Document Type




Format of Original

5 p.

Publication Date



National Council of Teachers of English

Source Publication

English Journal

Source ISSN



Silence is a major value in Native American culture, for silence is the token of acceptance, the symbol of peace and serenity, and the outward expression of harmony between the human and natural worlds. The result of this tradition of silence, however, is a limited written record, a limited number of texts produced by Native Americans themselves. This situation allowed the Anglo to step into the void and speak for Native Americans themselves, or more accurately, to claim to speak as their "interpreters." The implication that white culture drew from the lack of a written language in any of the Native American tribes was that these people had nothing of value to say to themselves or to others. It was not until the past twenty years that Native Americans have begun to produce their own literary works written in English with an eye toward communicating with the American population as a whole. Until the publication of Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn (1968), the general population had not heard actual Native Americans speak in their own voices-the white culture had been speaking for them. During the past twenty years, however, there has been a veritable explosion of texts coming from the Native American community, and we now have a substantial corpus to use in teaching contemporary Native American literature.


Published Version. Text and Context: Teaching Native American Literature, Vol. 77, No. 5 (September 1988): 20-24. Publisher's link. © 1988 National Council of Teachers of English. Used with permission.