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Indigenous Interest

Read the powerful stories and rich history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and North America with the books listed below.

There are of course hundreds, if not thousands of titles that we could include in this list, however we wanted to focus primarily on recent titles as well as those that have a strong legacy.

We are also continually updating this list as we discover new books by or about Indigenous Peoples, and if you feel that we should include a particular title or author we encourage you to contact us with more information.


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Unreconciled

- by Jesse Wente

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"Unreconciled is one hell of a good book. Jesse Wente's narrative moves effortlessly from the personal to the historical to the contemporary. Very powerful, and a joy to read."
--Thomas King, author of The Inconvenient Indian and Sufferance


A prominent Indigenous voice uncovers the lies and myths that affect relations between white and Indigenous peoples and the power of narrative to emphasize truth over comfort.


Part memoir and part manifesto, Unreconciled is a stirring call to arms to put truth over the flawed concept of reconciliation, and to build a new, respectful relationship between the nation of Canada and Indigenous peoples.
   Jesse Wente remembers the exact moment he realized that he was a certain kind of Indian--a stereotypical cartoon Indian. He was playing softball as a child when the opposing team began to war-whoop when he was at bat. It was just one of many incidents that formed Wente's understanding of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person in a society still overwhelmingly colonial in its attitudes and institutions.

As the child of an American father and an Anishinaabe mother, Wente grew up in Toronto with frequent visits to the reserve where his maternal relations lived. By exploring his family's history, including his grandmother's experience in residential school, and citing his own frequent incidents of racial profiling by police who'd stop him on the streets, Wente unpacks the discrepancies between his personal identity and how non-Indigenous people view him. 
Wente analyzes and gives voice to the differences between Hollywood portrayals of Indigenous peoples and lived culture. Through the lens of art, pop culture, and personal stories, and with disarming humour, he links his love of baseball and movies to such issues as cultural appropriation, Indigenous representation and identity, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty. Indeed, he argues that storytelling in all its forms is one of Indigenous peoples' best weapons in the fight to reclaim their rightful place.

Wente explores and exposes the lies that Canada tells itself, unravels "the two founding nations" myth, and insists that the notion of "reconciliation" is not a realistic path forward. Peace between First Nations and the state of Canada  can't be recovered through reconciliation--because no such relationship ever existed.

The Bjorkan Sagas

- by Harold R. Johnson

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Drawing upon his Cree and Scandinavian roots, Harold R. Johnson merges myth, fantasy, and history in this epic saga of exploration and adventure.  While sorting through the possessions of his recently deceased neighbour, Harold Johnson discovers an old, handwritten manuscript containing epic stories composed in an obscure Swedish dialect. Together, they form The Björkan Sagas. The first saga tells of three Björkans, led by Juha the storyteller, who set out from their valley to discover what lies beyond its borders. Their quest brings them into contact with the devious story-trader Anthony de Marchand, a group of gun-toting aliens in search of Heaven, and an ethereal Medicine Woman named Lilly. In the second saga, Juha is called upon to protect his people from invaders bent on stealing the secrets contained within the valley's sacred trees. The third saga chronicles the journey of Lilly as she travels across the universe to bring aid to Juha and the Björkans, who face their deadliest enemy yet. The Björkan Sagas is a bold, innovative fusion of narrative traditions set in an enchanted world of heroic storytellers, shrieking Valkyries, and fire-breathing dragons. 

Black Water

- by David A. Robertson

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A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
A CBC Books Nonfiction Book of the Year
A Maclean's 20 Books You Need to Read this Winter

"An instant classic that demands to be read with your heart open and with a perspective widened to allow in a whole new understanding of family, identity and love." --Cherie Dimaline

In this bestselling memoir, a son who grew up away from his Indigenous culture takes his Cree father on a trip to the family trapline and finds that revisiting the past not only heals old wounds but creates a new future

The son of a Cree father and a white mother, David A. Robertson grew up with virtually no awareness of his Indigenous roots. His father, Dulas--or Don, as he became known--lived on the trapline in the bush in Manitoba, only to be transplanted permanently to a house on the reserve, where he couldn't speak his language, Swampy Cree, in school with his friends unless in secret. David's mother, Beverly, grew up in a small Manitoba town that had no Indigenous people until Don arrived as the new United Church minister. They married and had three sons, whom they raised unconnected to their Indigenous history.

