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 Drew Hayden Taylor
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First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists, activists, educators and writers, youth and elders come together to envision Indigenous futures in Canada and around the world. Discussing everything from language renewal to sci-fi, this collection is a powerful and important expression of imagination rooted in social critique, cultural experience, traditional knowledge, activism and the multifaceted experiences of Indigenous people on Turtle Island. In Me Tomorrow... Darrel J. McLeod, Cree author from Treaty-8 territory in Northern Alberta, blends the four elements of the Indigenous cosmovision with the four directions of the medicine wheel to create a prayer for the power, strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples. Autumn Peltier, Anishinaabe water-rights activist, tells the origin story of her present and future career in advocacy--and how the nine months she spent in her mother's womb formed her first water teaching. When the water breaks, like snow melting in the spring, new life comes. Lee Maracle, acclaimed Stó:l? Nation author and educator, reflects on cultural revival--imagining a future a century from now in which Indigenous people are more united than ever before. Other essayists include Cyndy and Makwa Baskin, Norma Dunning, Shalan Joudry, Shelley Knott-Fife, Tracie Léost, Stephanie Peltier, Romeo Saganash, Drew Hayden Taylor and Raymond Yakeleya. For readers who want to imagine the future, and to cultivate a better one, Me Tomorrow is a journey through the visions generously offered by a diverse group of Indigenous thinkers.
- by Chantal Fiola
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Returning to Ceremony is the follow-up to Chantal Fiola's award-winning Rekindling the Sacred Fire and continues her ground-breaking examination of Métis spirituality, debunking stereotypes such as "all Métis people are Catholic," and "Métis people do not go to ceremonies." Fiola finds that, among the Métis, spirituality exists on a continuum of Indigenous and Christian traditions, and that Métis spirituality includes ceremonies. For some Métis, it is a historical continuation of the relationships their ancestral communities have had with ceremonies since time immemorial, and for others, it is a homecoming - a return to ceremony after some time away. Fiola employs a Métis-specific and community-centred methodology to gather evidence from archives, priests' correspondence, oral history, storytelling, and literature. With assistance from six Métis community researchers, Fiola listened to stories and experiences shared by thirty-two Métis from six Manitoba Métis communities that are at the heart of this book. They offer insight into their families' relationships with land, community, culture, and religion, including factors that inhibit or nurture connection to ceremonies such as sweat lodge, Sundance, and the Midewiwin. Valuable profiles emerge for six historic Red River Métis communities (Duck Bay, Camperville, St Laurent, St François-Xavier, Ste Anne, and Lorette), providing a clearer understanding of identity, culture, and spirituality that uphold Métis Nation sovereignty.
- by Dawn Dumont
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The hilarious story of an unlikely group of Indigenous dancers who find themselves thrown together on a performance tour of Europe The Tour is all prepared. The Prairie Chicken dance troupe is all set for a fifteen-day trek through Europe, performing at festivals and cultural events. But then the performers all come down with the flu. And John Greyeyes, a retired cowboy who hasn't danced in fifteen years, finds himself abruptly thrust into the position of leading a hastily-assembled group of replacement dancers. A group of expert dancers they are not. There's a middle-aged woman with advanced arthritis, her nineteen-year-old niece who is far more interested in flirtations than pow-wow, and an enigmatic man from the U.S. -- all being chased by Nadine, the organizer of the original tour who is determined to be a part of the action, and the handsome man she picked up in a gas-station bathroom. They're all looking to John, who has never left the continent, to guide them through a world that he knows nothing about. As the gang makes its way from one stop to another, absolutely nothing goes as planned and the tour becomes a string of madcap adventures. The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour is loosely based -- like, hospital-gown loose -- on the true story of a group of Indigenous dancers who left Saskatchewan and toured through Europe in the 1970s. Dawn Dumont brings her signature razor-sharp wit and impeccable comedic timing to this hilarious, warm, and wildly entertaining novel.
- by Helen Agger
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Dadibaajim narratives are of and from the land, born from experience and observation. Invoking this critical Anishinaabe methodology for teaching and learning, Helen Olsen Agger documents and reclaims the history, identity, and inherent entitlement of the Namegosibii Anishinaabeg to the care, use, and occupation of their Trout Lake homelands. When Agger's mother, Dedibaayaanimanook, was born in 1922, the community had limited contact with Euro-Canadian settlers and still lived throughout their territory according to seasonal migrations along agricultural, hunting, and fishing routes. By the 1940s, colonialism was in full swing: hydro development had resulted in major flooding of traditional territories, settlers had overrun Trout Lake for its resource, tourism, and recreational potential, and the Namegosibii Anishinaabe were forced out of their homelands in Treaty 3 territory, north-western Ontario. Agger mines an archive of treaty paylists, census records, and the work of influential anthropologists like A.I. Hallowell, but the dadibaajim narratives of eight community members spanning three generations form the heart of this book. Dadibaajim provide the framework that fills in the silences and omissions of the colonial record. Embedded in Anishinaabe language and epistemology, they record how the people of Namegosibiing experienced the invasion of interlocking forces of colonialism and globalized neo-liberalism into their lives and upon their homelands. Ultimately, Dadibaajim is a message about how all humans may live well on the earth.
