Native Writers and Canadian Writing focuses on literature by and about Canada's Native peoples and contains original articles and poems by both Native and n-Native writers. These t only reflect the growing prominence of contemporary Native writing but also direct the reader to the traditional literature from which it springs and which has been largely misunderstood by the n-Native community -- myths, rituals, and songs having been interpreted more often as artistic curiosities rather than the masterworks of a different culture. Essays examining the conventional portrayals of Native people in literature touch on works which range from the 18th-century journals of explorer Alexander Mackenzie, to the vels of James Fenimore Cooper, and to early writers in Canada such as historian-humourist Thomas Chandler Haliburton. Studies of Native literature focus on the oral literary traditions of the Haida and Inuit and their transcribers, and on modern works by playwright Tomson Highway and authors Lee Maracle and Thomas King, among others. These commentaries illuminate the way in which Native writers view themselves and their disparate worlds, their gifts for pathos, humour, and self-parody, and their search for their own voices and distinct forms of communication. Viewing Canada's Native peoples in historical, anthropological, and political contexts, the book exposes prejudices and misconceptions entrenched since colonial days regarding Native societies and their moral, spiritual, and political values - values embodied in their hereditary literature. Just as Native visual art has flourished in recent years, the book records the initiatives w being taken by Native societies to preserve and promote their own cultural identity through the spoken and written word. These include control of their own education, creative writing programmes, projects to preserve still extant languages, folklore, songs, and rituals, and the founding of Native publishing houses. Not only are these endeavours valuable contributions to tribal cultures but they also contribute to the past and ongoing literary heritage.
W.H. New is a professor in the English Department at the University of British Columbia and formerly the editor of Canadian Literature.