Cultural Conflict

The history of North and South America is not only defined by colonization. The colonization caused great cultural conflicts between two worlds. The “Literature of Discovery” is a literature about cultural conflict. American Literature began as a multi-sided process of influence that produced a “hybrid cultural universe of the Atlantic World,” according to Benjamin Franklin. American identity has been multicultural from the beginning.

Is this literature?

What we normally think of literature are the recognized literary forms: poems, fiction, and drama. This course begins by looking at a wide range of forms, including letters, sermons, histories, and travel narratives. Your job is to appreciate the value of these “nonliterary” texts. As such, you can think of these in several ways.

  1. As precursors to a literary tradition that will flower in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  2. As texts that employ creative use of language.
  3. As the history and traditional stories needed for meaning and purpose; American mythology.

Introduction to Pre-Colonial

  • The Marvels of Spain and America
  • Native American Oral Literature
  • Voyages of Discovery

Iroquois Creation Story

a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon and typically involving supernatural beings or events

creation myths
not intended to be interpreted literally
answers ‘big questions’ and conveys great truth
describes values of particular culture

iroquois creation myth

Why did cultures use creation stories?
what are the origins of our community?
answer big questions

what are the big questions?
how did world begin?
how did life begin?
how did evil effect/enter our world?
what is the meaning of life?

oral tradition
not unique to NA, found globally in cultures
no written language
stories easy to remember, imagery
sometimes uses tools, story sticks with carvings, totem poles

name given to member of Iroquois Confederacy had 5 nations

Symbolic and literal longhouse
symbolically they are – how they viewed family relatonships, showed connections between all the families
also because each tribe keeper of “door” responsible for symbolic longhouse
literally they are “people of longhouse” because they live in it

what could you learn about Iroquois culture from reading their creation story?
creation came from women and is maintained from women (body used in creation) – shows woman big part of life

reflected social organization
had technology and tools in possession
used raw materials
served extended families
symbol of traditions of their society

role of men
responsible for hunting, fishing, making war
acted as sachems, chiefs

role of women
gathered roots, nuts, berries
nominated men for leadership positions, made sure responsibilities were fulfilled
matrilineal +matrilocal NOT matriarchal
keepers of culture

of or based on kinship with the mother or the female line

of or denoting a custom in marriage whereby husband goes to live with wife’s community

existing at or from beginning of time, primeval
syn: ancient, prehistoric, earliest, first

the science of the origin and development of universe

less than permanent but with stability or endurance

a fence of wooden stakes or iron railing fixed to the ground, forming an enclosure or defense

Iroquois Creation Story Part I
Description of Two Worlds
Lower world – of Great Darkness, in possession of monster
Upper World – of sky, inhabited by mankind

Iroquois Creation Story Part II
Creation as Good Vs. Evil

Twin 1
Twin 1 – bad mind
moved by evil opinion (temped to do bad)
insolent character (stubborn in his ways)
wanted darkness to remain (resisted creation)
unnatural birth – out of mom’s side (armpit)

Twin 2
Twin 2 – good mind
tried to prevent twin 1’s efforts – tried to right his brother
gentle disposition
wanted to create light in world of dark
natural birth

What did the good twin create?
used mother’s body as part of creation (trying to explain sun, moon, stars, sky)
created creeks, rivers, animals
created humans in his own likeness – m and f, out of dust with breath of life
creation was given to humans for their use
(animals for food, etc.)

What did the bad twin create?
made mountains, waterfalls (obstacles)
reptiles that could hurt people
clay images of man – couldn’t bring to life, but good mind gave them souls
tried to corrupt brother’s dream and keep animals from humans

good v evil
reoccurring theme
bad mind tried to keep humans from animals
brother against brother
evil challenges good
evil is crushed – became the evil spirit that has equal power over souls of mankind in death

What does the Iroquois Creation Story try to explain?
tribal conflict
forces of nature
origins of universe
drawing life from women – role of m and f in society
cycles of nature
animals that help/harm

symbolism – turtle
life and interconnection of all living creatures and God

symbolism – birth theme
cycle of life, birth life death afterlife

symbolism – two worlds
innocence (sinlessness) vs. knowledge (evil) what life was like before and after evil

symbolism – sky woman, life
bringer of life

symbolism – twins
two halves of a whole, humans are good and evil, nature nourishes and destroys, we are born then we die – contrasting elements

why reference “at time of contact with Europeans”?
impact on NA?
impact on EU?
the communities have yet to be influenced, very different world view
brought diseases, took land
supportive, taught how to farm

What was happening when David Cusak wrote story?
never particularly large pop
small population (tribal warfare and Eu diseases)
sided with British during Revolutionary War
forced from land and resettled

David Cusak
tuscorara tribe
born in 1780 on Oneida reservation NY
early if not first account of NA history and myth published in English by an Indian
brother Dennis was painter

version of story written in 1820s – did events up until then shape text?
they could reflect the change their current world is going through

what makes this literature american?
they are part of america and their literature is a big part of their society

what is relationship between literature and place?
geography and climate in story

how does literature shape or reflect society?
the story reflected NA society and it shaped their understanding of their culture

NA literature
20,000 BCE to present
myths legends songs creation stories

where did Iroquois live?
northeastern America, now southern Canada, upper Midwest, NY state and Pennsylvania
cold, changing of seasons, furried animals

Original Source