

Swann, Brian and Arnold Krupat, eds.
I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers (1987)
    Recovering the World: Essays on Native American Literature (1987)

Talayesva, Don C./ Hopi (1890-19?)
edited by Leo Simmons, Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian (1942)

Tapahonso, Luci/Navajo (1951-)
    Seasonal Woman (poetry)
    A Breeze Swept Through (poetry) (1987)

Tedlock, Dennis, trans.
    Finding the Center: Narrative Poetry of the Zuni Indians

Tremblay, Gail/ Onondaga-Micmac
    Indian Singing in 20th Century America (poetry)

Turner, Frederick W. III, ed.
    The Portable North American Indian Reader (1973)

Veile, Alan R., ed.
    The Lightening Within: An Anthology of Contemporary American Indian Fiction (1979; 1991)

Vizenor, Gerald
    Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart (1978; 1990)
    Earthdivers: Tribal Narratives on Mixed Descent (1981)
    Dead Voices: Natural Agonies in the New World (1992) (vol. 2 in the American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series)

Walters, Anna Lee/Pawnee-Otoe (1946-)
    The Sun is not Merciful (1985)

Welch, James/Blackfeet-Gros Ventre (1940-)
    The Death of Jim Loney (1979)
    The Indian Lawyer (1990)
    Winter in the Blood (1974)
    Fools Crow

Wiget, Andrew, ed
    Dictionary of Native American Literature (1994)
    Handbook of Native American Literature (1996)

Witt, Shirley Hill and Stan Steiner, eds.
    The Way: An Anthology of American Indian Literature (1972)

Young Bear, Ray A./ Mesquaki (
    Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives (1997)

Zepeda, Ofelia/Tohono O'Odham (
    Ocean Power (poetry) (1995)
with Larry Evers, eds., Home Places: Contemporary native American Writing (1995)

Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin)/Yankton Sioux (1876-1938)
    American Indian Stories (1921; 1985)
    Old Indian Legends (1909; 1985)

The American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series, University of Oklahoma Press, will be at vol. 32 with the 1999 publication of Momaday, Vizenor, Armstrong: Conversations on American Indian Writing.