Resistance and resilience in the work of four Native American authors

In his introduction to Tribal Secrets (1995) Osage scholar Robert Warrior acknowledges the "resiliency and resistant spirit of Native America" as evident in the literature of the Native American Renaissance (xvi). Though he does not elaborate on this statement there is an implied balance in his pairing that is compelling. Resistance literature is an established category of writing that is political in its very nature. Resilience literature as a concept in literary criticism does not yet exist, but the construct of resilience as theorized in psychological research "extends from the 1800's to the present" and focuses on how individuals and communities have adapted, survived, and even thrived despite adversity (Tusaie and Dyer 2004: 3).

A theory of resistance looks at how writers have resisted the false or one-sided histories and ideologies imposed upon Native Americans. Resistance literature seeks to critique and interrogate those ideologies. A theory of resilience identifies the ways Native American writers have adopted and adapted concepts from their own tribal cultures, and continued those concepts in their literature despite attempts to erase that culture. This, in a sense, is also resistance because it resists the attempts by the oppressors to erase or eradicate those tribal cultures; however, a theory of resilience offers a more nuanced way of looking at precisely which concepts have been continued in the literature and how.
Resilience theory offers a more specific form of literary criticism beyond the all encompassing umbrella of "resistance," to show how key concepts from Native American oral tradition have continued into the present via Native American literature. Therefore, for the purposes of this study, "resistance" might be thought of as anti-colonial and "resilience" as pro-cultural.
The four authors to be studied here include Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, and Ofelia Zepeda.


Angelica Lawson


K. Tsianina Lomawaima





Arizona State Museum: 

P9791 L23r


ATT 3227485

UA Library: 

E9791 2006
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences