A Reflection on Native Voices

Reading Reflection 3

Researching and writing on the history and culture on the Appalachian Mountains for the context section of my website brought me – unexpectedly – back to one of our class earlier class reading assignments, “The Dearth of Native Voices in Young Adult Literature: A Call for More Young Adult Literature by and for Indigenous Peoples,” by Kenyan Metzger & Wendy Kelleher (2008).

In all honesty, I thought I had a relatively good understanding of the history of Appalachia. But, after a night of research, I realized I only knew half the story – the story that that is recognized and taught in general history classes, and even featured as standardized test material (*shiver* – I have to say that I definitely do not miss the days of S.O.Ls).

To write briefly, I was familiar with the story of the Scots-Irish in Appalachia and how the settlers impacted the culture. For example, on Dialect Blog, Ben Smith (2011) discusses the significant linguistic contributions of the Scots-Irish Settlers. When I originally thought of writing a brief overview of Appalachian culture, I only thought of showing of this European side of history and culture.

However, many of the sources I began studying acknowledged another group of people that had a monumental impact on the region: the Cherokee Indians. To illustrate, in an article from The Appalachian Voice on Native American trails, Marshall & Marshall (2008), “[t]hree hundred years ago the southern Appalachians were home to the sovereign Cherokee people. Over fifty towns and settlements were connected by a well-worn system of foot trails. . .This Indian trail system. . .was the blueprint for the basic circuitry of the region’s modern road and interstate system” (para. 2).

Reading about the history and influence of Native Americans made me completely rethink what Appalachian culture is, and more importantly, how I wanted to present it on the website. In the words of Metzger & Kelleher (2008) in the Dearth of Native Voices in Young Adult Literature: A Call for More Young Adult Literature by and for Indigenous Peoples, “literature may help students to see who they are now not just in the context of history” (p. 38). In the article, this quotation is used to support the idea that Native American youths need to see representations of people who share and live in their contemporary culture (Metzger & Kelleher, 2008), but for me, the quotation brought me to consider the idea that literature, generally, serves as a reflection of different types of people, events, and cultures. Native American culture is vital in understanding what it means to be Appalachian – an idea that is commonly featured in Appalachian literature, which makes Native American representation and culture extremely relevant and important for the region’s literature, far more so that the small amount it gets recognized.

In the conclusion of the article, Metzger & Kelleher (2008) state that “[w]e must also share culturally relevant literature with non-Indian youth, so that they may appreciate the diversity of culture. In turn, the culture of all students must be recognized as essential to a broader understanding among students and teachers alike” (p. 41). This quotation became a guiding thought for the cultural context section of my site. I spent some extra time exploring articles that discussed more of the Cherokee and Native American influence in Appalachia so that I could include information about Native American history in addition to the history of Appalachian settlers – both equally important pieces of the story that The Floatplane is devoted to narrating.

References

Marshall, K., & Marshall, L. (2008, October 30). Indian Trails of Appalachia Appalachian Voices. Retrieved April 8, 2019, from http://appvoices.org/2008/10/30/indian-trails-of-appalachia/

Metzger, K., & Kelleher, W. (Winter 2008). The Dearth of Native Voices in Young Adult Literature: A Call for More Young Adult Literature by and for Indigenous Peoples. The ALAN Review, 36-42. Retrieved April 8, 2019.

Smith, B. T. (2011, June 15). Ulster Scots and Appalachian English. Retrieved April 8, 2019, from http://dialectblog.com/2011/06/15/ulster-scots-and-appalachian-english/

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