Native American Voices | Mechanics' Institute

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Native American Voices

Native American Heritage Month is an ideal time to learn about the rich cultural heritage and the many contributions of our first people. Our national narrative has been greatly enhanced by a diverse cast of Native American voices, including Louise Erdich, Sherman Alexie, James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko and many others. As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, let's honor and remember the Native American people who helped shape our country's heritage. 

MI staff has compiled a timely list containing both fiction and nonfiction that better reflects historical accuracy on and about Native Americans. Many of these titles are written by Native American authors. All print titles are available for check out through MI's "To Go"express service, our downloadable E-books collection, or Kanopy, MI's online streaming service from the website


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Native American is the school mascot. 

Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko - Poet-novelist Silko's dazzling saga of two elderly sisters and a motley crew of desperadoes who occupy a fortified ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

The Beadworkers: stories by Beth Piatote - A poignant and challenging look at the way the past and present collide. Piatote, a Nez Perce, teaches Native American studies at UC Berkeley. 

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - Tayo, a young Native American prisoner of war returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation after serving in World War II.

Fools Crow by James Welch - It is 1870 and the Lone Eaters, a small band of Blackfeet Indians in the Two Medicine Territory of Montana struggle to preserve the Pikuni way of life. 

Grass Dancer by Susan Power - A multilayered portrait of a North Dakota Sioux community told through interlocking stories. 

The Heartsong of Charging Elk by James Welch - Based on actual historical events, a young Lakota, Charging Elk, is stranded in France and forced to live in the streets of Marseille. 

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday - A Pulitzer Prize-winning classic about a young Native American man living in two worlds. 

How a Mountain Was Made by Greg Sarris - Native American stories inspired by Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo creation tales about Northern California's Sonoma Mountain.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth - It's 1975 and seventh grader Lewis "Shoe" Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation meets a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base. But racial tensions in upstate New York are strained and Lewis is not sure he can rely on friendship alone to survive at school. 

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight  in Heaven by Sherman Alexie - A darkly comic short story collection of 22 interlinked tales. 

Love Medicine by Louise Erdich - A multigenerational portrait of two Chippewa families in North Dakota. 

Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline - In an apocalyptic future Canada, indigenous people have been forced to live on the run to avoid capture by the Recruiters, government military agents who kidnap Indians and confine them to detention facilities called "schools." 

There, There by Tommy Orange - A kaleidoscope view of Native American life in Oakland, California through the experiences and perspectives of 12 characters. 

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger - Fleeing the Depression-era school for Native American children who have been taken from their parents, four orphans share a life-changing journey marked by struggling farmers, faith healers, and lost souls.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey - In the winter of 1885, Colonel Allen Forrester leads an exploratory expedition up the Wolverine River into the vast, untamed Alaskan territory. 

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse - A dark fantasy follows Maggie Hoske, monster-slayer and protector of the Navajo Nation as she fights her next battle. Action-driven novel from a Hugo-award winning author. 

The Translation of Dr. Apelles by David Treuer - A Native American academic who translates Native American texts, stumbles across a manuscript only he can interpret.

Winter in the Blood by James Welch - An unnamed Blackfeet narrator returns to his family's ranch on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana to come to terms with his past and rearrange his present. 


Crazy Horse Weeps: the challenge of being Lakota in white America by James Marshall III - A historical overview and hopeful plan for the future for South Dakota's Lakota Americans. 

Deer Trails by Kim Shuck - Native American poetry by San Francisco's poet laureate.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful tribe in American history by S.C. Gwynne - A vivid historical account of the 40-year battle between the Comanche and white settlers for control of the American West. 

1491: new revelations about the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann - A generation of new researchers has drawn unheard of conclusions about America before the arrival of the Europeans. 

The Girl in the Photograph by Byron L. Dorgan - The author, former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan tells the story of the Native American community through the experiences of a young girl from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee; native America from 1890 to the present by David Treuer - Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, Treuer tells the story of a resilient people  in a transformative era. 

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthieson - A highly controversial investigative account of the 1975 fatal shootout between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota. 

Indians on the Move: Native American mobility and urbanization in the twentieth century by Douglas K. Miller - An exploration of Indigenous communities and mobility in terms of its benefits and not merely its costs. 

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI by David Grann - Presents a true account of the early twentieth-century murders of dozens of wealthy Osage and law-enforcement officials, citing the contributions and missteps of a fledgling FBI that eventually uncovered one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. 

The Other Slavery: the uncovered story of Indian enslavement in America by Andres Resendez - New evidence suggests that a key piece of American history, Native American enslavement, has been missing from history books. 

Petroglyphs, Pictographs, and Projections: Native American rock art in the contemporary cultural landscape by Richard A. Rogers - An examination of the contemporary implications of Native American rock art. 

Shapes of Native Nonfiction: collected essays of contemporary writers - An engaging anthology introducing readers to the true range of Native American nonfiction work. 

The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley - A Lakota American chef shares his approach to creating boldly seasoned foods that are vibrant and healthful. 

Surviving Genocide: native nations and the United States from the American Revolution to bleeding Kansas by Jeffrey Ostler - A recent investigation on how American democracy relied on Native American dispossesion and use of force for western expansion. 

The Three-Cornered War: the Union, the Confederacy and native peoples in the fight for the West by Megan Kate Nelson - An exploration of the connections between the Civil War, the Indian Wars, and the western expansion.

This Land is Their Land: the Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the troubled history of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman - A well researched, objective look at Plymouth colony's founding events.

Tracks Along the Left Coast: Jaime de Angulo and the Pacific Coast Culture by Andrew Schelling - The story of ethnographer and author Jaime de Angulo.

Unworthy Republic: the dispossession of Native Americans and the road to Indian territory by Claudio Saunt - A powerful, moving argument that the state-sponsored expulsion of the 1830s was a horrendous turning point for Native Americans. 


Language Healers (streaming on Kanopy) - A fascinating documentary on Native Americans striving to revitalize their languages. 

Our Fires Still Burn: the Native American Experience  (streaming on Kanopy) - An exciting and compelling one hour documentary about contemporary Native American role models in the US Midwest.

Posted on Nov. 20, 2020 by Celeste Steward