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Legit Indigenous Lit: A list of texts to teach by Indigenous Authors

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This site contains books by Indigenous authors that are suitable for teaching at the post-secondary level.  Clicking on the cover of a book will take you to the publisher’s page. The books are tagged according to common themes within the study of Indigenous literatures in Canada. We welcome comments, feedback and suggestions!

Abel, Jordan (Nisga’a). Injun. Talonbooks, 2016. Poetry.

49. Injun (Abel)

Publisher’s description: Award-winning Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s third collection, Injun, is a long poem about racism and the representation of Indigenous peoples. Composed of text found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950 – the heyday of pulp publishing and a period of unfettered colonialism in North America – Injun then uses erasure, pastiche, and a focused poetics to create a visually striking response to the western genre. Though it has been phased out of use in our “post-racial” society, the word “injun” is peppered throughout pulp western novels. Injun retraces, defaces, and effaces the use of this word as a colonial and racial marker. While the subject matter of the source text is clearly problematic, the textual explorations in Injun help to destabilize the colonial image of the “Indian” in the source novels, the western genre as a whole, and the western canon.

Ahenakew, Edward (Cree). Voices of the Plains Cree. University of Regina Press, 1995. Oral tradition/short stories.

39. Voices of the Plains Cree (Ahenakew)

Publisher’s description: When buffalo were many on the western Plains, when Cree and Blackfoot warred in unrelenting enmity, when the Sun Dance and the shaking tent were still a way of life—these were the days of Chief Thunderchild, who roamed the Saskatchewan Plains, fought and hunted, lived and sometimes nearly starved there. His stories of a fierce and vanished freedom are reprinted here, exactly as he told them to Edward Ahenakew in 1923. Chief Thunderchild was born in 1849 and died in 1927, four years after recounting his tales to Edward Ahenakew. In the second half of Voices of the Plains Cree, Old Keyam, a fictional character created by Ahenakew, tells stories about the changes Cree people experienced in the reserve era of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri (Anishinaabe). The Stone Collection. Portage and Main Press, 2015. Short stories.

1. The Stone Collection (Akiwenzie-Damm)

Publisher’s description: In these 14 unique stories, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm takes on complex and dangerous emotions, exploring the gamut of modern Anishnaabe experience. Through unforgettable characters, these stories—about love and lust, suicide and survival, illness and wholeness—illuminate the strange workings of the human heart. Trailer for the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilgX9Ls099U.

 

 

Alexie, Robert Arthur (Gwich’in). The Pale Indian. Penguin Canada, 2005. Novel.

19. The Pale Indian (Alexie)

Publisher’s description: A heartbreaking love story set against the beauty of the north. In 1972, John Daniel, an eleven-year-old Blue Indian from Aberdeen in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and his six-year-old sister, Eva, were brought to live with a white couple in Alberta, having been removed from their parents by the Powers that Be. John promised he’d never go back. But in October 1984, at twenty-two, he broke that promise. A job with a drilling company brought him back to the land of his people, and Tina Joseph, to whom he was deeply attracted, encouraged him to confront the sad truths of his parents’ lives. In a compelling combination of storytelling and truth-telling, The Pale Indian recalls the power and passion of its predecessor, Porcupines and China Dolls. It is a novel of secrets, lies, and madness written with power and eloquence.

Anahareo (Mohawk). Devil in Deerskins. Ed. Sophie McCall. University of Manitoba Press, 2014 (1972). Memoir.

24. Devil_in_Deerskins (Anahareo)

Publisher’s description: Anahareo (1906-1985) was a Mohawk writer, environmentalist, and activist. She was also the wife of Grey Owl, aka Archie Belaney, the internationally celebrated writer and speaker who claimed to be of Scottish and Apache descent, but whose true ancestry as a white Englishman only became known after his death. Devil in Deerskins is Anahareo’s autobiography up to and including her marriage to Grey Owl. In vivid prose she captures their extensive travels through the bush and their work towards environmental and wildlife protection. Here we see the daily life of an extraordinary Mohawk woman whose independence, intellect, and moral conviction had direct influence on Grey Owl’s conversion from trapper to conservationist. Though first published in 1972, Devil in Deerskins’s observations on indigeneity, culture, and land speak directly to contemporary audiences.

 

Armstrong, Jeannette (Syilx). Slash. Theytus Books, 2007 (1985). Novel/young adult fiction.

Slash front cv

Publisher’s description: Slash is Jeannette Armstrong’s first novel. It poignantly traces the struggles, pain and alienation of a young Okanagan man who searches for truth and meaning in his life. Recognized as an important work of literature, Slash is used in high schools, colleges and universities.

Baker, Marie Annharte (Anishinaabe). Indigena Awry. New Star Books, 2012.

25. Indigena Awry (Baker)

Publisher’s description: NDN word warrior Marie Annharte Baker’s fourth book of poems, Indigena Awry, is her largest and wildest yet. It collects a decade’s worth of verse — fifty–nine poems. Set noticeably in Winnipeg and Vancouver, but in many other places on either side of the Medicine Line as well, the poems are a laser–eyed meander through contested streets filled with racism, classism, and sexism. Shot through with sex and violence and struggle and sadness and trauma, her work is always set to detect and confront the delusions of colonialism and its discontents. These poems are informed by a sceptical spirituality. They call for justice for NDNs through the Permanent Resistance that goes around in cities. This is bruising and exacting stuff, but Annharte is also one of poetry’s best jokers.