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Literature extract-Myths-Account

Native American Mythology
Centuries before the first Europeans arrived on
the shores of North America, Native
Americans had established hundreds of thriving
nations, each with a unique culture and heritage. Each nation had its own tradition of oral
literature—stories that were passed down from
one generation to the next as they were told
and retold in the privacy of households and in
tribal ceremonies.
An important part of the oral tradition of
each culture was its myths. A myth is an anonymous, traditional story that relies on the supernatural to explain a natural phenomenon, an
aspect of human behavior, or a mystery of the
universe. Myths try to explain why the world is
the way it is. They provide imaginative ways to
help people feel at home in the world and make
sense of it. Creation myths tell how the world
and human life came to exist. Some myths,
called origin myths, explain how natural phenomena such as the stars, moon, and mountains
came to be or why a society has certain beliefs
and customs. Often, the qualities of creation
myths and origin myths appear in one story.
A Taos Pueblo story explains:
When Earth was still young and giants
still roamed the land, a great sickness
came upon them. All of them died except
for a small boy. One day while he was
playing, a snake bit
him. The boy cried
and cried. The blood
came out, and finally
he died. With his tears
our lakes became. With his
blood the red clay became. With his body
our mountains became, and that was how
Earth became.
Many Native American myths emphasize
a strong spiritual bond between the Creator,
humanity, and the entire natural world. They
emphasize that it is the duty of humanity to
maintain a balance within their natural world.
In many cultures, each family group, or clan,
believed it descended from or had a strong connection to a particular animal or other natural
object. This animal or object is called the
totem. Members of the bear clan, for example,
honored the bear. The bear in turn served as
the group’s guardian spirit, helping and protecting its members. The bear clan was responsible
for preserving the myths of the bear.
Another common feature of Native
American mythology is the trickster. These
animal characters have two sides to their
personalities. Tricksters are rebels who defy
authority and sometimes create trouble and
chaos. However, they are also curious, clever,
and creative figures who can unexpectedly
reveal wisdom. In many myths, the trickster is
a coyote, a raven, or a mink. In one
Native American myth, the coyote
brings death into the world when he
realizes the earth will become too
crowded if people live forever.
Myths and rituals continue to
play a central role in traditional
Native American cultures. They are
used to give people a
sense of order and identity, to heal the sick, to
ensure a plentiful supply
of food, to initiate young
people into adulthood, and to
teach moral lessons.
Before You Read
How the World Was Made and The Sky Tree
The Oral Tradition
Both of these stories come from an oral tradition.
Storytellers passed along such tales by word of
mouth. No one really knows where the stories originated. Native Americans have written down these
stories only in the past hundred years. Long before
that, however, the storytellers helped groups understand and record their daily lives and their history.
Native American storytellers often tell tales of
nature. The two pieces you are about to read are
origin myths. They tell how the world or some part
of it came to be.
These two stories have been passed down for
many hundreds of years. They come from different
cultures, yet both stories show a great reverence for
the natural world. “How the World Was Made”
comes from the Cherokee people, who lived in the
forests of the Great Smoky Mountains. “The Sky
Tree” comes from the Huron people of the Great
Lakes region.
Reading Focus
In what ways does nature, or the natural world, affect your life? For example, are you
more cheerful on a sunny day?
Share Ideas In a group, share experiences of the natural world and your reac-
tions to them—anything from the sense of awe at seeing a mountain to the frustration of being caught in a downpour.
Setting a Purpose Read to learn the attitudes these tales reflect about nature
and the place of humans in the natural world.
Building Background
Recording the Oral Tradition
The Cherokee passed down the myth “How the World Was Made” from generation to generation. Then,
around 1890, James Mooney, an anthropologist for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., listened to the tale and wrote it down. He first published the story in 1891.
The Huron myth “The Sky Tree” is retold by Joseph Bruchac, a member of the Abenaki Native American
group in northern New York State. Bruchac published this myth in 1991.
Vocabulary Preview
vault (volt) n. an arched structure forming a roof
or ceiling; p. 48
alight (ə l¯t) v. to descend and come to rest; p. 48
conjurer (konjər ər) n. one who performs magic;
sorcerer; p. 49
(Cherokee—Great Smoky Mountains)
Retold by James Mooney
and suspended at each of the four cardinal points1 by a cord hanging down from
the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the
people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the
ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.
