Chapter 8. Indigenous Oral Traditions of North America, Then and Now

  1. Paul Lauter president
  1. Lisa Brooks (Abenaki) Assistant Professor

Published Online: 16 MAR 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444320626.ch8

A Companion to American Literature and Culture

A Companion to American Literature and Culture

How to Cite

Brooks (Abenaki), L. (2010) Indigenous Oral Traditions of North America, Then and Now, in A Companion to American Literature and Culture (ed P. Lauter), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444320626.ch8

Editor Information

  1. Trinity College (Hartford), UK

Author Information

  1. Harvard University, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 MAR 2010
  2. Published Print: 26 MAR 2010

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780631208921

Online ISBN: 9781444320626



  • indigenous oral traditions of North America, then and now;
  • oral traditions in place - story of a missionary gathering a group of Native leaders, telling them of the origin of human beings;
  • the Garden of Eden, the creation of the earth in seven days, the formation and fall of Adam and Eve;
  • oral traditional narratives - subsisting in an ecosystem, mapping relationships between plant, animal, and human beings within indigenous homelands;
  • ancient networks and literary traditions - the origin of corn;
  • corn mother story, prolific on Turtle Island - corn itself emerging in the hot tropical climate of Mexico;
  • Quiché Maya Popol Vuh, story of origin of corn and its association with potent maternal figures;
  • contemporary Native literature, oral traditions transforming and fostering networks of exchange;
  • pragmatism and imagination, indigenous oral traditions and power of words;
  • treaty oratory, salvage ethnography - adaptation of “Indian Legends”


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Oral Traditions in Place

  • Ancient Networks and Literary Traditions: the Origin of Corn

  • Pragmatism and Imagination: Indigenous Oral Traditions and the Power of Words

  • Treaty Oratory, Salvage Ethnography, and the Adaptation of “Indian Legends”

  • “A Map to the Next World”: Multiple Paths in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

  • References and Further Reading