Native American Oralcy: Interpretations of Indigenous Thought

By: Jay Hansford C. Vest, PhD


Native American Oralcy: Interpretations of Indigenous Thought is a work of criticism designed to challenge the misadventures of modernity in its divorce from the organic world. Engaging Native American / First Nations oral traditions as they embrace an paradigm of thought that engenders accord with nature, this study challenges the creeping ideological abstractions that ensue with the mind-over-matter mentality of the Western literary paradigm. It is an insight into the once and future wisdom essential to earth care.

  • ISBN: 978-1-926476-00-1
    Price: $30.00
    Binding: Paperback
    Date: 2014
    Rights: World
    Pages: 185
    Size: 6” x 9”

  • Table of Contents


    Indigenous Oralcy verses Western Literacy

    1. Dawn Bringer and the Christ Bearer: The Columbian Impact upon Native American/ First Nations Narratives

    2. Myth, Metaphor and Meaning in “The Boy Who Could Not Understand: A Study of Seneca Idiom”

    3. Organicism and Pikuni-Blackfeet Mythology: Paradigms of Mythographical Discourse Analysis

    4. The Landscape Will Teach You Who You Are: A Meditation on the Origin of Myth and Identity in a Traditional Native Ethos

    5. “Would It Might Rain, Now!”: The Quail Rattle, A Hualapai Fetish

    6. Tcé Mantu and Theism: The Question of God in Aboriginal Innu Traditions

    7. Dismantling Pedagogy: Representing Oralcy and Tradition in Native American Literature

    8. Inca Oralcy and Ogranicism: Reconsidering Rudolfo Kusch’s Indigenous and Popular Thinking in América

    The Upshot of Indigenous Thinking

    About the Author

  • Jay Hansford C. Vest, PhD

    Jay Hansford C. Vest, PhD is a Member of the Monacan Indian Nation, a direct descendent of Opechancanough (Pamunkey), an Honorary Pikuni in Ceremonial Adoption (June 1989) and a Professor within the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke

  • Through both intellectual and personal experiences with Indigenous thought, Dr. Vest presents a powerful interpretation of Indigenous worldview as embedded deeply in the interconnectedness of this-worldly life, or organicism. He argues that modernism, post-modernism, and much of Western thought, focus on intellectual abstractions and ideologies that lead, like Christianity, to an escape from life and nature. Indigenous philosophies and life are grounded in an infinite matrix of relations, beings, and becoming that require respect, honoring and understanding. Grasping the grounding visions of Indigenous thought will help us understand Indigenous pasts, presents, and futures.

    Duane Champagne, PhD

    Professor of Sociology and American Indian Studies
    Professor of Law
    University of California, Los Angeles

    In his well-researched study that ranges from Black Elk to the author’s own transformative Pikuni-Blackfeet experiences, Jay Hansford C. Vest makes an impassioned, persuasive plea for us to treat First Nations intellectual traditions with the same seriousness we habitually give to Western epistemologies. Seeking to restore “what has been lost” by “the imposition of literacy upon oral societies,” Vest shows how Indigenous narratives can, despite living in the shadow of modern reason, return us to an organic perception of the world. To oppose modernity’s synthetic, ideological worldview, or “sythology,” Vest asks us in this bracing book to reaffirm the inseparability of myth and nature.

    Alan Johnson, PhD

    Professor of English
    Idaho State University

    Mastering the white man’s Spirit Medicine and making it one’s own–that might be one way of writing about Jay Hansford Vest’s superb scholarly presentation, Native American Oralcy. Paradoxically, his writing evokes the time before there was writing for Indigenous North American populations, and makes his discussion relevant to people living today.

    Ralph Salisbury, PhD

    Professor Emeritus
    Department of English
    University of Oregon

    Native American Oralcy will be a welcome text for Philosophy & Native Cultures courses, given its insightful look at oral traditions and Western theories of learning. It is more than a book about Native American ways of seeing the world. As an epistemological inquiry, it calls for more diverse and inclusive methodologies—and for clearing out the cobwebs from our philosophical frameworks. It is also is an interesting read. By integrating the experiential with the conceptual and including personal examples, Vest has written an approachable text that all of us interested in Native Cultures will appreciate.

    Wanda Teays, PhD

    Philosophy Department Chair
    Mount St. Mary’s College
    Los Angeles, California

    Jay Hansford C. Vest offers credence to the wisdom and primacy of the Native American oral tradition in contrast to the constructs of Western civilization. He demonstrates the imposition of first contact, Columbus, Christianity, ideology, and literacy that established a rigid dichotomy between the construct and the organic. The difference is one in which myth, nature, the primal, harmony, metaphor, dream and vision trump the abstract, mind-over-matter concreteness of Western worldviews and literary traditions. Vest provides insight into the disconnect that results and leaves us with an appreciation for the living thread of penultimate truth inherent in the timeless essence of the Indigenous worldview.

    Judy Wilson, PhD

    Founding Editor, Yellow Medicine Review
    Professor of English
    Southwest Minnesota State University