The videos below are from the film series, Native American Novelists, available through Films on Demand. In this series of intimate portraits of four outstanding Native American novelists, N. Scott Momaday, James Welch, Leslie M. Silko, and Gerald Vizenor seek to define themselves and their culture and to explain both the past and the present of their people. Each has experienced the tragedies of the Native American people—forced resettlement, loss of identity, loneliness, alcoholism, and despair—and has written about them with courage, understanding, and great literary sensitivity.
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N. Scott Momaday is a widely published Native American writer, and the recipient of the most valued awards and prizes for both his poetry and his prose. A Ph.D. in English literature, he has combined his study of Western literature with the themes as well as the structures of his Kiowa Indian heritage. Here, Momaday discusses what it means to a Native American to be an American citizen and reveals the artist, thinker, and imaginative creator behind (or perhaps at the core of) his impressive and important body of work.
Part Blackfoot, part Gros Ventre Indian, Welch finds his subject matter in his Indian heritage and his plots in the human emotions and trials common to all humans. Here, Welch discusses his background, his sources, his vision, and his personal way of particularizing the universal.
The works of Leslie Marmon Silko are strongly rooted in her own matrilineal tribal background. Like all writing of lasting value, they use particular experiences and places to reveal universal truths. Here, Silko discusses her own background and the interrelationship between her smaller, immediate Native American world and the larger, brutal surrounding world.
His life, like his work, was a long time taking root in a place and a culture. Drawing on his Ojibwa heritage, the bitter effects of his father’s murder when he was himself still a baby, his intermittent formal education, and his need to reconcile the tribal past with the political present, Vizenor has, poem by poem, story by story, and novel by novel, constructed an impressive oeuvre that marks him as among the most prolific and most intellectually challenging writers of the Native American renaissance.