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30 must-read books for National Indigenous History Month

CBC News | June , 2023

Categories: news

Michelle Good curated this list of books that 'reach under the myth of North American history'

CBC Books · Posted: Jun 05, 2023 10:07 AM EDT | Last Updated: June 5

A woman with long whit hair looking at the ground a short distance ahead of her. She is wearing a periwinkle shirt with a beaded collar.

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.(Silk Sellinger Photography)

June is National Indigenous History Month, a time to celebrate and commemorate the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of Indigenous Peoples from coast to coast to coast.

A black and whit book cover featuring purple text with the silhouettes of people young people walking in the woods.

To commemorate this month, CBC Books asked Michelle Good to curate a list of books to read. And Good, who is a Cree writer and retired lawyer, and a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, would know about books that would resonate with readers. Her debut novel, Five Little Indians, won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It also won Canada Reads 2022, when it was championed by Ojibway fashion journalist Christian Allaire, and was the #1 bestselling Canadian book at independent bookstores across Canada in both 2021 and 2022.

Good's latest book is the essay collection truth Truth Telling, which is a collection of seven personal essays that explore a wide range of issues affecting Indigenous people in Canada today, including reconciliation, the rise of Indigenous literature in the 1970s and the impact it has to this day, the emergence of "pretendians" and more.

I keep hoping that non-Indigenous people will find a way to reach under the myth of North American history.- Michelle Good

"I keep hoping that non-Indigenous people will find a way to reach under the myth of North American history; the version taught for generations cementing wrong notions of Indigenous peoples and supporting exoneration of those responsible for colonial violence. Hopefully this list will aid in that objective," Good told CBC Books via email. 

Check out her picks for books to read this month below.

Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk

A grey book cover with a historical photo of an older Indigenous man. The text is transparent and covers the image. A man with short brown hair sitting in front of a microphone.

Clearing the Plains is a book by James Daschuk. (University of Regina Press, CBC)

Michelle Good says: "An exceptional example of deep research and analysis of the force and impact of colonial impacts and the drive to extinguish the plains peoples." 

Clearing the Plains is a book that explores how government policies led to starvation among First Nations peoples in the 19th century. First published in 2013, Clearing the Plains is an indictment of our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. It blames him for systematically starving Indigenous people to make way for the railroads and his national dream.

Clearing the Plains won the Governor General's History Award for Scholarly Research, which is given to a book that has made "a significant contribution" to understanding Canadian history.

James Daschuk is an assistant professor at the University of Regina, whose research focused on the impact of environmental changes on Indigenous health and well-being. He is originally from Ontario. 

The author talks about his book on how government policies led to starvation among First Nations peoples in the 19th century.

Seeing Red by Mark Cronlund Anderson & Carmen L. Robertson

A composite image of a book cover book cover with an Indigenous man in the background and the words Seeing Red written in black lettering and a portrait of a man in glasses and a red hat and a woman with black hair and glasses.

Seeing Red is a nonfiction book by Mark Cronlund Anderson & Carmen L. Robertson. (University of Manitoba Press,

Michelle Good says: "How the media basically has engaged in racial profiling since the inception of Canada. A powerful analysis of media, infused with government influence, has served as providing a negative curriculum regarding Indigenous peoples." 

Seeing Red, which was published in 2011, explores how Canadian newspapers portrayed Indigenous people from 1869 to the early 2000s. It looks at how the media portrayed notable stories, such as Louis Riel and the North-West Rebellion, the sale of Rupert's Land, the death of E. Pauline Johnson and many more, and examines how these depictions reinforced harmful stereotypes.

Seeing Red won the Saskatchewan Book Award for Scholarly Writing and the Regina Book of the Year Award.

Mark Cronlund Anderson is a history professor at the University of Regina. He is also the author of Pancho Villa's Revolution by Headlines and Cowboy Imperialism and Hollywood Film.

