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 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 Terese Mari Mailhot
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*Canada Reads 2019 Longlist
*New York Times Bestseller
*Finalist for the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
*Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards
*Longlisted for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize
*Winner of the Blue Metropolis First Peoples Prize
*Winner of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature
*Winner of the 2019 Whiting Award for Nonfiction
*Shortlisted for the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
*Shortlisted for the 2019 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction
*A New York Times Editors' Choice
*A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2018
*A CBC Best Book of 2018
*A Toronto Star Best Book of 2018
*A Walrus Best Book of 2018
*An NPR Best Book of 2018
*A Chatelaine Best Book of 2018
*A Bustle Best Book of 2018
*A GQ Best Book of 2018
*A Thrillist Best Book of 2018
*A Book Riot Best Book of 2018
*An Electric Lit Best Book of 2018
*An Entropy Best Book of 2018
*A Hill Times Best Book of 2018
*A BookPage Best Book of 2018
*A Library Journal Best Book of 2018
*A Goodreads Best Book of 2018
*A New York Public Library Best Book of 2018
*Named one of the most anticipated books of 2018 by: Chatelaine, Entertainment Weekly, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Huffington Post, B*tch, NYLON, BuzzFeed, Bustle, The Rumpus and Goodreads
*Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018
Guileless and refreshingly honest, Terese Mailhot's debut memoir chronicles her struggle to balance the beauty of her Native heritage with the often desperate and chaotic reality of life on the reservation.
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners? a story of reconciliation with her father--an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist--who was murdered under mysterious circumstances? and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
Mailhot "trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain and what we can bring ourselves to accept." Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people and to her place in the world.
- by Michelle Good
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WINNER: Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
WINNER: Amazon First Novel Awards
WINNER: Kobo Emerging Author Prize
Finalist: Scotiabank Giller Prize
Finalist: Atwood Gibson Writers Trust Prize
Finalist: BC & Yukon Book Prize
Shortlist: Indigenous Voices Awards
Finalist: Kobo Emerging Author Prize
National Bestseller; A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year; A CBC Best Book of the Year; An Apple Best Book of the Year; A Kobo Best Book of the Year; An Indigo Best Book of the Year
Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.
Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn't want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.
Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations. Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can't stop running and moves restlessly from job to job--through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps--trying to outrun his memories and his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together. After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew.
With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.
- by VARIOUS
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Winner of the 2020 Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher and the 2020 McNally Robinson Book of the Year
Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact. Includes contributions from Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel. Illustrated by Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, Jen Storm. Colour by Scott A. Ford and Donovan Yaciuk.
- by Billy-ray Belcourt
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In his follow-up to This Wound is a World, Billy-Ray Belcourt's Griffin Poetry Prize-winning collection, NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field is a provocative, powerful, and genre-bending new work that uses the modes of accusation and interrogation.
He aims an anthropological eye at the realities of everyday life to show how they house the violence that continues to reverberate from the long twentieth century. In a genre-bending constellation of poetry, photography, redaction, and poetics, Belcourt ultimately argues that if signifiers of Indigenous suffering are everywhere, so too is evidence of Indigenous peoples' rogue possibility, their utopian drive.
In NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field, the poet takes on the political demands of queerness, mainstream portrayals of Indigenous life, love and its discontents, and the limits and uses of poetry as a vehicle for Indigenous liberation. In the process, Belcourt once again demonstrates his extraordinary craft, guile, and audacity, and the sheer dexterity of his imagination.
- by Alicia Elliott
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#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 HILARY WESTON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE FOR NONFICTION
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2019 BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL o CBC o CHATELAINE o QUILL & QUIRE o THE HILL TIMES o POP MATTERS
A bold and profound meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression and racism in North America from award-winning Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott.
In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight into the ongoing legacy of colonialism. She engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrifcation, writing and representation, and in the process makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political--from overcoming a years-long battle with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft Dinner to how systemic oppression is directly linked to health problems in Native communities.
With deep consideration and searing prose, Elliott provides a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present and a powerful tool for a better future.