Books for Indigenous People’s Day

Today is marked as Columbus Day, however, the legacy of Christopher Columbus has been in hot contention in recent years. There has been so much controversey that it has caused some US states to change the name of the federal holiday from “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous People’s Day”, finally giving recognition to the people who were the true founders of most lands of the world.

Most of us, including myself, have been remiss in our education of Indigenous People’s history. But now is our chance to learn about a past that was conveniently left out of our school textbooks. If you are interested to learn more about Indigenous People (and not just in the United States, but all across the world), here are some great book selections that will give you a great start:

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

Young Readers Edition Adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Roxanne 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.

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative. (Credit: Beacon Press)

What is so great about this is that a young readers edition came out for this book this year, a great way for young people to read about the true history of the Indigenous People.

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“All the Real Indians Died Off”: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker

In this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle a wide range of myths about Native American culture and history that have misinformed generations. Tracing how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths such as:

“Columbus Discovered America”
“Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims”
“Indians Were Savage and Warlike”
“Europeans Brought Civilization to Backward Indians”
“The United States Did Not Have a Policy of Genocide”
“Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans”
“Most Indians Are on Government Welfare”
“Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich”
“Indians Are Naturally Predisposed to Alcohol”

Each chapter deftly shows how these myths are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, “All the Real Indians Died Off” challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history. (Credit: Beacon Press)

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I Am Not a Number/ Gaawin Gindaawsin Ndaawsii by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, Gillian Newland (Illustrations),
Muriel Sawyer and Geraldine McLeod (Translation)

When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene’s parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law? Based on the life of co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother, I Am Not a Number is a hugely necessary book that brings a terrible part of Canada’s history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to. (Credit: Second Story Press)

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Will I See? by David Alexander Robertson

May, a young teenage girl, traverses the city streets, finding keepsakes in different places along her journey. When May and her kookum make these keepsakes into a necklace, it opens a world of danger and fantasy. While May fights against a terrible reality, she learns that there is strength in the spirit of those that have passed. But will that strength be able to save her? A story of tragedy and beauty, Will I See illuminates the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. (Credit: HighWater Press)

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Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett and  Natasha Donovan

Tasha Spillett’s graphic novel debut, Surviving the City, is a story about womanhood, friendship, colonialism, and the anguish of a missing loved one. Miikwan and Dez are best friends. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inninew. Together, the teens navigate the challenges of growing up in an urban landscape – they’re so close, they even completed their Berry Fast together. However, when Dez’s grandmother becomes too sick, Dez is told she can’t stay with her anymore. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can’t bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don’t? (Credit: HighWater Press)

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Native Athletes in Action! by Vincent Schilling

The revised edition of Native Athletes in Action adds two new and exciting young basketball players to the roster of outstanding Native athletes already included in the book. Shoni Schimmel, a tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern Oregon, has earned the nicknames “The Umatilla Thrilla” and “Showtime” in the world of women’s basketball. To people in Indian Country, Shoni is an absolute hero. Kenny Dobbs, aka “The Dunk Inventor,” is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and has toured the globe with the National Basketball Association as a celebrity dunker for sold-out shows. The biographies of all thirteen athletes describe the hard work, determination and education it took to accomplish their dreams and become the champions they are. (Credit: 7th Generation)

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Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith

Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous people has suffered as a result of both the residential school system and the lack of understanding of the historical and current impact of those schools. Healing and repairing that relationship requires education, awareness and increased understanding of the legacy and the impacts still being felt by survivors and their families. Guided by acclaimed Indigenous author Monique Gray Smith, readers will learn about the lives of Survivors and listen to allies who are putting the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into action. (Credit: Orca Book Publishers)

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The Forgotten People: Liberal and Conservative Approaches to Recognising Indigenous Peoples by Damien Freeman

This collection challenges that assumption. It frames indigenous constitutional recognition in the context of conservative and liberal philosophical thought, and demonstrates that there may indeed be a set of reforms for constitutional recognition that can achieve the symbolic and substantive change sought by indigenous leaders, while at the same time addressing the critical concerns of constitutional conservatives and classical liberals. More than that, this collection demonstrates the genuine goodwill that many Australians share for the cause of indigenous recognition that is both practically useful and symbolically powerful. (Credit: Melbourne University Press)

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#Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible. (Credit: Annick Press)

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This Place: 150 Years Retold

Explore the last 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in the graphic novel anthology, This Place: 150 Years Retold. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through magic realism, serial killings, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact. (Credit: HighWater Press)

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