Genre tips

#AtoZChallenge: Genres–Native American

The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 articles on a themed topic. It’s supposed to be every day except Sundays during the month of April but I did this last year, found it way to busy for the likes of me, and decided to post mine ‘about’ once a month. Yes, it’ll take me a couple of years. Sigh.

My topic, like the last two times I did the conventional approach, will be writing genres.

This genre:

Native American


Fiction that centers around the past and present lives of Indians (Native Americans)


I confess to not knowing a lot about this genre so I relied heavily on these tips from an Ojibway writer over at Absolute Water Coolera to z

  1. “Indian” is a proper term for Native Americans. It’s what they call themselves though “Native American” is fine.
  2. Don’t worry about ‘how Indian are you?’ Indians don’t. It seems Whites draw a relationship between ‘blood’ and ‘authenticity’ that isn’t relevant to Indians.
  3. Non-Indian writers go overboard decorating their Indian character with constant reminders of his/her Indianness. Indians don’t do that.
  4. Indians are not all hunks and sultry maidens.
  5. From Writing Forums: “Of the Shoshone people I know, some believe in the natural world, some believe in the bottle, some have adapted quite well to the corporate world, among other things, take your pick.”
  6. Avoid stereotypes.
  7. Treat these characters carefully because this is a charged subject for many.
  8. Some believe in traditional gods, some don’t.
  9. Be careful to use accurate vocabulary:
    • Not house but tepee, longhouse, wigwam, hut, etc
    • Not hat but headdress
    • Not boat but canoe
    • Not shoe but moccasin
    • Not doctor but medicine man or healer
    • Not soldiers but braves or warriors
    • Not woman but squaw
    • Not men but tribesmen
    • Not nation but tribe
    • Not country but tribal lands
    • Not king or kingdom but chief or chiefdom.
    • Not civil war but fighting
    • Not technology but tools
    • Not town but village, pueblo, population centre, etc.
  10. From Abagond: Say as little as possible about history, especially the Indian Wars and the period before 1492 and after 1890. They are timeless. The Sioux, for example, are frozen forever in time on their horses hunting bisons and fighting Custer.

Popular Books

  1. A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh--by Allan W. Eckert
  2. The Last of the Mohicans–by James Fennimore Cooper
  3. Hope Leslie–by Catharine Maria Sedgwick
  4. Song of Hiawatha--by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  5. The Life, History, and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gahbowh–by George Copway
  6. Dances with Wolves–by Michael Blake
  7. The First North Americans series by Kathleen O’Neal Gear
  8. The series by Tony Hillerman and his daughter
  9. The Grizzly Killer series by Lane Warenski

Click for complete list of these 26 genres

Click for a complete list of all genres I’ve written about

More N Genres:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

50 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge: Genres–Native American

  1. Karl May is one of the greatest selling fiction writers of all time in Germany. He wrote romanticized novels about Indians versus Americans in the mid 19th century. Indians would often win battles against the American military – the complete opposite of what generally happened in popular history as we know it. The ‘Noble Indian’ was a feature character of his many popular selling books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jacqui – I picked up a bit when I was up in Canada – though really should read more … so perhaps at some stage – I can come back and select a few of the book suggestions. Fascinating post though … actually really interesting!! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

      • I read this one when I was out … it made very interesting reading … should you wish to look: Steve Hendricks is a freelance writer living in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Helena, Montana. His first book, The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country, made several “best books of the year” lists in 2006. Brought (for me) quite a lot to light … cheers H

        Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds so obvious when I read through them but they weren’t before I found that list. Those wonderful domain-specific words.


    • That’s me too, Jacquie. They are complicated, often politically-charged. I could easily stick my foot in that one. I even pondered the wisdom of this post!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hugely influenced. I wouldn’t write about modern Indians without visiting a reservation, discussing their attitudes on revenue streams (like gambling), and so much more. Which means, I probably won’t have Indians in my stories!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. All of the books by Louise Erdrich, a prolific and talented writer, and member of the Chippewa tribe. “There There” by Tommy Orange, Cheyenne and Arapaho. Sherman Alexie, a talented writer across genres, raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation. “Black Elk Speaks,” through a translator, the voice of Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota holy man. Joy Harjo, a poet, Creek Nation. If you really want to know about Native American life and culture, original sources are accurate. I’ve read the books listed here or some of the books by these authors. Many have won awards, well earned IMHO.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Jacqui. I have always had a fascination for Indian culture. A number of years ago I tried in vain to find a native healer in Ontario. However, I have been blessed to attend a number of terrific workshops in Scotland with Indian teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jacqui, you mention not stereotyping Indians and then list a vocabulary to use. Isn’t that a little contradictory? Indians, just like any other group of people just want to be treated with respect. I would think the same goes for other group, so like Celtics for instance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The vocabulary thing–it’s domain-specific, so words to use not to stereotype but to communicate better. Like the collection of words that are different in Britain than the US. Bonnet is the car hood. That’s how I see those.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I learned it from a group where a particularly woke member disdainfully told a member that ‘they aren’t Indians–they’re Native Americans’, only to be educated (kindly) by the unwoke writer. Sigh.


  6. Fascinating, Jacqui. Thank you. I am familiar with two stories you mentioned, though one as a movie. (Hiawatha and Dances with Wolves). The recommendations are great. I think it’s important to use respectful language and to avoid stereotyping.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Very interesting and guiding post for anyone attempting to write about
    the lives among the Indians ( Native Americans).
    One point in particular I found telling as it highlights differences in our values.
    The list of vocabulary. Ours is harsher and without the spirituality of the Indians.

    Most of the books you list I have read, tribal people in many parts of the world
    teach us more about our relationships to each other and nature.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge: Genres–Native American — WordDreams… – ABC Bazar

  9. Always fascinated by Indians because they kept making appearances in the Westerns I used to read in younger days. Most were fleeting. The Indian was mostly the prop, or support cast. Recently read “Crazy Horse,” perhaps my first book where the protagonist was an Indian. My review here:
    You make a good point about resisting stereotyping. They will perhaps have a similar distribution of good and bad, brave and timid, smart and ordinary, as any other population.

    Liked by 1 person

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