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.
- by Fred Sasakamoose
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"Fred Sasakamoose played in the NHL before First Nations people had the right to vote in Canada. This page turner will have you cheering for 'Fast Freddy' as he faces off against huge challenges both on and off the ice--a great gift to every proud hockey fan, Canadian, and Indigenous person."
--Wab Kinew, Leader of the Manitoba NDP and author of The Reason You Walk
Trailblazer. Residential school Survivor. First Treaty Indigenous player in the NHL. All of these descriptions are true--but none of them tell the whole story.
Fred Sasakamoose, torn from his home at the age of seven, endured the horrors of residential school for a decade before becoming one of 120 players in the most elite hockey league in the world. He has been heralded as the first Indigenous player with Treaty status in the NHL, making his official debut as a 1954 Chicago Black Hawks player on Hockey Night in Canada and teaching Foster Hewitt how to pronounce his name. Sasakamoose played against such legends as Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, and Maurice Richard. After twelve games, he returned home.
When people tell Sasakamoose's story, this is usually where they end it. They say he left the NHL to return to the family and culture that the Canadian government had ripped away from him. That returning to his family and home was more important to him than an NHL career. But there was much more to his decision than that. Understanding Sasakamoose's choice means acknowledging the dislocation and treatment of generations of Indigenous peoples. It means considering how a man who spent his childhood as a ward of the government would hear those supposedly golden words: "You are Black Hawks property."
Sasakamoose's story was far from over once his NHL days concluded. He continued to play for another decade in leagues around Western Canada. He became a band councillor, served as Chief, and established athletic programs for kids. He paved a way for youth to find solace and meaning in sports for generations to come. Yet, threaded through these impressive accomplishments were periods of heartbreak and unimaginable tragedy--as well moments of passion and great joy.
This isn't just a hockey story; Sasakamoose's groundbreaking memoir sheds piercing light on Canadian history and Indigenous politics, and follows this extraordinary man's journey to reclaim pride in an identity and a heritage that had previously been used against him.
- by Katherena Vermette
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#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE ATWOOD GIBSON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE FOR FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022/2023 FIRST NATION COMMUNITIES READ AWARD, 2022 MANITOBA BOOK AWARDS' CAROL SHIELDS WINNIPEG BOOK AWARD, MARGARET LAURENCE AWARD FOR FICTION, AND MCNALLY ROBINSON BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
A GLOBE & MAIL BEST BOOK
From the bestselling author of The Break comes a staggering intergenerational saga that explores how connected we are, even when we're no longer together--even when we're forced apart.
Cedar has nearly forgotten what her family looks like. Phoenix has nearly forgotten what freedom feels like. And Elsie has nearly given up hope. Nearly.
After time spent in foster homes, Cedar goes to live with her estranged father. Although she grapples with the pain of being separated from her mother, Elsie, and sister, Phoenix, she's hoping for a new chapter in her life, only to find herself once again in a strange house surrounded by strangers. From a youth detention centre, Phoenix gives birth to a baby she'll never get to raise and tries to forgive herself for all the harm she's caused (while wondering if she even should). Elsie, struggling with addiction and determined to turn her life around, is buoyed by the idea of being reunited with her daughters and strives to be someone they can depend on, unlike her own distant mother. These are the Strangers, each haunted in her own way. Between flickering moments of warmth and support, the women diverge and reconnect, fighting to survive in a fractured system that pretends to offer success but expects them to fail. Facing the distinct blade of racism from those they trusted most, they urge one another to move through the darkness, all the while wondering if they'll ever emerge safely on the other side.
A breathtaking companion to her bestselling debut The Break, Vermette's The Strangers brings readers into the dynamic world of the Stranger family, the strength of their bond, the shared pain in their past, and the light that beckons from the horizon. This is a searing exploration of race, class, inherited trauma, and matrilineal bonds that--despite everything--refuse to be broken.
- by David A. Robertson
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A poignant and evocative novel about the bonds of family and the gifts offered by the land
When a troubled father and his estranged teenage daughter head out onto the land in search of the family trapline, they find their way back to themselves, and to each other
Deep in the night, Matthew paces the house, unable to rest. Though his sixteen-year-old daughter, Holly, lies sleeping on the other side of the bedroom door, she is light years away from him. How can he bridge the gap between them when he can't shake the emptiness he feels inside? Holly knows her father is drifting further from her; what she doesn't understand is why. Could it be her fault that he seems intent on throwing everything away, including their relationship?
Following a devastating tragedy, Matthew and Holly head out onto the land in search of a long-lost cabin on the family trapline, miles from the Cree community they once called home. But each of them is searching for something more than a place. Matthew hopes to reconnect with the father he has just lost; Holly goes with him because she knows the father she is afraid of losing won't be able to walk away.
When things go wrong during the journey, they find they have only each other to turn to for support. What happens to father and daughter on the land will test them, and eventually heal them, in ways they never thought possible.
