LOVE: Must Read Books by Indigenous Authors: NonFiction/Memoir Edition

must read books by indigenous authors nonfiction memoir juicygreenmom

Learning about Indigenous issues is something I completely ignored for the vast majority of my life, and I’m ashamed to admit it. I’ve been trying to make up for this by diving into books by Indigenous authors, especially nonfiction and memoirs. It has been such an enlightening experience to learn from voices I hadn’t heard from before. Here are some of my must read picks!

(Note: For readers in the U.S., I’ve included links for because they are a climate neutral certified company, Certified B corp, and they infuse funding into independently owned bookstores!)

Seven Fallen Feathers

by Tanya Talaga

Such a beautifully written book about seven children who lost their lives while attending school far from home. This is after the era of residential schools – but is it so different? Because of the lack of resources for education for Indigenous children on reserves, parents are forced to send their children away to get an education beyond Grade 8. Then these kids are away from home in strange new places at the most vulnerable time in their adolescence.
This is an important read for understanding how Canada continues to marginalize Indigenous communities.

True Reconciliation: How to Be a Force for Change

by Jody Wilson-Raybould

I was thrilled to get my copy of this book. It contains the history and education I needed to understand the beginnings of this country we call Canada. And it explains issues in a hopeful way, with tangible ways to take action towards reconciliation. I feel as though every adult Canadian has missed out on this important education, and Jody has really dug deep to provide a full picture of Canada’s history.

Such a powerful and important read!

A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools

from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

I listened to this as an audiobook (I love making use of the Edmonton Public Library’s great system!) and it was truly enlightening. I think it should be required reading for any Canadian. It is so important to hear the stories of residential school survivors. It is only by hearing lived experiences that we can learn to do better.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has done such important work, and we need to keep pushing our government to fulfill the 94 Calls to Action.

Highway of Tears

by Jessica McDiarmid

This book had such a profound impact on me. I knew vague things about the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, but my eyes have been opened to how badly this is rooted in the white supremacy of our systems.

As a mother, my heart aches for the families who lost young daughters – young daughters with hope and dreams for the future. They were robbed of a chance at a future, in large part because of the government systems working against them and setting them up for failure, for staying lost, for being murdered. It is just horrific. Our justice system has been heavily rooted in white supremacy from the very beginning. Racism is not just a “problem”, it is what the whole system was built to do.

We can’t stay quiet and turn a blind eye. We all need to be educated on what is really happening and DEMAND change. That is the only way forward. A good first step is reading this book.

Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Metis & Inuit Issues in Canada

by Chelsea Vowel

This book is a comprehensive introduction to Indigenous issues in so-called Canada. It provides an easy-to-read recounting of history and policy to give context to present-day struggles. I found it also gave great background into the separation of the categories of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations and their respective lifestyles, all of which were greatly disturbed by colonization. Reading this book is an essential first step towards true truth and reconciliation efforts. Definitely recommend!

Rez Rules

by Chief Clarence Louie

If you’re a non-Indigenous Canadian like me, you’re probably clueless about what it’s like to live on a reserve, and everything that comes with it. This is such an honest depiction of rez life, along with concrete examples of how true reconciliation is possible. I actually expected it to be more negative than it was – but I found it to be a very hopeful read.
Chief Clarence Louie was able to make his rez an economic success, which brought with it so many other positive benefits, not only for the people who live there, but all the surrounding communities.
An eye-opening and important read!

My Conversations with Canadians

by Lee Maracle

I picked up this book when I started looking for books from diverse voices on the topic of antiracism – because a lot of the bestsellers are by American authors. This book is a series of essays about race issues and Indigenous peoples in Canada (I write that knowing that it is ridiculous to group all Indigenous peoples into a single entity – as explored by this book). Lee Maracle has a very distinct writing style that makes you feel like you’re having a thought-provoking conversation with someone. I think it is an important read for any Canadians wishing to know more about what we’re supposed to do as settlers, and how we can hold our nation accountable to truth and reconciliation. It’s not a long book, but I did a LOT of highlighting. So much wisdom and so many “aha” moments.

Lee Maracle passed away in the fall of 2021. Her revolutionary voice will carry on and inspire many future generations.

Braiding Sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The interweaving of botanical science and Indigenous wisdom is absolutely incredible in this book. The storytelling and explanation of concepts are so deftly linked together – it is beautiful, insightful, and transcendent. An absolute must read.

What Indigenous authors would you add to this list?

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