Native American (American Indian) GoodReads Members discussion

Must Read Books for Native Americans (American Indians)

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message 1: by Karen (new)

Karen | 2 comments What are some books that are or should be required reading for Native Americans?

Definitely Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and Black Elk Speaks.

What do you think?

message 2: by Connie (new)

Connie | 5 comments I would add Ceremony by Silko and a book called Waterlilly that explores the idea of Kinship.

message 3: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyhell) | 28 comments Mod
I would not include Black Elk Speaks. For one thing it was written by a white man who abused a friendship with an Elder, and the Elder was horrified by the book.

message 4: by Pamela (last edited Jul 18, 2010 08:26PM) (new)

Pamela | 10 comments I totally agree with Molly on the Black Elk Speaks comment.

Since this question is for what books should be must reads for US and not necessarily the general public......I would say "The Broken Cord" by Michael Dorris. This book is a personal account of FAS. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Dorris traces the history of and effects of years and years of alcohol abuse on the reservations. He became the adopted father of a Lakota boy with FAS.

For those of us who have experienced living on reservations in the United States, this is a great book on current social issues. And this issue is not one to be taken lightly with our younger Native generation. I was moved by the book and it opened my eyes to the addictive habits that are being passed down in my family. No one in my natural-born family has died of natural causes. They have all died of drugs and alcohol. For this reason, I will never drink.

Great book.

Dorris has taken some criticism in the fact that he was not an enrolled member of any nationally recognized tribe. That said, neither am I. I know and have felt the negative effects of this even with my own people.

I am Blackfoot Sioux. My mother is enrolled but gave birth to me off the reservation and lied on the birth certificate that I was german-irish so I could be given up for adoption......and not adopted by the tribe. She did this BECAUSE of the rampant drug, alcohol and sexual abuse in my family.

I have since come to know and embrace my Native heritage and KNOW and LOVE my family no matter how dysfunctional they are. They are my people. My mother cared enough for me to give me a chance at she has never gotten.

Bravo to Michael Dorris for attacking a "taboo" subject and making it tangible and real. I would definitely have this on my must read list for Native Americans.

OH............and ALL of Sherman Alexie. He ROCKS!!!

message 5: by Qwo-Li (new)

Qwo-Li | 4 comments Winona LaDuke's work is very necessary for all folks to read. And there's a book that can be really hard to find, but I think a hugely important book, by Dagmar Thorpe called _People of of the Seventh Fire: Returning Lifeways of Native America_. Read this for sure.

message 6: by Qwo-Li (new)

Qwo-Li | 4 comments Good suggestions!

I also really like Beth Brant's _A Gathering of Spirit_ and Gay American Indians/Will Roscoe's _Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology_.

message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael | 4 comments I would like to add a couple that should not be read. 1. The Education of Little Tree. (Written by a Klansman). ; and 2. The Teachings of Don Juan. (Fiction, passed of as research)

message 8: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyhell) | 28 comments Mod
Excellent adds, Michael.

Carlos Castaneda has no relation to truth in any way. But the hippies liked him I guess.

message 9: by Matt (new)

Matt | 1 comments I'd add Vine Deloria's An Indian Manifesto and Alcatraz! Alcatraz! The Indian Occupation of 1969-1971 (Adam Fortune Eagle). The second is written by one of the organizers of the occupation and a guy who's been very active and helped found the Intertribal Friendship House here in Oakland.

message 10: by J. (last edited Mar 17, 2010 12:08PM) (new)

J. Guevara (jguevara) | 5 comments Blue Highways, by Least Heat Moon. Excellent piece of writing by an Indian auther.
Wasi'chu: The Continuing Indian Wars. Bruce Johansen. If you think the Indian wars ended at Wounded Knee, read this. Americans have still not extracted enough revenge for the Little Big Horn.
Custer Died For Your Sins. Follow up to Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.
I have a bunch more if anyone's interested.

