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Newly Acquired Native American Literature

Thanks to the cooperative working relationship between Professor Frans Plank (with General Linguistics and the Library) and Professor Dr. Hans Christoph Wolfart from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the Library can expand and improve its existing collection of texts in the languages of the Native North Americans.

In the Library's systematically arranged open stacks, the Native American literature is classified under "Other Languages and Literatures" under the call numbers: ssl 810 - ssl 841.  The subject "ssl" (Sonstige Sprachen und Literaturen - Other Languages and Literature) is in the so-called "Randzone" on level G 2.  To get there from the main entrance take the steps on the right down to G2 and then turn left and go through the door marked "Randzone".

Linguistics, Dictionaries, Narratives

At the end of 2001 56 books were acquired from Canada including lingustic studies and dictionaries related to the Algonquin Language especially the Cree, Micmac and Ojibwa, but also books relating to a creolized French-Cree language, which is spoken by the mixed population of Metis. Also among the books were modern autobiographical accounts, memoirs and narratives, that are mostly printed in a dual-language formats.  In the case of the Cree literature there were even some original transcriptions of the Cree language written by the missionaries in syllabary writing. The titles are very sonorous, for example Kôhkominawak otâcimowiniwâwa: Our Grandmothers' Lives, as Told in Their Own Words by Prof. Wolfart which he published in 1992.

The Indian artist Norval Morriseau (born 1932) illustrated his volume of narratives Legends of My People, the Great Ojibway (Toronto et al., 1965; call number: ssl 840/m67) with his own pictures. For more information on Morriseau visit the web sites "Norval Morrisseau and Medicine Painting and "Norval Morriseau".

Religious Literature

Among the antiquarian and the new volumes acquired from Canada were translations of the Bible (for instance Le Nouveau Testament en Langue Crise from 1872; call number: R 102/1), psalm, prayer, and song books as well as catechisms.  The oldest work is the handwritten prayer book of the French Jesuits and Native American missionary Claude Allouez (1620-1689), which is in the Illinois language. It was copied in 1908 at a 300 year celebration in Quebec: Facsimile of Père Marquette's Illinois Prayer Book (call number: R 102/4).  Illinois is a language of the Algonquin group from the Mid-West in the United States. For more about Claude Allouez see the web site Allouez, Claude Jean.

Expedition Reports

Beyond the area of language the Library also acquired the publications of several expedition and exploration reports, which were carried out by the Hudson Bay Society in the 18th and 19th centuries: Northern Quebec and Labrador Journals and Correspondence 1819-35 (call number: gsh 957:q/d19), James Isham's Observations on Hudson Bay, 1743, and Notes and Observations on a Book Entitled "A Voyage to the Hudson Bay in the Dobbs Gallery, 1749" (call number: gsh 957:q/i84); and Saskatchewan Journals and Correspondence (call number: gsh 957:q/j64). Along with geographic and ethnographic observations, these books also contain information about the plants and animals in the middle of Canada.

An especially magnificent example is the First Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1879/80 (call number: R 56/1322-1), which was commissioned by congress.  The 603 page long report contains a complete description of the customs and manners of the Native North Americans, with an emphasis on death and burial rituals - probably due to the exoticism of the rituals: burial, mummification, cremation, mortuary chambers, scaffolding and tree burials, and canoe burials are not just described, but also impressively illustrated with drawings and full-page lithographs!

There is also a lot of space devoted to illustrations of the sign language that Native Americans used to communicate with others Native Americans who did not speak their language, so that none of the languages dominated.

Dr. Peter Christoph Wagner

Contact Person

Contact Person / E-mail: Dr. Peter Christoph Wagner

Letzte Aktualisierung: 10.03.2011