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 Jesse Thistle
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*#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
*Winner, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Nonfiction
*Winner, Indigenous Voices Awards
*Winner, High Plains Book Awards
*Finalist, CBC Canada Reads
*A Globe and Mail Book of the Year
*An Indigo Book of the Year
*A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year
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.
If I can just make it to the next minute...then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead.
From the Ashes is a remarkable memoir about hope and resilience, and a revelatory look into the life of a Métis-Cree man who refused to give up.
Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse's drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around.
In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education--and newfound love--he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family.
An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.
- by Cherie Dimaline
Young adult softcover
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Winner of the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award (Young People's Literature - Text)
Winner of the 2017 Kirkus Prize
Winner of the 2018 Sunburst Award
Winner of the 2018 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Winner of the 2018 Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young Adult Literature
Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams.
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden - but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.
- by Lisa Bird-wilson
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A debut short story collection from one of Canada's most exciting new Aboriginal voices. "In our family, it was Trish who was Going To Be Trouble; I was Such a Good Girl." At times haunting, at times hilarious, Just Pretending explores the moments in life that send us down pathways predetermined and not-yet-forged. These are the liminal, defining moments that mark irreversible transitions n girl to mother, confinement to freedom, wife to murderer. They are the melodramatic car-crash moments n the outcomes both horrific and too fascinating to tear our eyes from. And they are the unnoticed, infinitely tiny moments, seemingly insignificant (even ridiculous) yet holding the power to alter, to transform, to make strange. What links these stories is a sense of characters working n both with success and without, through action or reaction n to separate reality from perception and to make these moments into their lives' new truths.
- by David Alex Robertson
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From the award-winning author of Black Water comes this kaleidoscopic story of one woman's place within the web of community.
Alice is a single mother raising her three young daughters on the rez where she grew up. Life has never been easy, but she's managed to get by with the support of her best friend, Gideon, and her family. When an unthinkable loss occurs, Alice is forced to confront truths that will challenge her belief in herself and the world she thought she knew.
Peopled with unforgettable characters and told from multiple points of view, this is a novel where spirits are alive, forgiveness is possible, and love is the only thing that matters.
Reissued with a new story by David A. Robertson and foreword by Shelagh Rogers.
- by Eden Robinson
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Following the Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted Son of a Trickster comes Trickster Drift, a national bestseller and the second book in Eden Robinson's captivating Trickster trilogy.
Jared Martin, seventeen, has quit drugs and drinking. But his troubles are not over: the temptation to slip is constant (thanks to his enabling, ever-partying mom, Maggie). He's being stalked by David, his mom's ex--a preppy, khaki-wearing psycho with a proclivity for rib-breaking. And Maggie, a witch as well as a badass, can't protect him like she used to because he's moved from Kitimat to Vancouver for school.
He figures that in order to be safe from both magic, addiction and David, he's got to get his grades up, find a job that doesn't involve selling weed cookies, and learn how to live with his Aunt Mave, who has been estranged from the family ever since she tried to "rescue" him as a baby from his mother. Though she smothers him with hugs, Mave is blind to the real dangers that lurk around them--the spirits and supernatural activity that fill her apartment.
As the son of a Trickster, Jared is a magnet for magic, whether he hates it or not. He sees ghosts, he sees the monster moving underneath his Aunt Georgina's skin, he sees the creature that comes out of his bedroom wall and creepily wants to suck his toes. He also still hears his father in his head, and other voices too. When David finally catches up with him, Jared can't ignore his true nature any longer. And neither can anyone else he loves.
- by Eden Robinson
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CANADA READS 2020 FINALIST
More than ten years after her Giller-shortlisted title Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson returns with a striking and precise coming-of-age novel, in which everyday teen existence meets Indigenous beliefs, crazy family dynamics and cannibalistic river otters.
Meet Jared Martin: sixteen-year-old pot cookie dealer, smoker, drinker and son with the scariest mom ever. But Jared's the pot dealer with a heart of gold--really. Compassionate, caring, and nurturing by nature, Jared's determined to help hold his family together--whether that means supporting his dad's new family with the proceeds from his baking or caring for his elderly neighbours. But when it comes to being cared and loved, Jared knows he can't rely on his family. His only source of love and support was his flatulent pit bull Baby, but she's dead. And then there's the talking ravens and the black outs and his grandmother's perpetual suspicion that he is not human, but the son of a trickster.