BTW, the word is Indian. Means 'People of God'. En(of) dias(god) in Columbus's pidgin Espaniol; he was Italian, remember? His Spanish was el sucko. It does not mean People of India. That's impossible. India in Columbus's time was called Hindustan. That 'common knowledge' story about how he called them Indians because he thought he was in India is a more recent American invention. Another one of the misconceptions they have of these people.

"All the problems of America can be traced back to the lax immigration standards of the American Indian." G Galbraith

j guevara

message 11: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (yahyah) I would include 'Hanta Yo'. Early 1800's Lakota life. Although the author is a white woman, supposedly the book is from written from historical accounts. Quite long (over a thousand pages I think) but an interesting read. Long after I read it, did it strike me that it may have been leading into the whole 'savage' aspect (the way the men treated their women was barbaric for the most part)

I've heard mixed reviews about the book, so if anyone has read it and can say if it's good or if it's historical BS. Let me know.

Thanks in advance!

PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 10 comments what about things fall apart

message 13: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (yahyah) gökçe wrote: "what about things fall apart"

Things Fall Apart is African. If there is a Native American related book with the same title, could you include the link to the book?

message 14: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (yahyah) Connie wrote: "I would add Ceremony by Silko and a book called Waterlilly that explores the idea of Kinship."

Ceremony is the first book I'm going to receive as a swap here at goodreads, and my first Silko novel I believe. I'm really hoping it will be good!

I recently finished Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. I really like it, but that seems to be the only novel she has written.

Any reviews/recommendations for anything by Stephen Graham Jones?

PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 10 comments I am sorry Caroline I forgot that

PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 10 comments WİNTER İN THE BLOOD

message 17: by J. (new)

J. Guevara (jguevara) | 5 comments 'Blue Highways' by Least Heat Moon.

message 18: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (yahyah) gökçe wrote: "I am sorry Caroline I forgot that"

haha absolutely no need to apologize! Things Fall Apart was a really good book anyways :o)

PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 10 comments I am studying in american literature departmen and all things messed up you cant imagine my exam paper which I believe you will enjoy to read cuz every book every character messed up

PaNdORa   (gökçe) (pandora-m) | 10 comments sand an email to my profs who dont have a good memory with me
I remember once I wrote the the things about a book which was another class's book

message 21: by Monica (new)

Monica | 24 comments I found a beautiful book on someones shelf yesterday

message 22: by Carol (new)

Carol (goodreadscomcarolann) Monica wrote: "I found a beautiful book on someones shelf yesterday"

thanks Monica -- I have put it on my to read list

message 23: by Monica (new)

Monica | 24 comments Message #4--Pamela I am touched by your post. Thank you for sharing your experience and insight.

Messages #3 and 4--Molly and Pamela please discuss further why you are so adamantly against Black Elk Speaks. On what do you base this? It's an extremely important book. The relationship between Black Elk and John Niehardt was a profound which Black Elk committed to, and was well aware of the purpose of the interviews. Without that relationship the world would not have firsthand insight into the Native American mind.

message #11--j Indian may mean 'people of god' but you are incorrect about Christopher Columbus. True he was Italian, true he was in charge of Spanish crews, but Columbus' "pidgeon espagnol" has nothing to do with why Native Americans were called "Indian". It is well documented that among other things, his 4 voyages were for the purpose of finding India. The Indies and West Indies are named so because Columbus was searching for India. May I suggest Hugh Thomas' brilliant book, Rivers of Gold

message 24: by Steven (new)

Steven | 1 comments A great book I just read was "Working in Indian Country" which is written for non-native business leaders who are working with Native Americans. The book says to think about the culture of the people you are doing business with.

message 25: by David (new)

David Groulx | 5 comments American Holocaust by David Stannard 1992
God is Red by Vine Deloria
Red Earth, White Lie Vine Deloria
Indians R' Us by Ward Churchill 1994
The Little Matter of Genocide 1998
Pick One

message 26: by Petter (last edited May 06, 2011 12:16PM) (new)

Petter Nordal (nordalisimo) | 8 comments Charles Eastman's "From Deep Woods to Civilization" is also a fabulous book, by someone who lived such dramatic changes and worked hard to help people survive. You don't have to agree with all his choices to learn the history.

