American Indian Literature: Current Condition and Suggested Research
The National Council of Teachers of English has recently approved a resolution supporting the study of Native American literature, both oral and written. The resolution proposed "that Native American literature and culture be taught kindergarten through college, and be it further resolved that programs in teacher preparation be encouraged to include resources, materials, and methods of presenting Native American literature and culture." The quantity of contemporary American Indian literature available to today's teachers and students is limited but steadily increasing; the quality of such work is, fortunately, quite high in many instances. The poems, short stories, and novels written by American Indians in the last decade or so will be considered here, as will some of the journals and chapbooks in which this material regularly appears. But of at least equal importance, I believe, are the suggestions made in this essay concerning the needs and opportunities for scholarly and critical research in the field of American Indian literature. It is my assumption here, of course, that a sound critical apparatus can only help to legitimize (in the eyes of those who approve public school curricula and university courses) the study of an important body of material which, until only recently, has been generally ignored.
While at least nine other novels had been written by American Indians and published in this country prior to 1969, it was in that year that the Pulitzer prize for fiction was awarded to N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn (New York: Harper and Row, 1968) and in the decade since that award we have seen at least seven additional novels published which demand our serious attention.