Debra Magpie Earling

Native American Literature authors

is a term originally coined by critic Kenneth Lincoln in the 1983 book

Literary work[edit]

In, Lincoln explores the significant increase in production of literary works by Native Americans in the years following the publication of N. Scott Momaday's novel which garnered critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969.

Early works of Native American authors[edit]

Prior to the publication of House Made of Dawn, few Native Americans authors had published works of fiction that reached wide readership. Writers such as William Apess, John Rollin Ridge and Simon Pokagon published works to little fanfare in the nineteenth century. Prior to the onset of WWII, Mourning Dove, John Milton Oskison, John Joseph Mathews, Zitkala-Sa, Charles Eastman and D'Arcy McNickle published literary works, although these works were relatively few in number.

The Renaissance[edit]

In the work Native American Literatures: An Introduction, author Suzanne Lundquist suggests the Native American Renaissance has three elements:

  • Reclamation of heritage through literary expression;
  • Discovery and reevaluation of early texts by Native American authors; and
  • Renewed interest in customary tribal artistic expression (i.e. mythology, ceremonialism, ritual, and the oral tradition of narrative transmission).

Lincoln points out that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a generation of Native Americans were coming of age who were the first of their respective tribal communities to receive a substantial English-language education, particularly outside Indian boarding schools, and with more graduating from colleges and universities. Conditions for Native people, while still very harsh during this period, had moved beyond the survival conditions of the early half of the century.

A period of historical revisionism was underway, as historians were more willing to look at difficulties in the history of the invasion and colonization of the North American continent. As they explored the colonial and "Wild West" eras, some historians were more careful to represent events from the Native American perspective. This work inspired public interest in Native cultures and within Native American communities themselves; it was also a period of activism within Native American communities to achieve greater sovereignty and civil rights.

The ferment also inspired a group of young Native American writers, who emerged in the fields of poetry and novel-writing. In the span of a few years, these writers worked to expand the Native American literary canon.

By the 1980s, the rapid increase in materials and the development of Native American Studies departments and programs at several universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles; Dartmouth College, and Eastern Washington University, led to the founding of scholarly journals, such as SAIL (Studies in American Indian Literature) and (1985). With the heightened interest in Native American writing, publishers established specialized imprints, such as Harper and Row's Native American Publishing Programme, which had the goal of promoting new voices and publication opportunities.

The First Wave[edit]

Writers typically included in the first wave of the include:

The Second Wave[edit]

Writers commonly associated with the second wave of the are:


The term has been criticized on a number of points. As James Ruppert writes, "Scholars hesitate to use the phrase because it might imply that Native writers were not producing significant work before that time, or that these writers sprang up without longstanding community and tribal roots. Indeed, if this was a rebirth, what was the original birth?" Other critics have described it as "a source of controversy, " or have commented on its "vexing implications" of a comparative downgrading of the artistry of oral tradition.

  1. Rundquist, Suzanne Evertsen. Native American Literatures: An Introduction. Consortium International Publishing Group: New York, NY. 2004, p. 38
  2. James Ruppert, "Fiction: 1968–Present". In The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature, ed. Kenneth M. Roemer and Joy Porter (CUP, 2005). Page 173 [1]
  3. Craig Womack, "Book-Length Native Literary Criticism", in Reasoning Together by Janice Acoose, Lisa Brooks, Craig S. Womack, Tol Foster, Daniel Heath Justice, Christopher B Teuton (Oklahoma, 2008), page 15 [2]
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