Native American books? What should we read?

Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians tribal member Minnie Wabanimkee’s postcards feature Pow Wows in Peshawbestown. 

From staff reports

October 9 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day—previously observed as Columbus Day—and we pondered which Native American books are authentic, and which ones should we read and teach our children to understand the history and current impact of First Nations peoples in northern Michigan and throughout North America.

Tricia Denton offered the following thoughts:

“I encourage people to ask themselves a few pointed and potentially uncomfortable questions when selecting books.

“Who does the writing, publishing and sale of the book benefit? What perspectives does it portray? As a descendant of the Indian Boarding School and Indian Removal eras, I’m particularly sensitive to pieces written by non-native people that portray native people and their stories as ancient history or glorify “noble savage” stereotypes. We are still here. And then there is the issue of cultural appropriation, the modern day version of non-natives continuing to benefit at the expense of those they’ve attempted to oppress. WE removed you from your home, your food and life ways, marched you to your death, separated families, took your children, made practicing your religion and culture illegal, gave you no voice to vote. Now WE want to profit from your stories and art, as if native people aren’t qualified or capable of telling their own stories.

“If this makes you uncomfortable, it should. Face it head on! Take one small step toward ending the disenfranchise- ment of native people. Ask yourself a few questions before you buy. Pick up a title by Leelanau local, contemporary author and artist, and my good neighbor, Lois Beardslee. Learn more by reading A Broken Flute-The Native Experience in Books for Children by Seale and Slapin. Everyone loses when we avoid the uncomfortable truths of both our history and present.

Here’s a list of Native American- themed books available at Bay Books in Suttons Bay (and other Leelanau County bookstores):

Childrens and Young Adults

We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Autumn Peltier, Water Warrior by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Bridget George

Nibi Emosaawdang: The Water Walker by Joane Robertson (A First Nation Communities Read)

Little Loksi by Trey Hays

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Also carry it for adults)

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Also carry it for adults)

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Hunting Stars by Cherie Dimaline

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley


High School/Adult Fiction and Non Fiction

A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Powers

A Handbook of Native American Herbs: The Pocket Guide to 125 Medicinal Plants and Their Uses by Alma R. Hutchens

Empire of the Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

ManMade Monsters by Andrea Rogers

BirdGirl and the Man who Followed the Sun by Velma Wallis

Two Old Women by Velma Wallis ( I have been giving  this one to all my girlfriends since it came out!)

Word’s Like Thunder  by Lois Beardslee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

The Sentence by Louise Erdich

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdich

The Roundhouse by Louise Erdich

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andres Resendez

Tecumseh and the Prophet by Peter Cozzens

We are in the Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth