8 classic books by Indigenous writers that deserve another look

Métis writer Cherie Dimaline curated this list of 8 classic books by Indigenous writers to commemorate National Indigenous History Month.

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. In 2018, Métis writer Cherie Dimaline curated this list of eight classic books by Indigenous writers for CBC Books.

Dimaline is the author of Red RoomsThe Girl Who Grew a GalaxyA Gentle Habit and The Marrow Thieves.  In 2017, she won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text and Kirkus Prize for young readers' literature for The Marrow Thieves. In 2018, singer Jully Black defended The Marrow Thieves on Canada Reads. Her latest is the novel Empire of Wild.

Halfbreed by Maria Campbell

A black book cover featuring a photo of a woman whose face is partially hidden by shadows.
Maria Campbell discusses the re-release of her memoir Halfbreed. (Sheena Goodyear/CBC, Penguin Random House Canada )

"Here is the seminal work that brought the word Métis into Canadian homes and the name Maria Campbell into our hearts. An autobiographical accounting of a woman, a mother, a community and a nation, Halfbreed is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time and continues to bring voice and bestow power."

Bobbi Lee Indian Rebel by Lee Maracle

Lee Maracle is a poet, author, activist and instructor. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

"Anyone reading the autobiographical Bobbi Lee for the first time would get the impression that Lee Maracle was an unflinchingly honest, doggedly determined and brilliantly worded force. They would be correct. This book chronicling colonial impacts in the 1960-1980s started it all for a grandmother of Indigenous literature. Bobbi Lee remains a must-read."

The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway by Edward Benton-Banai, illustrated by Joe Liles

The Mishomis Book is the history, philosophy and teachings of the Ojibway people, as passed down through generations. (

"One of the originals that has cemented its place in the Indigenous canon and, more importantly, in the community itself. So many Anishinaabe children are raised with this book of traditional stories and teachings, covering topics such as the Migration Story, the Clan System and the Seven Fires. Every child deserves this much lovingly crafted wisdom."

I Am Woman by Lee Maracle

Lee Maracle is a Canadian First Nations Coast Salish poet and author. (Columpa Carmen Bobb Photography/Press Gang)

"Racism and feminism examined and re-thought through an Indigenous lens in one slim volume, written by one of the best in the business. I Am Woman empowers and honours in a way that remains relevant and exacting."

A Really Good Brown Girl by Marilyn Dumont

Marilyn Dumont is the author of the poetry collection A Really Good Brown Girl. (Bricks Books)

"If you haven't read Marilyn Dumont's delicate, exacting work, this is a great place to start. Each poem is an anthem, every page showcasing the talent and necessity of this incredible poetic voice. Dumont brings the Métis tone, cadence and intricate stitch-work into all she creates. A masterpiece."

Thunder Through My Veins by Gregory Scofield

Gregory Scofield is the author of the memoir Thunder Through My Veins. (Anchor Canada, Stacey Lalande)

"Gripping and personal with a forward pushing narrative that brings you along for every difficult day and triumphant realization. Scofield is best known as an award-winning poet, but his autobiography of tumultuous early years is just as moving and just as important as his beautiful poems."

Keeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese

Keeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese was a bestselling novel. (Anchor Canada)

"One of the most beloved in the Wagamese legacy, Keeper'n Me recounts the story of an Ojibway man adopted out of his community and finding a way back home. The superb storytelling is classic Wagamese. It's a classic for a reason."

Splitting the Heart by Janet Rogers

Janet Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscacora poet and spoken word artist. (UNBC/Ekstasis Editions)

"B.C.-based poet Garry Gottfriedson says of Rogers' work: 'If blood is to be exposed in this land, then her words will spill it.' Janet creates and produces in multiple mediums from radio to performance poetry to collections — and she brings her excising passion and lyrical expertise to each. Buy her books and go see her perform live — there is no one else quite like her."

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