Native American History

Aside from what we were taught in elementary school, how many of us have a really in depth understanding of Native American history? This list of carefully chosen titles offers well documented, fascinating accounts of America’s indigenous peoples, going as far back as before Columbus.


Compiled by:
Jim G.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Charles C. Mann
Adult Nonfiction 970.011 Ma

In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them.


Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Dee Alexander Brown
Adult Nonfiction 978.0049 Bro

Dee Brown's classic, eloquent, meticulously documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. A national bestseller in hardcover for more than a year after its initial publication and immediately recognized as a revelatory and enormously controversial book since its first publication in 1971, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is universally recognized as one of those rare books that forever changes the way its subject is perceived.


Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

Chester Nez
Adult Nonfiction 921 Nez Nez

During World War II, the Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. But when the Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken code in modern warfare—and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.


Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors

Stephen E. Ambrose
Adult Nonfiction 973.8209 Amb

On the sparkling morning of June 25, 1876, 611 men of the United States 7th Cavalry rode toward the banks of the Little Bighorn in the Montana Territory, where 3,000 Indians stood waiting for battle. The lives of two great warriors would soon be forever linked throughout history: Crazy Horse, leader of the Oglala Sioux, and General George Armstrong Custer. Both were men of aggression and supreme courage. Both became leaders in their societies at very early ages; both were stripped of power, in disgrace, and worked to earn back the respect of their people. And to both of them, the unspoiled grandeur of the Great Plains of North America was an irresistible challenge. Their parallel lives would pave the way, in a manner unknown to either, for an inevitable clash between two nations fighting for possession of the open prairie.


Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

S. C. (Samuel C.) Gwynne
Adult Nonfiction 978.0049 Gwy

In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.


The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier

Adam Jortner
Indiana Room 973.5 Jor

It began with an eclipse. In 1806, the Shawnee leader Tenskwatawa ("The Open Door") declared himself to be in direct contact with the Master of Life, and therefore, the supreme religious authority for all Native Americans. Those who disbelieved him, he warned, "would see darkness come over the sun." William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory and future American president, scoffed at Tenskwatawa. If he was truly a prophet, Harrison taunted, let him perform a miracle. And Tenskwatawa did just that, making the sun go dark at midday. In The Gods of Prophetstown, Adam Jortner provides a gripping account of the conflict between Tenskwatawa and Harrison, who finally collided in 1811 at a place called Tippecanoe. Though largely forgotten today, their rivalry determined the future of westward expansion and shaped the War of 1812.


The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

Bob Drury
Adult Nonfiction 921 Red Cloud Dru

Red Cloud was the only American Indian in history to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the government to sue for peace on his terms. At the peak of Red Cloud’s powers the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States and the loyalty of thousands of fierce fighters. But the fog of history has left Red Cloud strangely obscured. Now, thanks to the rediscovery of a lost autobiography, and painstaking research by two award-winning authors, the story of the nineteenth century’s most powerful and successful Indian warrior can finally be told.


An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Adult Nonfiction 970.0049 Dun

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military.


Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab

Steve Inskeep
Adult Nonfiction 973.56 Ins

Jacksonland is the thrilling narrative history of two men—President Andrew Jackson and Cherokee Chief John Ross—who led their respective nations at a crossroads of American history. Five decades after the Revolutionary War, the United States approached a constitutional crisis. At its center stood two former military comrades locked in a struggle that tested the boundaries of our fledgling democracy.


The Other Trail of Tears: The Removal of the Ohio Indians

Mary Stockwell
Adult Nonfiction 970.5 Sto

The Story of the Longest and Largest Forced Migration of Native Americans in American History The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was the culmination of the United States’ policy to force native populations to relocate west of the Mississippi River. The most well-known episode in the eviction of American Indians in the East was the notorious “Trail of Tears” along which Southeastern Indians were driven from their homes in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to reservations in present-day Oklahoma. But the struggle in the South was part of a wider story that reaches back in time to the closing months of the War of 1812, back through many states—most notably Ohio—and into the lives of so many tribes, including the Delaware, Seneca, Shawnee, Ottawa, and Wyandot.


Tecumseh: A Life

John Sugden
Indiana Room 921 Tecumseh Sug

If Sitting Bull is the most famous Indian, Tecumseh is the most revered. Although Tecumseh literature exceeds that devoted to any other Native American, this is the first reliable biography--thirty years in the making--of the shadowy figure who created a loose confederacy of diverse Indian tribes that extended from the Ohio territory northeast to New York, south into the Florida peninsula, westward to Nebraska, and north into Canada.