Carmen L. Robertson is a Lakota-Scottish scholar and curator who currently teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Distorted Descent by Darryl Leroux

A composite image of a white book cover with a paper cut out and the words Distorted Descent in black lettering on it beside a portrait of a man in blue glasses and a blazer smiling at the camera.

Distorted Descent is a nonfiction book by Darryl Leroux. (University of Manitoba Press,

Michelle Good says: "This book exposes the shocking extent to which identity theft by white Canadians has proliferated and is something far beyond just individual people lining their pockets with false claims to Indigenous identity. Leroux crystallizes the terrifying reality that huge swaths of white people are trying to legitimize themselves legally as Indians and even as Indian Bands." 

Distorted Descent, which was published in 2019, is about the 21st century phenomenon of descendents of French settlers in Canada self-identifying as Indigenous. The book explores the social, cultural and historical influences that have led to this phenomenon and takes on two prominent organizations in Quebec that encourage this practice. It also looks at how this practice is actively harmful to Indigenous people today and how such claims reinforce white supremacy, harmful stereotypes and public policy.

Discover new stories on CBC Gem for Indigenous History Month in June

Darryl Leroux is an associate professor at St. Mary's University in Halifax. His work focuses on racism and colonialism among descendents of French settlers.

Lessons in Legitimacy by Sean Carleton

A composite image of a book cover with an archive photo of Indigenous children standing in front of a school house beside a portrait of a man in a blazer looking into the camera smiling.

Lessons in Legitimacy is a nonfiction book by Sean Carleton. (UBC Press,

Michelle Good says: "Carleton demonstrates how church and state officials administered different school systems that trained Indigenous and settler children and youth to take up and accept unequal roles in the emerging social order. And much more."

Lessons in Legitimacy is a 2022 book that looks at how the B.C. government created school systems — including Indians residential schools, Indian Day Schools and public schools for white students — to reinforce systemic racism, inequality and white supremacy. The book explores how better understanding this part of history, which ran from 1849 to 1930, can better inform attempts at reconciliation in education, policy and public awareness today.

48 books by Indigenous writers to read to understand residential schools

Sean Carleton is assistant professor of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba.

The North-West is Our Mother by Jean Teillet

The North-West Is Our Mother is a nonfiction book by Jean Teillet.

The North-West Is Our Mother is a nonfiction book by Jean Teillet. (Ed Henderson, HarperCollins Canada)

Michelle Good says: "Teillet's brilliant and painstaking historical documentation and analysis of the history of the Métis and the great Métis resistance."

Jean Teillet is a lawyer, Métis expert and the great-grandniece of Louis Riel. Her book, The North-West is Our Mother, is a history of theMétis Nation. It begins in the early 1800s, when the Métis became known as fierce nomadic hunters, and continues to the late 19th-century resistance led by Riel to reclaim the land stolen from them, all the way to present day as they fight for reconciliation and decolonization.

Author and Indigenous rights lawyer Jean Teillet on her epic history of the Metis nation, The North-West Is Our Mother, which is a finalist for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, at the Manitoba Book Awards.

The Break by katherena vermette

A women with shoulder-length brown hair holding a book up.

Katherena Vermette is the author of the novel The Break. (CBC)

Michelle Good says: "The origin story of The Strangers. Not only a brilliant novel, but foundational to her future works. The subsequent works following the lives of these striving and struggling characters stand on their own, but I found them richer having read The Break first." 

The Break offers a glimpse into the world of a Métis community in northern Winnipeg. Told from 10 points of view, the interweaving stories deal with the pain and truths Indigenous women endure.

The Break was a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. It was defended by Candy Palmater on Canada Reads 2017. 

katherena vermette is a Métis writer from Winnipeg. Her other books include the poetry collections North End Love Songsandriver woman, the novel The Strangersand the four-book graphic novel series A Girl Called EchoNorth End Love Songswon the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry. Her next book is the novel The Circle, which will be published in fall 2023.

Katherena Vermette talks to Shelagh Rogers about The Break. The Break was the choice this spring for the virtual national book club, One E-read Canada.

