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Aboriginal American Authors   By: (1837-1899)

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Member of the American Philosophical Society; the American Antiquarian Society; the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, etc.; Vice President of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, and of the Congres International des Americanistes; Delegue General de l'Institution Ethnographique for the United States, etc.; Author of "The Myths of the New World;" "The Religious Sentiment;" "American Hero Myths," etc.


Aboriginal American Authors, published by the Anthropologist Daniel G. Brinton in 1883, is a work that is particularly appropriate for our own times. The native American movement has stressed the need for history written from the Indian point of view. Interest in native American literature has become an important component in reinforcing a sense of identity among American Indians today.

Brinton's work is a good summary of the better known traditional writings of Indians from many regions of the Western hemisphere. This bibliographical survey provides information on tribal histories that would be particularly useful for Indian Study Programs in the states of Oklahoma, New York and Wisconsin.

Brinton was aware of the 19th century racism of many who wrote about the American Indian and reacted against it in his writings by taking a stance which in some ways anticipates Ruth Benedict's involvement in similar questions half a century later. Aboriginal American Authors is written as an early attempt at placing the literature of the American Indian with the other great literary traditions of the world; that is why its usefulness endures.

John Hobgood Social Science Department Chicago State College 1970


The present memoir is an enlargement of a paper which I laid before the Congres International des Americanistes , when acting as a delegate to its recent session in Copenhagen, August, 1883. The changes are material, the whole of the text having been re written and the notes added.

It does not pretend to be an exhaustive bibliographical essay, but was designed merely to point out to an intelligent and sympathetic audience a number of relics of Aboriginal American Literature, and to bespeak the aid and influence of that learned body in the preservation and publication of these rare documents.

Philadelphia, Nov. 1883.


Section 1. Introductory

Section 2. The Literary Faculty in the Native Mind

Vivid imagination of the Indians. Love of story telling. Appreciation of style. Power and resources of their languages. Facility in acquiring foreign languages. Native writers in the English tongue. In Latin. In Spanish. Ancient books of Aztecs. Of Mayas, etc. Peruvian Quipus.

Section 3. Narrative Literature

Desire of preserving national history. Eskimo legends and narratives. The Walum Olum of the Delawares. The Iroquois Book of Rites . Kaondinoketc's Narrative. The National Legend of the Creeks. Cherokee writings. Destruction of Ancient Literature. Boturini's collection. Historians in Nahuatl. The Maya Books of Chilan Balam . Other Maya documents. Writings in Cakchiquel. The Memorial de Tecpan Atitlan . Authors in Cakchiquel and Kiche. The Popol Vuh . Votan, the Tzendal. Writers in Qquichua. Letters, etc., in native tongues. Tales and stories of the Tupis and other tribes.

Section 4. Didactic Literature

Progress of natives in science. Their calendars and rituals. Their maps. Scholastic works. Theological writers. Sermons in Guarani. Las Pasiones .

Section 5. Oratorical Literature

Native admiration of eloquence. The Oratorical style. Custom of set orations. Specimens in the Nahuatl tongue... Continue reading book >>

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