Nonfiction by Native American Authors

Nonfiction by Native American Authors

Nonfiction works from Native American authors that include poetry, history, recipes, and more.


Abandon Me: Memoirs

Melissa Febos
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Febos Feb

In her critically acclaimed memoir, Whip Smart, Melissa Febos laid bare the intimate world of the professional dominatrix, turning an honest examination of her life into a lyrical study of power, desire, and fulfillment. In her dazzling Abandon Me, Febos captures the intense bonds of love and the need for connection -- with family, lovers, and oneself. First, her birth father, who left her with only an inheritance of addiction and Native American blood, its meaning a mystery. As Febos tentatively reconnects, she sees how both these lineages manifest in her own life, marked by compulsion and an instinct for self-erasure. Meanwhile, she remains closely tied to the sea captain who raised her, his parenting ardent but intermittent as his work took him away for months at a time. Woven throughout is the hypnotic story of an all-consuming, long-distance love affair with a woman, marked equally by worship and withdrawal. In visceral, erotic prose, Febos captures their mutual abandonment to passion and obsession -- and the terror and exhilaration of losing herself in another. At once a fearlessly vulnerable memoir and an incisive investigation of art, love, and identity, Abandon Me draws on childhood stories, religion, psychology, mythology, popular culture, and the intimacies of one writer's life to reveal intellectual and emotional truths that feel startlingly universal.


American Indian Stories

Zitkala-Sa
ebook

Sioux writer and activist Zitkala-Sa (1876-1938) was born in the year of the infamous Battle of Little Big Horn--her people's last victory over the invasion forces that would soon force them onto reservations, on one of which she grew up under a regime of forced assimilation. Her writing career blossomed early, with stories published in the Atlantic Monthly when she was in her early twenties. She could have been a mere exotic, but she found a way to capture the interest of non-Indian readers, who preferred the romanticized noble savage to the often-sad reality of Indian life, and to give voice to her threatened culture. Her work, surprisingly, seems undated, perhaps because, unfortunately, the situation of Indian people has changed so little.


As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Adult Nonfiction - 970.0049 Gil

Interrogating the concept of environmental justice in the U.S. as it relates to Indigenous peoples, this book argues that a different framework must apply compared to other marginalized communities, while it also attends to the colonial history and structure of the U.S. and ways Indigenous peoples continue to resist, and ways the mainstream environmental movement has been an impediment to effective organizing and allyship.


Black Elk Speaks

Black Elk
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Black Elk Bla

Black Elk Speaks, the story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and his people during momentous twilight years of the nineteenth century, offers readers much more than a precious glimpse of a vanished time. Black Elk's searing visions of the unity of humanity and Earth, conveyed by John G. Neihardt, have made this book a classic that crosses multiple genres. Whether appreciated as the poignant tale of a Lakota life, a history of a Native nation, or an enduring spiritual testament, Black Elk Speaks is unforgettable


The Broken Cord

Michael Dorris
Adult Nonfiction - 362.1968 Dor

This book is the inspiring story of a family confronted with a problem with no known solution and the first book for the general reader that describes the tragedy and lifelong blight of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In 1971, Michael Dorris became one of the first unmarried men in the United States to legally adopt a very young child, and affectionate Sioux Indian he named Adam. At that time, little was revealed about Adam's past except that his biological mother died of alcohol poisoning. During the course of the next two decades, the growing Dorris family (through the single-parent adoption of two more infants, and the 1981 marriage to writer Louise Erdrich, which produced three more children) went through a time of alarming discovery as the new information about the genetic and cultural causes of FAS became apparent and paralleled the family's battle to solve their oldest son's developing health and learning problems. Author Michael Dorris explains how traditions weave through the lives of many Native Americans and how alcoholism and despair have shattered so many lives. He also chronicles the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome on their adopted son and on the Native American community as a whole.


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

Dee Alexander Brown
Adult Nonfiction - 978.0049 Bro

First published in 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee generated shockwaves with its frank and heartbreaking depiction of the systematic annihilation of American Indian tribes across the western frontier. In this nonfiction account, Dee Brown focuses on the betrayals, battles, and massacres suffered by American Indians between 1860 and 1890. He tells of the many tribes and their renowned chiefs—from Geronimo to Red Cloud, Sitting Bull to Crazy Horse—who struggled to combat the destruction of their people and culture. Forcefully written and meticulously researched, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee inspired a generation to take a second look at how the West was won. 


Crazy Brave: A Memoir

Joy Harjo
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Harjo Har

A memoir from the Native American poet describes her youth with an abusive stepfather, becoming a single teen mom, and how she struggled to finally find inner peace and her creative voice.


Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices

Lisa Charleyboy, Mary Beth Leatherdale
Adult Nonfiction - 704.0397 Dre

Anthology of art and writings from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today. Emerging and established Native artists, including acclaimed author Joseph Boyden, renowned visual artist Bunky Echo Hawk, and stand-up comedian Ryan McMahon, contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous, expressing them through such mediums as art, food, the written word, sport, dance, and fashion. Renowned chef Aaron Bear Robe explains how he introduces restaurant customers to his culture by reinventing traditional dishes. And in a dramatic photo spread, model Ashley Callingbull and photographer Thosh Collins reappropriate the trend of wearing 'Native' clothing. Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing hopes for the future, Dreaming In Indian refuses to shy away from difficult topics.


Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers: Poems

Jake Skeets
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Ske

Jake Skeets’s collection is an unflinching portrait of the actual west, [but] it is also a fierce reclamation of a living place―full of beauty as well as brutality, whose shadows are equally capable of protecting encounters between boys learning to become, and to love, men. Its landscapes are ravaged, but they are also startlingly lush with cacti, yarrow, larkspur, sagebrush. And even their scars are made newly tender when mapped onto the lover’s body: A spine becomes a railroad. “Veins burst oil, elk black.” And “becoming a man / means knowing how to become charcoal.” Rooted in Navajo history and thought, these poems show what has been brewing in an often forgotten part of the American literary landscape, an important language, beautiful and bone dense.


Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku

Gerald Robert Vizenor
Adult Nonfiction - 811.54 Viz

Favor of Crows is a collection of new and previously published original haiku poems over the past forty years. Gerald Vizenor has earned a wide and devoted audience for his poetry. In the introductory essay the author compares the imagistic poise of haiku with the early dream songs of the Anishinaabe, or Chippewa. Vizenor concentrates on these two artistic traditions, and by intuition he creates a union of vision, perception, and natural motion in concise poems; he creates a sense of presence and at the same time a naturalistic trace of impermanence.


Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

Robin Wall Kimmerer
Adult Nonfiction - 588.2 Kim

Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering moss is a mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses. In this series of linked personal essays, Robin Kimmerer leads general readers and scientists alike to an understanding of how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings. Kimmerer explains the biology of mosses clearly and artfully, while at the same time reflecting on what these fascinating organisms have to teach us. Drawing on her experiences as a scientist, a mother, and a Native American, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of indigenous ways of knowing. In her book, the natural history and cultural relationships of mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.


God is Red: A Native View of Religion

Vine Deloria
Adult Nonfiction - 299.7 Del

First published in 1972, Vine Deloria Jr.'s God Is Red remains the seminal work on Native religious views, asking new questions about our species and our ultimate fate. Celebrating three decades in publication with a special 30th-anniversary edition, this classic work reminds us to learn "that we are a part of nature, not a transcendent species with no responsibilities to the natural world." It is time again to listen to Vine Deloria Jr.'s powerful voice, telling us about religious life that is independent of Christianity and that reveres the interconnectedness of all living things.


Heart Berries

Terese Marie Mailhot
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Mailhot Mai

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father-an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist-who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame. Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.


The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present

David Treuer
Adult Nonfiction - 970.0049 Tre

The received idea of Native American history--as promulgated by books like Dee Brown's mega-bestselling 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee--has been that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. Not only did one hundred fifty Sioux die at the hands of the U. S. Cavalry, the sense was, but Native civilization did as well. Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist, and researching Native life past and present for his nonfiction and novels, David Treuer has uncovered a different narrative. Because they did not disappear--and not despite but rather because of their intense struggles to preserve their language, their traditions, their families, and their very existence--the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention. In The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes' distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don't know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.


The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America

Thomas King
Adult Nonfiction - 970.1 Kin

In this book, the author offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian-White relations in North America since initial contact. In the process, he refashions old stories about historical events and figures. Ranging freely across the centuries and the Canada-U.S. border, he debunks fabricated stories of Indian savagery and White heroism, takes an oblique look at Indians (and cowboys) in film and popular culture, wrestles with the history of Native American resistance and his own experiences as a Native rights activist, and articulates a profound, revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. At once a "history" and the complete subversion of a history, this is a critical and personal meditation that the author has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be "Indian" in North America. This book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other.


Lakota Woman

Mary Brave Bird
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Brave Bird Bra

Mary Brave Bird grew up fatherless in a one-room cabin, without running water or electricity, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rebelling against the aimless drinking, punishing missionary school, narrow strictures for women, and violence and hopeless of reservation life, she joined the new movement of tribal pride sweeping Native American communities in the sixties and seventies. Mary eventually married Leonard Crow Dog, the American Indian Movement's chief medicine man, who revived the sacred but outlawed Ghost Dance.


