Celebrate the powerful stories and rich history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and North America with these books.
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 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 Thomas King
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Timely, important, mischievous, powerful: in a word, exceptional
Seventy-seven poems intended as a eulogy for what we have squandered, a reprimand for all we have allowed, a suggestion for what might still be salvaged, a poetic quarrel with our intolerant and greedy selves, a reflection on mortality and longing, as well as a long-running conversation with the mythological currents that flow throughout North America.
- 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.
- by Marlene E. Mckay
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Forbidden Fruit: Engaging an Indigenous Feminist Lens as an Neninaw Iskwew is a feminist based memoir acknowledging that people are measured, categorized, and placed in a hierarchal order that is deeply influenced by discourses predicated upon social processes.
Dr. McKay's Indigenous feminism is about being aware that due to the colonial patriarchy that has seeped through Indigenous social and cultural systems, Indigenous women are positioned differently in economic, social and political structures. Marlene masterfully uses her own life experiences to assert that colonialism and Indigenous cultures obscure the role of women in a way that continues both their marginalization and the binary of the princess/squaw (p. 11).
- by Darryl Leroux
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Distorted Descent examines a social phenomenon that has taken off in the twenty-first century: otherwise white, French descendant settlers in Canada shifting into a self-defined "Indigenous" identity. This study is not about individuals who have been dispossessed by colonial policies, or the multi-generational efforts to reconnect that occur in response. Rather, it is about white, French-descendant people discovering an Indigenous ancestor born 300 to 375 years ago through genealogy and using that ancestor as the sole basis for an eventual shift into an "Indigenous" identity today. After setting out the most common genealogical practices that facilitate race shifting, Leroux examines two of the most prominent self-identified "Indigenous" organizations currently operating in Quebec. Both organizations have their origins in committed opposition to Indigenous land and territorial negotiations, and both encourage the use of suspect genealogical practices. Distorted Descent brings to light to how these claims to an "Indigenous" identity are then used politically to oppose actual, living Indigenous peoples, exposing along the way the shifting politics of whiteness, white settler colonialism, and white supremacy.
- by Nick Estes
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Dispatches of radical political engagement from people taking a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline
It is prophecy. A Black Snake will spread itself across the land, bringing destruction while uniting Indigenous nations. The Dakota Access Pipeline is the Black Snake, crossing the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The oil pipeline united communities along its path--from North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois--and galvanized a twenty-first-century Indigenous resistance movement marching under the banner Mni Wiconi--Water Is Life! Standing Rock youth issued a call, and millions around the world and thousands of Water Protectors from more than three hundred Native nations answered. Amid the movement to protect the land and the water that millions depend on for life, the Oceti Sakowin (the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people) reunited. A nation was reborn with renewed power to protect the environment and support Indigenous grassroots education and organizing. This book assembles the multitude of voices of writers, thinkers, artists, and activists from that movement.
Through poetry and prose, essays, photography, interviews, and polemical interventions, the contributors, including leaders of the Standing Rock movement, reflect on Indigenous history and politics and on the movement's significance. Their work challenges our understanding of colonial history not simply as "lessons learned" but as essential guideposts for current and future activism.
Contributors: Dave Archambault II, Natalie Avalos, Vanessa Bowen, Alleen Brown, Kevin Bruyneel, Tomoki Mari Birkett, Troy Cochrane, Michelle L. Cook, Deborah Cowen, Andrew Curley, Martin Danyluk, Jaskiran Dhillon, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Liz Ellis, Nick Estes, Marcella Gilbert, Sandy Grande, Craig Howe, Elise Hunchuck, Michelle Latimer, Layli Long Soldier, David Uahikeaikalei'ohu Maile, Jason Mancini, Sarah Sunshine Manning, Katie Mazer, Teresa Montoya, Chris Newell, The NYC Stands with Standing Rock Collective, Jeffrey Ostler, Will Parrish, Shiri Pasternak, endawnis Spears, Alice Speri, Anne Spice, Kim TallBear, Mark L. Tilsen, Edward Valandra, Joel Waters, Tyler Young.
- by Harold R. Johnson
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Winner of the 2020 SK Indigenous People’s Writing Award
An urgent, informed, intimate condemnation of the Canadian state and its failure to deliver justice to Indigenous people by national bestselling author and former Crown prosecutor Harold R. Johnson. "The night of the decision in the Gerald Stanley trial for the murder of Colten Boushie, I received a text message from a retired provincial court judge. He was feeling ashamed for his time in a system that was so badly tilted. I too feel this way about my time as both defence counsel and as a Crown prosecutor; that I didn't have the courage to stand up in the court room and shout 'Enough is enough.' This book is my act of taking responsibility for what I did, for my actions and inactions." --Harold R. Johnson In early 2018, the failures of Canada's justice system were sharply and painfully revealed in the verdicts issued in the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. The outrage and confusion that followed those verdicts inspired former Crown prosecutor and bestselling author Harold R. Johnson to make the case against Canada for its failure to fulfill its duty under Treaty to effectively deliver justice to Indigenous people, worsening the situation and ensuring long-term damage to Indigenous communities. In this direct, concise, and essential volume, Harold R. Johnson examines the justice system's failures to deliver "peace and good order" to Indigenous people. He explores the part that he understands himself to have played in that mismanagement, drawing on insights he has gained from the experience; insights into the roots and immediate effects of how the justice system has failed Indigenous people, in all the communities in which they live; and insights into the struggle for peace and good order for Indigenous people now.
