Author: Alan

Sacheen Littlefeather: A Native American Writer’s Journey

Sacheen Littlefeather: A Native American Writer’s Journey

Sacheen Littlefeather and the Question of Native Identity (Part 1)

Sacheen Littlefeather’s journey into Native American culture, identity, and politics started with his grandmother’s voice calling out, “I want you to work with me on this.” The voice was so persistent that his grandfather was forced to listen.

The first Native American writer to receive a doctorate in creative writing from Harvard University, Littlefeather’s work is characterized by his ability to bring the culture and history of his people, the Cherokee, to bear on contemporary issues such as racial justice, Native American history in general, and Native American identity and its implications for white people. His writing, according to the journal Literary Review, “celebrates the beauty and complexity of Indian life from past to present.”[1]

Sacheen Littlefeather, in an artist’s rendering of his work, “Cherokee Life.”

Sacheen Littlefeather’s journey into Native American culture, identity, and politics started with his grandmother’s voice calling out, “I want you to work with me on this.” The voice was so persistent that his grandfather was forced to listen.

“All I know is how to do one thing, and then I’m stuck,” he says. “I can’t move forward from here.”[2] Littlefeather realized that he just needed to do one thing: teach writing at the University of Oklahoma. Once there, Littlefeather saw his chance to write in a new style.

“I knew I had to write like a Cherokee. I had to write about how I felt, how I saw things, because it’s really about how you feel, who you are, how you represent yourself,” he says. “That’s when I started to develop this new Indian voice that I had.”

Littlefeather is also an activist of sorts. At the urging of his grandmother, he co-founded the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s Native Languages Initiative. He is a member of

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