Indigenous Peoples Day Reading List

Will Harlan | October 12, 2020



Indigenous Peoples Day Reading List

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, we are celebrating works by Indigenous writers and artists. Check out these books and movies for all ages, in a variety of genres. You’ll find recommendations for fiction and nonfiction, picture books, poetry, and more, with a focus on works by contemporary creators.

All of the books and films listed here are available through the Library. Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Check out our entire resource list OR, for more personalized suggestions, fill out our recommendation form.

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The Beadworkers

Beth Piatote

Beth Piatote's luminous debut collection opens with a feast, grounding its stories in the landscapes and lifeworlds of the Native Northwest, exploring the inventive and unforgettable pattern of Native American life in the contemporary world Told with humor, subtlety, and spareness, the mixed-genre works of Beth Piatote’s first collection find unifying themes in the strength of kinship, the pulse of longing, and the language of return. A woman teaches her niece to make a pair of beaded earrings while ruminating on a fractured relationship. An eleven-year-old girl narrates the unfolding of the Fish Wars in the 1960s as her family is propelled to its front lines. In 1890, as tensions escalate at Wounded Knee, two young men at college—one French and the other Lakota—each contemplate a death in the family. In the final, haunting piece, a Nez Perce–Cayuse family is torn apart as they debate the fate of ancestral remains in a moving revision of the Greek tragedy Antigone. Formally inventive and filled with vibrant characters, The Beadworkers draws on Indigenous aesthetics and forms to offer a powerful, sustaining vision of Native life.

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Dawnland Voices

Siobhan Senier

Dawnland Voices calls attention to the little-known but extraordinarily rich literary traditions of New England’s Native Americans. This pathbreaking anthology includes both classic and contemporary literary works from ten New England indigenous nations: the Abenaki, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Mohegan, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Schaghticoke, and Wampanoag. Through literary collaboration and recovery, Siobhan Senier and Native tribal historians and scholars have crafted a unique volume covering a variety of genres and historical periods. From the earliest petroglyphs and petitions to contemporary stories and hip-hop poetry, this volume highlights the diversity and strength of New England Native literary traditions. Dawnland Voices introduces readers to the compelling and unique literary heritage in New England, banishing the misconception that “real” Indians and their traditions vanished from that region centuries ago.

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Jonny Appleseed

Joshua Whitehead

“You’re gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine” is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel. Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the “rez,” and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny’s life is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages—and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of First Nations life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.

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The Only Good Indians

Stephen Graham Jones

“One of 2020’s buzziest horror novels.” —Entertainment Weekly “More than I could have asked for in a novel.”—Tommy Orange, Pulitzer Prize finalist author of There There “What Stephen Graham Jones does for me, is create new possibilities for Indigenous storymakers.” —Terese Marie Mailhot, New York Times bestselling author “A masterpiece. ” —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World A tale of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones. Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

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When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry

Joy Harjo

United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo gathers the work of more than 160 poets, representing nearly 100 indigenous nations, into the first historically comprehensive Native poetry anthology. This landmark anthology celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America, the first poets of this country, whose literary traditions stretch back centuries. Opening with a blessing from Pulitzer Prize–winner N. Scott Momaday, the book contains powerful introductions from contributing editors who represent the five geographically organized sections. Each section begins with a poem from traditional oral literatures and closes with emerging poets, ranging from Eleazar, a seventeenth-century Native student at Harvard, to Jake Skeets, a young Diné poet born in 1991, and including renowned writers such as Luci Tapahanso, Natalie Diaz, Layli Long Soldier, and Ray Young Bear. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through offers the extraordinary sweep of Native literature, without which no study of American poetry is complete.

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An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

2020 American Indian Youth Literature Young Adult Honor Book 2020 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People,selected by National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council 2019 Best-Of Lists: Best YA Nonfiction of 2019 (Kirkus Reviews) · Best Nonfiction of 2019 (School Library Journal) · Best Books for Teens (New York Public Library) · Best Informational Books for Older Readers (Chicago Public Library) Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up history examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism. Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity. The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers to include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history.

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Apple

Eric Gansworth

How about a book that makes you barge into your boss's office to read a page of poetry from? That you dream of? That every movie, song, book, moment that follows continues to evoke in some way? The term "Apple" is a slur in Native communities across the country. It's for someone supposedly "red on the outside, white on the inside." Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds. Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.

