In November, we recognize and celebrate the history, traditions, languages, stories, and contributions of Indigenous communities with Indigenous Peoples Heritage Month.
Indigenous peoples is an inclusive term to describe the descendants of peoples with a shared national identity,
“…who inhabited the Americas, the Pacific, and parts of Asia and Africa prior to European colonization.”
More than 370 million Indigenous people are spread across 70 countries worldwide.
That’s a lot of people!
While we cannot cover every tribe and community in this blog post, we’d like to spotlight some amazing Indigenous creators from America and Canada and their contributions to literature with an audiobook collection you can listen to all year long!
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
Written by Alicia Elliott, narrated by Kyla García
The Mohawk phrase for depression can be roughly translated as,
“a mind spread out on the ground”
In this urgent and visceral work, Alicia Elliott explores how apt a description this is for the ongoing effects of the personal, intergenerational, and colonial traumas she and so many Native people have experienced.
“I want people to think more critically about circumstances, histories and systems of discrimination and how they bear down upon individuals, as opposed to thinking about these things as abstract concepts,”
said Elliot about her book.
Elliot is an award-winning Tuscarora writer from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve in Ontario, Canada. Tuscarora is a tribe in the Iroquoian family, also known by the endonym Haudenosaunee.
Never Name the Dead
Written by D. M. Rowell, narrated by Katie Anvil Rich
Mud, a Kiowa woman, returns home to Oklahoma after receiving a cryptic voice message from her grandfather. She discovers a tribe in disarray due to fracking, families forced to sell off artifacts, and threats of death over her grandfather’s water rights.
But when her grandfather goes missing, accused of stealing from the tribe museum, and a body is found in his work room, Mud embarks on a vision quest to clear his name and identify the killer.
Rowell’s own grandfather – C. E. Rowell – was an artist, storyteller, Tribal Elder, and Kiowa historian. His stories not only gave her a deep love for her Kiowa culture and traditions, but also inspired her to write Native American mysteries that entertain and inform readers about her Plains Indian tribe.
Written by Darcie Little Badger, narrated by Kinsale Hueston
In an America shaped dramatically by magic and monsters, a young Lipan Apache girl must use her ability to raise the ghosts of dead animals to find out who murdered her cousin and protect her family.
Like her protagonist, Little Badger is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and identifies as asexual. A contributor to the Indigenous Futurism movement, she hopes Native readers see more of their culture represented in literature. She aims to give all young readers hope to persevere and fight for a better, more just future.
No Place Like Home
Written by James Bird, narrated by Calvin Joyal
When home is a car, life is unpredictable. School, friends, and three meals a day aren’t guaranteed. Not every town has a shelter where a family can sleep for a night or two, and places with parking lots don’t welcome overnight stays.
In this middle-grade novel about homelessness and hope, Opin and his family make their way to Los Angeles, where they hope an uncle and a new life are waiting.
Bird is of Ojibwe descent and an award-winning filmmaker. He’s excited to tell Ojibwe stories and share his culture with the world.
Written and narrated by Kevin Noble Maillard
This award-winning, evocative depiction of a modern Native American family tells a tale of a family coming together to create a meaningful meal and new memories.
The recipe for fry bread differs depending on the nation, tribe, family, and individual it comes from. Maillard himself makes fry bread differently than the recipe gifted to him by his aunts; for one, he uses coconut oil instead of lard for frying. He compares all these unique recipes to the rich and diverse native identity.
Maillard is an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation. He is also a law professor at Syracuse University and a journalist.
Written by S. D. Nelson, narrated by Jashaun St. John
In this heartwarming family story, a young girl spends the summer at her grandmother’s home on the Standing Rock Reservation and in the tipi that’s been passed down through her family for generations.
Nelson is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas. A world-renowned artist and author, he combines traditional Lakota ledger art with a contemporary art style that educates young readers on the richness of Lakota life, history, culture, and traditions.
My Powerful Hair
Written by Carole Lindstrom, narrated by Jennifer Bobiwash
Mom never had long hair—she was told it was too wild. Grandma couldn’t have long hair—hers was taken from her. But one young girl can’t wait to grow her hair long: for herself, for her family, for her connection to her culture and the Earth, and to honor the strength and resilience of those who came before her.
Hair is considered sacred in many Indigenous cultures and is only cut to honor the passing of a loved one. Lindstrom describes hair as being like a scrapbook of memories. For many Native families, however, there is generational trauma surrounding hair.
Indigenous children were forced to attend one of the 408 Indian boarding schools in operation from the 1800s to the 1970s. The goal of these boarding schools was to culturally assimilate Native Americans by prohibiting students from speaking their native languages, having their traditional clothing replaced with uniforms, and cutting their hair short.
Lindstrom, who is Anishinaabe/Métis and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, decided to grow her hair long as a reclamation of her heritage. She hopes her book shows children how their hair can be a form of cultural self-expression.