7 First Nations-Approved Books To Read Truthful Representations Of The Native Experience
You may have heard in the news recently that the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline is over. While this report is common and spreading wildly, it's far from the truth. One well-earned and powerful victory, after months of fighting, does not give us permission to stop tuning in nor does it mean we're safe to go back home. If we give in, and let celebration take over stop feeling as strongly and stop researching and speaking up and sharing, and hide in solace from the painful battle, they will win.
Now more than ever, it's important for allies to stand with the protestors, educate themselves, and donate when they can. The Native Americans protectors have stood against violent police officers, chemical warfare, and high-powered water hoses in the cold, wintry night to spend time teaching allies. Though it's possibly the most cliché thing to say — which is also cliché — knowledge is power, and as 21st century, intersectional allies and activists, it's up to us to take our education into our own hands.
What we need to know about Native American people, their culture, and their history, is not the stuff they taught us in school (unless you went to a really woke, honest school). Our country is great at whitewashing history and appropriating culture. What we end up with our massive, widespread stereotypes and misunderstandings that destroy bridges that would otherwise connect marginalized people across the spectrum. We're taught to see our differences and not the many ways in which we're similar. It's not until we learn about other people, and put ourselves in their shoes, that we can really join together to fight the white supremacy of this nation.
The First Nations Development Institute, which was developed, simply, to be an ally for Native Americans, is an accurate and extraordinary resource for both history and culture. The site even offers visitors a timeline look at the history of their organization, as well as a look at their creation story. The most relevant part of their website, in this case, however, is the section on Native American Heritage Month Recommended Readings. November has ended, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't still be interested in these recommendations. First Nations' approval means that these texts are genuine and truthful. No whitewashing here.
The list offers non-fictional books on topics ranging from history, imagery, and education. It also offers fictional books, which are especially important given the under- and misrepresentation of Native Americans in mainstream media.
1. The Indian Lawyer by James Welch
Sylvester Yellow Calf, a former reservation basketball star, is on his way to becoming a young lawyer or a possible congressional candidate, but is pulled by law enforcement corruption into a blackmail scheme that threatens to take away everything he's worked for.
2. Love Medicine by Louise Erdich
This is a story about two families, the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. From bestselling author Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine is a complex amalgamation of beauty, reality, love, and pain.
3. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Alexie Sherman
This collection of twenty-two interlinked tales are narrated by characters "raised on humiliation and government-issue cheese, and yet are filled with passion and affection, myth and dream." The book depicts the widening distance between Native Americans and whites, people who live on reservations and those who lives in cities, men and women, and modern Native Americans and those of days passed.
4. Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid To Ask by Anton Treuer
This book is exactly what it sounds like. Through compassion and honesty, author Anton Treuer tries to answer the questions and deal with chronicle the aggressions and microaggressions he's faced because of his culture. This is a great starting point for people who may not have had any formal education on Native American history or culture.
5. Wisdomkeepers: Meetings With Native American Spiritual Elders by Steve Wall and Harvey Arden (Non-Fiction)
This book is not about the authors themselves. It's about Native American Spiritual Elders. Read their stories and learn more about a faith and morality that might be different from your own.
6. Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, Vine Deloria [Non-Fiction] ($23.70)
Consider this a must-read of Native American culture, as it discusses everything under the sun when it comes to America's relationship with American Indians. Even as the gap between now and when this book was published continues to grow, the book remains powerful and relevant.
7. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Brace yourself for a breakdown of the systematic destruction of the Native American people, in an illustrated edition that is sure to strike a chord.
For more texts, click here.