- by Ernie Louttit
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When he began his career with the Saskatoon Police in 1987, Ernie Louttit was only the city's third native police officer. "Indian Ernie", as he came to be known on the streets, details an era of challenge, prejudice, and also tremendous change in urban policing which included the Stonechild Inquiry. Drawing from his childhood, army career, and service as a veteran patrol officer, Louttit shares stories of criminals and victims, the night shift, avoiding politics, but most of all, the realities of the marginalized and disenfranchised. Though Louttit's story is characterized by conflict, danger, and violence, he argues that empathy and love for the community you serve are the greatest tools in any officer's hands, especially when policing society's less fortunate.
- by Thomas King
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Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.
This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope--a sometimes inconvenient but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.
- by Bob Joseph
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#1 National Bestseller Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer. Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Bob Joseph's book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance - and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act's cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation.
- by Maria Campbell
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A new, fully restored edition of the essential Canadian classic.
An unflinchingly honest memoir of her experience as a Métis woman in Canada, Maria Campbell's Halfbreed depicts the realities that she endured and, above all, overcame. Maria was born in Northern Saskatchewan, her father the grandson of a Scottish businessman and Métis woman--a niece of Gabriel Dumont whose family fought alongside Riel and Dumont in the 1885 Rebellion; her mother the daughter of a Cree woman and French-American man. This extraordinary account, originally published in 1973, bravely explores the poverty, oppression, alcoholism, addiction, and tragedy Maria endured throughout her childhood and into her early adult life, underscored by living in the margins of a country pervaded by hatred, discrimination, and mistrust. Laced with spare moments of love and joy, this is a memoir of family ties and finding an identity in a heritage that is neither wholly Indigenous or Anglo; of strength and resilience; of indominatable spirit.
This edition of Halfbreed includes a new introduction written by Indigenous (Métis) scholar Dr. Kim Anderson detailing the extraordinary work that Maria has been doing since its original publication 46 years ago, and an afterword by the author looking at what has changed, and also what has not, for Indigenous people in Canada today. Restored are the recently discovered missing pages from the original text of this groundbreaking and significant work.
- by Drew Hayden Taylor
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Winner of the 2020 PMC Indigenous Literature Award
When Ralph Thomas comes across graffiti of a horse in an alleyway in the early hours of the morning, he is stopped in his tracks. He recognizes this horse. A half-asleep Indigenous homeless man sees Ralph's reaction to the horse and calls out to him. Over the course of a morning's worth of hot coffee on a bitterly cold day, Ralph and the homeless man talk and Ralph remembers a troubling moment from his childhood when an odd little girl, Danielle, drew the most beautiful and intriguing horse on his mother's Everything Wall, winning the competition set up for children on the Otter Lake Reserve. Ralph has lived with many questions that arose from his eleventh winter. What did the horse mean -- to him, his sister, his best friend, and, most importantly, the girl who drew it? These questions have never left him. Chasing Painted Horses has a magical, fablelike quality that will enchant readers, and haunt them, for years to come.
- by Tanya Tagaq
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Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon First Novel Award
Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
Winner of the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Prose in English
Winner of the 2018 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design - Prose Fiction
Longlisted for the 2019 Sunburst Award
From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you've ever read.
Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them.
A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy, and friendship, and parents' love. She knows boredom, and listlessness, and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world, and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol, and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her, and the immense power that dwarfs all of us.
When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this.
Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals, and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.
Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget.
