Essential Reading: Indigenous Peoples of North America

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, recognized by the United Nations, is observed every year on August 9th. But there is a large group of people in the United States that believes there should also be a day recognizing and celebrating the indigenous peoples of this continent, and there’s a specific day they want to use to reclaim it. Just last year, a unanimous vote of their city council elected that the second Monday in October be celebrated as Indigenous Peoples Day in the city of Seattle. Other cities and states in the United States have acknowledged the day as Native American Day or Discoverers’ Day.

Right now, it’s on American calendars as Columbus Day.

If you’ve got the day off, take some time to explore the other side of the story with some interesting titles.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

The Illustrated Edition is the ultimate version of the 1970 classic. Not only does it include the full text of the book, but it has been curated with so much more additional historical material. This is the premier title about the history of the native peoples of the United States. It is difficult to take in a full swallow, but the breakup of the information with pictures and annotations allows for easily chewable bits. (The non-illustrated version is also available in both printopens a new window and ebookopens a new window formats, as well as downloadble audioopens a new window.)

Blood and Thunder

While the central focus of this book is Kit Carson, this book kicks you in the side with a well researched and thought out exploration of Western Expansion in the eyes of both the settlers and the people already settled. I wanted to throw things when I finished this book. (This is also available in downloadable audio on Overdriveopens a new window, which is why I didn't just throw the book.)

And more:

Lakota WomanIn the Hands of the Great SpiritThe Heart of Everything That IsHome



There are so many titles. And these are just the nonfiction. And there is even moreopens a new window in this list by a Brooklyn Public Library patron.

The terminology for reference to the tribal peoples that reside within the United States varies by resource. For instance, in our Gale research database, U.S. History in Context, the best results, particularly for primary sources, is by using the search term "American Indians"opens a new window, which is the designation elected for preferred use by tribal peoples in the mid-1990s, and is the most largely adopted academic term. You can also retrieve information searching "Native Americans" or "Native American Indians".

Want something just as important but a little more...fun? Here are some great books--primarily novels--by and about indigenous peoplesopens a new window. And here are some great teen/YA picksopens a new window, and children's picksopens a new window. Most of the authors listed, like Sherman Alexieopens a new window and Joseph Bruchacopens a new window, have a pretty strong repertoire behind them, so you might want to check them out more deeply.

If you want to take some time from reading after you've made it through a few of these, check out some of the documentaries or scripted films on Indieflixopens a new window. Search or browse the collection for interesting stories about history and the present for various members of tribal communities. Or watch some of the streaming videos from PBSopens a new window, including the We Shall Remain series.

And if you ever want to know more, check out what's going on at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indianopens a new window.