Writing Historical Fictions about First Nations in the New World

As an archaeologist, I have often struggled with writing histories about Native societies that are engaging and fun to read. I am often able to write journal articles and book chapters that are readable and relevant to the community of archaeologists that I serve, but these readings are usually not accessible to members of the general public.  There are, however, works of fiction that most people can tackle, about prehistoric life in the Americas or elsewhere. The two best examples that come to mind are the First Americans series and the Clan of the Cave Bear series. Both are incredibly well-researched and are to read – I think these books are some of the best ways to reach out to members of the public and teach the broader histories of pre-Western civilizations.

With this in mind, I asked my students this year to research indigenous societies of the New World and to write a short story encompassing some element of their daily lives. The lesson plan is available here, Historical Fiction Guidelines, and many of the stories I received revolved around teenage lives and more exciting features of indigenous history, mostly human sacrifice and the Maya ballgame. There were a few that talked about how boring salmon fishing is, while others discussed helping with domestic life, notably the challenges of daily work like cooking, cleaning, and caring for younger children.

At any rate, this was a pretty fun assignment that took my students about a week or so to research and develop story outlines, and about another weekend and a few days to assemble some good stories.  If you use this lesson, get in touch and let me know how it goes for you!




1 Comment

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One response to “Writing Historical Fictions about First Nations in the New World

  1. sarahbaires

    I have been thinking a lot about this recently (and dabbled in my own narrative..), thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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