David grew up without his father's teachings or any knowledge of his early experiences. All he had was "blood memory": the pieces of his identity ingrained in the fabric of his DNA, pieces that he has spent a lifetime putting together. It has been the journey of a young man becoming closer to who he is, who his father is and who they are together, culminating in a trip back to the trapline to reclaim their connection to the land.

Black Water is a memoir about intergenerational trauma and healing, about connection and about how Don's life informed David's own. Facing up to a story nearly erased by the designs of history, father and son journey together back to the trapline at Black Water and through the past to create a new future.  

"Indian" in the Cabinet

- by J. Wilson-raybould

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A compelling political memoir of leadership and speaking truth to power by one of the most inspiring women of her generation Jody Wilson-Raybould was raised to be a leader. Inspired by the example of her grandmother, who persevered throughout her life to keep alive the governing traditions of her people, and raised as the daughter of a hereditary chief and Indigenous leader, Wilson-Raybould always knew she would take on leadership roles and responsibilities. She never anticipated, however, that those roles would lead to a journey from her home community of We Wai Kai in British Columbia to Ottawa as Canada's first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the Cabinet of then newly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Wilson-Raybould's experience in Trudeau's Cabinet reveals important lessons about how we must continue to strengthen our political institutions and culture, and the changes we must make to meet challenges such as racial justice and climate change. As her initial optimism about the possibilities of enacting change while in Cabinet shifted to struggles over inclusivity, deficiencies of political will, and concerns about adherence to core principles of our democracy, Wilson-Raybould stood on principle and, ultimately, resigned. In standing her personal and professional ground and telling the truth in front of the nation, Wilson-Raybould demonstrated the need for greater independence and less partisanship in how we govern. "Indian" in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power is the story of why Wilson-Raybould got into federal politics, her experience as an Indigenous leader sitting around the Cabinet table, her proudest achievements, the very public SNC-Lavalin affair, and how she got out and moved forward. Now sitting as an Independent Member in Parliament, Wilson-Raybould believes there is a better way to govern and a better way for politics--one that will make a better country for all.

The North-West Is Our Mother

- by Jean Teillet

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There is a missing chapter in the narrative of Canada's Indigenous peoples--the story of the Métis Nation, a new Indigenous people descended from both First Nations and Europeans

Their story begins in the last decade of the eighteenth century in the Canadian North-West. Within twenty years the Métis proclaimed themselves a nation and won their first battle. Within forty years they were famous throughout North America for their military skills, their nomadic life and their buffalo hunts.

The Métis Nation didn't just drift slowly into the Canadian consciousness in the early 1800s; it burst onto the scene fully formed. The Métis were flamboyant, defiant, loud and definitely not noble savages. They were nomads with a very different way of being in the world--always on the move, very much in the moment, passionate and fierce. They were romantics and visionaries with big dreams. They battled continuously--for recognition, for their lands and for their rights and freedoms. In 1870 and 1885, led by the iconic Louis Riel, they fought back when Canada took their lands. These acts of resistance became defining moments in Canadian history, with implications that reverberate to this day: Western alienation, Indigenous rights and the French/English divide.

After being defeated at the Battle of Batoche in 1885, the Métis lived in hiding for twenty years. But early in the twentieth century, they determined to hide no more and began a long, successful fight back into the Canadian consciousness. The Métis people are now recognized in Canada as a distinct Indigenous nation. Written by the great-grandniece of Louis Riel, this popular and engaging history of "forgotten people" tells the story up to the present era of national reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

2019 marks the 175th anniversary of Louis Riel's birthday (October 22, 1844)

Probably Ruby

- by Lisa Bird-wilson

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For readers of Tommy Orange's There There and Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries, Probably Ruby is an audacious, brave and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity.

