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Celebrate Native American Heritage Month 2023: A Reading List

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Celebrate Native American Heritage Month 2023: A Reading List

native american heritage month 2023

November, celebrated as Native American Heritage Month, is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse ancestry,  cultures and traditions, and to acknowledge the important contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples, past and present. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which Tribal Nations have worked to conquer these challenges.

Here are some books available with your Livingston Library card that might help you explore the rich and diverse heritage of fiction, nonfiction, history, poetry, memoir, and more by and about indigenous peoples in the United States. 

anangokaa

Anangokaa by Cameron Alam

Set amid the privation of a struggling frontier settlement, the seduction of the natural world, and an intimate Chippewa forest camp, this is the evocative coming-of-age story of a young woman who must determine what sacrifices she is willing to make for the life she longs to live.

Birding While Indian : A Mixed-Blood Memoir by Thomas C. Gannon

Catalogs a lifetime of bird sightings to explore the part-Lakota author’s search for identity and his reckoning with colonialism’s violence against Indigenous humans, animals, and land.

Blood Sisters by Vanessa Lillie

A powerful mystery about a Native American archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs who must reckon with her past when she is called back to Oklahoma to investigate both the disappearance of her sister and a new case of a missing Native girl that turns up evidence with her name on it.

Calling For a Blanket Dance: A Novel by Oscar Hokeah

A young Native American boy in a splintering family grasps for stability and love, making all the wrong choices until he finds a space of his own.

A Calm & Normal Heart : Stories by Chelsea T. Hicks

From Oklahoma to California, the many heroes of this collection of short stories are bound by a common desire for connection and safety–inside a nation in which they have always lived but do not entirely belong. A member of the Osage tribe, author Hicks’ stories are compelled by an overlooked diaspora happening inside the borders of the United States itself: that of young Native people.

A Council of Dolls : A Novel by Susan Power

This is the moving and unforgettable new novel from PEN Award-winning Sioux author Power, spanning four generations of Yanktonai Dakota women from the 19th century to the present day.  From the mid-century metropolis of Chicago to the windswept ancestral lands of the Dakota people, to the bleak and brutal Indian boarding schools, it tells the story of three women, told in part through the stories of the dolls they carried….

crow mary

Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom

Married to a white fur trader in 1872, a Crow Native woman has her journey to Saskatchewan interrupted when she steals two guns and saves five Nakota women who were kidnapped by drunken whiskey traders, setting off a culture war.

Held By the Land : A Guide to Indigenous Plants for Wellness by Leigh Joseph

Joseph, an ethnobotanist and a member of the Squamish Nation, provides a beautifully illustrated essential introduction to Indigenous plant knowledge. The Indigenous Peoples of North America have long traditions of using native plants as medicine as well as for food. In the plant profiles section, common plants are introduced with illustrations and information on their characteristics, range, how to grow and/or harvest them, and how to use them topically and as food. Special features offer recipes for food and beauty products along with stories and traditions around the plants.

Indigenous Continent : The Epic Contest for North America by Pekka Hamalainen

Historian Hämäläinen presents a sweeping counter narrative that shatters the most basic assumptions about American history. Shifting our perspective away from Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, the Revolution, and other well-trodden episodes on the conventional timeline, he depicts a sovereign world of Native nations whose members, far from helpless victims of colonial violence, dominated the continent for centuries after the first European arrivals. From the Iroquois in the Northeast to the Comanches on the Plains, and from the Pueblos in the Southwest to the Cherokees in the Southeast, Native nations frequently decimated white newcomers in battle. Even as the white population exploded and colonists’ land greed grew more extravagant, Indigenous peoples flourished due to sophisticated diplomacy and leadership structures. By 1776, various colonial powers claimed nearly all of the continent, but Indigenous peoples still controlled it–as Hämäläinen points out, the maps in modern textbooks that paint much of North America in neat, color-coded blocks confuse outlandish imperial boasts for actual holdings. In fact, Native power peaked in the late nineteenth century, with the Lakota victory in 1876 at Little Big Horn, which was not an American blunder, but an all-too-expected outcome. Hämäläinen ultimately contends that the very notion of “colonial America” is misleading, and that we should speak instead of an “Indigenous America” that was only slowly and unevenly becoming colonial.  The evidence of Indigenous defiance is apparent today in the hundreds of Native nations that still dot the United States and Canada. 

Indigenous Firsts : A History of Native American Achievements and Events by Yvonne Wakim Dennis

Recognizes and honors 2,000 barrier-breaking trailblazers and history-making events in multiple fields-arts, entertainment, business, sovereignty, education, government, religion, science, sports, music, and more.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire. With growing support for movements such as the campaign to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the Dakota Access Pipeline protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, this is an essential resource providing historical threads that are crucial for understanding the present. Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. 

The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America by H. W. Brands

Bestselling historian and Pulitzer-prize finalist Brands follows the lives and battles of General William Tecumseh Sherman and Apache warrior Geronimo to tell the story of the Indian Wars and the final fight for control of the American continent.

last karakawas

The Last Karankawas : A Novel by Kimberly Garza

A kaleidoscopic, emotionally charged debut about a tight-knit community of Mexican and Filipino families on the Texas coast. Unflinching, lyrical, and singular, this is a portrait of America rarely witnessed, where browning palm trees and oily waters mark the forefront of ecological change. It is a deeply imagined exploration of familial inheritance, human perseverance, and the histories we assign to ourselves, establishing Kimberly Garza as a brilliant new literary voice.

The Missing Morningstar and Other Stories By Stacie Shannon Denetsosie

Denetsosie confronts long-reaching effects of settler-colonialism on Native lives in a series of gritty, wildly imaginative stories. A young Navajo man catches a ride home alongside a casket he’s sure contains his dead grandfather. A gas station clerk witnesses the kidnapping of the newly crowned Miss Northwestern Arizona. A young couple’s search for a sperm donor raises questions of blood quantum. This debut collection grapples with a complex and painful history alongside an inheritance of beauty, ceremony, and storytelling.

Native American Archaeology in the Parks : a Guide to Heritage Sites in Our National Parks and Monuments by Kenneth L. Feder

This book is a guide and a celebration of 30 of those national parks, national historical parks, and national monuments that, each in its own way, reveals the histories and cultures of America’s first inhabitants, the Native Americans. Its pages will take you to: great mounds in Ohio where the dead were laid to rest in sumptuous splendor 2,000 years ago a place in Iowa where 1,000 years ago, Native Americans sculpted earth into the forms of giant bears and birds a quarry in Minnesota where Native People have, for hundreds of years, extracted blood-red stone for their ceremonial pipes the remains of a village in North Dakota visited by Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s and the home of their guide Sacagewea truly breathtaking, more than 700-year-old cliff dwellings in Arizona and Colorado, that will astonish you in their ethereal beauty and architectural ingenuity phantasmagorical images of 7-foot-tall, wide-eyed spirit beings in Utah painted more than 1,000 years ago; And many more.

Native American Spiritualism : An Exploration of Indigenous Beliefs and Cultures by L. M. Arroyo

The spiritual practices of Native Americans are as diverse and bountiful as the Nations themselves, renowned for their inextricable ties to nature and geographical location. Today, many Indigenous customs are still conflated and misunderstood, even though their influence is seen and felt in every corner of the country.

Never Whistle at Night : An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology

A bold, clever, and sublimely sinister collection of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and gritty crime by both new and established Indigenous authors that dares to ask the question: “Are you ready to be un-settled?” Many Indigenous people believe that one should never whistle at night. This belief ranges far and wide and takes many forms; for instance, Native Hawaiians believe it summons the Hukai’po, the spirits of ancient warriors, and Native Mexicans say it calls a Lechuza, a witch that can transform into an owl and snatch the foolish whistlers in the dark. But what all these legends hold in common is the certainty that whistling at night can cause evil spirits to appear-and even follow you home. In twenty-five wholly original and shiver-inducing tales, bestselling and award-winning authors including Tommy Orange, Rebecca Roanhorse, Cherie Dimaline, Waubgeshig Rice, and Mona Susan Power introduce readers to ghosts, curses, hauntings, monstrous creatures, complex family legacies, desperate deeds, and chilling acts of revenge.

Rediscovery of America : Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U. S. History by Ned Blackhawk

The most enduring feature of U.S. history is the presence of Native Americans, yet most histories focus on Europeans and their descendants. This long practice of ignoring Indigenous history is changing, however, with a new generation of scholars insisting that any full American history address the struggle, survival, and resurgence of American Indian nations. 

removed

The Removed : A Novel by Brandon Hobson

Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago.

Searching for Savanna : the Murder of One Native American Woman and the Violence Against the Many by Mona Gable

In the summer of 2017, twenty-two-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind vanished. A week after she disappeared, police arrested the white couple who lived upstairs from Savanna and emerged from their apartment carrying an infant girl. The baby was Savanna’s, but Savanna’s body would not be found for days. The horrifying crime sent shock waves far beyond Fargo, North Dakota, where it occurred, and helped expose the sexual and physical violence Native American women and girls have endured since the country’s colonization. With pathos and compassion, this account confronts this history of dehumanization toward Indigenous women and the government’s complicity in the crisis. Features in-depth interviews, personal accounts, and trial analysis.

Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky : Modern Plant-Based Recipes Using Native American Ingredients by Lois Ellen Frank

Introduces the splendor and importance of Native culinary history and pairs it with delicious Native American-inspired dishes. Grounded in a primer on Native American cuisine and with a necessary discussion of food sovereignty and sustainability, this book shares more than 100 nutritious, plant based recipes organized by each of the foundational ingredients. 

Talking with Hands : Everything You Need to Start Signing Native American Hand Talk: a Complete Beginner’s Guide With Over 200 Words and Phrases by Mike Pahsetopah

Professional Native American dancer, storyteller, and educator Pahsetopah reveals the beauty of Plains Indian Sign Language, which was once used as a common language between the Indigenous peoples of the region now called the Great Plains of North America. The language was used for trade, but also for storytelling and by the Deaf community, making it a very common and useful tool in society. Today, only a few native speakers remain.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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