Books about Native American Heritage

November 2, 2015

Books on Native American Heritage

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we want to highlight books by celebrated Native American authors and/or books about the Native American experience. All of these books can be borrowed from any BPL Branch Library.


By Leslie Marmon Silko

Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution. Tayo’s quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people. The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremony that defeats the most virulent of afflictions–despair.

Indian Killer
By Sherman Alexie

A national best seller, Indian Killer is arguably Sherman Alexie’s most controversial book to date–a gritty, racially charged literary thriller that, over a decade after its first publication, remains an electrifying tale of alienation and justice. A serial murderer called the Indian Killer is terrorizing Seattle, hunting, scalping, and slaughtering white men. Motivated by rage and seeking retribution for his people’s violent history, his grizzly MO and skillful elusiveness both paralyze the city with fear andprompt an uprising of racial brutality. Out of the chaos emerges John Smith. Born to Indians but raised by white parents, Smith yearns for his lost heritage. As his embitterment with his dual life increases, Smith falls deeper into vengeful madness and quickly surfaces as the prime suspect. Tensions mount, and while Smith battles to allay the anger that engulfs him, the Indian Killer claims another life. With acerbic wit and chilling page-turning intensity, Alexie takes an unflinching look at what nurtures rage within a race both colonized and marginalized by a society that neither values nor understands it.

Love Medicine
By Louise Erdrich

The first book in Erdrich’s Native American tetralogy that includes The Beet Queen, Tracks, and The Bingo Palace is an authentic and emotionally powerful glimpse into the Native American experience–now resequenced and expanded to include never-before-published chapters.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
By Dee Alexander Brown

Brown’s 1970 classic captures the Native American experience during the latter half of the 19th century. He describes how the U.S. government systematically eradicated Native groups to seize their homelands for distribution to white settlers. The escalating barbarity of the warfare culminated in the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, SD, one of the worst atrocities ever committed by the U.S. military. Brown’s monograph, alongside works such as Vine Deloria Jr.’s Custer Died for Your Sins, ushered in an era in Native American studies where the perspectives of Native peoples were brought to the fore. The original text is supplemented with full-color maps, illustrations, and photographs. Interspersed throughout are excerpts from the writings of Alvin M. Josephy Jr. and Russell Means that bring Brown’s work into the present day. Verdict This new edition is highly recommended for all readers interested in U.S. history.

The Grass Dancer
By Susan Power

Power’s first novel threads together contemporary Native American reservation life with the legends of her Dakota Sioux ancestors. A collection of related stories tells of unforgettable people like Anna Thunder and her mother, Mercury, who weave spells over young men; of Harley Wind Soldier, whose mother doesn’t speak; and of the young grass dancer, Pumpkin, with whom he falls in love. Also included is white teacher and counselor Jeanette McVay, who struggles to identify with the Sioux. There is magic, there are ghosts and spells, and there is some of the most beautiful writing to be found in any recent novel. Not to mention a scruffy dog named Chuck Norris.

Teen/Young Adult

Squanto and the First Thanksgiving
By Joyce Kessel

Describes how the Indian Squanto, an English-speaking Christian and former slave, whose village had been wiped out by smallpox, taught the Pilgrims the skills they needed to survive the harsh Massachusetts winter.

The New York Public Library Amazing Native American History
By Liz Sonneborn

Rather than a comprehensive study, this book addresses frequently asked questions about Native cultures. Chapters divide the various groups into geographical regions and the queries, different for each area, consider housing, language, famous people, and more. Readers will learn about Mesoamerican cultures, the Ghost Dance Ceremony, the Navajo Code Talkers, Native American life today, and other topics. Insets highlight items of special interest. Relevant facts are featured in bold in the wide margins. The final chapter, “Native Americans Today,” provides some interesting contrasts and ideas. The format will appeal to many readers and will serve teachers well for quick facts and discussion points. Average-quality, black-and-white photographs and reproductions illustrate the text. This appealing exploration of cultures should spur interest in the subject.

Indians of the Northeast: Traditions, History, Legends and Life
By Lisa Sita

Describes the daily lives, culture, beliefs, social structure, and environment of some of the diverse Native American peoples who lived in the northeastern part of North America when the Europeans began to arrive.

My Heroes, My People: African-Americans and Native Americans in the American West
By Morgan Monceaux

Presents brief portraits of an assortment of African Americans, Native peoples, and men and women of mixed heritage who played roles in the history of the American West.

The Iroquois
By Bruce Johansen

Surveys the history and culture of the Iroquois, a Native American confederacy based mainly in the area of New York state, discusses their influence in the creation of the United States, and looks at their modern-day status.

King Philip and the War with the Colonists
By Robert Cwiklik

Examines the life and fortunes of the Wampanoag Indian leader who led an uprising against the New England colonists in the seventeenth century.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
By Sherman Alexie

Contains a collection of twenty-four short stories that chronicle the daily life on a Native American Indian Reservation on Spokane, Washington.

By Louise Erdrich

In 1866, Omakayas’s son Chickadee is kidnapped by two ne’er-do-well brothers from his own tribe and must make a daring escape, forge unlikely friendships, and set out on an exciting and dangerous journey to get back home.


By Michael Dorris

Moss and Trouble, an Algonquin boy and girl, struggle with the problems of growing up in the Massachusetts area during the time of the first Thanksgiving.

Eagle Song
By Joseph Bruchac

After moving from a Mohawk reservation to Brooklyn, New York, eight-year-old Danny Bigtree encounters stereotypes about his Native American heritage.

A Kid’s Guide to Native American History
By Yvonne Wakim Dennis

Hands-on activities, games, and crafts introduce children to the diversity of Native American cultures and teach them about the people, experiences, and events that have helped shape America, past and present. Nine geographical areas cover a variety of communities like the Mohawk in the Northeast, Ojibway in the Midwest, Shoshone in the Great Basin, Apache in the Southwest, Yupik in Alaska, and Native Hawaiians, among others. Lives of historical and contemporary notable individuals like Chief Joseph and Maria Tallchief are featured, and the book is packed with a variety of topics like first encounters with Europeans, Indian removal, Mohawk sky walkers, and Navajo code talkers. Readers travel Native America through activities that highlight the arts, games, food, clothing, and unique celebrations, language, and life ways of various nations. Kids can make Haudensaunee corn husk dolls, play Washoe stone jacks, design Inupiat sun goggles, or create a Hawaiian Ma’o-hauhele bag. A time line, glossary, and recommendations for Web sites, books, movies, and museums round out this multicultural guide.

Thunder From the Clear Sky
By Marcia Sewall

This book starts where its companions Pilgrims of Plimoth and People of the Breaking Day left off. This is the story of two peoples meeting, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags, and the eventual clash of their beliefs and cultures. It is a tale of good intentions, misunderstandings, betrayal, and finally of terrible, all-out war, which ultimately destroyed the Native American way of life in New England.

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