- by Isaac Murdoch
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Nenaboozhoo, the creator spirit-being of Ojibway legend, gave the people many gifts. This collection of oral stories presents legends of Nenaboozhoo along with other creation stories that tell of the adventures of numerous beloved animal spirits. The Trail of Nenaboozhoo is a book of art and storytelling that preserve the legends of the Anishinaabe people. Each story is accompanied by strikingly beautiful illustrations by revered Indigenous artists Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt.
- by James Daschuk
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Revealing how Canada's first Prime Minister used a policy of starvation against Indigenous people to clear the way for settlement, the multiple award-winning Clearing the Plains sparked widespread debate about genocide in Canada.
In arresting, but harrowing, prose, James Daschuk examines the roles that Old World diseases, climate, and, most disturbingly, Canadian politics--the politics of ethnocide--played in the deaths and subjugation of thousands of Indigenous people in the realization of Sir John A. Macdonald's "National Dream."
It was a dream that came at great expense: the present disparity in health and economic well-being between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, and the lingering racism and misunderstanding that permeates the national consciousness to this day.
This new edition of Clearing the Plains has a foreword by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Elizabeth Fenn, an opening by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, and explanations of the book's influence by leading Canadian historians. Called "one of the most important books of the twenty-first century" by the Literary Review of Canada, it was named a "Book of the Year" by The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire, the Writers' Trust, and won the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, among many others.
"Clearing the Plains is a tour de force that dismantles and destroys the view that Canada has a special claim to humanity in its treatment of indigenous peoples. Daschuk shows how infectious disease and state-supported starvation combined to create a creeping, relentless catastrophe that persists to the present day. The prose is gripping, the analysis is incisive, and the narrative is so chilling that it leaves its reader stunned and disturbed. For days after reading it, I was unable to shake a profound sense of sorrow. This is fearless, evidence-driven history at its finest." --Elizabeth A. Fenn, author of Pox Americana
"Required reading for all Canadians." --Candace Savage, author of A Geography of Blood
"Clearly written, deeply researched, and properly contextualized history...Essential reading for everyone interested in the history of indigenous North America." --J.R. McNeill, author of Mosquito Empires
- by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair
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This anthology of Aboriginal writings from Manitoba takes readers back through the millennia and forward to the present day, painting a dynamic picture of a territory interconnected through words, ideas, and experiences. A rich collection of stories, poetry, nonfiction, and speeches.
- by Blair A. Stonechild
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The follow-up to his award-winning book The Knowledge Seeker, Blair Stonechild's Loss of Indigenous Eden and the Fall of Spirituality continues to explore the Indigenous spiritual teachings passed down to the author by Elders, examining their relevance in today's world. Exploring how the rise of civilization has been antithetical to the relational philosophy of Indigenous thinking--whereby all things are interrelated and in need of care and respect--Stonechild demonstrates how the current global ideology of human dominance, economic growth, and technological progress has resulted in all-consuming and destructive appetites that are damaging relationships between humans and the natural world. Most troubling is the loss of respect for spirituality so fundamental to Indigenous stability. There must be international reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, their culture and spirituality, Stonechild insists, if humanity itself is to survive.
"This tome needs to be read by everyone for the benefit of the Earth." --Antonia Mills, author of Amerindian Rebirth
"Stonechild has appeared with his writings to consider the spirituality of the Indigenous a key in finding a true path for humanity." --Elder Dave Courchene, Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness
"[A] great scholarly contribution to our knowledge of the history of Indigenous spirituality....These chapters completely rewrite the histories of 'civilizations' of religion and the nation states. They do so with great imagination and originality." --David McNab, author of No Place for Fairness
"Provocative and compelling, [Stonechild] offers deep historical insight into the colonialist legacies persisting within contemporary society, illuminating how the enduring values of Indigenous spirituality can provide meaningful paths toward healing and reconciliation." --Jesse Rae Archibald-Barber, editor of kisiskâciwan
"It is thought-provoking, philosophical, informative, and celebrates the resilience and strength of Indigenous spirituality and our relationships to the sacred." --Kathleen E. Absolon-King, author of Kaandossiwin
- by Paul Seesequasis
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Winner of the 2020 Saskatoon Book Award and the 2020 Book of the Year Award Honouring Mary Sutherland
A revelatory portrait of eight Indigenous communities from across North America, shown through never-before-published archival photographs--a gorgeous extension of Paul Seesequasis's popular social media project. In 2015, writer and journalist Paul Seesequasis found himself grappling with the devastating findings of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on the residential school system. He sought understanding and inspiration in the stories of his mother, herself a residential school survivor. Gradually, Paul realized that another, mostly untold history existed alongside the official one: that of how Indigenous peoples and communities had held together during even the most difficult times. He embarked on a social media project to collect archival photos capturing everyday life in First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities from the 1920s through the 1970s. As he scoured archives and libraries, Paul uncovered a trove of candid images and began to post these on social media, where they sparked an extraordinary reaction. Friends and relatives of the individuals in the photographs commented online, and through this dialogue, rich histories came to light for the first time. Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun collects some of the most arresting images and stories from Paul's project. While many of the photographs live in public archives, most have never been shown to the people in the communities they represent. As such, Blanket Toss is not only an invaluable historical record, it is a meaningful act of reclamation, showing the ongoing resilience of Indigenous communities, past, present--and future.
- by Jean Teillet
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Winner of the 2020 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award
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)