Analysis of Native American Poets and Their Poems


Native American poetry has begun to emerge from the anthology, allowing literary historians to consider it in all of its complexity and diversity. America was densely inhabited with Native peoples before European traders and colonists arrived. This paper will analyze and evaluate poet Johnson E. Pauline and her poem The Indian Corn Planter. It will also explore and assess Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and Robert Dale Parker and their poems Absence, On Leaving My Children Jon, and Jane at School.

Johnson, E. Pauline

Since the 1960s, Pauline’s life and career have resurfaced in academic circles, owing to a resurgent interest in feminism, indigenous peoples, and diversity. Her part Mohawk ancestry influenced Pauline’s work and reception. Johnson proudly displayed her mixed background during poetry readings. She frequently donned beads and buckskin while interpreting and performing on matters of public policy before changing into evening attire for the second half of her presentation.

Pauline spent a lot of time writing on how to improve communication between the First Nations and the newcomers from Europe. By exposing Indigenous viewpoints and investigating topics of imperial stigmas, prejudices, racial differences, and women’s rights and power struggles, Johnson took brave political stances. She wrote enthusiastically about ecology, relationships, societies, and other themes simultaneously. Her writing and performances took place during Canada’s assimilationist period. The federal government’s goal was to fully integrate all Indigenous populations into Canadian culture. When Campbell Scott was the Department of Indian Affairs assistant supervisor, he stated that Canada’s policy goal was to finally eradicate the last remnants of native traditions among Indigenous peoples in Canada (Ntalakosta 14). Pauline mainly wrote short meter poems, and her poetry, writing, and performances fight assimilation and promote intercultural understanding.

In all of Pauline’s stories, Christianity does not do well. Her approach to a severe ethical dilemma in “The Indian Corn Planter” (Pauline 124) departs from established religion. This poem starts with a significant lifestyle change, from capturing and hunting to cultivating. It represents not just the changing seasons but also colonial power’s imposition of land use restrictions through colonies and treaties. She writes about a man whose simple Pagan faith knows night and noon in her poem. Therefore, it is evident that Pauline did not emphasize Christianity as most of her works portray paganism and otherworldly matters. Pauline rarely addresses Moers’ uplands in her poems, and when she does, she appears to have little to say about the area itself. She utilizes shorter lines here than usual, with a single, stressed syllable foot at the end of each trimester line which seems to fly by as though she is rushing to finish the poem.

Pauline embodies the land’s attractions, but in a way that seems to be requesting dominance, as opposed to her violent male counterpart, who fights it. The image of the woman as the recipient of male power creates an open door for white supremacy to invade the land. She becomes blatantly objective if the romantic encounter is repressed or even denied. This denial is because the control is not through sexual interaction but the observer. She symbolizes a passionate gender identity with the restricted perversion of miscegenation at all times, with all the tensions that Foucault demonstrates are fruitful of speech. Pauline wrote poems and stories that pushed against the basic semiotic layout by the world she knew, such as Ojistoh. These poems raise concerns about romantic regard and interaction under excursion and cheap arousal. They also fairly indict Christianity for failing to live up to its promise. She could also write sentences that should be allowed to reverberate even in contemporary ears.

Schoolcraft Johnston and Parker

As a result of her mixed-blood parents, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, America’s first female Indigenous American writer and poet, shows a distinct multicultural impact in her writing. As shown in the article “Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s Post pastoral” (Foerster 129), Schoolcraft’s controversial writings illustrate the cacophonous potpourri of internal contradictions she lived in her life. Schoolcraft is an American poet impacted by much more than English Romanticism, evidenced by most of her poems. Her poems demonstrate the faceted nature of her works, as evidenced by her Anglo-American heritage tones concealed alongside her native spirituality.

Parker’s work has been critical in revealing the breadth of early Native American poetry, bringing its diversity and depth to light. This effort also contributes to correct, or at the very least challenging, widely held beliefs about the rank and aesthetic value of early Native poetry literature. American Indian composers had advanced by the 20th century in a chapter titled “America’s Indigenous Poetry” (Rennard 92) in The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature. This chapter posits a philosophical Native American history in which characters like Ridge and Schoolcraft rather than poets in their rights.

Schoolcraft’s poetry follows her Euro-American and British counterparts, such as William Wordsworth and Lydia Sigourney, embracing traditional romantic and pastoral themes. Many of her poetry honor and revere the natural world, alternating between indigenous Anishinaabe philosophy and Christianized pieces. Schoolcraft might be regarded as a Romantic, lyrical poet in many aspects while maintaining her cultural heritage and worldview. Her poem is heavily syllabic, as was the custom at the period, and she typically wrote it in iambic poetic verse. However, in addition to lyric poetry, sonnets, and odes, her poetry includes several Anishinaabe poems written in original verse forms, and she mainly wrote long meter poems.

The most striking aspect of Schoolcraft’s work is how easily she moved between genres and languages. The Anishinaabe oral culture influences her prose, and she tells stories in Anishinaabe that her mother and grandparents have passed down to her. She authored eight Anishinaabe tales in English prose and nonfiction literature, and she interpreted and recorded many Anishinaabe songs and verbal texts. Between 1815 and 1842, she produced at least fifty poems in English and Anishinaabe.

