Indigenous Peoples Month is in November. Only having a month to think about indigenous peoples is rather despicable, considering all the injustices and lack of representation. This aspect of Indigenous Peoples Month should be acknowledged. Unfortunately, the publishers and many readers do not push for representation and visibility of indigenous voices. I also would like to check some of my own white privilege here. I’m a white American settler living on oθaakiiwaki‧hina‧ki (Sauk), Meškwahki·aša·hina (Meskwaki), and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux) land.
In the book community, most white readers and the publishers catering to us don’t think on the lack of representation. I’d say indigenous peoples have one of the most severe lack of representation of any marginalized group. Indigenous people should not have to ask white people to be interested in order to be deserving of that representation. And fucking hell, that is where the book community is at the moment.
To fight for representation and visibility, booktubers Michelle at Thor Wants Another Letter and Brody at Et tu, Brody? are putting together a readathon, which they’ve titled IndigAThon, to celebrate and encourage more readership of Indigenous authors during the month of November. Both Brody (Cherokee, they/them) and Michelle (Lakota/Oglala, she/hers) are indigenous booktubers fighting for visibility in this community.
Here’s Brody’s video on the readathon:
Here are some suggestions and personal finds based on the readathon. A lot of these could cover several of the categories. I haven’t read all of them. This list is more of a helpful guide. I’m leaving out more of the classics people have read, like Louise Erdrich and Joy Harjo. I would recommend looking for trigger warnings. I’ve provided trigger warnings for what I could find.
Our Democracy and the American Indian: this is one of those books that shifted my perceptions about the American government. I already had a pretty lousy opinion of what the American government did and still does to Native Americans. Kellogg writes about things I never knew about, like the formation and design of the American government. Kellogg, an Oneida leader and activist, fought for the rights of Native Americans, including her own people.
#NotYourPrincess: An eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.
A Mind Spread Out On The Ground: Alicia Elliott is a Haudenosaunee writer of the CanLit movement. Her twitter bio says “Pro Wrestling enthusiast. Award-Winning Messy bitch.” Follow her. She’s great. She writes about the legacy of colonialism, indigenous writers treatment within CanLit, the court system in Canada, depression and heart. She also started writing a column for Radio Canada: The rise of Indigenous horror: How a fictional genre is confronting a monstrous reality.
Disintegrate/Dissociate: Arielle Twist is a Nêhiyaw, Two-Spirit, Trans writer from George Gordon First Nation, Saskatchewan and currently based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and shortlisted in The National Magazine Awards in 2019. She wrote one of my favorite poetry collections and will always have a place on my shelf. She writes about her relationships to men, family, and everything about her life through her poetry; the bad and the good. Many of them are my favorites but I especially love Iskwêw, which is written for her Nêhiyaw sisters. The writing is fucking amazing:
Kokum, be proud
because I have feathers longer
than my thick black hair
draping my chest now
and Cree is passing these red lips,
a violent shade, carnivorous.
Not to mention, this book’s publisher acknowledges the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations of the unceded territories where their office is located. I can’t really think of very many, if any, publishers acknowledging that.
Islands of Decolonial Love: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar and artist, writes in her short story collection the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation. Found on reserves, in cities and small towns, in bars and curling rinks, canoes and community centres, doctors offices and pickup trucks, Simpson’s characters confront the often heartbreaking challenge of pairing the desire to live loving and observant lives with a constant struggle to simply survive the historical and ongoing injustices of racism and colonialism.
Nobody Cries at Bingo: Plains Cree comedian and actor from Saskatchewan, Dawn Dumont writes a funny selection of funny vignettes. The narrator, Dawn, invites the reader to witness firsthand Dumont family life on the Okanese First Nation. Beyond the stereotypes and cliche’s of Rez dogs, drinking, and bingos, the story of a girl who loved to read and her family begins to unfold.
Many of these books, but not all, are lgbt+ so I’ve placed SFF and LGBT+ together.
The Way of Thorn and Thunder: Daniel Heath Justice is a 2 spirit Colorado-born Canadian citizen of the Cherokee Nation/ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ. His twitter bio says “Indigenous Studies scholar, queer Indiginerd, Tsalagi hobbit, badger & raccoon partisan, affable misanthrope.” In his fantasy novel, he writes a world resembling eighteenth-century North America and an adventure tale bending genre and gender. This is one of the picks I’m reading for November. It’s probably the one I’m most looking forward to reading.
