Now for a blog post that would have been better suited for November 1st rather than the 29th. November is National Native American Heritage Month, but there is never a bad time to immerse yourself in some great Native titles. So give the holiday madness a rest, grab a cup of coco and spend some time with these great books:
- Black Elk Speaks by Black Elk and John Neihardt (1932). A classic of American literature, this deeply spiritual narrative is still widely read today. Neihardt, a highly-regarded poet of his time, translates the narrative of Black Elk’s life as it is told to him by Black Elk, as well as other warriors who remember the Battle of Little Bighorn, and the tragedy at Wounded Knee, first-hand. Black Elk was a revered medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) who witnessed some of the worst atrocities visited on his people, as well as some of their most brilliant triumphs. Told with wisdom, resilience, and surprising vulnerability, Black Elk Speaks is one of the greatest stories I have encountered.
- The Woman Who Watches Over the World by Lisa Hogan (2002). This harrowing memoir of life as a Chickasaw woman is at times difficult to digest. White America is completely out of touch with the institutional racism that Native Americans are forced to navigate on a regular basis. But in spite of the sadness Hogan has faced, both in her own life and that of her adopted daughters, she sees beauty in the world around her, in the people she loves and the horses she cares for.
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2013). Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for fiction, Erdrich’s novel of Ojibwe North Dakota is an absolute page turner. Thirteen-year-old Joe Coutts sets out to make sense of a brutal attack on his mother, uncovering tribal secrets and sordid histories. A thriller with serious literary backbone, this one’s a real gem. Other books by Erdrich include The Plague of Doves, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist, and her 2016 novel La Rose.
- Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (2011). Violent and eye-opening, this Pulitzer Prize finalist relates the history of the Comanche tribe and its most feared — and most loved — warrior, Quanah Parker. Parker’s white mother was assimilated into the Comanche tribe at an early age, eventually giving birth to a half-white and entirely Comanche son who would become one of the most brilliant and storied Native American leaders of all time.
- Everything is Stories, episode 21: A Line Drawn in the Rez Dirt by Garrett Crowe, Mike Martinez, and Tyler Wray (November 2016). Okay, this one’s not a book. It’s an engrossing, hour-long podcast you can listen to at
http://www.eisradio.org/. Duane “Chili” Yazzle tells the story of his extraordinary and passionate life on the reservation, and across the United States. Now president of the Diné People’s (Navajo) Shiprock Chapter House, Yazzle has devoted his life to fighting tribal injustice, first as a member of the Native American Movement band XIT, and later as a lifelong activist. By turns violent, surprising, and warm, this beautifully narrated story is definitely worth your time.