Prison of Grass by Howard Adams

A yellow book with a historical photo of men standing in front of a building floating on a black and white blurry background.

Prison of Grass is a book by Howard Adams. (Fifth House Books)

Michelle Good says: "Originally published in 1975, Prison of Grass was one of the first books to challenge the idea of Indigenous people in Canada as warring savages with no social organization, no governance structures and essentially no sophistication to their social order. Particularly important as he contrasts the official government historical records with what was then the unpublished history of the Indian and Métis. The book was reissued in 1995 with then current statistics. An excellent foundational work." 

Prison of Grass, which was first published in 1975 and re-issued in 1995, is now considered a classic. It is one of the first books to challenge the harmful stereotypes of Indigenous people as portrayed in history, media and popular culture. Howard Adams highlights how Indigenous people had complex societies and systems of governance and how colonialism erased this from the dominant historical narrative. Prison of Grass also explores the harmful social, cultural and psychological effects colonialism had on Indigenous people.

Howard Adams was a prominent Métis leader and activist. He was a great-grandson of Louis Riel, and regularly appeared on CBC throughout his life. He died in 2001 at the age of 80. He is also the author of The Education of Canadians 1800-1867 and Tortured People: The Politics of Colonization.

Writers Maria Campbell, Howard Adams, George Manuel and Mike Posluns are penning a new direction for native literature.

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

A composite image of a teal book cover with orange circles and the words House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday written in white lettering on it beside a portrait of a man with grey hair and glasses looking into the camera.

House Made of Dawn is a novel by N. Scott Momaday. (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, Jacques Brinon)

Michelle Good says: "Momaday's barrier shattering, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that heralded the opening of the doors for Indigenous writers."

House Made of Dawn was considered a breakthrough book for Indigenous literature when it was published in 1968. The novel is inspired by N. Scott's Momaday's life in the small town Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. It tells the story of a young Indigenous man named Abel, who returns home from fighting in the Second World War and finds himself split between two worlds: the reservation of his youth and the rest of America beyond it. 

House Made of Dawn won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

N. Scott Momaday is a poet, novelist, artist and teacher who lives in New Mexico. He has a PhD from Stanford University and is a retired regents professor at the University of Arizona. He is also the author of The Ancient ChildDream Drawings and Earth Keeper.

The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday

A composite image of an illustrated book cover with a brown bear standing on its hind legs in front of an evergreen tree beside a portrait of a man with grey hair and glasses looking into the camera.

The Ancient Child is a novel by N. Scott Momaday. (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, Jacques Brinon)

Michelle Good says: "A fantastical and fantastic recharacterization of the story of Billy the Kid."

The Ancient Child, which was first published in 1989, takes the classic Kiowa myth of the boy who turned into a bear and combines it with the classic Wild West tale of Billy the Kid to create a contemporary and original Indigenous story. Locke Setman is an Indigenous boy raised away from his family's reservation by his adoptive father. When he returns to the reservation for his grandmother's funeral, he meets a young medicine woman and the world as he knows it changes forever.

N. Scott Momaday is a poet, novelist, artist and teacher who lives in New Mexico. He has a PhD from Stanford University and is a retired Regents Professor at the University of Arizona. He is also the author of House Made of DawnDream Drawings and Earth Keeper.

The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters

A blue book cover featuring a leaf motif and a photo of the book's author, a woman with curly blond hair standing next to a tree.

The Berry Pickers is a book by Amanda Peters. (HarperCollins)

Michelle Good says: "A multi-layered story that steps beyond the story of one family and into the story of hundreds of thousands of families whose children were stolen from them."

The Berry Pickers centres around a fictional, decades-old cold case of a missing four-year-old girl of a Mi'kmaq family from Nova Scotia. When four-year-old Ruthie goes missing from a blueberry field in Maine in 1962, her brother Joe — the last person to see her before she went missing — is forever changed by her disappearance. In Maine, a girl named Norma senses there is something her family isn't telling her. That feeling stays with her and eventually sets her off on a years-long journey to uncover the truth. 

