Native American Oral Literature

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After reading “Song” and “The Great Sea,” keep in mind the information from “Notes on Native American Oral Literature” and consider the following questions:

  • What imagery seems striking or most important in the works? (Remember that imagery can relate to any of the 5 senses.)
  • How might the imagery in “Song” relate to the tone and main idea of the work?
  • How might the imagery in “The Great Sea ” relate to the tone and main idea of the work?
  • In either poem, do you find repetition that serves to emphasize an important idea or to create an emotional response or both? Why? Try to find particular words/phrases/lines to support your answer and define the specific idea/s and/or emotions that might be emphasized in the work.
  • As a modern reader, how might you be able to relate to “Song” and “The Great Sea”?

Thanksgiving Address”

  • What might be the significance of the repeated phrase “Now our minds are one”
  • What is the significance of the different groups addressed and the order in which they are addressed? What might this tell the audience? (Note: Keep in mind that what is usually most important is either first and/or last in a piece.)
  • What imagery can be found in “Thanksgiving Address”? How might this imagery enhance the meaning of the piece–or even a particular part of the work?
  • What might be the point of this work?

The Haudenosaunee founding story focuses on the origin of the Iroquois confederacy, but it also illuminates other aspects of the Haudenosaunee culture. Similarly, while the Hopi origin story explains how their people came to be and their place in the world, this story also explain the origins of other aspects of their culture and the world.

  • List and describe the different aspects of the Haudenosaunee and Hopi cultures and the world, all that is explained, in these two origin stories.

“The Iroquois Creation Story”

  • What is the relationship between the two brothers? Why is it significant that they are twins?
  • Why is the bad twin envious of the good twin?
  • In the story, how are the Good Mind and the Bad Mind different from how a modern Western reader might typically think of “good” and “evil”?
  • How is the rivalry between the brothers resolved?
  • As a creation story, what does this tale explain? What lessons can be found in the story?

“The Navajo Creation Story”

  • Describe each world that the Navajo travel through before reaching the surface. In each instance, why do they need to leave, ultimately finding another world?
  • What is the significance of the Holy People in the story?
  • How were First Man and First woman created? Describe their relationship.
  • What role does Coyote play in the story?
  • Why do Changing Woman’s sons, the Twins, not kill all the monsters plaguing the people?
  • What is the significance of the place where the Navajo reside, their homeland?
  • What lessons can be found in this story?

“The Great” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48709/the-great-sea-#about

“Thanksgiving Address” http://www.nmai.si.edu/environment/pdf/01_02_Thank…

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=swJs2cGNwIU http://www.pbs.org/native-america/extras/sacred-st… On the page, scroll down to “Explore All Sacred Stories,” and “Haudenosaunee’s Legendary Founding” will be the second video clip under that section.

“Native America: Hopi Origin Story” https://www.pbs.org/video/hopi-origin-story-dc0awe…



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