The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway

Basil Johnston
Adult Nonfiction - 299.783 Joh

These are the stories of the Manitous--the spirits who inhabit the supernatural world of the Ojibway (the Native American tribe of the Great Lakes and central Canada region). Harvested by an eminent expert from an ancient oral tradition, these sacred stories introduce wily tricksters, fearsome giants, timorous tree spirits, seductive maidens, and wise grandmothers. Here, a coward masquerading as a hero becomes one; a powerful warrior is riled and routed by a younger sibling with a gift for dancing and disguises; and the ever-hungry evil weendigos--evil manitous--haunt the land. In spellbinding and hypnotic fashion, the creation and flood legends are told, and the origin stories of corn, spruce, and tobacco are revealed. Comic, erotic, dramatic, and tragic, these engrossing tales are a window into the heart of an ancient culture, an important contribution to Native American literature, and a fascinating source of spiritual guidance for the many followers of New Age mysticism.


Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Jesmyn Ward
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Ward War

Recounts the loss of five young men in the author's life to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the misfortune that can follow those who live in poverty, sharing her experiences of living through the dying as she searches through answers in her community.


My Body is a Book of Rules

Elissa Washuta
921 Washuta Was

As Elissa Washuta makes the transition from college kid to independent adult, she finds herself overwhelmed by the calamities piling up in her brain. When her mood-stabilizing medications aren’t threatening her life, they’re shoving her from depression to mania and back in the space of an hour. Her crisis of American Indian identity bleeds into other areas of self-doubt; mental illness, sexual trauma, ethnic identity, and independence become intertwined. Sifting through the scraps of her past in seventeen formally inventive chapters, Washuta aligns the strictures of her Catholic school education with Cosmopolitan’s mandates for womanhood, views memories through the distorting lens of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and contrasts her bipolar highs and lows with those of Britney Spears and Kurt Cobain. Built on the bones of fundamental identity questions as contorted by a distressed brain, My Body Is a Book of Rules pulls no punches in its self-deprecating and ferocious look at human fallibility.


Native Voices: Indigenous American Poetry, Craft and Conversations

CMarie Fuhrman, Dean Rader
- Editor
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Nat

In this groundbreaking anthology of Indigenous poetry and prose, Native poems, stories, and essays are informed with a knowledge of both what has been lost and what is being restored. It presents a diverse collection of stories told by Indigenous writers about themselves, their histories, and their present. It is a celebration of culture and the possibilities of language, in conversation with those poets and storytellers who have paved the way. A truly synergetic collection of contemporary and early Native voices.


Nature Poem

Tommy Pico
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Pic

Nature Poem follows Teebs―a young, queer, American Indian (or NDN) poet―who can’t bring himself to write a nature poem. For the reservation-born, urban-dwelling hipster, the exercise feels stereotypical, reductive, and boring. He hates nature. He prefers city lights to the night sky. He’d slap a tree across the face. He’d rather write a mountain of hashtag punchlines about death and give head in a pizza-parlor bathroom; he’d rather write odes to Aretha Franklin and Hole. While he’s adamant―bratty, even―about his distaste for the word “natural,” over the course of the book we see him confronting the assimilationist, historical, colonial-white ideas that collude NDN people with nature. The closer his people were identified with the “natural world,” he figures, the easier it was to mow them down like the underbrush. But Teebs gradually learns how to interpret constellations through his own lens, along with human nature, sexuality, language, music, and Twitter. Even while he reckons with manifest destiny and genocide and centuries of disenfranchisement, he learns how to have faith in his own voice.


#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women

Lisa Charleyboy, Mary Beth Leatherdale
- Editor
Adult Nonfiction - 818 Not

Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian, #Not Your Princess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.


Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest

Heid E. Erdrich
Adult Nonfiction - 641.59297 Erd

Local foods have garnered much attention in recent years, but the concept is hardly new: indigenous peoples have always made the most of nature's gifts. Their menus were truly the "original local," celebrated here in sixty home-tested recipes paired with profiles of tribal activists, food researchers, families, and chefs. The innovative recipes collected here--from Ramp Kimchi to Three Sisters Salsa, from Manoomin Lasagna to Venison Mole Chili--will inspire home cooks not only to make better use of the foods all around them but also to honor the storied heritage they represent.


Our History is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance

Nick Estes
Adult Nonfiction - 978.0049 Est

How two centuries of Indigenous resistance created the movement proclaiming “Water is life” In 2016, a small protest encampment at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, initially established to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, grew to be the largest Indigenous protest movement in the twenty-first century. Water Protectors knew this battle for native sovereignty had already been fought many times before, and that, even after the encampment was gone, their anticolonial struggle would continue. In Our History Is the Future, Nick Estes traces traditions of Indigenous resistance that led to the #NoDAPL movement. Our History Is the Future is at once a work of history, a manifesto, and an intergenerational story of resistance.