32 Canadian books to read in spring 2023

Amanda Peters is a writer of Mi'kmaq and settler ancestry living in Annapolis Valley, N.S. Her work has appeared in the Antigonish Review, Grain Magazine, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Dalhousie Review and Filling Station Magazine. She was the winner of the 2021 Indigenous Voices Award for Unpublished Prose and was a participant in the 2021 Writers' Trust Rising Stars program

Amanda Peters reveals the inspiration behind her novel, The Berry Pickers.

Lines from a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudell

A composite image of a book cover with a bearded man with long hair, sunglasses and a hat sitting in a wooden chair with grass behind him beside a portrait of a man with sunglasses and a black blazer smiling into the camera.

Lines from a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudell is a collection of lyric and poetry by John Trudell. (Fulcrum Publishing,

Michelle Good says: "A compilation harvested from 25 years of the deeply spiritual and deeply political words of poet and activist John Trudell."

Lines from a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudell was published in 2008 and brings together poetry, essays and lyrics of Indigenous activist, musician, poet and artist John Trudell. Trudell, who gained renown as an activist and for being the spokesperson for the 1969 All Tribes' takeover of Alcatraz, turned to music and poetry and film after the tragic loss of his wife and children in 1979. He spent more than 25 years making music and films and writing.

John Trudell was a Santee Dakota-Mexican artist and activist. He died in 2015.

The Story of A National Crime by Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce

A composite image of a beige and burgundy book cover with the words The Story of a National Crime by P. H. Bryce written in black lettering on it and a black and white portrait of a man with dark hair and a large moustache looks off to the left of the frame.

The Story of A National Crime is a nonfiction book by Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce. (Forgotten Books, Peter Campbell)

Michelle Good says: "A republication of the passionate appeal that Dr. Bryce, chief medical officer for Indian Affairs published in 1922 articulating the desperate conditions in residential schools and calling on Canadians to rise up and speak out for their 'Indian Allies.' Brilliant and truth-telling about how much the government knew about how many children were dying in residential schools and how they chose to do nothing about it." 

The Story of a National Crime was a report by Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, the chief medical officer for Indian Affairs, that was first published in 1922 and re-published in 2018. The report outlined the horrific conditions Bryce witnessed at residential schools and called for action and for Canadians to speak up. The report shows how much the government knew about the harms of residential schools going back over 100 years and it is a testament to how little was done.

Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce was a public health physician who worked for the Canadian and Ontario governments. In addition to his work highlighting the conditions in residential schools, he also worked on immigrant health and wrote several papers on communicable diseases such as cholera, smallpox and malaria. He died in 1932.

More than a hundred years ago a doctor raised the alarm about what was happening in residential schools and was shut down by the government. Tonight a dramatic reading of Doctor Peter Henderson Bryce’s book ‘The Story of a National Crime’.

A National Crime by John S. Milloy

A book cover featuring a historical photograph of a young Indigenous boy.

A National Crime is a book by John S. Milloy. (University of Manitoba Press, CBC News)

Michelle Good says: "A scholarly and carefully researched history of the residential school system."

A National Crime is one of the first comprehensive studies of the residential school system. It was first published in 1997 and re-released 20 years later, as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Historian John S. Milloy looks at previously unreleased government documents — which he accessed while working on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples — to highlight the systemic racism and white supremacy that drove residential school policy and practices.

John S. Milloy is a historian and professor at Trent University in Ontario. He is also the author of The Plains Cree.

Manifest Manners by Gerald Vizenor

A colourful book cover. A man sitting by a riverbed wearing sunglasses and a denim jacket.

Manifest Manners is a book by Gerald Vizenor. (Bison Books)

Michelle Good says: "A brilliant post-modern contemplation of the creation of 'the Indian' as a colonial construct — an insistent overlay that serves to erase Indigenous identity as experienced by Indigenous people."

