Native American & Indigenous Peoples Literature Starter Guide

Native American Literature Starter Guide
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Native Americans and Indigenous people’s voices and stories have shaped and encapsulated my entire world from a very young age. My grandfather, who was part of Chickasaw Nation, prided himself on his Native roots and on his mother’s culture. So often, I feel as though Native voices do not get the recognition that they deserve. Both in fiction and in non-fiction, tribal stories are filled with pride and culture that is so often not celebrated enough. When I was still in public school, it always hurt me that we never read any indigenous stories or learned about the real history of Natives in our American history classes. I was never taught much about tribes other than my grandfather’s, nor was I taught anything about indigenous literature. It wasn’t until I got to college, where I finally was introduced formally to indigenous stories in the curriculum. 

As a result, I decided to compile a list of indigenous stories and voices ranging from middle grade to adult fiction. Check them out below! 

Middle Grade: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse & Indian No More by by Charlene Willing McManis & Traci Sorell

It is so so so important for children to see themselves and their heritage being represented in the stories they read. Race to the Sun is an excellent adventure book that features mythology and folklore while Indian No More deals with more contemporary issues following a young girl who is dealing first hand with the “Indian Termination Policy”. While these are middle grade books, I find them to be extremely enjoyable at any age! 

Young Adult: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline & Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

The Marrow Thieves is an excellent fantasy story written by Cherie Dimaline, who is a part of Georgian Bay Métis Nation in Canada. Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker follows Navajo code talkers throughout WWII–a topic I personally knew little about. Both are absolutely wonderful stories in their own respects and again are fun and educational for any age! 

Adult Fiction:  The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones & There There by Tommy Orange

There There is a wildly popular novel that follows twelve different characters on their way to a powwow. A beautiful story that deals with heritage and spirituality, it is no wonder why There There has been deemed an instant classic! Stephen Graham Jones is known for his horror novels–his most recent being The Only Good Indians, which follows four American Indian men who find themselves confronted with the troubles of their past. Filled with cultural identity and chilling elements, Jones’ release is perfect for getting into the Halloween mood! 

Memiors: Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah A. Miranda & The Tao of Raven: An Alaska Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes

Both of these memoirs are excellent in their own respects. If you enjoy non-ficiton, or are just looking to get a first hand account written by indigenous authors, definitely give these two a try! 

Culture/History: Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World by Linda Hogan & The Soul of the Indian by Charles Alexander Eastman

Linda Hogan is a member of Chickasaw Nation and her novel encapsulates the legacy of Native stories and tradition. The Soul of The Indian is another one of those books that everyone should read in their lifetime. It is a book that highlights Native American spirituality and culture before coming in contact with colonizers. If you could only manage to read one book on this list, I’d highly consider picking this one up. 

Do you have any Native American/Indigenous peoples novel recommendations? Leave them in the comments below! 

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DISCUSSION

2 thoughts on “Native American & Indigenous Peoples Literature Starter Guide”

  1. Wende,
    This is a great list! So important to have these Indigenous voices as part of the “American” literary canon.

    MP

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