message 27: by Gamson (new)

Gamson | 1 comments "To Become a Human Being: The Message of Tadodaho Chief Leon Shenandoah" by Steve Wall is a great book and if you like that, you can read "Travels in a Stone Canoe" also by Steve Wall for the background on how Leon and Steve came to be such good friends.
"Native American Testimony" by Peter Nabakov, history from Native Americans perspective.
"Keeper'N Me" by Richard Wagamese, his best so far.
"Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men" by Leonard Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes. Wonderful book, great historical account from the 1890's to the 1990's.
"How it is" by V. F. Cordova. Collection of academic essays and some poetry.....still I recommend it, what a great mind.

message 28: by Monica (new)

Monica | 24 comments Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions, Gramson.

message 29: by Zoe (new)

Zoe Saadia (zoesaadia) What a thorough list! Thank you :). Much to be added to TBR...

For me "Bury my heart..." is the must.
I also recently read and liked "Custer died for your sins"
and "Panther in the Sky" was a very good book in my opinion...

message 30: by David (new)

David Groulx | 5 comments read some of V. F. Cordova's essays, great stuff. I actually meet her years ago at University. I miss her so.

message 31: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 1 comments Message 12: Hanta Yo is one of the most amazing novels I've read--incidental to it being about Native Americans. Ableza's rise to manhood --his giveaway, the dramatic charge that gave the book its title-- some of the best and most moving stories I've ever read. I've heard that some Lakota objected to the book but don't know why...inaccurate portrayal? written by a non-Indian? too revealing?

BTW...I don't really see the point in skipping a wonderful book (Education of Little Tree and The Teachings of Don Juan were both great) because you have a beef with the author. Read them and judge the books on their merits--or don't and be the poorer for it.
Do you really think everything Sherman Alexie tells you really actually happened just like he said?

I also recommend Little Big Man by Thomas Berger.

message 32: by Monte (last edited Oct 17, 2011 10:48AM) (new)

Monte | 2 comments Hanta Yo is worth reading, if for nothing else to get a perspective different from the usual one of the dominant culture, the book was a collaboration between Ruthe Beebe Hill and Chunksa Yuta and was translated between english and lakota to help the language feel correct... the upside of the book is the relative admiration Hill has for her characters, the downside is the heavy christian message embedded in the story that is as ersatz as powdered eggs in a holiday inn after a night beneath the stars... Ahbleza ends up in a predictable and overused jesus christ pose, dying for the so-called "sins" of his brothers... genocide isnt mentioned... even ahbleza's mother betrays him by using cast iron! Also, lots of bossing each other around, as if a free people have to obey orders of their chief and are wrong when they do, definitely some problems, but interesting nonetheless...

message 33: by Monte (new)

Monte | 2 comments Also, anything by Vine Deloria Jr is important to read. Along with Leslie Marmon Silko... also, things like the diaries of lewis and clark because the most important cards at the table to know other than your own are your opponents!

message 34: by Petter (new)

Petter Nordal (nordalisimo) | 8 comments The issue with Castañeda and with Carter is not whether the books are good: the question is whether they are what they claim to be. Alexie claims his books are fiction. If Castañeda and Carter had made that claim, there would not be any controversy. They claimed they were just reporting someone else's ideas. They may be good books, but this is not a small point: the authors lied.

message 35: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyhell) | 28 comments Mod
Kevin wrote: "Message 12: Hanta Yo is one of the most amazing novels I've read--incidental to it being about Native Americans. Ableza's rise to manhood --his giveaway, the dramatic charge that gave the book it..."

If it is a lie, it's worth reading cause it's "wonderful"??? This is how misinformation gets spread and white people take it to heart and it becomes "Indian culture". Just because something is an enjoyable read doesn't follow that it has anything worthwhile to say. Castaneda was a complete liar. And WE suffered for it, not him.

message 36: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyhell) | 28 comments Mod
Petter wrote: "The issue with Castañeda and with Carter is not whether the books are good: the question is whether they are what they claim to be. Alexie claims his books are fiction. If Castañeda and Carter ha..."