"Survivance" is a legal term that was given new meaning and relevance by Anishinaabe critic and writer Gerald Vizenor. He first used the term in his 1999 book, Manifest Manners: Narratives on Postindian SurvivanceVizenor reimagined the term in a contemporary Indigenous context to mean "an active sense of presence, the continuance of native stories, not a mere reaction, or a survivable name. Native survivance stories are renunciations of dominance, tragedy and victimry."

Gerald Vizenor is an Anishinaabe critic and writer who is currently a professor at the University of New Mexico. He has written more than 20 books, including Fugitive Poses: Native American Indian Scenes of Absence and Presence.

Survivance, edited by Gerald Vizenor

A composite image of an orange book cover with the words Survivance edited by Gerald Vizeno in written in black lettering on it and a portrait of a man with grey hair and sunglasses looking into the distance.

Survivance: Narratives of Native Presence is an anthology edited by Gerald Vizenor. (University of Nebraska Press,

Michelle Good says: "A collection of deeply considered contemplations on the critical difference between survival and survivance."

Survivance is a collection, which was published in 2008, wherein 18 scholars look at the lasting impact of the concept of survivance and the legacy of Anishinaabe critic and writer Gerald Vizenor's work.

Gerald Vizenor is an Anishinaabe critic and writer who is currently a professor at the University of New Mexico. He has written more than 20 books, including Fugitive Poses: Native American Indian Scenes of Absence and Presence.

The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

A green book cover featuring a photo of grass.

Susan Power is a member of the Standing Rock Tribe. (Berkley Books)

Michelle Good says: "A fabulously conceived, uniquely structured, time-defying novel that explores history and family and community relations on a non-linear continuum."

The Grass Dancer is a 1994 novel set on a reservation in North Dakota. It is a story inspired by Susan Power's Sioux heritage that weaves together several stories from members of the reservation to paint a rich tapestry of people, their connections, their hopes and dreams and their struggles.

Susan Power is a Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member from Chicago. The Grass Dancer s her debut novel. She is also the author of Strong Heart Society, Roofwalker and Sacred Wilderness.

Unbroken by Angela Sterritt

On the left is a black and orange book cover with a drawing of a woman who is holding up a feather. There is another woman standing beside her. There is white and orange white text overlay that is the book title and the author's name. On the right is a headshot photo of a woman who is smiling at the camera and wearing a black blazer with a yellow-coloured shirt.

Unbroken is a book by Angela Sterritt. (Greystone Books, CBC)

Michelle Good says: "A necessary read that personalizes the deep and dangerous world of being an Indigenous woman or girl in Canada."

In her memoir Unbroken, Angela Sterritt shares her story from navigating life on the streets to becoming an award-winning journalist. As a teenager, she wrote in her notebook to survive. Now, she reports on cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, showing how colonialism and racism create a society where Indigenous people are devalued. Unbroken is a story about courage and strength against all odds.

Angela Sterritt is a journalist, writer and artist. She currently works with CBC Vancouver as a host and reporter. Sterritt is a member of the Gitxsan Nation and lives on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territories, Vancouver.

LISTEN | Andrea Sterritt discusses Unbroken:


On The Coast12:09Angela Sterritt's book Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls

CBC reporter Angela Sterritt is a speaker, former community worker, mother, and artist. Now she's also the author of her memoir Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls.

Stolen by Ann-Helén Laestadius, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

A composite image of a white book cover with a reindeer and the word Stolen written in red lettering on it beside a portrait of a woman with dark brown hair and blue eyes looking into the camera.

Stolen is a novel by Ann-Helén Laestadius. (Simon & Schuster, Thron Ullberg)

Michelle Good says: "A gripping page-turner of a novel that is so much more. An excellent expression of the brutality of the colonial experience this time in the context of the Sámi, the Indigenous people of Scandinavia." 

Stolen is a contemporary coming-of-age novel. It was first published in 2021, then translated into English in 2023. It tells the story of an young Sámi girl named Elsa in Sweden, who must defend her family's culture and reindeer herd against climate change, hunters and racism in the broader community. Reindeer are Elsa's family's livelihood, but they also hold spiritual and cultural significance.