Relinquished as an infant, Ruby is placed in a foster home and finally adopted by Alice and Mel, a less-than-desirable couple who can't afford to complain too loudly about Ruby's Indigenous roots. But when her new parents' marriage falls apart, Ruby finds herself vulnerable and in compromising situations that lead her to search, in the unlikeliest of places, for her Indigenous identity.

Unabashedly self-destructing on alcohol, drugs and bad relationships, Ruby grapples with the meaning of the legacy left to her. In a series of expanding narratives, Ruby and the people connected to her tell their stories and help flesh out Ruby's history. Seeking understanding of how we come to know who we are, Probably Ruby explores how we find and invent ourselves in ways as peculiar and varied as the experiences of Indigenous adoptees themselves. Ruby's voice, her devastating honesty and tremendous laugh, will not soon be forgotten.

Probably Ruby is a perfectly crafted novel, with effortless, nearly imperceptible shifts in time and perspective, exquisitely chosen detail, natural dialogue and emotional control that results in breathtaking levels of tension and points of revelation.

Life in the City of Dirty Water

- by Clayton Thomas-muller

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
An electrifying memoir that braids together the urgent issues of Indigenous rights and environmental policy, from a nationally and internationally recognized activist and survivor.


There have been many Clayton Thomas-Mullers: The child who played with toy planes as an escape from domestic and sexual abuse, enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; the angry youngster who defended himself with fists and sharp wit against racism and violence, at school and on the streets of Winnipeg and small-town British Columbia; the tough teenager who, at 17, managed a drug house run by members of his family, and slipped in and out of juvie, operating in a world of violence and pain.

But behind them all, there was another Clayton: the one who remained immersed in Cree spirituality, and who embraced the rituals and ways of thinking vital to his heritage; the one who reconnected with the land during summer visits to his great-grandparents' trapline in his home territory of Pukatawagan in northern Manitoba.

And it's this version of Clayton that ultimately triumphed, finding healing by directly facing the trauma that he shares with Indigenous peoples around the world. Now a leading organizer and activist on the frontlines of environmental resistance, Clayton brings his warrior spirit to the fight against the ongoing assault on Indigenous peoples' lands by Big Oil.

Tying together personal stories of survival that bring the realities of the First Nations of this land into sharp focus, and lessons learned from a career as a frontline activist committed to addressing environmental injustice at a global scale, Thomas-Muller offers a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility.

A History of My Brief Body

- by Billy-ray Belcourt

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FINALIST FOR THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR NON-FICTION
FINALIST FOR THE LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD FOR GAY MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY
FINALIST FOR THE JIM DEVA PRIZE FOR WRITING THAT PROVOKES
FINALIST FOR THE HUBERT EVANS NON-FICTION PRIZE

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A slim but electrifying debut memoir about the preciousness and precariousness of queer Indigenous life.


Opening with a tender letter to his kokum and memories of his early life on the Driftpile First Nation, Billy-Ray Belcourt delivers a searing account of Indigenous life that's part love letter, part rallying cry.
 
With the lyricism and emotional power of his award-winning poetry, Belcourt cracks apart his history and shares it with us one fragment at a time. He shines a light on Canada's legacy of colonial violence and the joy that flourishes in spite of it. He revisits sexual encounters, ruminates on first loves and first loves lost, and navigates the racial politics of gay hookup apps. Among the hard truths he distills, the outline of a brighter future takes shape.
 
Bringing in influences from James Baldwin to Ocean Vuong, this book is a testament to the power of language--to devastate us, to console us, to help us grieve, to help us survive. Destined to be dog-eared, underlined, treasured, and studied for years to come, A History of My Brief Body is a stunning achievement from one of this generation's finest young minds.

Richard Wagamese Selected

- by Richard Wagamese

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Richard Wagamese, one of Canada's most celebrated Indigenous authors and storytellers, was a writer of breathtaking honesty and inspiration. Always striving to be a better, stronger person, Wagamese shared his journey through writing, encouraging others to do the same. Following the success of Embers, which has sold almost seventy thousand copies since its release in 2016, this new collection of Wagamese's non-fiction works, with an introduction by editor Drew Hayden Taylor, brings together more of the prolific author's short writings, many for the first time in print, and celebrates his ability to inspire. Drawing from Wagamese's essays and columns, along with preserved social media and blog posts, this beautifully designed volume is a tribute to Wagamese's literary legacy.

