The best books to "unlearn" stereotypes about Indigenous peoples: indigeneity in the 21st century

Yvonne Wakim Dennis Author Of Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievements and Events
By Yvonne Wakim Dennis

Who am I?

It is a healing gesture to honor Indigenous Americans and others during the month-long celebrations intended to remedy the omission of groups, whose origins are not European. We need more! Let's create inclusivity! In an inclusive society, who are the "them" and who are the "us?" We all need to be recognized as citizens of our country instead of occasional entertainment for "drive-by" tourists of diversity. Inclusivity also means caring for all who share our planet:  all other animals; waters; terrains; plants, etc. My award-winning books have usually been about Native peoples of North America, particularly the United States, and how we have always been here and still exist. 

I wrote...

Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievements and Events

By Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder, Paulette F. Molin

Book cover of Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievements and Events

What is my book about?

Most Americans are clueless when it comes to anything about Indigenous people. Did you know that Native Americans serve in the United States' Armed Forces at five times the national average? The United States has had one Indigenous vice-president and Debra Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) serves as the first Native U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Who is credited with being the "Father of Pediatric Psychology?" You will read about all of these incredible firsts and much more in Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievements and Events. Chocked full of historical and contemporary information in wide-ranging areas from sculpture to science to music to economics to films and much more, Indigenous Firsts celebrates thousands of the accomplishments and victories of both Indigenous individuals, organizations, and nations.

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The books I picked & why

We Are Water Protectors

By Carole Lindstrom, Michaela Goade (illustrator),

Book cover of We Are Water Protectors

Why did I love this book?

Water is essential to all of us, not just Native peoples, but all people, plants, animals, and all life on our planet. This book with its gorgeous illustrations celebrates Indigenous-led movements to protect water and preserve our future. It's a call to action that urges each one of us, no matter how young, to champion justice for the environment. Lindstrom's words flow like water and carry us to the conclusion that there is hope if we all accept responsibility for the caretaking of our planet. 

By Carole Lindstrom, Michaela Goade (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked We Are Water Protectors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal
#1 New York Times Bestseller

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

Book cover of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Why did I love this book?

This is the correct history of the United States told from an Indigenous perspective. Spanning four centuries of violence, genocide, and devastation of Indigenous peoples, cultures, and economies, this book debunks the myth that the United States was formed as a democracy for all. Dunbar-Ortiz chronicles how the Doctrine of Discovery made the conquest and subjugation of Indigenous peoples a holy war.  She writes like a poet, squeezing lots of material into a small space—an essential read for those who want the truth about our country. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) and Jean Mendoza adapted the book for young people in a 2019 edition.

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

Now part of the HBO docuseries "Exterminate All the Brutes," written and directed by Raoul Peck

Recipient of the American Book Award

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples
Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortizoffers a history…

Murder on the Red River

By Marcie R. Rendon,

Book cover of Murder on the Red River

Why did I love this book?

We Americans are obsessed with mysteries from TV to Film to Books. And I am obsessed with the young sleuth, Cash Blackbear, the unlikely shero of Marcie R. Rendon. To date, there are three Blackbear mysteries: Murder on the Red River, Girl Gone Missing, and Sinister Graves. Blackbear did not have an enchanted childhood, but she not only survives—she thrives and solves cases with the astuteness, curiosity, and moxie of the most seasoned detective. Set in Northern Minnesota in the 1970s, the series heroine is 19, totally independent, hard-working, and somewhat of a pool hustler. Her one friend, Sherriff Wheaton, recognizes her brilliance and intuition and accepts and supports her. Blackbear helps him solve crimes, even if he protests. If you're a mystery fan, follow some Indigenous sleuths and Rendon's series is a great place to start.   

By Marcie R. Rendon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Murder on the Red River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One Book, One Minnesota Selection for Summer 2021
Introducing Cash Blackbear, a young Ojibwe woman whose visions and grit help solve a brutal murder in this award-winning debut.

1970s, Red River Valley between North Dakota and Minnesota: Renee “Cash” Blackbear is 19 years old and tough as nails. She lives in Fargo, North Dakota, where she drives truck for local farmers, drinks beer, plays pool, and helps solve criminal investigations through the power of her visions. She has one friend, Sheriff Wheaton, her guardian, who helped her out of the broken foster care system.

One Saturday morning, Sheriff Wheaton is…

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

Why did I love this book?

Thomas King is one of my favorite authors so of course I think everyone should read all of his books, fiction and non-fiction. In The Inconvenient Indian, King shares an account of Indian—white relations in North America since the beginning. And he does it by chronicling official government Indian policy, pop culture, personal observations, wisdom, truth, and humor. He debunks stereotypes, recounts events accurately, and in spite of all the brutal truth-telling presents a way for Indigenous and those of the dominant culture to heal. My favorite King fiction work is Medicine River, which was made into a film (spoiler alert - he's in it!).  

By Thomas King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Inconvenient Indian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian-White relations in North America since initial contact. Ranging freely across the centuries and the Canada-U.S. border, King 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.

Suffused with wit, anger,…

Book cover of Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

Why did I love this book?

I always believed that all beings have a spirit and personality, but while reading Gathering Moss, I felt I had actually been invited to meet moss communities! In this book and its sequel, Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer shows us how to restore our relationships to land and all that dwells in our ecosystem. A scientist and writer, Dr. Kimmerer shares her personal encounters with "plant people" and their associations with birds, people, insects, and what we can learn from our plant relations. This is not a "field guide" to identifying plants, but a "feel good guide" of gentle essays about this great world and our place in it. Dr. Kimmerer has a beautiful melodic voice and hearing her tell the stories on audio books is a special treat!

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Gathering Moss as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering Moss is a beautifully written 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…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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