Well said.

message 37: by Hannah (new)

Hannah | 1 comments James Welch: Fools Crow.

message 38: by Kristen (new)

Kristen James | 3 comments This thread caught my eye in my email. I'm curious what you would think of my novel, The River People. It's fiction but based on the way of life here in Western Oregon before everything changed. The real group is called Umpqua, and is active in the community and business here as The Umpqua Indians. I'm Osage but my family has been in Oregon for 5 generations. I wanted to write about what I know and love so I wrote about here. The book includes the salmon ceromony and the summer games, both of which are true.

I see people think it's very important that these books show the truth, so I wonder what how all of you respond to fictional stories based on a real way of life.

The River People by Kristen Nicole James

message 39: by David (new)

David Groulx | 5 comments Has anyone here heard of Tomson Highway?

message 40: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyhell) | 28 comments Mod
Well Kristen my question would be how deep did you go into their culture and did you ask their opinion of what you were putting in the book?

message 41: by Kristen (new)

Kristen James | 3 comments Hi Molly, I've only gotten positive feedback from Umpquas on the book in the way of, "That's a great book. I enjoyed it." Many general readers have said they love and appreciate the unique perspective and respect of the book. (My favorite feedback came from a writing competition that said they enjoyed my reverence for the culture.)

It's completely within their culture - no white man yet. I used my own love and understanding of this valley for the setting. The locations are very special to both the Umpquas and my family, especially South Umpqua Falls and the river. The culture of The River People is based on first impressions recorded by white men and their present day culture, both of which reflect a love of games and community.

I was curious if anyone who reads this type of book had read The River People. I think this group would have a different lens than readers at large.

message 42: by Paty (new)

Paty Jager | 7 comments Karen wrote: "What are some books that are or should be required reading for Native Americans?

Definitely Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown and Black Elk Speaks.

What do you think?"

I read this book so I could learn more about Native American people and whites in that time period for the trilogy I've written that is set among the Nez Perce.


message 43: by Red (last edited Jan 27, 2012 06:31AM) (new)

Red Haircrow (redhaircrow) | 15 comments I would agree with the person who suggested this author (and their assessment), and I enjoyed reading some of the works of Charles Alexander (Ohiyesa) Eastman Charles Alexander (Ohiyesa) Eastman

Such as:

Living in Two Worlds
The Soul of the Indian
From the Deep Woods to Civilization
and more.

message 44: by sarah (new)

sarah louise  (s_l_p) | 2 comments Must reads include the number of contemporary Native authors writing beautiful fiction. "If you want to understand the Native American more" you should read a wide variety of authors from various of the Nations, because there isn't such a thing as "the" Native American. Pan-tribal identity between Indians didn't come about until the AIM protests in the 60s/70s and things like the occupation of Alcatraz, and some authors write more from a perspective of an Indian living with the stereotypes of national American culture (Sherman Alexie) while others write from a fiercely intimate tribal nationalism (Cook Lynn).

- Connie early on mentioned "Waterlily" by Ella Deloria has fascinating information about Lakota tribal life pre-colonization
- "Love Medicine", "The Last Report of the Miracle at Little No Horse" and "Plague of Doves" (among others) by Louise Erdrich has gorgeous language and shows the complexity of colonial inheritance and contemporary life on reservations in North Dakota/Minnesota
- "Reservation Blues" by Sherman Alexie is a hilarious and tragic caricature of life for people living with American stereotypes of Indians
- "Aurelia: A Crow Creek Trilogy" by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn is a beautiful, quiet, fierce set of novels about Lakota families dealing with federal law and the courts and the flooding of native lands for the Oahe dam in South Dakota (Alexie and Cook-Lynn have a fascinating rivalry of opinions going on)
- "Wolfsong" by Louis Owens is a beautiful, true-to-life piece about a fictional tribe in the Northwest dealing with logging and struggling to keep heritage

There are a number of other authors --- Leslie Marmon Silko and N. Scott Momaday and Joy Harjo and Sherman Bitsui...etc...

message 45: by Belinda (last edited Nov 17, 2012 05:22PM) (new)

Belinda Garcia (belindavasquezgarcia) | 3 comments I hope I'm not violating any rules here but I think a must read is my book that I just came out with entitled Return of the Bones. I normally am not so blatant but the book is a work of historical fiction and deals with the 2,067 skeletons that were taken from the ghost Pueblo of Pecos and used for medical experiment over 85 years.