When all was water, the animals were above in
Gălûñ´lătı̆ (o lun() lot i), beyond the arch; but
it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below
the water, and at last Dâyuni´sı̆ (do yun ē si),
“Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle,
offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in
every direction over the surface of the water, but
could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to
the bottom and came up with some soft mud,
which began to grow and spread on every side
until it became the island which we call the
earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with
four cords, but no one remembers who did this.
At first the earth was flat and very soft and
wet. The animals were anxious to get down,
and sent out different birds to see if it was yet
dry, but they found no place to alight and came
back again to Gălûñ´lătı̆. At last it seemed to
1. The four cardinal points are the four main directions on a
compass (north, south, east, and west).
be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and
told him to go and make ready for them. This
was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the
buzzards we see now. He flew all over the
earth, low down near the ground, and it was
still soft. When he reached the Cherokee
country, he was very tired, and his wings
began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley,
and where they turned up again there was a
mountain. When the animals above saw this,
they were afraid that the whole world would
be mountains, so they called him back, but
the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.
When the earth was dry and the animals
came down, it was still dark, so they got the
sun and set it in a track to go every day across
the island from east to west, just overhead. It
was too hot this way, and Tsiska´gı̆lı̆´
(chēs ka i li´), the Red Crawfish, had his shell
scorched a bright red, so that his meat was
vault (volt) n. an arched structure forming a roof or ceiling
alight (ə l¯t) v. to descend and come to rest
spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The
conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth2
higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They
raised it another time, and another, until it
was seven handbreadths high and just under
the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left
it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ´gine Di´gălûñ´lătiyûñ´
(ul kwo ē nā dē´ ol un() lot ē yun()), “the
seventh height,” because it is seven handbreadths above the earth. Every day the sun
goes along under this arch, and returns at
night on the upper side to the starting place.
There is another world under this, and it is
like ours in everything—animals, plants, and
people—save that the seasons are different.
The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this
underworld, and the springs at their heads are
the doorways by which we enter it, but to do
this one must fast and go to water and have
one of the underground people for a guide. We
know that the seasons in the underworld are
different from ours, because the water in the
springs is always warmer in winter and cooler
in summer than the outer air.
When the animals and plants were first
made—we do not know by whom—they were
2. A hand-breadth is a unit of measurement based on the width
of a hand. It varies from 2¹⁄₂ to 4 inches.
told to watch and keep awake for seven nights,
just as young men now fast and keep awake
when they pray to their medicine.3 They tried
to do this, and nearly all were awake through
the first night, but the next night several
dropped off to sleep, and the third night others
were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the
panther, and one or two more were still awake.
To these were given the power to see and to go
about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds
and animals which must sleep at night. Of the
trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the
holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and
to them it was given to be always green and to
be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was
said: “Because you have not endured to the end
you shall lose your hair every winter.”
Men came after the animals and plants. At
first there were only a brother and sister until he
struck her with a fish and told her to multiply,
and so it was. In seven days a child was born to
her, and thereafter every seven days another,
and they increased very fast until there was danger that the world could not keep them. Then it
was made that a woman should have only one
child in a year, and it has been so ever since.
3. Many Native American cultures believe that each plant, animal, and human has its own natural spirit that gives it power.
Medicine, in this instance, refers to this spirit.
conjurer (konjər ər) n. one who performs magic; sorcerer
Sky Woman, 1936. Ernest Smith. Oil on canvas, 24¹⁄₄ x 18¹⁄₈ in. Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester, NY.
( H u r o n — E a s t e r n Wo o d l a n d )
Retold by Joseph Bruchac
IN THE BEGINNING, EARTH WAS COVERED it split in half and toppled over. As it fell a hole
with water. In Sky Land, there were people living as they do now on Earth. In the middle of
that land was the great Sky Tree. All of the
food which the people in that Sky Land
ate came from the
great tree. The old
chief of that land
lived with his wife,
whose name was
Did You Know?
Aataentsic, meaning
A longhouse was a bark“Ancient Woman,”
covered communal home that
could have space for as many
in their longhouse
as ten families as well as
near the great tree. It
rooms for meetings and religious ceremonies.
came to be that the
old chief became
sick and nothing could cure him. He grew
weaker and weaker until it seemed he would
die. Then a dream came to him and he called
Aataentsic to him.
