What is Native American Literature?

Native American literature refers to the distinct literary expression of the indigenous peoples of North America. This literature is rooted in the traditional oral stories and myths of the Native American tribes, but it has also extended to written works in recent times.

The Importance of Oral Traditions

Oral traditions in Native American cultures are crucial for storytelling and passing down cultural and historical knowledge. They are considered holy and are considered more valuable than written records. These stories, passed down through generations, continue to shape contemporary Native American literature.

The Early Written Works

The earliest known Native American literature in written form is Native American captivity narratives. These are written records of the experiences of European colonizers who were captured and lived among Native American tribes. These narratives were a way of understanding the otherness of Native American culture and traditions from a European perspective.

Contemporary Native American Literature

Contemporary Native American literature reflects the diverse experiences of Native American peoples and communities. The works are written/posted by Native American authors who are exploring the in-between spaces of Native and non-Native cultures. Additionally, the literary forms have expanded beyond written prose to include non-written forms such as paintings, sculpture, music, spoken word, and performance art. Special attention is given to subjects like historical trauma, tribal governance, and tribal sovereignty.


Native American literature is a diverse and unique literary tradition. It reflects the experiences and perspectives of Native American people and is rooted in traditional oral stories and cultures. It highlights the diversity of Native American experiences and continues to evolve with contemporary works being created by Native American authors in different forms.

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