In the United States, November is Native American Heritage Month. In the book community, November is also know as #NonfictionNovember – a month in which you dedicate more time to nonfiction books.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I have composed a list of nonfiction books that center on Indigenous people both in the U.S. and elsewhere.
An Indigenous People’s History of the United States
The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples. Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes U.S. history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.
Flowers of the Killer Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history. In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, they began to be killed off.
Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans & the Road to Indian Territory
In May 1830, the United States formally launched a policy to expel Native Americans from the East to territories west of the Mississippi River. Unworthy Republic reveals how expulsion became national policy and describes the chaotic and deadly results of the operation to deport 80,000 men, women, and children. In telling this gripping story, Saunt shows how the politics and economics of white supremacy lay at the heart of the expulsion of Native Americans; how corruption, greed, and administrative indifference and incompetence contributed to the debacle of its implementation; and how the consequences still resonate today.
Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, & a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country
Sierra Crane Murdoch
When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. The landscape had been altered beyond recognition, her tribal government swayed by corporate interests, and her community burdened by a surge in violence and addiction. Three years later, when Lissa learned that a young white oil worker, Kristopher “KC” Clarke, had disappeared from his reservation worksite, she became particularly concerned. Yellow Bird traces Lissa’s steps as she obsessively hunts for clues to Clarke’s disappearance.
In My Own Moccasins
Helen Knott, a highly accomplished Indigenous woman, seems to have it all. But in her memoir, she offers a different perspective. In My Own Moccasins is an unflinching account of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds brought on by sexual violence. It is also the story of sisterhood, the power of ceremony, the love of family, and the possibility of redemption.
Stolen Life: The Journey Of A Cree Woman
Rudy Wiebe & Yvonne Johnson
This is a story about justice, and terrible injustices, a story about a murder, and a courtroom drama as compelling as any thriller as it unravels the events that put Yvonne Johnson behind bars for life, first in Kingston’s Federal Prison for Women until the riot that closed it, and presently in the Okimaw Ochi Healing Lodge in the Cypress Hills. But above all it is the unforgettable true story of the life of a Native woman who has decided to speak out and break the silence, written with the redeeming compassion that marks all Rudy Wiebe’s writing, and informed throughout by Yvonne Johnson’s own intelligence and poetic eloquence.
From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way
In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle—once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar—chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is.
Mary Crow Dog & Richard Erdoes
Originally published in 1990, Lakota Woman was a national best seller and winner of the American Book Award. It is a unique document, unparalleled in American Indian literature, a story of death, of determination against all odds, of the cruelties perpetuated against American Indians, and of the Native American struggle for rights. Working with Richard Erdoes, one of the twentieth century’s leading writers on Native American affairs, Brave Bird recounts her difficult upbringing and the path of her fascinating life.
Terese Marie Mailhot
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma.
The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic, & the Whole Planet
In this culmination of Watt-Cloutier’s regional, national, and international work over the last twenty-five years, The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture, of which her own background is such an extraordinary example. This is a human story of resilience, commitment, and survival told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.
On the Rez
On the Rez is a sharp, unflinching account of the modern-day American Indian experience, especially that of the Oglala Sioux, who now live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the plains and badlands of the American West. Crazy Horse, perhaps the greatest Indian war leader of the 1800s, and Black Elk, the holy man whose teachings achieved worldwide renown, were Oglala; in these typically perceptive pages, Frazier seeks out their descendants on Pine Ridge – the rez – which is one of the poorest places in America today.
Journalism & True Crime
Brothers on Three: A True Story of Family, Resistance, & Hope on a Reservation in Montana
Brothers on Three follows the Montana State Champions – the Arlee Warriors – basketball team on the Flathead Indian Reservation, along with their teammates, coaches, and families, as they balance the pressures of adolescence, shoulder the dreams of their community, and chart their own individual courses for the future. And in doing so, a picture emerges of modern Indigenous life and the challenges of growing up on a reservation in contemporary America.
Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, & the Pursuit of Justice for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls
A searing account of the missing, and murdered, Indigenous women of Highway 16, and an indictment of the society that failed them. For decades, Indigenous women have gone missing, or been found murdered, along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The highway is known as the ‘Highway of Tears’, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis.
Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, & Hard Truths in a Northern City
Over the span of eleven years, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. They were hundreds of kilometres away from their families, forced to leave home because there was no adequate high school on their reserves. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning Indigenous journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.
Red River Girl: The Life & Death of Tina Fontaine
On August 17, 2014, the body of fifteen-year old runaway Tina Fontaine was found in Winnipeg’s Red River. She was wrapped in material and weighted down with rocks. Red River Girl is a gripping account of that murder investigation and the unusual police detective who pursued the killer with every legal means at his disposal, set against the backdrop of a troubled city.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, & the Teachings of Plants
Robin Wall Kimmerer
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.
Have any recommendations not shown above? Let us know in the comments!