“I have dreamed,” he said, “and in my
dream I saw how I can be healed. I must be
given the fruit which grows at the very top of
Sky Tree. You must cut it down and bring that
fruit to me.”
Aataentsic took her husband’s stone ax and
went to the great tree. As soon as she struck it,
opened in Sky Land and the tree fell through
the hole. Aataentsic returned to the place
where the old chief waited.
“My husband,” she said, “when I cut the tree
it split in half and then fell through a great
hole. Without the tree, there can be no life. I
must follow it.”
Then, leaving her husband she went back to
the hole in Sky Land and threw herself after the
great tree.
As Aataentsic fell, Turtle looked up and saw
her. Immediately Turtle called together all the
water animals and told them what she had seen.
“What should be done?” Turtle said.
Beaver answered her. “You are the one who
saw this happen. Tell us what to do.”
“All of you must dive down,” Turtle said.
“Bring up soil from the bottom, and place it on
my back.”
Immediately all of the water animals began
to dive down and bring up soil. Beaver, Mink,
Muskrat, and Otter each brought up pawfuls of
wet soil and placed the soil on the Turtle’s back
until they had made an island of great size.
When they were through, Aataentsic settled
down gently on the new Earth and the pieces of
the great tree fell beside her and took root.
Active Reading and Critical Thinking
Responding to Literature
Personal Response
What passages from the myths are the most memorable to you? Why?
Analyzing Literature
Recall and Interpret
1. What is Water-beetle’s role in the creation of Earth? What does this tell you about
Cherokee reverence for all creatures?
2. What do the “conjurers” do? Who do you think the “conjurers” are? Explain.
3. Name three natural phenomena explained in this myth. Why might people create stories
about how such things came to be?
Evaluate and Connect
4. For the Cherokee people, are humans more important than plants and animals, or are
humans equal to them? Give examples from the myth to support your view.
5. At some points, the narrator says “No one remembers” or “We do not know.” How do
you think these phrases enhance the myth? Explain.
Recall and Interpret
6. Why was the Sky Tree important to the inhabitants of Sky Land?
7. Why does the old woman try to cut down the Sky Tree? What does this tell you?
8. According to the myth, how was the Earth formed? What imagery (see page R8) is used
to describe Earth in the myth?
Evaluate and Connect
9. Theme Connections Would this great beginning have occurred without the old chief’s
dream? Do you think his dream comes true?
10. Consider Turtle’s role in this myth. If you saw a turtle in a Huron work of art, what might
be its meaning within the work?
Extending Your Response
Writing About Literature
Creative Writing
Comparison of the Myths Both selections tell how life on
Earth came to be. Write a paragraph that compares and contrasts one of the following aspects of the myths: what life
was like before Earth was created; how the sky and Earth are
described; significant roles played by plants, animals, or
Your Own Myth Using these two myths as a model, write
an origin myth of your own about some element of nature.
Tell what the world was like before this element existed. Tell
how it came to be and how it made the world different. For
ideas, think about the reactions to nature you shared in the
Reading Focus on page 47.
Save your work for your portfolio.
Popocatepetl- -Iztaccihuatl volcanoes
(southeast of Mexico City)
Before You Read
from La Relación
Álvar Núñez
Cabeza de Vaca
. . . we were entering a land for
which we had no description, without
knowing what kind of place it was, nor
by what people it was inhabited, nor in
which part of it we were.
—Cabeza de Vaca
The Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de
Vaca (al var n¯¯¯
oonyez ka bā za dā baka)
wrote these words in La Relación (The Account), a
description of a hazardous eight-year odyssey in the
Reading Focus
Imagine that you are planning an
expedition to an unknown or littleknown place—a distant planet or
Antarctica, perhaps. What problems
might you encounter? How might
you best prepare?
Chart It! Create a two-column
chart to prepare for your expedition.
In one column, list concerns or
problems that you might face along
the way. In the second column,
describe ways to solve or prevent
these problems. Share your ideas
with the class.
New World. Of a group originally numbering six hundred men, only four survived, and Cabeza de Vaca was the only
one to return to Spain, embarking from
Mexico in 1537. In 1540, Cabeza de
Vaca was appointed governor of several
Spanish posts in what is now Paraguay,
but was later arrested for reasons not
clear to historians. Cabeza de Vaca was
returned to Spain in chains. Eventually, however,
the Spanish government freed him. He is believed
to have died in poverty.
