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Exploring Indigenous Voices: Native American Authors We Should All Be Reading

In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, I've put together a collection of books by Native American authors, all of which are freely accessible and available through the Washoe County Library’s digital library system. This is by no means a complete collection of Native American authors. These are my personal favorites that have brought positive change to my life while highlighting the importance of celebrating indigenous voices. Comment below with your favorite Native American authors and we’ll be sure to check them out!

Access all the recommendations here:

Washoe County Library's Digital Library

Braiding Sweetgrass

Robin Kimmerer, enrolled member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation

In this book, Kimmerer so eloquently weaves together her education and professional experience in botany with the indigenous teachings she was raised on. Her work so wonderfully shows us that by combining centuries of indigenous knowledge with science, we can establish a better understanding of the natural world and how to restore and protect it.

Code Talker

by Joseph Bruchac, Nulhegan Abenaki citizen

Told as if telling a bedtime story to his grandchildren, the main character, Ned Begay or Kii Yazhi, tells of his time in boarding school where he was forced to learn English and assimilate into American culture. Later, when he’s in high school, the United States Marines are recruits him as part of an initiative to find Native Americans that can speak the Navajo language. Once a marine, Begay has to learn a secret code that the first platoon of Navajo speakers created that was such an integral part of allies winning the second world war. After learning the code, Begay continues his story telling of the emotional toll war took on him and what it was like to fight for a country that didn’t always respect him.

An American Sunrise

Joy Harjo, member of the Muscogee Creek Nation

Through a collection of poems intermingled with her family and tribal history, Harjo tells the story of The Trail of Tears, rediscovering her family's homeland, and connecting with the culture that was ripped from her ancestors.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

David Treuer, Ojibwe

Breaking down the idea that Native American culture was eliminated after the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, Treuer takes the reader all the way back to pre-colonial-era America correcting an often mis-told history. He then picks up at the massacre at Wounded Knee covering the struggles Native American’s have faced through broken treaties and forced assimilation. Treuer challenges biased, untrue American history, and the idea of American culture, and shows the importance of telling history through each participant's eyes.

Two Old Women

Velma Wallis, of Gwich’in Athabascan Indian Descent

This is a legend written into a novella you could read in an afternoon, Two Old Women follows two women left behind by their community due to the harsh winter and lack of resources. These women have to remember the skills they thought they no longer needed to survive the rough Alaskan winter and the following seasons.

Hearts Unbroken

Cynthia Lietich Smith, citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation

Filled with witty chapter titles and characters, Hearts Unbroken follows Louise who breaks up with her boyfriend just after junior prom for disrespecting her native heritage. She starts her senior year off as a writer for her school newspaper where she and her fellow classmates find themselves covering the diverse casting of the school musical that has upset their small Kansas town.

This book contains brief mentions of sex and underage drinking in the first chapter.

My Heart Fills with Happiness

Monique Gray Smith, of Cree and Lokato descent

A short picture book where the main character shares what makes her happy and her heart full. This would be a great way to introduce Native American voices in the classroom or at home with a younger audience!

We are Water Protectors

Carole Lindstrom, enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe

Beautifully illustrated in watercolor, this picture book tells the story of a little girl and her community’s fight against the oil pipelines that run through Native lands.


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