Residential Schools

- by Melanie Florence

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Over more than 100 years, the Canadian government took 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children from their families and placed them in residential schools. In these schools, young people were assigned a number, forced to wear European-style clothes, forbidden to speak their native language, required to work, and often subjected to physical and psychological abuse. If they tried to leave the schools to return to their families, they were captured by the RCMP and forced back. Run by churches, the schools were paid for by the federal government. The last residential school closed in 1996. It took decades for people to speak out in public about the devastating impact of residential schools. School Survivors eventually came together and launched court actions against the federal government and the churches. In 2008 the Canadian government apologized for the historic wrongs committed by the residential school system. The survivors' lawsuits led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission spent six years gathering testimony and discovering the facts about residential schools. This book includes the text of the government's apology and summarizes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action, which offer the basis for a new relationship between the Canadian government, Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people.

When We Were Alone

- by David Alex Robertson

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Winner of the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award in the Young People's Literature (Illustrated Books) category and winner 2017 McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award: Younger Category When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother's garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength. Also available in a bilingual Swampy Cree/English edition.

The Orange Shirt Story

- by Phyllis Webstad

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Illustrated Edition

The Orange Shirt Story was the best selling children's book in Canada for several weeks in September (Book manager). This true story also inspired the movement of Orange Shirt Day which could become a federal statuatory holiday When Phyllis Webstad (nee Jack) turned six, she went to the residential school for the first time. On her first day at school, she wore a shiny orange shirt that her Granny had bought for her, but when she got to the school, it was taken away from her and never returned. This is the true story of Phyllis and her orange shirt. It is also the story of Orange Shirt Day (an important day of remembrance for First Nations and non First Nations Canadians).

Run As One

- by Errol Ranville

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Errol Ranville has been running all his life: from chronic poverty and racism in rural Manitoba; a discriminatory music business; alcohol and drug addiction; and the responsibilities that come with being regarded as a role model. Though Errol has faced seemingly insurmountable barriers as an Indigenous performer in a predominately white music business, his band C-Weed & the Weeds released several #1 songs and went on to score JUNO nominations in 1985 and 1986. He was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Indigenous Music Awards in 2011. In his memoir Run as One, Errol embraces the role of trailblazer for the countless musicians that follow his path.

I Will See You Again

- by Lisa Boivin

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When the author learns of the death of her brother overseas, she embarks on a journey to bring him home. Through memories and dreams of all they shared together and through her Dene traditions, she finds comfort and strength.

The lyrical art and story leave readers with a universal message of hope and love.

Becoming Our Future

- by Julie Nagam

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This book investigates international Indigenous methodologies in curatorial practice from the geographic spaces of Canada, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Australia. From a perspective of Indigenous peoples important place within society, this collection explores how Indigenous art and culture operate within and from a structural framework that is unique and is positioned outside of the non-Indigenous cultural milieu. Through a selection of contributions, Becoming Our Future articulates this perspective, defines Indigenous curatorial practice and celebrates Indigenous sovereignty within the three countries. It begins to explore the connections and historical moments that draw Indigenous curatorial practices together and the differences that set them apart. This knowledge is grounded in continuous international exchanges and draws on the breadth of work within the field.

With contributions by Nigel Borell, Nici Cumpston, Freja Carmicheal, Karl Chitham, Franchesca Cubillo, Léuli Eshraghi, Reuben Friend, Jarita Greyeyes, Heather Igloliorte, Jaimie Isaac, Carly Lane, Michelle LaVallee, Cathy Mattes, Bruce McLean, Kimberley Moulton, Lisa Myers, Julie Nagam, Wanda Nanibush, Jolene Rickard, Megan Tamati-Quennell, and Daina Warren.

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