Our Stories Remember: American Indian History, Culture, and Values through Storytelling

Joseph Bruchac
Adult Nonfiction - 973.0497 Br

An illuminating look at Native origins and lifeways, a treasure for all who value Native wisdom and the stories that keep it alive.


The Right to be Cold: One Woman's Fight to Protect the Arctic and Save the Planet from Climate Change

Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Watt-Cloutier Wat

The Right to Be Cold is Sheila Watt-Cloutier's memoir of growing up in the Arctic reaches of Quebec. It is the human story of life on the front lines of climate change, told by a woman who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential Indigenous environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.


The Turquoise Ledge

Leslie Silko
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Silko Sil

Leslie Marmon Silko's new book, her first in ten years, combines memoir with family history and reflections on the creatures and beings that command her attention and inform her vision of the world, taking readers along on her daily walks through the arroyos and ledges of the Sonoran desert in Arizona. Silko weaves tales from her family's past into her observations, using the turquoise stones she finds on the walks to unite the strands of her stories, while the beauty and symbolism of the landscape around her, and of the snakes, birds, dogs, and other animals that share her life and form part of her family, figure prominently in her memories. Strongly influenced by Native American storytelling traditions, The Turquoise Ledge becomes a moving and deeply personal contemplation of the enormous spiritual power of the natural world-of what these creatures and landscapes can communicate to us, and how they are all linked.

The book is Silko's first extended work of nonfiction, and its ambitious scope, clear prose, and inventive structure are captivating. The Turquoise Ledge will delight loyal fans and new readers alike, and it marks the return of the unique voice and vision of a gifted storyteller.


Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival

Velma Wallis
Adult Nonfiction - 9780060975845

Based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along from mother to daughter for many generations on the upper Yukon River in Alaska, this is the tragic and shocking story--with a surprise ending--of two elderly women abandoned by a migrating tribe that faces starvation brought on by unusually harsh Arctic weather and a shortage of fish and game. This story of survival is told with suspense by Velma Wallis, whose subject matter challenges the taboos of her past. Yet, her themes are modern--empowerment of women, the graying of America, growing interest in Native American ways.


The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America

John Demos
Adult Nonfiction - 973.25 De

The setting for this haunting and encyclopedically researched work of history is colonial Massachusetts, where English Puritans first endeavoured to "civilize" a "savage" native populace. There, in February 1704, a French and Indian war party descended on the village of Deerfield, abducting a Puritan minister and his children. Although John Williams was eventually released, his daughter horrified the family by staying with her captors and marrying a Mohawk husband.

Out of this incident, The Bancroft Prize-winning historian John Demos has constructed a gripping narrative that opens a window into North America where English, French, and Native Americans faced one another across gulfs of culture and belief, and sometimes crossed over.


The Way to Rainy Mountain

N. Scott Momaday
Adult Nonfiction - 299.78 Mom

The stories in The Way to Rainy Mountain are told in three voices. The first voice is the voice of my father, the ancestral voice, and the voice of the Kiowa oral tradition. The second is the voice of historical commentary. And the third is that of personal reminiscence, my own voice. There is a turning and returning of myth, history, and memoir throughout, a narrative wheel that is as sacred as language itself.


When My Brother Was an Aztec

Natalie Diaz
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Dia

"I write hungry sentences," Natalie Diaz once explained in an interview, "because they want more and more lyricism and imagery to satisfy them." This debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative: A sister fights for or against a brother on meth, and everyone from Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out. These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart, revealing teeth, tails, and more than a few dreams.


Whereas

Layli Long Soldier
Adult Nonfiction - 811.6 Lon

Whereas confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Through a virtuosic array of short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers, Layli Long Soldier has created a brilliantly innovative text to examine histories, landscapes, her own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations. “I am,” she writes, “a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation―and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.” This strident, plaintive book introduces a major new voice in contemporary literature.


The Winona LaDuke Reader: A Collection of Essential Writings

Winona LaDuke
Adult Nonfiction - 973.0497 La

This comprehensive book covers such topics as Native American affairs, women's and children's issues, environmental issues and mainstream politics. It's LaDuke's first complete collection of speeches, fictional writing and environmental/political pieces. As an advocate for Native American rights, champion of women's and children's issues, protector of the environment, LaDuke possesses a stirring passion that comes through in the forty speeches, articles and fictional excerpts in this book.