Not a lot of people are aware that Native American bones were used in this manner, but the surgeon general used to actually pay people to bring in the skulls of Native Americans.

Anyway, if anyone's interested, the book is free today through Tuesday. It's a very moving story and covers some other issues, such as the Sand Creek Massacre. It's historical fiction and I spent several years researching it.

The removal of these skeletons from their sacred burial ground was, also, the beginning of American Archaeology.

The free buy link is US free

UK free link -

Again, I apologize if I'm self-promoting but I just felt so passionate about these 2,067 Pecos skeletons and I wanted to tell their story.

Did you know that they were the skeletons that all the Landmark Osteoporosis studies were done on?
Return of the Bones by Belinda Vasquez Garcia

message 46: by Robert (new)

Robert Adams | 3 comments I hope you will like and read my book. It is about the Tlingit Indians of the Northwest in Southeast Alaska.

Dry Bay: The House of the Frog

message 47: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberpants) | 1 comments I am currently reading 'Dancing My Dream' by Warren Petoskey, an Odawa-Lakotah author. It has very traditional spiritual undertones mixed with Christianity, and is an autobiography. Despite being the first and only native biography I've read yet, I highly recommend it.

message 48: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 4 comments hello Everyone: Just finished reading "Crazy Brave: A Memoir" by Joy Harjo. If you are interested in her poetry and songs, it is a good book to get to know her a little. It is similar in the heartbreak as well as the strength of many generations of Native peoples.

It's a quick read; you are left wondering why she didn't write past the time period she ended the book at. that is my only complaint. I did want to know a bit more. All in all a good read.

message 49: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1 comments Like a Hurricane is good.

message 50: by Laura (new)

Laura Elwood | 2 comments I am very grateful to find this group and your shared knowledge and recommendations. In effort to give back to you, I recommend Big Medicine from Six Nations by Ted Williams. Uncle Ted was an amazing man with such love, wisdom, and an infectious sense of humor. He shares a lifetime of experiences and wisdom in this book. I don't believe there is much documented or shared in such an intimate way about the Tuscarora and life on the reservation where he grew up. I do know this book is a treasure for many people. I hope you will enjoy it as well.........Laura

From Publishers Weekly
Native American healer Williams (1930-2005) shares incredible stories of vision quests, songs of power and the healing abilities of Indian Medicine in the follow-up to his much-lauded 1976 title, The Reservation. A member of the Tuscarora Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy, Williams gives the unitiated a fascinating glimpse through the Longhouse door into Iroquois history and spiritualism. The reader learns of the Peacemaker, who founded the Iroquois Confederacy; of Hiawatha, who cured all psychological illness; of the Great Law of the Great Peace; and of the Thanksgiving Address that starts and ends each ceremonial event. Williams explains how Indian Medicine is a cross-discipline ability-at once physical, spiritual and psychical-to tap into and use the energy of the universe. Many of these short tales involve the supernatural world: witches, ghosts, scrying, shape shifting, energy spots and healing by hands; for instance, Williams relates the time he healed his own back-broken in an encounter with a falling tree-with energy from his hands. Williams provides many such compelling, campfire-story glimpses into everyday events of Iroquois society that modern Americans would consider something close to miraculous. This enjoyable read will prove both challenging and heartening for those with an open mind.

About the Author
Ted Williams died in September 2005 having just finished this book. He is the author of The Reservation (also published by Syracuse University Press), a modern classic of Iroquois literature.

Debra Roberts is a documentary filmmaker, book editor, theater director and performer, dancer, choreographer, and creative consultant. She lives outside Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and family.

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