Native American Literature Listserv (NATIVELIT-L): A Mailing List for American Indian Literature

Reviewed by Kimberly J. Allison

Intended Audience & Purpose

Subscription to NativeLit-L is not automatic as membership approval rests with the list's owner and manager, Michael Wilson, but the list is open to anyone interested in discussing Native American literature. Significantly, NativeLit-L encourages Native Americans of all nations as well as non-native individuals to express their perspectives of literature by and about Native Americans.

Discussions of Native American literature on NativeLit-L range in topic: participants discuss literary themes and symbols, social influences and implications, spirituality, etc. Native American poetry, fiction, criticism, as well as film are all viable subjects for exchange. NativeLit-L subscribers are also encouraged to post book reviews, conference announcements, calls for papers, bibliographies, and course syllabi relevant to Native American literature studies.

Along with offering subscribers an opportunity to discuss any aspect of Native American literature, Michael Wilson has formulated an all-encompassing definition for what literature will be considered "native" and relevant to list discussions. Wilson explains, "For the purpose of this list, 'native' refers to autochthonous peoples of the North Americas (the US, Canada, and Mexico) and the neighboring islands, including Hawaii." Thus, subscribers to the list can expect to find messages concerning numerous indigenous peoples inside and outside of North America.

List Membership

NativeLit-L consists of over 500 subscribers at the time of this review, most of whom post messages from addresses in the United States and Canada. Nevertheless, some subscribers are located as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia. A number of the list participants are members of Native American nations, including Sioux and Mohawk nations, among others. Subscribers affiliations range from educational institutions to such tribal and Native American research organizations as the Island Permaculture Foundation (British Columbia).

The majority of these subscribers are lurkers or occassional posters, for the mail volume of NativeLit-L remains at a low 5 to 15 messages per week. Yet NativeLit-L maintains a searchable archive, NativeLit-L Archives Search, of messages posted to the list as early as 1993.

List Resources

Along with the searchable NativeLit-L Archives, the list offers a number of other resources to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. One resource that is open to the public is the Booklist, which Native American fiction, criticism, and cultural studies. Interestingly, Michael Wilson, the NativeLit-L owner and manager, has provided a system that allows the website visitors to add to the list books that they have used in instructing Native American literature.

Two other useful resources offered through the NativeLit-L Home Page include the NativeLit-L FAQs, which answers the list's frequently asked questions, and a collection of Course Syllabi.

For information about Native American Literature studies, you can access the current edition of ASAIL NOTES, published by the Association of American Indian Literature at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaulkee, through NativeLit-L Home Page as well.


Respect for Native American literature and culture is inherent in the focus of NativeLit-L, but the collaborative and constructive nature of the discussions can be attributed to the sincerity and courteousness of its participants. This informal and unmoderated list brings together subscribers who are not only helpful as resources for information about Native American literature studies but who are genuinely willing to help others understand and further research their literary interests.

A Week In the Life

Between the weeks of August 2-14, 1996, NativeLit-L accumulated 34 messages. The longest threads involved the power of characters Pauline and Fleur in Louise Erdrich's Tracks , followed by a discussion of the cultural significance of the Native Americans' participation in World War I in the understanding Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony.

Amidst these two extended discussions evolved a query and further exchange concerning the Melungeon people of the Tennessee and Virginia mountains and their literature. This discussion not only generated some discussion of the Lumbee people but brought to the list an extensive bibliography of Melungeon fiction and criticism.

Further activity on NativeLit-L during these weeks included the posting of several book reviews and a call for papers.

Membership Information

To subscribe to NativeLit-L, send a message in the form of "subscribe NativeLit-L [Your Full Name]" to

To review NativeLit-L archives and other resources, access the NativeLit-L Home Page.

For further information about NativeLit-L, contact Michael Wilson, listowner and manager, at

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