Books

14 books to read for Indigenous History Month

June is Indigenous History Month and Indigenous Book Club Month. Here are 14 books to check out.

June is Indigenous History Month and Indigenous Book Club Month. Here are 14 books to check out.

This Place by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, et al.

This Place is an anthology of comics. Contributors include (from top left): Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Andrew Lodwick, Scott A. Ford, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel, Donovan Yaciuk and Alicia Elliott. (HighWater Press)

This Place is an anthology of comics featuring the work of Indigenous creators as they retell the history of Canada of the past 150 years. Elements of fantasy and magical realism are incorporated throughout the book, telling the stories of characters like Jack Fiddler, an Anishinaabe shaman facing murder charges, and Rosie, an Inuk girl growing up during the Second World War. Contributors include Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette and Chelsea Vowel.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott is the author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. (Doubleday Canada, Ayelet Tsabari)

Alicia Elliott explores the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples across Canada through the lens of her own experiences as a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River. Elliott examines how colonial violence, including the loss of language, seeps into the present day lives of Indigenous people, often in the form of mental illness. Elliott, who lives in Brantford, Ont., won gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2017 for the essay this book is based on.

Clifford by Harold R. Johnson

Harold R. Johnson is the author of Clifford. (House of Anansi)

 In Clifford, Governor General's Literary Award-nominated writer Harold R. Johnson recounts the life of his beloved brother, who is deceased. The two brothers were raised in northern Saskatchewan by their father, a quiet man of Swedish descent, and mother, a formidable Cree trapper. This memoir imagines Clifford following his curiosity for the universe into science.

The Unexpected Cop by Ernie Louttit

The Unexpected Cop is a book by Ernie Louttit. (University of Regina Press, Bill Hamilton)

Ernie Louttit is a bestselling author, veteran and retired police officer from Saskatoon. Louttit was one of the first Indigenous police officers hired by the Saskatoon Police and has written about his experiences within the force in The Unexpected CopThe Unexpected Cop takes on leadership — how being a leader means sticking to your convictions and sometimes standing up to the powers that be.

Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter

Hope Matters is a poetry collection by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter. (Book cover by Book*Hug, all author photos by Columpa Bobb)

This collection of poetry from award-winning author Lee Maracle and her daughters Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter is a look at the journey of Indigenous people from colonial beginnings to reconciliation. The collaborative effort documents the personal mother-daughter connection and also the shared song of hope and reconciliation from all Indigenous communities and perspectives.

Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod

Darrel McLeod is the author of Mamaskatch. (Ilja Herb, Douglas & McIntyre)

Darrel J. McLeod's Mamaskatch is a memoir of his upbringing in Alberta raised by his fierce Cree mother, Bertha. McLeod describes vivid memories of moose stew and wild peppermint tea, surrounded by siblings and cousins. From his mother, McLeod learned to be proud of his heritage and also shares her fractured stories from surviving the residential school system.

Mamaskatch won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

Legacy by Suzanne Methot

Legacy is a book by Suzanne Methot. (Nadya Kwandibens, ECW Press)

Nehiyaw writer Suzanne Methot traces her own roots to better understand how colonial trauma is passed down from generation to generation. In doing so, she investigates why Indigenous peoples suffer from disproportionately higher rates of addiction, depression, diabetes and other chronic health conditions compared to other groups. She also looks into Indigenous ways of knowing and how it can stem the flow of intergenerational trauma. 

nîtisânak by Lindsay Nixon

nîtisânak is a memoir by Lindsay Nixon. (Metonymy Press, Jackson Ezra/Writers' Trust of Canada)

Drawing from their Cree, Saulteaux and Métis heritage, Lindsay Nixon explores the profound loss of their mother in this memoir. Medicine and heartbreak are found in equal measure throughout this narrative, which tells stories of community, family and love.

Lindsay Nixon won the 2019 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers.

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice is a novelist and host of the CBC Radio show Up North. (ECW Press)

A northern Anishinaabe community loses power just as winter arrives, burying roads and creating panic as the food supply slowly runs out. Newcomers begin to arrive on the reserve, escaping a nearby crisis, and tension builds as disease begins taking lives. A small group turns to the land and Anishinaabe tradition to start rebuilding and restoring harmony. Rice is also the host of the CBC Radio show Up North.

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Split Tooth is Polaris Prize-winning artist Tanya Tagaq's first book. (Penguin Random House, Peter Power/Canadian Press)

Combining memoir with fiction, Tanya Tagaq writes about a young girl's coming of age in 1970s Nunavut. She is a witness to the mythic wonders of the Arctic world, which juxtapose harshly against the violence and alcoholism in her community. Split Tooth is the first book by Tagaq, a Polaris Prize and Juno Award-winning Inuk singer.

Split Tooth was on the longlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the shortlist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award and won the Indigenous Voices Award for English-language fiction.

Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist

Arielle Twist is a Halifax author, poet and sex educator originally from George Gordon First Nation, Saskatchewan. (Arsenal Pulp Press, arielletwist.com)

Arielle Twist is a Cree, Two-Spirit poet and educator based in the East Coast. Twist's debut poetry collection, Disintegrate/Dissociate, offers perspectives of human connections after death — looking at anger, grief, trauma and displacement left in its wake. Disintegrate/Dissociate depicts life for an Indigenous trans woman, one dreaming for a hopeful future and a clear path for self-discovery. 

Moccasin Square Gardens by Richard Van Camp

Moccasin Square Gardens is a short story collection by Richard Van Camp. (Douglas & McIntyre, Laughing Dog Photography)

Moccasin Square Gardens is a collection of humorous short fiction set in Denendeh, the land of the people north of the 60th parallel. Richard Van Camp's stories involve extraterrestrials, illegal wrestling moves and the legendary Wheetago, human-eating monsters who have come to punish the greed of humanity. Van Camp is a prolific novelist, comic writer and children's book writer whose work includes The Lesser BlessedA Blanket of Butterflies and Little You.

river woman by Katherena Vermette

river woman is a poetry collection by Katherena Vermette. (Lisa Delorme Meiler, House of Anansi)

The author of the novel The Break and the Governor General's Literary Award-winning poetry collection North End Love Songs returns to poetry with river womanriver woman explores colonialism and the multigenerational trauma and loss it inflicted. It also explores the relationship between reclamation, love, nature and healing. 

Starlight by Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese died in March 2017 at the age of 61. Starlight is his final novel. (McClelland & Stewart, Jane Dixon)

Starlight is the final novel of beloved Indigenous writer Richard Wagamese. The novel was not completed before Wagamese died in 2017, and includes a note from the publisher. Set in 1980 in the interior of B.C., Starlight is about an Indigenous farmer named Frank Starlight whose quiet life is dramatically changed by the frantic arrival of a woman named Emmy and her young child. Emmy and her child have escaped an abusive home and end up forming a bond with Frank.