Love beyond body, space and time: an indigenous lgbt sci-fi anthology: a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman trying an experimental transition medication to young lovers separated through decades and meeting far in their own future. These are stories of machines and magic, love, and self-love.
Mapping the Interior: Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet horror author from Colorado. He describes himself as “most mixed up non-delinquent on the block.” Mapping the Interior is about a 12 year old boy, ghosts, death, loss, and family. Trigger warning for abuse, mentions rape, death.
Trail of Lightning: Rebecca Roanhorse is an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, African-American and Diné-in-law SFF writer. I read and reviewed Trail of Lightning and loved it. She creates a diverse world, centering indigenous, specifically Diné, and black people with nuance and complexity. She asks questions about the future and what would survival look like for indigenous people in a post-apocalyptic world. Trigger warning for emotional abuse, blood, and death.
Rhymes For Young Ghouls: a 2013 film by Jeff Barnaby, a Mi’gmaq Listuguj director. By government decree, every Indian child under the age of 16 must attend residential school. In the kingdom of the Crow, that means imprisonment at St. Dymphna’s. That means being at the mercy of “Popper”, the sadistic Indian agent who runs the school. Trigger warning for suicide, rape and violence against children.
Boy: a 2010 comedy/drama by Taika Waititi, a Māori director from Raukokore, New Zealand. A New Zealand youth (James Rolleston) finds that his father (Taika Waititi) is a far cry from the heroic adventurer he’s imagined the man to be.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople: This is another lesser known film by Taika Waititi. It’s one of my favorite films ever. A boy (Julian Dennison) and his foster father (Sam Neill) become the subjects of a manhunt after they get stranded in the New Zealand wilderness. Trigger warnings for blood and death.
Atanarjuat (the Fastest Runner): Inuk director Zacharias Kunuk tells the story of an Inuit legend of an evil spirit causing strife in the community and one warrior’s endurance and battle of its menace. He also made a short film with famed singer Tanya Tagaq called Tungijuq, A thought-provoking meditation on the seal-hunt and what it means to the traditional way of life for the Inuit. Triggers (for Tungijuq): blood and death.
Angry Inuk: a documentary centering Inuit fighting for their community, informing the misconceptions about Inuit seal hunters and how the laws against seal hunting impact their community and culture. Directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, a Inuk filmmaker from Nunavut. Triggers for suicide and blood.
Chambers: features the first tv show with an indigenous main character. Sivan Alyra Rose is San Carlos Apache. She plays a Diné woman recovering from a heart transplant. Her heart belonged to a white girl, which leads Sasha to see things. It’s a brilliant tv show. Netflix fucked up by canceling it after only one season. Triggers for death, gore, suicide.
Tanya Tagaq: A Inuk Katajjaq (Inuit throat singing) singer from Nunavut. My favorite albums are Animism (2014) and Retribution (2016). She’s sort of just like heavy metal but instead of whiny white boys crying about how hard they have it she celebrates the Inuit tradition of throat singing, something significant to Inuit women.
Riit: Rita Claire Mike-Murphy is a Inuk musician. Ataataga is her first album. I’m a fairly new listener and I highly recommend. Riit, from majestic Panniqtuuq, Nunavut, is a new artist making space for herself in the electropop world with deep rhythmic throat singing layered over gemological synth cuts and sticky, staticky electronic textures. With field recordings with sounds of the north, from brassy ravens circling overhead to the silvery glint of knife sharpening, Riit’s music emerges from very distinct circumstances of place, language and experience.
Frank Waln: a Sicangu Lakota rapper and storyteller from the Rosebud Rez. He’s got some pretty amazing sounds and stellar lyrics.
Start listening, hearing, reading, and watching indigenous voices. Everybody deserves to be heard. Everybody deserves to have a place where they get to see themselves represented in music, television, film, literature. I wish that we could come to a point where people didn’t have to ask to be represented. That’s the hope with this readathon. There are a lot of amazing artists on this list. Check them out. You may not know what you’re missing.