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was born around 1490 and
died sometime around 1556.
Building Background
The Time and Place
In June 1527, Cabeza de Vaca set sail as treasurer of a Spanish expedition to the
land that today is Florida. The expedition arrived near what is now Tampa Bay in
April of 1528. Pánfilo de Narváez, the expedition’s leader, decided to march inland
with three hundred men. The land party never saw the ships again. Due to poor
planning, hunger, disease, and hostilities with Native Americans, many of the men
died. The survivors, hoping to reach a Spanish settlement in present-day Mexico,
built five crude barges and sailed west along the coast.
The barge Cabeza de Vaca commanded landed near present-day Galveston, Texas.
Native Americans there gave him and his men food and shelter, but many of the
group died during the first winter. Eventually, only four survived, walking until they
met Spanish soldiers in central Mexico in 1536.
The following excerpt from Cabeza de Vaca’s report begins when his barge and
another become separated from Narváez’s near the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Did You Know?
Cabeza de Vaca was among the few early explorers who called for a policy of
justice and tolerance toward native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
Vocabulary Preview
Setting a Purpose Read to
learn how one group of explorers
responded to great difficulties.
ration (rashən) n. fixed portion or
share; p. 62
rouse (rouz) v. to awaken from sleep;
p. 62
revive (ri v¯v) v. to give new strength
and vitality, or to bring back to consciousness; p. 62
embark (em bark) v. to set out on
a venture; p. 64
Á l v a r N ú ñ e z C a b e z a d e Va c a
Tr a n s l a t e d b y M a r t i n A . F a v a t a a n d J o s é B . F e r n á n d e z
We sailed in this manner together for four
days, eating a daily ration of half a handful of
raw corn. After four days a storm came up and
caused the other boat to be lost. We did not
sink because of God’s great mercy. The
weather was rough, very cold, and wintery.
We had been suffering from hunger for many
days and had been pounded so much by the
sea that the following day many men began
to faint. By nightfall all the men in my boat
had passed out, one on top of another, so near
death that few of them were conscious and
fewer than five were still upright. During the
night only the sailing master and I were left
to sail the boat. Two hours after nightfall he
told me I should take over because he was in
such a condition that he
thought he would die
that very night; so I took
the tiller. In the middle
of the night, I went to
see if the sailing master
had died, but he told
me that he was better
Did You Know?
and that he would steer
A tiller is a lever attached to
until daybreak. At that
the rudder of a boat. It is used
time I certainly would
to steer the boat.
have rather died than
see so many people before me in that condition. After the sailing master took over the
boat, I tried to rest some but could not, and
sleep was the furthest thing from my mind.
Near dawn I thought I heard the roar of the
breakers1 near shore, which was very loud
because the coast was low. Surprised by this, I
roused the sailing master, who said he thought
we were near land. We took a sounding and
found that the water was seven fathoms2 deep.
He thought that we should stay out until
dawn. So I took an oar and rowed along the
coast, which was a league3 distant. Then we set
our stern4 to sea.
Near land a great wave took us and cast
the boat out of the water as far as a horseshoe
can be tossed. The boat ran aground with
such force that it revived the men on it who
were almost dead. When they saw they were
near land they pushed themselves overboard
and crawled on their hands and knees. When
they got to the beach, we lit a fire by some
rocks and toasted some of the corn we had
and found rain water. With the warmth of the
fire, the men revived and began to regain
some of their strength. We arrived at this
place on the sixth of November.
Once our people had eaten, I sent Lope de
Oviedo, who was stronger and fitter than the
1. Breakers are waves that foam as they break on rocks or a
2. A fathom is a linear measure equal to six feet, used mainly in
measuring the depth of water.
3. A league is a measure of distance equal to three miles.
4. The stern is the rear part of a boat or ship.
ration (rashən, rā shən) n. fixed portion or share
rouse (rouz) v. to awaken from sleep
revive (ri v¯ v) v. to give new strength and vitality, or bring back to consciousness
Cabeza de Vaca in the Desert, 1906. Frederic Remington. Oil on canvas. Courtesy Frederic Remington Art
Museum, Ogdensburg, NY.