- by Tomson Highway
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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: Growing Up in the Land of Snow and Sky 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 Nicola I Campbell
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If the hurt and grief we carry is a woven blanket, it is time to weave ourselves anew.
In the N?e?kepmxcín language, spíl?x?m are remembered stories, often shared over tea in the quiet hours between Elders. Rooted within the British Columbia landscape, and with an almost tactile representation of being on the land and water, Spíl?x?m explores resilience, reconnection, and narrative memory through stories.
Captivating and deeply moving, this story basket of memories tells one Indigenous woman's journey of overcoming adversity and colonial trauma to find strength through creative works and traditional perspectives of healing, transformation, and resurgence.
- by Jesse Wente
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"Unreconciled is one hell of a good book. Jesse Wente's narrative moves effortlessly from the personal to the historical to the contemporary. Very powerful, and a joy to read."
--Thomas King, author of The Inconvenient Indian and Sufferance
A prominent Indigenous voice uncovers the lies and myths that affect relations between white and Indigenous peoples and the power of narrative to emphasize truth over comfort.
Part memoir and part manifesto, Unreconciled is a stirring call to arms to put truth over the flawed concept of reconciliation, and to build a new, respectful relationship between the nation of Canada and Indigenous peoples.
Jesse Wente remembers the exact moment he realized that he was a certain kind of Indian--a stereotypical cartoon Indian. He was playing softball as a child when the opposing team began to war-whoop when he was at bat. It was just one of many incidents that formed Wente's understanding of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person in a society still overwhelmingly colonial in its attitudes and institutions.
As the child of an American father and an Anishinaabe mother, Wente grew up in Toronto with frequent visits to the reserve where his maternal relations lived. By exploring his family's history, including his grandmother's experience in residential school, and citing his own frequent incidents of racial profiling by police who'd stop him on the streets, Wente unpacks the discrepancies between his personal identity and how non-Indigenous people view him.
Wente analyzes and gives voice to the differences between Hollywood portrayals of Indigenous peoples and lived culture. Through the lens of art, pop culture, and personal stories, and with disarming humour, he links his love of baseball and movies to such issues as cultural appropriation, Indigenous representation and identity, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty. Indeed, he argues that storytelling in all its forms is one of Indigenous peoples' best weapons in the fight to reclaim their rightful place.
Wente explores and exposes the lies that Canada tells itself, unravels "the two founding nations" myth, and insists that the notion of "reconciliation" is not a realistic path forward. Peace between First Nations and the state of Canada can't be recovered through reconciliation--because no such relationship ever existed.
- by Harold R. Johnson
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Drawing upon his Cree and Scandinavian roots, Harold R. Johnson merges myth, fantasy, and history in this epic saga of exploration and adventure.
While sorting through the possessions of his recently deceased neighbour, Harold Johnson discovers an old, handwritten manuscript containing epic stories composed in an obscure Swedish dialect. Together, they form The Björkan Sagas.
The first saga tells of three Björkans, led by Juha the storyteller, who set out from their valley to discover what lies beyond its borders. Their quest brings them into contact with the devious story-trader Anthony de Marchand, a group of gun-toting aliens in search of Heaven, and an ethereal Medicine Woman named Lilly. In the second saga, Juha is called upon to protect his people from invaders bent on stealing the secrets contained within the valley's sacred trees. The third saga chronicles the journey of Lilly as she travels across the universe to bring aid to Juha and the Björkans, who face their deadliest enemy yet.
The Björkan Sagas is a bold, innovative fusion of narrative traditions set in an enchanted world of heroic storytellers, shrieking Valkyries, and fire-breathing dragons.
- by David A. Robertson
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A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
A CBC Books Nonfiction Book of the Year
A Maclean's 20 Books You Need to Read this Winter
"An instant classic that demands to be read with your heart open and with a perspective widened to allow in a whole new understanding of family, identity and love." --Cherie Dimaline
In this bestselling memoir, a son who grew up away from his Indigenous culture takes his Cree father on a trip to the family trapline and finds that revisiting the past not only heals old wounds but creates a new future
The son of a Cree father and a white mother, David A. Robertson grew up with virtually no awareness of his Indigenous roots. His father, Dulas--or Don, as he became known--lived on the trapline in the bush in Manitoba, only to be transplanted permanently to a house on the reserve, where he couldn't speak his language, Swampy Cree, in school with his friends unless in secret. David's mother, Beverly, grew up in a small Manitoba town that had no Indigenous people until Don arrived as the new United Church minister. They married and had three sons, whom they raised unconnected to their Indigenous history.
David grew up without his father's teachings or any knowledge of his early experiences. All he had was "blood memory": the pieces of his identity ingrained in the fabric of his DNA, pieces that he has spent a lifetime putting together. It has been the journey of a young man becoming closer to who he is, who his father is and who they are together, culminating in a trip back to the trapline to reclaim their connection to the land.
