Authors of Indigenous

Compare and Contrast Authors of Indigenous World Literature Type: forum
Select two authors from the indigenous readings to compare and contrast. You may want to select one from each country and compare and contrast the Native American experience with that of the Aboriginal Australian experience.

What did the two populations have in common?
How were their experiences different?
How did the authors represent their time period and their culture?
How did they represent mainstream society vs. the indigenous people?
What are common traits in both worlds?
How are myths and legends utilized by both indigenous populations?

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Pick two Authors of Indigenous from this reading to compare and contract
Indigenous Literature: Culture, Themes, and Social Issues

Native      American and Australian Aboriginal Literature

Native American Written Literature: The 1800s and beyond
Native American literature had its beginnings with the autobiography format in the 1800s as Americans began to read works by well-known American authors such as James Fennimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans (1826) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Hiawatha (1866). The public began to see the indigenous people as a “dying” culture, and hence, there was a more receptive audience to their stories than previously.
The first publication of one such autobiography by William Apress, (pub. 1829), of the Pequot tribe, and it detailed his childhood and also his adult conversion to Christianity. He had learned English as a young boy and credited his survival to being converted to Christianity. He went on to publish several additional books about Christian conversions among the Pequots.
Black Hawk
Others dictated their word to those that could write, like the famous Black Hawk who supposedly dictated the story of his life to a French-Canadian writer, Antoine Le Claire, in the celebrated autobiography, “The Life of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kaik or Black Hawk,” pub. 1833. It was published three years after the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which removed all Native American tribes, from East of the Mississippi River. The Cherokees fought the ruling in court, but ultimately lost, and this resulted in the “Trail of Tears” walk in 1831 to the Oklahoma Territory from their ancestral lands of Georgia and the Carolinas.
Others like Black Hawk fought the removal by armed resistance, which led to the Black Hawk War in 1832. Black Hawk led some 1,000 men, women, and children back over the Mississippi to claim their previous land with approximately 500 warriors from various tribes. He held out for sixteen weeks until a force of 7,000 U.S. troops came against his band, and he was defeated and captured. Afterward, he was imprisoned and taken with other warrior chiefs on tour by the US government. However, the tour seemed to have backfired as he gathered much sympathy amid the crowds that came to view the captured war chiefs.
On one such stop, he met the interpreter, Antoine Le Clair (mixed ancestry of Pottawatomie and French-Canadian) and the newspaper editor, J.P. Patterson. Le Clair had grown up at a trading post in the same area as Black Hawk and is reported to have spoken a least half a dozen native dialects, including Sauk (Black Hawk’s), as well as Spanish and French.
Below is an excerpt from Blackhawk’s dictated book:
I reflected upon the ingratitude of the whites when I saw their fine houses, rich harvests, and everything desirable around them; and
recollected that all this land had been ours, for which me and my people have never received a dollar, and that the whites were not
satisfied until they took our village and our grave-yards from us, and removed us across the Mississippi. (Life of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kiakaik or Black Hawk, 1833).
Unfortunately, for Black Hawk and his people, most Americans questioned the authenticity of the words because Black Hawk could not read or write in English.
As more and more Americans learned to read, more sympathy was garnered for the tribes as they were seen less as a menace to society than as a people to be pitied. However, it was not until the mid-1960s that Native American Literature experienced a true Renaissance and became known to most mainstream universities and colleges as literature.
Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie Silko was born on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico in 1948 and is considered one of America’s best writers of fiction. It was her grandmother that she credits with teaching her the Laguna Pueblo legends and stories. Many of those stories and legends found their way into her poetry and fiction.
In her first novel, Ceremony (1977) she tells the story of a WW II veteran who returns to the reservation after his emotional breakdown due to his war experiences. At the pueblo, he experienced the stories, legends, and ceremonies of his people and found healing and hope. He was finally healed through a ceremony involving a Navajo shaman and the spirit of “Spiderwoman”, reincarnated into a contemporary female in the novel. Silko explores the strength of powerful healing female spirit guides in later stories and novels as well. She also frequently explores the idea that the legends of these spirit women come to life and cause upheaval in contemporary female protagonists’ lives (Yellow Woman, pub.1974).
Sherman Alexie
Also in the tradition of autobiographical writing, award-winning author, poet, screenwriter, and filmmaker, Sherman Alexie Jr., (of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene tribal heritage), focuses his work on the modern Native American reservation life, using a mixture of comedy and tragedy. Some of his best-known works have also been translated to film (Smoke Signals, 1998) and some have won awards (Reservation Blues, American Book Award in 1996). Alexie based his novel, The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian (National Book Award 2007) on his experiences as a young man growing up on the reservation and then leaving it to attend a high school off the reservation, where he was the only non-native student.
Sarah A. Quirk wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography that Alexie’s work is dominated by three common themes: “What does it mean to live as an Indian in this time? What does it mean to be an Indian man? Finally, what does it mean to live on an Indian reservation?” Alexie’s work “blends elements of popular culture, Indian spirituality, and the drudgery of poverty-ridden reservation life to create his characters and the world they inhabit,” according to Quirk (2003). One of Alexie’s goals in writing meaningful, contemporary, Native American literature is to reach the younger generations of Native Americans. “There’s a kid out there, some boy or girl who will be that great writer, and hopefully they’ll see what I do and get inspired by that” (Fraser, 2000, 59).
Australia and the Aboriginal People
Much like the Native American population, the Aboriginal population of Australia and the surrounding territories were devastated by disease and the taking of tribal lands after the continent of Australia was discovered and claimed by the British in 1770 by James Cook. It had been visited by Europeans much earlier, and several confrontations with the local population had ended disastrously over fishing rights. As the continent was claimed by Great Britain and became part of the British Empire during colonialism, the original inhabitants were removed from lands that were needed by the new settlements.
Like the Native tribes in the United States, their children were also forcibly removed from the parents and sent to Christian boarding schools for assimilation purposes. They were taught English and the Protestant faith, and any deviation from the teachings of the British was punished severely and harshly. It was only much later that these children used that education and training in English to explain the thoughts and feelings of the aboriginal people over what happened in their country when the British arrived.
As with the Native Americans, the Doctrine of Discovery was used by the British and other nations to take the land. They were intent on building empires, which required large territories and vast natural resources. According to Gale, et al. (2013), “Military force ensured the suppression of resistance from peoples indigenous to the continent. In homogenizing hundreds of thousands of people as a single “Aboriginal” Other, the diversity of cultural practice was camouflaged, as were the distinctive experiences of colonialism’s violent displacements, including the genocide of whole societies” (p. 194).
The solution was to move the Aboriginal population onto reservations. The removal was similar to the events in the U.S., with one major difference being the treatment of “mixed race” children. According to the historical records, “The first infants of mixed white-indigenous ancestry (generally from white fathers and Aboriginal mothers) were often killed as evidence of abnormality, as were deformed or twinned infants. In time, these children began to be accepted by their stepfathers into the wider Aboriginal social world. It was rare for white fathers to acknowledge their children, preventing acceptance of such children in white Australia” (Macdonald, Gaynor, and Hoyd. 2013, p 194).
One of the very first aboriginal writings came in the form of a manifesto written by Jack Patten and Bill Ferguson to protest their people’s treatment by the Australian government. It could just as easily been written by a Native American as the treatment of both indigenous peoples were so similar.
Manifesto to the Australian Government (1937)
You came here only recently, and you took our land away from us by force. You have almost exterminated our people, but there are enough of us remaining to expose the humbug of your claim, as white Australians, to be a civilised, progressive, kindly and humane nation. By your cruelty and callousness towards the Aborigines, you stand condemned in the eyes of the civilised world.…
You hypocritically claim that you are trying to ‘protect’ us, but your modern ‘policy of protection’ (so-called) is killing us off just as surely as the pioneer policy of giving us poisoned damper and shooting us down like dingoes!…
We do not wish to be ‘studied’ as scientific or anthropological curiosities. All such efforts on our behalf are wasted. We have no desire to go back to primitive conditions of the Stone Age. …
We ask for equal education, equal opportunity, equal wages, equal rights to possess property or to be our own masters–in two words: equal citizenship! How can you honestly refuse this? In New South Wales you give us the vote and treat us as equals at the ballot box. Then why do you impose the other unfair restriction of rights upon us?…
We ask you to be proud of the Australian Aborigines, and not to be misled any longer by the superstition that we are a naturally backward and low race. This is a scientific lie, which has helped to push our people down and down into the mire. At worst, we are no more dirty, lazy, stupid, criminal, or immoral than yourselves. Also, your slanders against our race are a moral lie, told to throw all the blame for our troubles on to us. You, who originally conquered us by guns against our spears, now rely on superiority of numbers to support your false claims of moral and intellectual superiority (p. 197). 
The claims were ignored and unheard until the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Suddenly, Australia was in the world spotlight for its mistreatment of the Aboriginal population, and the spotlight was extremely unflattering and exposed many of the injustices that had happened to the indigenous population since the arrival of the British colonists in the 1800s.
Change came about as social conventions were questioned and equal rights came to the forefront as a world-wide movement, not only in the United States but Australia and South Africa as well. There was a new look at everything that had been dismissed before and finally, Aboriginal literature and culture came into its own with a new found respect for the voices of a previously dismissed and disenfranchised people.