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Elatsoe

Darcie Little Badger

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It's got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day. Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family. Darcie Little Badger is an extraordinary debut talent in the world of speculative fiction. We have paired her with her artistic match, illustrator Rovina Cai. This is a book singular in feeling and beauty. Praise for Elatsoe ★ "[A] refreshing voice. Indigenous myths, modern-day technology, and the supernatural successfully blend to build a fast-paced murder mystery."—Publishers Weekly, starred review ★ "A brilliant, engaging debut written by a talented author, it seamlessly blends cyberstalking with Vampire Citizen Centers and Lipan Apache stories."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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This Place

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel

Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact. This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter initiative. With this $35M initiative, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

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What the Eagle Sees

Eldon Yellowhorn, Kathy Lowinger

"Indigenous people across Turtle Island have been faced with disease, war, broken promises, and forced assimilation. Despite crushing losses and insurmountable challenges, they formed new nations from the remnants of old ones, they adopted new ideas and built on them, they fought back, they kept their cultures alive, and they survived. Key events in Indigenous history with accounts of the people, places, and events that have mattered from the 12th century to present day are told from a vastly under-represented perspective--an Indigenous viewpoint."--

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The Brave

James Bird

Perfect for fans of Rain Reign, this middle-grade novel The Brave is about a boy with an OCD issue and his move to a reservation to live with his biological mother. Collin can't help himself—he has a unique condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It's a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father. When Collin asked to leave yet another school, his dad decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he's never met. She is Ojibwe, and lives on a reservation. Collin arrives in Duluth with his loyal dog, Seven, and quickly finds his mom and his new home to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of his condition. Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.

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One Real American

Joseph Bruchac

Children's book icon Joseph Bruchac tells the fascinating story of a Seneca (Iroquois) Civil War officer Ely S. Parker (1828-1895) is one of the most unique but little-known figures in US history. A member of the Seneca (Iroquois) Nation, Parker was an attorney, engineer, and tribal diplomat. Raised on a reservation but schooled at a Catholic institution, he learned English at a young age and became an interpreter for his people. During the American Civil War, he was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel and was the primary draftsman of the terms of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. He eventually became President Grant's Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first Native American to hold that post. Award-winning children's book author and Native American scholar Joseph Bruchac provides an expertly researched, intimate look at a man who achieved great success in two worlds yet was caught between them. Includes archival photos, maps, endnotes, bibliography, and timeline.

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Race to the Sun

Rebecca Roanhorse

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he's Mr. Charles, her dad's new boss at the oil and gas company, and he's alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he's a threat, but her father won't believe her. When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says "Run!", the siblings and Nizhoni's best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . . Timeless themes such as the importance of family and respect for the land resonate in this funny, fast-paced, and exciting quest adventure set in the American Southwest.

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Surviving the City

Tasha Spillett

Tasha Spillett’s graphic novel debut, Surviving the City, is a story about womanhood, friendship, colonialism, and the anguish of a missing loved one. Miikwan and Dez are best friends. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inninew. Together, the teens navigate the challenges of growing up in an urban landscape – they’re so close, they even completed their Berry Fast together. However, when Dez’s grandmother becomes too sick, Dez is told she can’t stay with her anymore. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can’t bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don’t?

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Bowwow Powwow

Brenda J. Child

The best days of summer end at the powwow, but Windy Girl takes the revelry of the gathering one step farther, into a dreamworld where the dancers and singers are dogs.

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Fry Bread

Kevin Noble Maillard

Winner of the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal A 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner “A wonderful and sweet book . . . Lovely stuff.” —The New York Times Book Review Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal. Fry bread is food. It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate. Fry bread is time. It brings families together for meals and new memories. Fry bread is nation. It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond. Fry bread is us. It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference. A 2020 Charlotte Huck Recommended Book A Publishers Weekly Best Picture Book of 2019 A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2019 A School Library Journal Best Picture Book of 2019 A Booklist 2019 Editor's Choice A Shelf Awareness Best Children's Book of 2019 A Goodreads Choice Award 2019 Semifinalist A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book of 2019 A National Public Radio (NPR) Best Book of 2019 An NCTE Notable Poetry Book A 2020 NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People A 2020 ALA Notable Children's Book A 2020 ILA Notable Book for a Global Society 2020 Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year List

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Little You

Richard Van Camp

Celebrating the joy babies bring into the world.

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Stolen Words

Melanie Florence

In this picture book a little girl sets out to help her grandfather discover the Cree language that was stolen from him when he was sent away to residential school as a boy.

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We Are Water Protectors

Carole Lindstrom

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption—a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade. Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all . . . When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth And poison her people’s water, one young water protector Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

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Watch

Here are a few documentaries to check out. Click on a box to expand the selection list.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ricky is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive.

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Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

Documentary about the role of Native Americans in popular music history, a little-known story built around the incredible lives and careers of the some of the greatest music legends.

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Water Warriors

Natives and activists prevent an energy company from destroying the environment in search of natural gas in New Brunswick, Canada.

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