Native American notes - Effingham County Schools

to 1750
Native Americans*
• First Native Americans migrated from Asia
across the Bering Strait 35,000 years ago.
• They migrated all over North and South
America, forming hundreds of tribes.
Food and Entertainment*
• Native Americans introduce corn, squash,
beans, and certain fish to the settlers.
• Cattle and pigs are brought from Europe.
• Native Americans played slight-of-hand
games, dice games, lacrosse, and hoopand-spear.
• Bonds of kinship, or strong ties among
family members, ensured a continuation of
tribal customs.
• Elders instructed the young and in return
the young honored the elders and their
departed ancestors.
• They believed that land was a source of
life not a commodity to be sold.
• How is this an example of valuing the tribe
over self?
More on the Native
• Some beliefs:
– All parts of nature are made up of animals
– Everything is sacred, spiritual, and has life
– The land is not to be owned
– Polytheistic…many gods as seen in myths
– Prominent roles for women
– Cycles of nature ruled life.
Historical Background
• Christopher Columbus reached North
America in 1492
• Found the area inhabited by Native
American tribes
• Once explorers and settlers decided to stay and
start building, the natives could do nothing
although they usually tried to fight back.
• Natives had a completely different set of values
and traditions:
- some wouldn’t fight back until they realized
they would lose their land completely
- *they lived off the land and held it in high
regard; earth was the mother
- *they never used more than they needed and
they never wasted anything
• The settlers flagrant ways and intruding methods
of desecrating the land came as a huge blow to
the Native Americans.
• The Europeans also brought disease that
natives were never exposed to before, which
brought actual physical desecration to their
• Over time (hundreds of years) land was
progressively taken away from them and they
were not only robbed of their sacred land and
the traditions it embodied for them, but they
were forced into assimilating into the emerging
European-American culture.
Native American Period
Native American literature is an oral
tradition of song and stories.
Much of Native American literature
focuses on the natural world and the
sacred world and the importance of
Native American Literature*
• Magical and mystical elements
• Types:
– Creation/Origin stories: explain where people
and things come from, why they exist
– Historical narratives: passed down the history
of their people and traditions
– Trickster tales: used to teach lessons
The Native American Oral
• Oral literature – stories passed down from
one generation to the next as they were
told and retold in the privacy of
households and in tribal ceremonies.
• Myth – anonymous, traditional story that
relies on supernatural phenomenon, to
explain a natural phenomenon, an aspect
of human nature, or a mystery of the
universe. (Seek to explain why the world is
the way it is)
Oral Tradition continued* . . .
• Creation myths – tell how the world and
human life came to exist
– Origin myths – explain how natural
phenomenon such as the stars, moon, and
mountains came to be or why a society has
certain beliefs and customs.
(Many myths emphasize a bond b/w the
Creator, humanity, and the entire natural
world. They explain it is the duty of humanity
to maintain a balance with the natural world.)
Oral Tradition continued* . . .
Animals play an important role in Native
American myths.
• Totem – animal or object to which a clan is
“connected”; revered by that clan
• Trickster – animal characters with 2 sides
to their personalities; rebels who often
created chaos; curious, clever, creative;
may exhibit wisdom (coyote, raven, mink)
Some Dominant Themes & Motifs*:
• relationships between humans and
• respect and reverence for mother earth
and nature
• land as the strength of the people
• village/community/tribe as sovereign
• cyclical patterns: renewal and continuance
• importance of tribal traditions and history
Literary Terms*
• Allusion: reference to someone or something
that is known from history, literature, religion,
sports, etc.
• Myth: traditional stories passed down from
generation to generation
• Alliteration: Repetition of the initial consonant
• Simile: extended metaphor using “like” or “as”
• Anecdote: short story that teaches a meaning