Native American Background and Mythology The First Americans • Native American Background Brainstorm • Before we begin, what do you already know about Native Americans and their lifestyle? • What have you heard about them in the past? • What are some recent controversies surrounding Native American protests? Have your guided notes ready. Basic Beliefs • Land is sacred. It is a living entity that must be treated with respect. • No one owns the land. • All things (man, animals, land) are thought to be connected. • Speeches and story telling are important parts of life. • Stories are passed down through oral tradition. Oral Tradition • Oral literature- nothing was written down; everything was passed down by word of mouth. • Stories were told at home and at tribal ceremonies. • Native American oral literature (epic narratives, stories, poems, songs, and chants) was not recognized by Western scholars until the late 1800s. • Before then, it was thought that Native Americans had no literature. • This misconception made it easier to view Native Americans as “savages” and to treat them unjustly. Mythology • A myth is a traditional story passed down through generations that is used to explain natural events, beliefs, customs, and human nature. • Myths were central to Native American culture and literature. Mythology Purposes • Stories taught moral lessons and instilled tribal values. • Stories conveyed practical information about the natural world. • Stories reflect Native American’s inclusive view of nature. • Animals and human beings are interchangeable; humans are not dominant. • Stories show the power of words and love of nature through similes and metaphors. Four Functions of Myth • To awaken us to the mystery and wonder of creation. • To explain the workings of the natural world: every corner, every rock, hill, stone, and flower has its place and its meaning. • To pass down the moral and ethical codes that support and validate social customs. • To teach and to guide the people through the trials of living. Creation and Origin Myths • Creation myths explain the creation of man and the world. (big-picture creation) • Origin myths explain how aspects of the world such as landforms, animals, bodies of water, etc. came into being. (specific creations) • Origin myths also explain the beginnings of societal beliefs and customs. Archetypes • An archetype is an old imaginative pattern that appears across cultures and is repeated through the ages. An archetype can be a character, a plot, or an image. • A common archetype in Native American myths is the life giving tree. • The coyote is another common archetype, also known as the trickster hero. • The trickster hero breaks the rules and causes trouble while also often saving the day in the end. • Read “Native American Mythology” on pg. 46 in textbook • Then read “The Oral Tradition” box at the top of pg. 47 in textbook Discuss • Share your reactions to nature with a small group. Discuss the following: • What have you experienced in the natural world, and what is your reaction to it? • When have you reacted positively to nature? Negatively? Have your journal ready. Journal Response #1 • You should now have a solid understanding of Native American background. After reading about the “totem,” an animal or natural object meant to represent the descendants of a family group or clan, and after discussing nature experiences, you will create your own totem based on the same criteria. • Which animal or natural object would you most likely be descended from? How would it represent your personality or spirit? Why? Respond in 6-7 detailed sentences. Follow your written response with a picture of what your totem would look like. • “How the World Was Made”- Retold by James Mooney pgs. 48-49 in textbook • Passed down by the Cherokee people from the Great Smoky Mountains. • “The Sky Tree”- Retold by Joseph Bruchac pgs. 50-51 in textbook • Passed down by the Huron people from the Great Lakes region/ Eastern Woodland. Discuss • How are the two origin stories different? • How are the two origin stories similar? • What do both stories say about the Cherokee and Huron people?