The tremendous loss linked with land in 19th-century Native American poems, especially Schoolcraft’s, is a critical consideration in understanding it and, with that loss, the loss of people, tradition, and humanity. Lyrics lamenting the loss of one’s homeland resound with the pastoral elegy. However, the land is still genuine in much nineteenth-century Native American poetry, even if people glorify the land. “Absence” (Jane Johnston and Dale Parker 120) includes four short poems in which Schoolcraft anguishes over her husband’s long cruise down the Mississippi River. The dichotomy of imagined and authentic in these compositions has characterized most rural poetry since Theocritus is absent.

Schoolcraft’s vision encapsulates the pastoral’s dual pulls of retreat seeking escape or safety, usually inside an idealized environment or childhood, and return using the refuge as a platform to address the actual society’s challenges. Her anticolonial stance is frequently expressed in her poems as a critique of the urban, social situations that contrast with the natural beauty of the Great Lakes region. This natural setting serves as both a getaway and a return for Johnston. It is a place of childhood purity for her and a framework through which she evaluates herself and society. The poem “On Leaving My Children Jon and Jane at School” (Jane Johnston and Dale Parker 141) exemplifies this framework.

Understanding Schoolcraft provides insight into the difficulties experienced by Native writers at the period and a new take on the pastoral. Schoolcraft, who was Anishinaabe, is best known for her union with Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, among the first ethnographers in the United States. Schoolcraft’s work was successfully removed from the scenery of nineteenth-century literature, even though both were writers and Henry’s publications take up twenty-eight feet of display space inside the Library of Congress.

Importance of Native Poetry to Native American Culture and Identity

Native American female authors have worked to break preconceptions by chronicling their narratives in English ever since the eighteenth century, even though popular culture depictions of Native American women have preferred to center on the notion of the Indian princess. After establishing reservations in 1851, Native women attended tribal schools and boarding schools, but some women, such as Jane Johnson Schoolcraft, were well educated even before that. By the beginning of the 19th century, many Native women were well-educated, with some even holding a college diploma. They blended parts of the storytelling practice that was a cultural practice into the disciplines of novels, short tales, essays, and poetry as writers.

Long before the arrival of the Europeans, poetry developed in the Indigenous cultures of North America. Traditional Native American poetry and traditions and contemporary issues and experiences impact contemporary Native American poets, as does the larger body of American poetry produced in English. Songs such as lullabies, love songs, criticisms, laments, curses, battle cries, and funeral songs were performed orally as part of traditional Native American poetry. It also contained songs incorporated in stories and played by storytellers at exciting or emotional occasions. Finally, classic poetry comprised ceremonial poems, which were employed in rituals to bring about recovery, proclaim a political victory, or make an appeal to a divinity, among other things. Today, poets write these poems, and the lyrics innovate and develop current demands.

Native American poems might be intimidating since they encompass many different life facets. Native poetry gives historical evidence, illustrate the power of the Native American culture, debate significant political and social concerns, and illuminate a rich cultural history. In an ideal world, one would listen to music in its original environment, time and space. People use poetry to communicate to commemorate, invoke, or accompany events in life’s cycle. Native poetry is inextricably linked to and even integrated with nature in Native American culture. It is an essential component of religious, social, ethical, and cultural activities. Poetry is always a way of educating people on the different occurrences in life.

How Poems Maintain Native Identity

While individuals use modern instruments and languages in contemporary Native American poetry, they also use traditional content. Identity has been a fundamental preoccupation in Native American literature as an art form from its beginning. The issues of cultural context, tribe and sexuality all play a role in this identity. There are reveals on the estrangement of the self to be potentially cohesive and dependent on an ongoing and coherent cultural identity (Owens et al. 10). Finding and recognizing the poet’s position concerning social and cultural standards philosophical ideas and analyzing their relevance in human life expresses the poet’s identity. Writing has been a way of establishing one’s personality for each poet, and as a result, poetry constantly creates and unmakes identities.

Works Cited

Foerster, Jennifer Elise. “Bamewawagezhikaquay: Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s Post pastoral Poetics.”Ecotone, vol 15, no. 1, 2019, 129-139. Project Muse, Web.

Jane Johnston, Schoolcraft, and Robert Dale Parker. The Sound of the Stars Makes Rushing Through The Sky: The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007, pp. 119-143.

Johnson E Pauline. Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of Johnson E Pauline Tekahionwake. 6th ed., Musson Book Co, 1920, pp. 122-171.

Ntalakosta, Anastasia-Maria. “Making Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Canada Visible.” Haptic Policy Briefs Series, vol 2, no. 2, 2021, p. 14. National Documentation Centre (EKT), Web.

Owens, Jacqueline K. et al. “Student‐Dedicated Publication Venues and Guidelines: A Content Analysis.” Nurse Author & Editor, vol 27, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-10. Wiley, Web.

Rennard. “Becoming Indigenous: The Transnational Networks of the American Indian Movement, Irish Republicans, and Welsh Nationalists.” Native American and Indigenous Studies, vol 8, no. 2, 2021, p. 92. Project Muse, Web.

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