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Literature and Writing

Native American Literature

Native American literature, Native American culture, religious rituals, spoken words, indigenous people

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Native American Literature, the literature of people of Native American descent. The dominant focus of Native American literature is on issues related to Native American culture, history, religion, and experiences.

Although native peoples live in every country in North America and South America, the term Native American literature, or alternately, American Indian literature, usually refers to works written by the indigenous people of the United States and Canada. In Canada, this literature is also called First Nations literature. Because more than 1,100 nations, or tribes, of Native Americans live in the United States and Canada, Native American literature encompasses many different social, cultural, historical, and spiritual perspectives.

Native American literature originates in the oral traditions of native peoples—the spoken words used to pass on information from generation to generation. Today, the oral tradition remains important to Native American life and literature, and ceremonies and religious rituals are often known solely through the spoken word. At the same time, written works offer the advantage of publishing ideas, stories, and thoughts to a wide audience. Native American literature has been published since the 1700s and has grown steadily since the 1960s.


Teuton, Christopher, B.A., M.A.

Doctoral Candidate and Advanced Opportunity Fellow, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hill, Roberta, B.A., M.F.A., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English and American Indian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Author of "Philadelphia Flowers: Poems" and "Star Quilt".

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Native American literature, Native American culture, religious rituals, spoken words, indigenous people, Native Americans, tribes, Canada, South America, North America, history, time, religion, United States, generation, Today, thoughts, country, stories, works, ceremonies, experiences, information, Native American life

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