- by Tomson Highway
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Brilliant, jubilant insights into the glory and anguish of life from one of the world's most treasured Indigenous creators.
Trickster is zany, ridiculous. The ultimate, over-the-top, madcap fool. Here to remind us that the reason for existence is to have a blast and to laugh ourselves silly.
Celebrated author and playwright Tomson Highway brings his signature irreverence to an exploration of five themes central to the human condition: language, creation, sex and gender, humour, and death. A comparative analysis of Christian, classical, and Cree mythologies reveals their contributions to Western thought, life, and culture--and how North American Indigenous mythologies provide unique, timeless solutions to our modern problems. Highway also offers generous personal anecdotes, including accounts of his beloved accordion-playing, caribou-hunting father, and plentiful Trickster stories as curatives for the all-out unhappiness caused by today's patriarchal, colonial systems.
Laugh with the legendary Tomson Highway as he illuminates a healing, hilarious way forward.
- by Billy-ray Belcourt
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*LONGLISTED FOR THE 2022 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE*
An urgent first novel about breaching the prisons we live inside from one of Canada's most daring literary talents.
An unnamed narrator abandons his unfinished thesis and returns to northern Alberta in search of what eludes him: the shape of the novel he yearns to write, an autobiography of his rural hometown, the answers to existential questions about family, love, and happiness.
What ensues is a series of conversations, connections, and disconnections that reveals the texture of life in a town literature has left unexplored, where the friction between possibility and constraint provides an insistent background score.
Whether he's meeting with an auntie distraught over the imprisonment of her grandson, engaging in rez gossip with his cousin at a pow wow, or lingering in bed with a married man after a hotel room hookup, the narrator makes space for those in his orbit to divulge their private joys and miseries, testing the theory that storytelling can make us feel less lonely.
Populated by characters as alive and vast as the boreal forest, and culminating in a breathtaking crescendo, A Minor Chorus is a novel about how deeply entangled the sayable and unsayable can become--and about how ordinary life, when pressed, can produce hauntingly beautiful music.
- by Tomson Highway
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WINNER OF THE HILARY WESTON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE FOR NONFICTION * NOMINATED FOR THE EVERGREEN AWARD * NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, AND CBC
Capricious, big-hearted, joyful: an epic memoir from one of Canada's most acclaimed Indigenous writers and performers
Tomson Highway was born in a snowbank on an island in the sub-Arctic, the eleventh of twelve children in a nomadic, caribou-hunting Cree family. Growing up in a land of ten thousand lakes and islands, Tomson relished being pulled by dogsled beneath a night sky alive with stars, sucking the juices from roasted muskrat tails, and singing country music songs with his impossibly beautiful older sister and her teenaged friends. Surrounded by the love of his family and the vast, mesmerizing landscape they called home, his was in many ways an idyllic far-north childhood. But five of Tomson's siblings died in childhood, and Balazee and Joe Highway, who loved their surviving children profoundly, wanted their two youngest sons, Tomson and Rene, to enjoy opportunities as big as the world. And so when Tomson was six, he was flown south by float plane to attend a residential school. A year later Rene joined him to begin the rest of their education. In 1990 Rene Highway, a world-renowned dancer, died of an AIDS-related illness.
Permanent Astonishment is Tomson's extravagant embrace of his younger brother's final words: "Don't mourn me, be joyful." His memoir offers insights, both hilarious and profound, into the Cree experience of culture, conquest, and survival.
- by C. Thomas-muller
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*FINALIST FOR 2022 CANADA READS*
*SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 J.W. DAFOE BOOK PRIZE*
*SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 MANITOBA BOOK AWARDS' MCNALLY ROBINSON BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD*
A gritty and inspiring memoir from renowned Cree environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, who escaped the world of drugs and gang life to take up the warrior's fight against the assault on Indigenous peoples' lands--and eventually the warrior's spirituality.
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.
- by Joshua Whitehead
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FINALIST FOR THE HILARY WESTON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE FOR NONFICTION
Much-anticipated non-fiction from the author of the Giller-longlisted, GG-shortlisted and Canada Reads-winning novel Jonny Appleseed.
In the last few years, following the publication of his debut novel Jonny Appleseed, Joshua Whitehead has emerged as one of the most exciting and important new voices on Turtle Island. Now, in this first non-fiction work, Whitehead brilliantly explores Indigeneity, queerness, and the relationships between body, language and land through a variety of genres (essay, memoir, notes, confession). Making Love with the Land is a startling, heartwrenching look at what it means to live as a queer Indigenous person "in the rupture" between identities. In sharp, surprising, unique pieces--a number of which have already won awards--Whitehead illuminates this particular moment, in which both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are navigating new (and old) ideas about "the land." He asks: What is our relationship and responsibility towards it? And how has the land shaped our ideas, our histories, our very bodies?
Here is an intellectually thrilling, emotionally captivating love song--a powerful revelation about the library of stories land and body hold together, waiting to be unearthed and summoned into word.
