Celebrate the powerful stories and rich history of Indigenous Peoples with these recent books by Indigenous authors.
There are of course hundreds, if not thousands of older titles that we could include in this list, however we wanted to focus primarily on recent titles, to amplify the voices that have only just begun to speak.
We are also continually updating this list as we discover new books by Indigenous authors, and if you feel that we should include a particular title or author we encourage you to contact us with more information.
- by Richard Wagamese
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"The most profound truth in the universe is this: that we are all one drum and we need each other." --Richard Wagamese, One Drum Fans of Richard Wagamese's writing will be heartened by the news that the bestselling author left behind a manuscript he'd been working on until shortly before his death in 2017. One Drum welcomes readers to unite in ceremony to heal themselves and bring harmony to their lives and communities. In One Drum, Wagamese wrote, "I am not a shaman. Nor am I an elder, a pipe carrier, or a celebrated traditionalist. I am merely one who has trudged the same path many of this human family has--the path of the seeker, called forward by a yearning I have not always understood." One Drum draws from the foundational teachings of Ojibway tradition, the Grandfather Teachings. Focusing specifically on the lessons of humility, respect and courage, the volume contains simple ceremonies that anyone anywhere can do, alone or in a group, to foster harmony and connection. Wagamese believed that there is a shaman in each of us, and we are all teachers and in the world of the spirit there is no right way or wrong way. Writing of neglect, abuse and loss of identity, Wagamese recalled living on the street, going to jail, drinking too much, feeling rootless and afraid, and then the feeling of hope he gained from connecting with the spiritual ways of his people. He expressed the belief that ceremony has the power to unify and to heal for people of all backgrounds. "When that happens," he wrote, "we truly become one song and one drum beating together in a common purpose--and we are on the path to being healed."
- by Michelle Good
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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 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 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 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 Michael Yahgulanaas
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"The ragged edges of the temperate rainforest reach far out onto an island in the western seas. It is a place where one chooses to go ahead or turn back..." In a prequel to the award-winning Red: A Haida Manga, acclaimed artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas blends Asian manhwa/manga with the Haida artistic and oral tradition in another stunning hand-painted volume. In a small near-future community perched between the ocean and the northern temperate rainforest, a series of disasters is taking a heavy toll. It is early fall and a fuel spill has contaminated the marine foods the village was preparing to harvest. As food supplies dwindle, a small group decides to make a late season expedition to search for sea lions. Surprised by a ferocious storm, they abandon one man, Carpe, on an isolated rock at sea. After ten days they are finally able to return, but he has vanished. The story follows Carpe's encounters with the Lord of the Rock, who demands retribution for Carpe's role in the hunt, and Carpe's fate in the half-life between human and animal, life and death.
- by Drew Hayden Taylor
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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 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 Arielle Twist
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In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.
- 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 Cherie Dimaline
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INDIGO'S #1 BEST BOOK OF 2019
FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE MARROW THIEVES, THE #1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER, MULTI-AWARD WINNER AND CANADA READS FINALIST
"Wildly entertaining and profound and essential." --Tommy Orange, The New York Times
Broken-hearted Joan has been searching for her husband, Victor, for almost a year--ever since he went missing on the night they had their first serious argument. One hung-over morning in a Walmart parking lot in a little town near Georgian Bay, she is drawn to a revival tent where the local Métis have been flocking to hear a charismatic preacher. By the time she staggers into the tent the service is over, but as she is about to leave, she hears an unmistakable voice.
She turns, and there is Victor. Only he insists he is not Victor, but the Reverend Eugene Wolff, on a mission to bring his people to Jesus. And he doesn't seem to be faking: there isn't even a flicker of recognition in his eyes.
With only two allies--her odd, Johnny-Cash-loving, 12-year-old nephew Zeus, and Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark with deep knowledge of the old ways--Joan sets out to remind the Reverend Wolff of who he really is. If he really is Victor, his life, and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon her success.
Inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou--a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities--Cherie Dimaline has created a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel.
- 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 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 how to deconstruct Canada's dark colonial legacy and embrace a new era of recognition and reconciliation. In this powerful book, drawn from Wilson-Raybould's speeches and other writings, she urges all Canadians - both Indigenous and non-Indigenous - to build upon the momentum already gained in the reconciliation process or risk hard-won progress being lost. The choice is stark: support Indigenous-led initiatives for Nation rebuilding or continue to allow governments to just "manage the problem." She also argues that true reconciliation will never occur unless governments transcend barriers enshrined in the Indian Act that continue to deny Indigenous Peoples their rights. Until then, we'll be stuck in the status quo - mired in conflicts and court cases that do nothing to improve people's lives or heal the country. The good news is that Indigenous Nations already have the solutions. But now is time to act and build a shared postcolonial future based on the foundations of trust, cooperation, recognition, and good governance. Frank and impassioned, this book charts a course forward - one that will not only empower Indigenous Peoples but strengthen the well-being of Canada and all Canadians. From Where I Stand is indispensable reading for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the reconciliation process to know what they can do to make a difference -- ranging from engaged citizens, leaders, and policy-makers to students, educators, and academics, and to lawyers and consultants.
- 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 Helen Knott
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A nationally bestselling book on the struggle of addiction and the power of Indigenous resilience.
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