Stolen will be adapted into a film for Netflix.

Ann-Helén Laestadius is a writer and journalist of Sámi and of Tornedalian descent from Sweden. She is also the author of the children's book Ten Past One.

Rachel Willson-Broyles is translator from Minnesota who focuses on translating works from Swedish to English.

Intimate Integration by Allyson D. Stevenson

A composite image of a book cover featuring an illustrated Indigenous woman with three children around her beside a portrait of a woman with black hair and red lipstick and a dark blazer smiling into the camera.

Intimate Integration: A History of the Sixties Scoop and the Colonization of Indigenous Kinship by Allyson D. Stevenson. (University of Toronto Press, Kelsey Victoria Kerr)

Michelle Good says: "An absolutely brilliantly compiled, detailed history and analysis of the Sixties Scoop in the context of the colonial agenda to ultimately destroy Indigeneity." 

Intimate Integration is a 2020 book that looks at the history and impact of transracial adoption, including Adopt Indian and Métis Project and the Indian Adoption Project, which led to the Sixties Scoop. The Sixties Scoop was a policy in the 1950s through the 1980s, where Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed into foster care, then eventually with a white adoptive family. Intimate Integration looks at the irreparable harm it created on adoptees and their families, as another avenue to erase Indigenous identity and culture in the name of colonialism.

Allyson D. Stevenson is an assistant professor at the University of Regina and is the Gabriel Dumont Institute Chair in Métis Studies.

Winter in the Blood by James Welch

Black and white photo of a man with dark hair and black rimmed glasses next to the book cover with the title written sideways over a brown background

Winter in the Blood is a book by Indigenous writer James Welch. (Penguin Classics)

Michelle Good says: "His first novel, a seminal work, Winter in the Blood, is a brilliant example of understated prose that not only packs a storytelling punch but creates a poignant and perfect snapshot of a place in time." 

Winter in the Blood, first published in 1974, is a novel about an aimless young man searching for his girlfriend. His quest is a flurry of one-night stands and benders. But when he comes int him in contact with an elder named Yellow Calf, and this interact leads him to consider the deeper purpose to life.

What does it mean to tell Indigenous stories? These 3 authors explore the idea

James Welch was born in Browning, Montana, in 1940 and was raised on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap reservations. His first book of poetry, Riding the Earthboy 40, was published in 1971 and was followed by a series of acclaimed novels, including The Death of Jim Loney and Fools Crow. Welch was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1995. He died in 2003.

Highway of Tears by Jessica McDiarmid

An orange book cover featuring an artistic illustration of a stylized eye.

Highway of Tears is a book by Jessica McDiarmid. (Doubleday Canada, Wendy Perry)

Michelle Good says: "The title says it all. This book is a phenomenal accounting of the profound and complete failure of Canada to either serve or protect Indigenous women and girls."

The Highway of Tears is an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia where many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered. In Highway of Tears, journalist Jessica McDiarmid investigates some of the tragedies that have taken place along this road and explores the larger societal and cultural issues that have led to this crisis.

Highway of Tears was on the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize shortlist.

Jessica McDiarmid is a journalist from British Columbia. Highway of Tears is her first book.

God is Red by Vine Deloria Jr.

A book cover featuring a photo of a man sitting on stage in dramatic lighting.

God is Red is a book by Vine Deloria Jr. (Fulcrum Publishing)

Michelle Good says: "Probably the very best articulation of Indigenous spirituality and the imperative that humans learn that we are a part of nature not a 'transcendent species with no responsibility to the natural world.'"

God is Red was first published in 1973, and a 50th anniversary edition is being released in June 2023. God is Red is considered a seminal text when it comes to highlighting and exploring Indigenous spirituality, weaving together long-held beliefs and practices with important questions for contemporary times.