Viewing the painting: How would you describe Cabeza de Vaca’s (center) expression? What might
account for this expression?
rest of us, to climb one of the trees nearby to
sight the land and find out something about
it. He did this and saw that we were on an
island, and that the land appeared to have
been trampled by livestock. He thought for
this reason that it must be a country of
Christians, and told us so. I told him to look
again very carefully to see if there were any
paths that could be followed, but not to go
too far because of possible danger. He found a
path and followed it for half a league and
found some unoccupied Indian huts, for the
Indians had gone into the fields. He took a
pot from one of them, a small dog and some
mullet5 and started back.
We thought he was taking a long time to
return, so I sent two other Christians to look
for him and find out what had happened to
him. They found him near there, pursued by
three Indians with bows and arrows. They
were calling out to him and he was trying to
speak to them through sign language. He got
to where we were and the Indians stayed back
a bit seated on the same shore. Half an hour
later another one hundred Indian bowmen
appeared. We were so scared that they seemed
to us to be giants, whether they were or not.
They stopped near us, where the first three
were. We could not even think of defending
ourselves, since there were scarcely six men
who could even get up from the ground. The
Inspector and I went towards them and called
them, and they approached us. As best we
could we tried to reassure them and ourselves,
and gave them beads and little bells. Each of
them gave me an arrow, which is a sign of
friendship. In sign language they told us that
they would return in the morning and bring
us food, since they did not have any at the
5. A mullet is a type of fish.
embark (em bark) v. to set out on a venture
The following day at sunrise, at the time the
Indians had indicated, they came to us as
promised, bringing us much fish, some roots
which they eat, the size of walnuts, some larger
or smaller. Most of these are pulled with great
difficulty from under the water. In the evening
they returned to bring us more fish and the
same kind of roots. They had their women and
children come to see us and they considered
themselves rich with little bells and beads that
we gave them. The following days they
returned to visit with the same things as before.
Seeing that we were provisioned with fish,
roots, water, and the other things we requested,
we agreed to embark on our voyage once again.
We dug up the boat from the sand. We had to
strip naked and struggle mightily to launch it,
because we were so weak that lesser tasks
would have been enough to exhaust us. Once
we were out from the shore the distance of two
crossbow shots, a wave struck us quite a blow
and got us all wet. Since we were naked and it
was very cold, we let go of the oars. Another
strong wave caused the boat to capsize. The
Inspector and two other men held on to it to
survive, but quite the opposite occurred
because the boat pulled them under and they
drowned. Since the surf was very rough, the
sea wrapped all the men in its waves, except
the three that had been pulled under by the
boat, and cast them on the shore of the same
island. Those of us who survived were as naked
as the day we were born and had lost everything we had. Although the few things we had
were of little value, they meant a lot to us.
It was November then and the weather was
very cold. We were in such a state that our
bones could easily be counted and we looked
like the picture of death. I can say for myself
that I had not eaten anything but parched
corn since the previous May, and sometimes I
had to eat it raw. Although the horses were
Á l v a r N ú ñ e z C a b e z a d e Va c a
slaughtered while we were building the boats,
some who had been in New Spain6 responded
I was never able to eat them, and I had eaten
that we should not even think about it,
fish fewer than ten times. This is but a brief
because if they took us to their lodges they
comment, since anyone can imagine what
would sacrifice us to their idols.7 But seeing
that we had no other recourse and that any
shape we were in. On top of all this, the north
other action would certainly bring us closer to
wind began to blow, and so we were closer to
death, I did not pay attention to what they
death than to life. It pleased our Lord to let us
were saying and I asked the Indians to take us
find some embers among the coals of the fire
to their lodges. They indicated that they would
we had made, and we made large fires. In this
be very pleased to do this. They asked us to
way we asked our Lord’s mercy and the forwait a bit and then they would do what we
giveness of our sins, shedding many tears, with
wanted. Then thirty of them
each man pitying not only
loaded themselves with firehimself but all the others who
were in the same condition.