- by Tyler Pennock
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Poems about a young two-spirit Indigenous man moving through shadow and trauma toward strength and awareness. Bones, Tyler Pennock's wise and arresting debut, is about the ways we process the traumas of our past, and about how often these experiences eliminate moments of softness and gentleness. Here, the poems journey inward, guided by the world of dreams, seeking memories of a loving sister lost beneath layers of tragedy and abuse. With bravery, the poems stand up to the demons lurking in the many shadows of their lines, seeking glimpses of a good that is always just out of reach. At moments heartrending and gut-punching, at others still and sweet, Bones is a collection of deep and painstaking work that examines the human spirit in all of us. This is a hero's journey and a stark look at the many conditions of the soul. This is a book for survivors, for fighters, for dreamers, and for believers. "Here is a spare and urgent voice that speaks of 'wounds and beauty,' that gestures to a story of trauma and abuse while offering us a potent journey of self-reckoning and reclamation. Bones entwines brutality with the deepest tenderness and in its clear-eyed way asks us, as poetry must, to re-see the world." --Catherine Bush, author of Accusation and The Rules of Engagement "Tyler Pennock's poetry unfurls like breath: measured, light, caught, whispering, and vital. It charts memory with a steady hand and unerring allegiance to locating the 'beauty/in terrible things.' Bones addresses the effects of intergenerational, state-sponsored trauma with an enviable grace, inscribing and affirming life on the other side of overwhelming pain, abuse, and grief. It carries on, resilient, defiant, gazing at the stars, one breath at a time." --Laurie D. Graham, author of Settler Education "Tyler Pennock's Bones is a soft meandering through the memories of the narrator's hearthome: a place in which trauma, kinship, abuse, and nostalgia cradle one another in a circle. Here, poetics are deployed to inspect the most minute of objects with such wild abandon that the narrator transplants us into a world rife with sharpness so as to make the image complete, focussed, lifelike, photographic even as he continually 'wish[es he] were like water'. Here we find memory and dream animated in equal measure: two spirits sitting in a basement, a headless mother, a white bear, wihtiko, and a sister slowly vanishing. Lyrical, witty, heart-wrenching, and empowering, Pennock's debut book of poetry is a contemplative epic asking us to ponder the ethics of remembrance in all of its lacings of razing and revitalization." --Joshua Whitehead, author of Full-Metal Indigiqueer and Jonny Appleseed
- by Helen Knott
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An unflinching memoir of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds of sexual assault from a resilient, emerging Indigenous voice.
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.
With gripping moments of withdrawal, times of spiritual awareness, and historical insights going back to the signing of Treaty 8 by her great-great grandfather, Chief Bigfoot, her journey exposes the legacy of colonialism, while reclaiming her spirit.
"In My Own Moccasins never flinches. The story goes dark, and then darker. We live in an era where Indigenous women routinely go missing, our youth are killed and disposed of like trash, and the road to justice doesn't seem to run through the rez. Knott's journey is familiar, filled with the fallout of residential school, racial injustice, alcoholism, drugs, and despair. But she skillfully draws us along and opens up her life, her family, and her communities to show us a way forward. It's the best kind of memoir: clear-eyed, generous, and glorious....Bear witness to the emergence of one of the most powerful voices of her generation." --Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster and Monkey Beach (from the foreword)
"Helen Knott speaks truth to the experience of Indigenous women living through the violence of colonized spaces and she does so with grace, beauty and a ferocity that makes me feel so proud." --Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost
"Helen writes beautifully and painfully, about her own life and the lives of many of our sisters. A strong, gentle voice removing the colonial blanket and exposing truth." --Maria Campbell, author of Halfbreed
"An incredible debut that documents how trauma and addiction can be turned into healing and love. I am in awe of Helen Knott and her courage. I am a fan for life. Wow." --Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed
"Heartfelt, heartbreaking, triumphant and raw, In My Own Moccasins is a must-read for anyone who's ever felt lost in their life... Actually, it's a must-read for anyone who appreciates stories of struggle, redemption and healing. Knott's writing is confident, clear, powerful and inspiring."
--Jowita Bydlowska, author of Guy: A Novel and Drunk Mom
"Powerful, filled with emotion." --Carol Daniels, author of Bearskin Diary and Hiraeth
"A beautiful rendering of how recovery for our peoples is inevitably about reconnecting with Indigenous identities, lands, cultural and healing practices." --Kim Anderson, author of Reconstructing Native Womenhood
- by Jody Wilson-raybould
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An Indigenous leader who has dedicated her life to Indigenous Rights, Jody Wilson-Raybould has represented both First Nations and the Crown at the highest levels. And she is not afraid to give Canadians what they need most - straight talk on what has to be done to move beyond our colonial legacy and achieve true reconciliation in Canada. In this powerful book, drawn from speeches and other writings, she urges all Canadians - both Indigenous and non-Indigenous - to build upon the momentum already gained or risk hard-won progress being lost. The good news is that Indigenous Nations already have the solutions. But now is the time to act and build a shared postcolonial future based on the foundations of trust, cooperation, recognition, and good governance.