5 Native American Writers You Should Know
By Eve Edinburgh
Thanksgiving has just gone by and accompanying this US holiday is Native American Heritage month. Native Americans are quick to be associated with the past and a bygone way of living; a different world altogether from the USA we know today. Whilst communities and territories threaten to disappear, there are still individuals producing phenomenal modern culture and Native Americans have a thriving and healthy writing community to this day. In order to celebrate Native American Heritage month, here are five excellent Native American writers you should be reading.
Linda Hogan (not to be mistaken with Hulk Hogan’s ex-wife) comes from a recognised Chickasaw family and was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize in 1991. A varied writer, her work includes poetry, short stories, novels and plays. Hogan’s essay collection Dwellings focuses on the spiritual, natural and animal world, marrying these elements into real life. Another of her most popular works is Mean Spirit, a topical and pressing murder mystery.
Welch grew up in the Blackfeet and A’aninin tribe with his parents and writes both fiction and poetry. His work explores the lives within communities and the difficulties inherent in interacting with the outer world. Intimate and melancholy,
his most acclaimed novels Winter in the Blood and Fool’s Crow take you into the heart of Native American communities and a fading way of life.
Louise Erdrich, a novelist and poet, is the daughter of a Chippewa mother. Often set in North Dakota, her writing offers an authentic narrative and regularly nurses the human story of survival. Divulging into atrocious political and mythological circumstances, her novels The Roundhouse, LaRose and The Plague of Doves are amongst her best works.
Dg Nanouk Okpik
Adopted by an Irish-German family living in Alaska, okpik is a Inupiaq-Inuit poet. Her poetry merges affectionately with the Alaskan landscape of her home, perceptively laying out to the reader its natural imagery with thoughtful environmentalist urgency. Her debut poetry collection Corpse Whale is award winning; and her poems A Year Dot and Cell Block on Chena River are equally fantastic.
Poet and writer, Joshua Whitehead is an Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit member of Canada’s First Nations. ‘Two-Spirit’ is a modern umbrella term used by some Native Americans to describe individuals who are gender divergent; though the concept itself has been used traditionally for centuries. With this explored, they use apt subjects of decolonisation, reclamation and catharsis to steer their creativity. Whitehead takes their identity and history by the horns in their wholly original and honest poetry collection Full-Metal Indigiqueer.
Images courtesy of Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, The Native Home of Hope, The New Yorker, Pinterest.cl and the Toronto Star.