- by David Maraniss
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A riveting new biography of America's greatest all-around athlete by the bestselling author of the classic biography When Pride Still Mattered.
Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played major league baseball for John McGraw's New York Giants. Even in a golden age of sports celebrities, he was one of a kind.
But despite his colossal skills, Thorpe's life was a struggle against the odds. As a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he encountered duplicitous authorities who turned away from him when their reputations were at risk. At Carlisle, he dealt with the racist assimilationist philosophy "Kill the Indian, Save the Man." His gold medals were unfairly rescinded because he had played minor league baseball. His later life was troubled by alcohol, broken marriages, and financial distress. He roamed from state to state and took bit parts in Hollywood, but even the film of his own life failed to improve his fortunes. But for all his travails, Thorpe did not succumb. The man survived, complications and all, and so did the myth.
Path Lit by Lightning is a great American story from a master biographer.
- by Katya Adamo Ferguson
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Resurgence is an inspiring collection of contemporary Indigenous poetry, art, and narratives that guides teachers in bridging existing K-12 curricula with Indigenous voices and pedagogies. In this first book in The Footbridge Series, we invite you to walk with us as we seek to:connect peoples and placeslink truth and reconciliation as ongoing processessymbolize the risk and urgency of this work for both Indigenous and settler educatorsengage tensionshighlight the importance of balance, both of ideas and within ourselvesThrough critical engagement with the texts, experienced educators Christine M'Lot and Katya Adamov Ferguson support readers in connecting with Indigenous narratives and perspectives, bringing Indigenous works in their classrooms, and creating more equitable and sustainable teaching practices.
In this resource, you will finddiverse Indigenous voices, perspectives, and art forms from a variety of Nations and locationsvaluable concepts and methods that can be applied to the classroom and beyondpractical action steps and resources for educators, parents, librarians, and administratorsUse this book as a springboard for your own learning journey or as a lively prompt for dialogue within your professional learning community.
- by Brandi Morin
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A wildfire of a debut memoir by internationally recognized French/Cree/Iroquois journalist Brandi Morin set to transform the narrative around Indigenous Peoples.
Brandi Morin is known for her clear-eyed and empathetic reporting on Indigenous oppression in North America. She is also a survivor of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis and uses her experience to tell the stories of those who did not survive the rampant violence. From her time as a foster kid and runaway who fell victim to predatory men and an oppressive system to her career as an internationally acclaimed journalist, Our Voice of Fire chronicles Morin's journey to overcome enormous adversity and find her purpose, and her power, through journalism. This compelling, honest book is full of self-compassion and the purifying fire of a pursuit for justice.
- by Scott Berthelette
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The fur trade was the heart of the French empire in early North America. The French-Canadian (Canadien) men who traversed the vast hinterlands of the Hudson Bay watershed, trading for furs from Indigenous trappers and hunters, were its cornerstone. Though the Canadiens worked for French colonial authorities, they were not unwavering agents of imperial power. Increasingly they found themselves between two worlds as they built relationships with Indigenous communities, sometimes joining them through adoption or marriage, raising families of their own. The result was an ambivalent empire that grew in fits and starts. It was guided by imperfect information, built upon a contested Indigenous borderland, fragmented by local interests, and periodically neglected by government administrators. Heirs of an Ambivalent Empire explores the lives of the Canadiens who used family and kinship ties to navigate between sovereign Indigenous nations and the French colonial government from the early 1660s to the 1780s. Acting as cultural intermediaries, the Canadiens made it possible for France to extend its presence into northwest North America. Over time, however, their uncertain relationships with the French colonial state splintered imperial authority, leading to an outcome that few could have foreseen - the emergence of a new Indigenous culture, language, people, and nation: the Métis.
- by Myra-ed. Tait
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Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal is a collection of elegant, thoughtful, and powerful reflections about Indigenous Peoples' complicated, and often frustrating, relationship with Canada, and how--even 150 years after Confederation--the fight for recognition of their treaty and Aboriginal rights continues.
- by Anna Hudson
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Qummut Qukiria! celebrates art and culture within and beyond traditional Inuit and Sámi homelands in the Circumpolar Arctic -- from the continuance of longstanding practices such as storytelling and skin sewing to the development of innovative new art forms such as throatboxing (a hybrid of traditional Inuit throat singing and beatboxing). In this illuminating book, curators, scholars, artists, and activists from Inuit Nunangat, Kalaallit Nunaat, Sápmi, Canada, and Scandinavia address topics as diverse as Sámi rematriation and the revival of the ládjogahpir (a Sámi woman's headgear), the experience of bringing Inuit stone carving to a workshop for inner-city youth, and the decolonizing potential of Traditional Knowledge and its role in contemporary design and beyond.
Qummut Qukiria! showcases the thriving art and culture of the Indigenous Circumpolar peoples in the present and demonstrates its importance for the revitalization of language, social wellbeing, and cultural identity.