A disarming laughter: The role of humor in tribal cultures. An examination of humor in contemporary Native American literature and art.
Non-Indians have long considered Indian people to possess little or no sense of humor because they trustingly accept prevailing stereotypes. This dissertation dispels this assumption by showing that humor has served, and continues to serve, an important role in tribal cultures, oftentimes assuming even a sacred position within ceremonials. It begins by examining some of the varied roles which humor played in traditional tribal cultures---the widespread Trickster tradition, clown societies of the Pueblo tribes, Cherokee Booger Dancing, the Potlatch ceremonies of Northwest Coast peoples---and then shows how this tradition carried on into the early twentieth century, and continues in the present-day. After a close analysis of early humorists, such as Alexander Posey [Creek], Will Rogers [Cherokee] and Dan Madrano [Caddo], this study segues into a discussion of how and why humor functions in contemporary Indian Country, with special attention paid to humor's important place in literature, art, music, cartoons, Reservation jokes, and storytelling. The examples presented are not intended to be conclusive but, rather, to serve as a foundation for understanding the various roles which humor plays in present-day Native America, all with an emphasis upon how this practice is rooted in tribal traditions.
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