Kate Grenier

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jim Wayne Miller, Lymood Montell, Robert T. Teske


The program was originally called Center for Intercultural and Folk Studies.

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This paper is a study of folklore in literature; specifically, it is the study of the folklore in the poetry of Leslie Marmon Silko, a Laguna Pueblo women, and a half-breed. Her family situation, its place in the community, and its oral tradition are briefly noted, and the basic works of folklore in literature scholars are cited; therefore, the groundwork is established on which to examine the specific elements of folklore in the poems from Silko’s books, Laguna Woman and Ceremony.

Taking a Jungian approach to the archetypes in these poems, three subsequent chapters deal with three separate item of folklore: the Coyote figure, the Indian migration legend, and witchery. In the chapter on Coyote it is noted that he is a cultural expression as well as a political symbol of rebellion, and, on a deeper, psychological level, he represents the anarchist in the human psyche.

The chapter on the sea journey on the sea journey explores the legend of Indians crossing the Pacific ocean from Asia to America as it relates to the Jungian notion of “individuation.” Here the poet’s personal psychological needs are discussed, for example, her need to relate to the racial origins of her Indian half.

Finally, with the chapter on the witches, the paper reveals that Silko uses folklore to satisfy her need for an Indian identity, as opposed to that of a half-breed or a white. The witches creation of the white race in a contest of evil indicates Silko’s rejection of that part of her which is non-Indian, casting the white race in the role of the Jungian “shadow figure.”

In concluding the paper notes the need for seeing the psychological implications of folklore. It is stated that folklore in Silko’s poetry functions on a cultural, political, and psychological level in that it is the tool by which she tries to build her identity as an Indian.


Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Folklore | Indigenous Studies | Poetry | Social and Behavioral Sciences