Aboriginal heritage: A brief history, (2008-2016). Retrieved from
Alexie, Sherman, Joseph (1966–). (2015). In B. E. Johansen (Ed.), American Indian culture: From counting coup to wampum. Westport, CT: Greenwood. Retrieved from
Davenport Public Library. (n.d.). Antoine LeClaire biography. Retrieved from
Document text SPEECH TO GOVERNOR WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON AT FORT VINCENNES 1810. (2017). In Grey House Publishing (Ed.), Milestone documents of American leaders: exploring the primary sources of notable American leaders (2nd ed.). Hackensack, NJ: Salem Press. Retrieved from
Historical overview of indian-white relations in the United States. (2016), pp. 19-35. In Y. W. Dennis, A. B. Hirschfelder, & S. R. Flynn, S. R., Native American almanac: More than 50,000 years of the cultures and histories of indigenous peoples. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press.,shib&custid=s9076023&groupid=main&direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1236233&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_19
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Macdonald, Gaynor, and Marianne Hoyd. “Australian Aborigine Peoples.”Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by Patrick L. Mason, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2013, pp. 194-201. Gale Virtual Reference Library,
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Timeline. (2004). In S. E. Lundquist, S. E., Native American literature: An introduction. New York, NY: Continuum.,shib&custid=s9076023&groupid=main&direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=377941&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_11
Timeline. (2012). In M. D. Prentis, A concise companion to Aboriginal history. Dural Delivery Centre, NSW [Australia]: Rosenberg Publishing. Retrieved from:,shib&custid=s9076023&groupid=main&direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=469150&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_233
Watson, M., & Watson, M. (1999). SILKO, Leslie Marmon. In S. R. Serafin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of world literature in the 20th century (3rd ed.). Farmington, MI: Gale. Retrieved from Accessed 14 Apr. 2018.


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