10 books to read if you loved Canada Reads winner Five Little Indians

Vine Deloria Jr. is a historian, theologian, academic and activist from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He is the author of several other books, including Custer Died for Your Sins and Red Earth, White Lies. He died in 2005.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The book cover for Braiding Sweetgrass features a green braid rope coiled into a circle against a beige-brown background.

Braiding Sweetgrass is a book by Robin Wall Kimmerer. (Dale Kakkak, Milkweed Editions)

Michelle Good says: "An incomparable expression of the necessity and suddenly obvious benefits of marrying traditional ecological knowledge with conventional science." 

Braiding Sweetgrass, first published in 2013, finally became a runaway bestseller nearly a decade later. American scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer blended the study of botany with Indigenous lore to highlight the important lessons we can take from nature, if we only stop to look.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is an American scientist, professor and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is an acclaimed botanist who blends her scientific studies with her Indigenous upbringing. She says there is much to be learned about how to interact respectfully with the earth, from the behaviour of plants.

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults by Robin Wall Kimmerer, adapted by Monique Gray Smith & illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt

The book cover for Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults features two illustrated hands braiding a rope of sweetgrass. On either side of the rope, the book cover below is purple and above is beige.

Writer Monique Gray Smith, left, and illustrator Nicole Neidhardt, right, adapted Robin Wall Kimmerer's book, Braiding Sweetgrass, for young adults. (Centric Photography, Lerner Publishing Group, Dean Kaylan)

Michelle Good says: "This essential text brilliantly transposed for young adults."

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adultsbrings Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the lessons Kimmerer brought to the fore to a younger generation. Adapted by writer Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt, this new edition reinforces the importance of gaining ecological knowledge from earth's oldest teachers: the plants around us. 

Monique Gray Smith is a mixed-heritage — Cree, Lakota and Scottish — author who often writes and speaks about the resilience of Indigenous communities in Canada. She is also the author of the children's books Speaking Our Truth and You Hold Me Up and the novels Tilly and Tilly and the Crazy Eights.

Why Monique Gray Smith almost stopped writing Speaking Our Truth

Nicole Neidhardt is a Diné visual artist and illustrator. Smith and Neidhardt previously collaborated on When We Are Kinda children's book that celebrates simple acts of everyday kindness.Monique Gray Smith and Nicole Neidhardt on Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults.

American Holocaust by David E. Stannard

An orange, black and red book cover floating on a blurry orange and black background.

American Holocaust is a book by David E. Stannard. (Oxford University Press)

Michelle Good says: "With peerless, impeccably substantiated scholarship and horrifying detail, Stannard tells the real story and the staggering death toll of Indigenous peoples post 1492. He makes an unimpeachable case for the fact that the subsequent attack on Indigenous peoples was an apocalyptic, demographic disaster." 

In the 1993 work American Holocaust, historian David E. Stannard tells the story of how the first European contact in North America in 1492 led to the mass death of Indigenous people, thanks to the influx of diseases, war, conflict and the introduction of European cultural practices and religion. More than 100 million Indigenous people died over the next 400 years. American Holocaust tells the story of Indigenous people before and after this first contact and explores the European ideologies that lead to this happening.

Tracey Lindberg on telling Indigenous stories

David E. Stannard is a Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii. He is also the author of The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and Social ChangeShrinking History: On Freud and the Failure of Psychohistory.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

A book cover featuring a historical photo of a young Indigenous man.

Dee Brown documents the history of harm done to Indigenous people in America in his bestselling book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. (Open Road Media, Henry Holt & Co.)

Michelle Good says: "Originally published in 1970 this was one of, if not the first book, to challenge the non-Indigenous version of the history of America and to painstakingly record the deception and callous and casual brutality of the so-called Indian Wars." 

First published in 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was one of the first mainstream books to cover the history of Indigenous people in the United States. Dee Brown used historical records, first-hand accounts and other writings to paint the picture of the Indigenous people in the American West as they faced displacement, violence, war and broken treaties and promises, as told through from the perspective of prominent Indigenous leaders who lived it.

