Being in Colorado is making me think a lot about the First People to live here. I spent part of the afternoon today at Strawberry Park Hot Springs just outside Steamboat Springs. I’m not a big hot tub fan, but being in those hot pools in the rocks with occasional snow flurries was just magical. The tribes in this area camped here and used the springs for at least 400 years before any White men came here.
I’ve been interested in indigenous people since the early 1970s when I read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and “Black Elk Speaks.” Neither of those books was written by a tribal member, but they made a huge impact on how people saw Native Americans. They changed my perspective fundamentally.
When I first worked for ISU Extension in Cedar Rapids, I took our Teen Group to the trials of the modern day Wounded Knee activists. When I worked in Tama County I loved creating leadership training for teens from the settlement, and helping out at the Day Care Center. Many a Mesquakie told me I was on Indian Time during those three years. I finally visited Wounded Knew in 2002 on a loop through the Black Hills.
So for November, Native American Heritage Month, I’m reading books by indigenous authors. I’m nearly finished with “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese. It’s my favorite of the books I’ve read recently, and I’m excited to explore his other books. I also really liked Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah; it brings the life of a single dad into sharp focus.
A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger has received several honors. It calls on fantasy and futurism more than most books I read. It’s a young adult book, but sometimes they’re the best! I got to see Angeline Boulley speak about writing Firekeeper’s Daughter last spring in Des Moines. It’s another wonderful book–a mystery that a young woman hockey player helps solve.
Before this, my favorite was “There There” by Tommy Orange. His story woke me up to the occupation of Alcatraz, a bit of modern history that I barely remembered even though I was a college student from California when 89 Native Americans occupied Alcatraz.
Of course I’ve loved Louise Erdrich’s books for many years. Her latest are on my long list of books to read. If you’re interested in joining me in this focused reading project, here are some other ideas-
- Ten Books by Native American Authors
- Must-Read by Indigenous Authors
- 28 New Books by Indigenous Authors to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month
- 20 Essential Books by Indigenous Authors
Okay, don’t get overwhelmed. It we should live so long, there’ll be another November in 2023. And there’s no rule about only reading these books during November either.
Please let me know some of your favorite books by posting in the comments. And just what you think about it all.