The Indians, seeing the wood and went to their lodges,
At sunset the Indians,
disaster that had come which were far from there. We
stayed with the others until
thinking that we had not gone,
upon us and brought so
nearly nightfall, when they
looked for us again and
much misfortune and
held on to us and took us
brought us food. When they
misery, sat down with us.
hastily to their lodges. Since it
saw us in such a different state
was so cold and they feared
of attire and looking so
that someone might faint or die on the way,
strange, they were so frightened that they drew
they had provided for four or five large fires to
back. I went out to them and called them and
be placed at intervals, and they warmed us at
they returned very frightened. I let them know
each one. Once they saw that we had gained
through sign language that one of our boats had
some strength and gotten warmer, they took us
sunk and that three of our men had drowned.
to the next one so rapidly that our feet scarcely
And there before their very eyes they saw two
touched the ground. In this way we went to
of the dead men, and those of us who were alive
their lodges and found that they had one ready
seemed as if we would soon join them.
for us with many fires lighted in it. Within an
The Indians, seeing the disaster that had
hour of our arrival they began to dance and
come upon us and brought so much misfortune
have a great celebration that lasted all night.
and misery, sat down with us. They felt such
For us there was no pleasure nor celebration
great pain and pity at seeing us in such a state
nor sleep because we were waiting to see when
that they all began to cry so loudly and sinthey would sacrifice us. In the morning they
cerely that they could be heard from afar. This
again gave us fish and roots and treated us so
went on for more than half an hour. In fact,
well that we were a little reassured and lost
seeing that these crude and untutored people,
some of our fear of being sacrificed.
who were like brutes, grieved so much for us,
caused me and the others in my company to
suffer more and think more about our misfor6. New Spain was a part of the Spanish Empire in the 1500s. It
tune. When their crying ceased, I told the
included Venezuela, Florida, Mexico, Central America, and
Christians that, if they agreed, I would ask
other territory. Mexico City was its capital.
those Indians to take us to their lodges. And
7. Idols are images of gods used as objects of worship.
Active Reading and Critical Thinking
Responding to Literature
Personal Response
What questions would you like to ask Cabeza de Vaca?
Analyzing Literature
Recall and Interpret
1. How do Cabeza de Vaca and his men reach the island?
Why might their landing on the island seem like a miracle
to them?
2. Why do the native people chase Lope de Oviedo? How
does the behavior of Oviedo and his pursuers reveal each
group’s assumptions about the other?
3. How do the native people help Cabeza de Vaca and his
men? What do you think prompts natives to act as they
4. What do the Spanish fear in the narrative at the end of
the selection? In your opinion, is their fear well-founded?
Explain your position.
Evaluate and Connect
5. What might have motivated Cabeza de Vaca to continue
his journey in spite of overwhelming difficulties?
6. In your opinion, were the explorers sufficiently prepared
for their journey? What might you have done differently?
Refer to your responses for the Reading Focus on page
7. La Relación is still valued as a first-person account of the
early history and culture of North America. To whom
might this narrative be important? What questions might
it answer?
8. What situations in contemporary life might require skills
and courage similar to that displayed by Cabeza de Vaca?
Explain your response.
Literary Criticism
“One of [Cabeza de Vaca’s] underlying themes,” contends
William T. Pilkington, “. . . is the physical and emotional
struggle for an accommodation between races—a conflict
that . . . has always been a factor in the works of our best and
most vital writers.” Is this struggle, in your opinion, a theme
of the excerpt? Discuss your answer with a partner.
The narrator tells what happens in a story. When the
work is nonfiction and the narrator is also a character in
the story, a reader must be aware of a certain degree of
bias. Keep in mind that a narrator recalls what he or she
considers important and relates it in a way that suits the
writer’s purpose.
1. In La Relación, the narrator gives accounts of people,
places, and events. How might this story have been
different if one of Cabeza de Vaca’s men had told it?
How might it have been different if told by one of the
Native Americans?
2. Cabeza de Vaca as portrayed in this selection is a
strong, resourceful character. What details create this
positive image?
See Literary Terms Handbook, p. R10.
Extending Your Response
Writing About Literature
Literature Groups
Description Description helps writers bring events to life.
Choose a passage in La Relación and examine Cabeza de
Vaca’s choice of descriptive words. Evaluate the effectiveness
of his descriptions and the ways in which they add to the
value of the work for readers hundreds of years later.
Organize your comments in a one-page paper.
Justice for All? In your group, read aloud passages in
which Cabeza de Vaca interacts with the native people and
evaluate the attitudes he displays. Discuss whether later
European explorers and settlers in the Americas would agree
or disagree with his attitudes. Have one person in your group
summarize the discussion for the class.
Save your work for your portfolio.
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