Black Water is a memoir about intergenerational trauma and healing, about connection and about how Don's life informed David's own. Facing up to a story nearly erased by the designs of history, father and son journey together back to the trapline at Black Water and through the past to create a new future.
- by J. Wilson-raybould
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A compelling political memoir of leadership and speaking truth to power by one of the most inspiring women of her generation
Jody Wilson-Raybould was raised to be a leader. Inspired by the example of her grandmother, who persevered throughout her life to keep alive the governing traditions of her people, and raised as the daughter of a hereditary chief and Indigenous leader, Wilson-Raybould always knew she would take on leadership roles and responsibilities. She never anticipated, however, that those roles would lead to a journey from her home community of We Wai Kai in British Columbia to Ottawa as Canada's first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the Cabinet of then newly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau.
Wilson-Raybould's experience in Trudeau's Cabinet reveals important lessons about how we must continue to strengthen our political institutions and culture, and the changes we must make to meet challenges such as racial justice and climate change. As her initial optimism about the possibilities of enacting change while in Cabinet shifted to struggles over inclusivity, deficiencies of political will, and concerns about adherence to core principles of our democracy, Wilson-Raybould stood on principle and, ultimately, resigned. In standing her personal and professional ground and telling the truth in front of the nation, Wilson-Raybould demonstrated the need for greater independence and less partisanship in how we govern.
"Indian" in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power is the story of why Wilson-Raybould got into federal politics, her experience as an Indigenous leader sitting around the Cabinet table, her proudest achievements, the very public SNC-Lavalin affair, and how she got out and moved forward. Now sitting as an Independent Member in Parliament, Wilson-Raybould believes there is a better way to govern and a better way for politics--one that will make a better country for all.
- by Jean Teillet
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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)
- by Lisa Bird-wilson
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For readers of Tommy Orange's There There and Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries, Probably Ruby is an audacious, brave and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity.
Relinquished as an infant, Ruby is placed in a foster home and finally adopted by Alice and Mel, a less-than-desirable couple who can't afford to complain too loudly about Ruby's Indigenous roots. But when her new parents' marriage falls apart, Ruby finds herself vulnerable and in compromising situations that lead her to search, in the unlikeliest of places, for her Indigenous identity.
Unabashedly self-destructing on alcohol, drugs and bad relationships, Ruby grapples with the meaning of the legacy left to her. In a series of expanding narratives, Ruby and the people connected to her tell their stories and help flesh out Ruby's history. Seeking understanding of how we come to know who we are, Probably Ruby explores how we find and invent ourselves in ways as peculiar and varied as the experiences of Indigenous adoptees themselves. Ruby's voice, her devastating honesty and tremendous laugh, will not soon be forgotten.
Probably Ruby is a perfectly crafted novel, with effortless, nearly imperceptible shifts in time and perspective, exquisitely chosen detail, natural dialogue and emotional control that results in breathtaking levels of tension and points of revelation.
- by Clayton Thomas-muller
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An electrifying memoir that braids together the urgent issues of Indigenous rights and environmental policy, from a nationally and internationally recognized activist and survivor.
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 Billy-ray Belcourt
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WINNER OF THE HUBERT EVANS NON-FICTION PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR NON-FICTION
FINALIST FOR THE LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD FOR GAY MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY
FINALIST FOR THE JIM DEVA PRIZE FOR WRITING THAT PROVOKES
A slim but electrifying debut memoir about the preciousness and precariousness of queer Indigenous life.
Opening with a tender letter to his kokum and memories of his early life on the Driftpile First Nation, Billy-Ray Belcourt delivers a searing account of Indigenous life that's part love letter, part rallying cry.
With the lyricism and emotional power of his award-winning poetry, Belcourt cracks apart his history and shares it with us one fragment at a time. He shines a light on Canada's legacy of colonial violence and the joy that flourishes in spite of it. He revisits sexual encounters, ruminates on first loves and first loves lost, and navigates the racial politics of gay hookup apps. Among the hard truths he distills, the outline of a brighter future takes shape.
Bringing in influences from James Baldwin to Ocean Vuong, this book is a testament to the power of language--to devastate us, to console us, to help us grieve, to help us survive. Destined to be dog-eared, underlined, treasured, and studied for years to come, A History of My Brief Body is a stunning achievement from one of this generation's finest young minds.
- by Richard Wagamese
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Richard Wagamese, one of Canada's most celebrated Indigenous authors and storytellers, was a writer of breathtaking honesty and inspiration. Always striving to be a better, stronger person, Wagamese shared his journey through writing, encouraging others to do the same. Following the success of Embers, which has sold almost seventy thousand copies since its release in 2016, this new collection of Wagamese's non-fiction works, with an introduction by editor Drew Hayden Taylor, brings together more of the prolific author's short writings, many for the first time in print, and celebrates his ability to inspire. Drawing from Wagamese's essays and columns, along with preserved social media and blog posts, this beautifully designed volume is a tribute to Wagamese's literary legacy.