Algonquian Spirit


Algonquian Spirit

Contemporary Translations of the Algonquian Literatures of North America

Edited by Brian Swann

Native Literatures of the Americas and Indigenous World Literatures Series

532 pages


December 2005


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

When Europeans first arrived on this continent, Algonquian languages were spoken from the northeastern seaboard through the Great Lakes region, across much of Canada, and even in scattered communities of the American West. The rich and varied oral tradition of this Native language family, one of the farthest-flung in North America, comes brilliantly to life in this remarkably broad sampling of Algonquian songs and stories from across the centuries. Ranging from the speech of an early unknown Algonquian to the famous Walam Olum hoax, from retranslations of “classic” stories to texts appearing here for the first time, these are tales written or told by Native storytellers, today as in the past, as well as oratory, oral history, and songs sung to this day.
An essential introduction and captivating guide to Native literary traditions still thriving in many parts of North America, Algonquian Spirit contains vital background information and new translations of songs and stories reaching back to the seventeenth century. Drawing from Arapaho, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Cree, Delaware, Maliseet, Menominee, Meskwaki, Miami-Illinois, Mi'kmaq, Naskapi, Ojibwe, Passamaquoddy, Potawatomi, and Shawnee, the collection gathers a host of respected and talented singers, storytellers, historians, anthropologists, linguists, and tribal educators, both Native and non-Native, from the United States and Canada—all working together to orchestrate a single, complex performance of the Algonquian languages.

Author Bio

Brian Swann is on the faculty of humanities and social sciences at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. His many works include Voices from Four Directions: Contemporary Translations of the Native Literatures of North America and (with Arnold Krupat) I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers, both available in Bison Books editions.


“Varying in intensity from highly interesting, to amusing, to solemn, the rich and varied oral tradition captures the multifaceted personalities of the Algonquians as they related animal stories, hero stories, ceremonial songs and dances (some with musical notation), and legends. . . . The addition of commentary and explanatory text does a great deal to introduce the reader to the Algonquian spirit and philosophy. Either standing alone, or as a reference book, or used as a classroom text, this book is a worthy addition to Native American studies.”—Book Digest

Also of Interest