Dee Brown was an American novelist and historian who wrote more than 25 books about the American west and history. He died in 2002.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

A smiling woman sitting in front of a book shelf. A blue, green and purple book cover, where the colours look like paint stripes across the cover.

The Night Watchman is a novel by Louise Erdrich. (Dawn Villella, Associated Press, HarperCollins)

Michelle Good says: "A tenderly written novel based on the story of Erdrich's grandfather who like so many of Indigenous activists in the early days made tremendous contributions to protecting Indigenous lands and rights at a great cost to themselves. "

The Night Watchman is a novel based on the life of Louise Erdrich's grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and fought against Native dispossession in the United States. Thomas Wazhashk is a watchman at a factory in North Dakota and Pixie "Patrice" Paranteau works there, saving money to move to Minneapolis. The Night Watchman is a novel about racism, systemic oppression and poverty but also about love, dreams and fighting for what is right.

Louise Erdrich is an American writer whose novels include The Plague of Doves, The Round House, which won the National Book Award for Fiction, and Future Home of the Living God.

Eleanor spoke with Louise Erdrich, onstage, in front of a packed house at Harbourfront in Toronto.

Four Souls by Louise Erdrich(and the entire Love Medicine series)

A white book cover featuring a line illustration of 4 tents: blue, yellow, red and green. A smiling woman sitting in front of a bookshelf.

Four Souls is a book by Louise Erdrich. (Harper Perennial, Dawn Villella/Associated Press)

Michelle Good says: "Consciousness bending fiction reflective of how things once were and are now."

Four Souls is the seventh book book in Louise Erdrich's eight-book Love Medicine series. First published in 2004, Four Souls follows Fleur Pillager, an Ojibwe woman, who is seeking revenge against a white man who stole her land.

The series also includes 1984's Love Medicine, 1986's The Beet Queen, 1988's Track, 1994's The Bingo Palace, 1997's Tales of Burning Love, 2001's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse and 2005's The Painted Drum.

Louise Erdrich is an American writer whose novels include The Plague of Doves, The Round House, which won the National Book Award for Fiction, and Future Home of the Living God.

Halfbreed by Maria Campbell

A black book cover featuring a photo of a woman whose face is partially hidden by shadows.

Maria Campbell discusses the re-release of her memoir Halfbreed. (Sheena Goodyear/CBC, Penguin Random House Canada )

Michelle Good says: "Maria Campbell's memoir will be a classic forever, elevated by its unadulterated authenticity. This beautiful Métis woman's story, told with no holds barred, is a must in understanding mid-century brutality aimed at the Métis." 

Maria Campbell's memoir Half-Breed documents the brutal realities of poverty, pain and the degradation she experienced as a Métis woman growing up in Canada's prairies. Drug addiction and alcoholism kept her behind hospital doors and prison walls. When Campbell began to take pride in her Métis heritage, she found new purpose in life.

Maria Campbell is a Métis elder, author, playwright, broadcaster and filmmaker, best known for the classic 1973 memoir Halfbreed. She was named to the Order of Canada for her contributions to national literature in 2008.

Respected Metis elder Maria Campbell on the important role books and storytelling played in her life.

Surviving Canada, edited by Kiera L. Ladner & Myra Tait

A simple white book cover with bold red and black text.

Surviving Canada is a book edited by Kiera L. Ladner and Myra Tait. (Arbeiter Ring)

Michelle Good says: "The Indian Act, Idle No More, and the legacy of residential schools are just a few of the topics covered by a wide range of elders, scholars, artists and activists. Contributors include Mary Eberts, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Leroy Little Bear."

Published in 2017 to coincide with Canada's 150th birthday, Surviving Canada is a collection of writing that reflects on Indigenous people's fraught and complex relationship with Canada. 

Kiera L. Ladner is an associate professor at the University of Manitoba. She also is the co-editor of This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades alongside Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

Myra Tait is a law student and a member of Berens River First Nation in Manitoba.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.


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