The Multiplicity of Early American Indian Poetry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay introduces the understudied archive of early Native American poetry by reading a series of little-known poems that face the routines of ordinary life, including the observation of nature, scientific curiosity, complicity with Manifest Destiny, work, curiosity, resistance to and complicity with ideologies that exoticize Indigenous peoples, sexual anxiety, and self-critical reflection on environmental devastation. These poems speak with a shifting blend of irony, doubt, pride, political resistance or complacency, and resentment or embrace of stereotypes, while each poem also models how lyrical cultural interpretation can confront internal contradictions and competing impulses. In these ways, poetry’s capacity to represent intense literacy moves beyond colonialist, demeaning views of American Indian cultures and histories and invites us to see American Indians not only as topics of literary history but also as its creators.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Native American Literature
EditorsMelanie Benson Taylor
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108699419
ISBN (Print)9781108482059, 9781108741903
StatePublished - Sep 17 2020


  • Native American poetry
  • Lynn Riggs
  • Alex Posey
  • Carlisle Indian Industrial School


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