Indigenous Utopian Literature?

Indigenous Utopian Literature?  

  By: jsmithelford on Aug. 21, 2020, 12:39 p.m.

Hi! Is anyone familiar with any early indigenous creation stories that are utopian? Mainly I'm thinking along the lines of a garden of eden type tale, where humans live in perfect harmony with nature and with their fellow humans. I'm also looking for short dystopian stories (not novels) written by indigenous authors. These could be more contemporary. Thanks!!

Re: Indigenous Utopian Literature?  

  By: Geoff_Hamilton on Aug. 28, 2020, 1:43 p.m.

A preliminary answer (I'll try to drum up some responses from others better informed than me!)...
The distinctiveness of an Indigenous utopianism (and the 'fit' of the term itself for Indigenous worldviews) would be, I reckon, a fascinating topic for classroom discussions. Creation stories often emphasize a balance/harmony of the human and nonhuman, and a selection of these might be compared to Western conceptions of a model 'good place.'
One other early source I can recommend: in the late 18th c Samson Occom (Mohegan) wrote petitions to state governments that invoke a "Boundless Continent" and "Indian World" existing before colonization. Here's an excerpt of his petition on behalf of the Montaukett (the terms of an originary utopia are intriguingly ambiguous here -- it's both fecund and 'impoverished' -- as Occom apparently tries to balance an affirmation of Indigenous traditions with deference to Euro-American, and specifically Christian, culture):

[The Great and good spirit above... ] Saw it good to give us this great Continent & he fill’d this Indian World, with veriety, and a Prodigious Number of four footed Beasts, Fowl without number and Fish of all kinds great and Small, fill’d our Seas, Rivers, Brooks, and Ponds every where, – And it was the Pleasure of him … to keep us in Porverty, Only to live upon the Provisions he hath made already at our Hands – Thus we lived, till it pleased the great and good Governor of the World, to Send your Fathers into these goings down of the Sun, and found us Naked and very poor Destitute of every thing, that your Father injoyed, only this that we had good and a Large Country to live in, and well furnished with Natural Provisions, and there was not a Letter known amongst them all in this Boundless Continent. – But youre Fore Fathers Came With all the Learning, Knowledge, and Understanding, that was Necessary for Mankind to make them Happy, and they knew the goodness of our Land, and they Soon began to Settle and Cultivate the land, Some they bought almost for nothing, and we suppose they took a great deal without Purchace. And our Fathers were very Ignorant and knew not the value of Land, and they Cared nothing about it, they Imagin’d, they Should allways live by Hunting Fishing and Fowling, and gathering Wild Fruits – But alas at this age of the World, we find and plainly see by Sad experience, that by our Fore Fathers Ignorance and Your Fathers great Knowledge, we are undone for this Life.… We fare now harder than our Fore Fathers – For all our Hunting, Fowling, and Fishing is now ^almost^ gone and our Wild Fruit is gone, What little there is left the English would Ingross or take all ^to^ themselves .… (151)

  • from Occom, Samson. The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Native America. Ed. Joanna Brooks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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Geoff Hamilton, Site Co-Ordinator, OurLearningCircle.org

 Last edited by: Geoff_Hamilton on Aug. 28, 2020, 1:45 p.m., edited 1 time in total.