Harborfields Public Library
Check out these incisive non-fiction books that prioritize Indigenous American experiences and perspectives.
A sweeping and overdue retelling of U.S. history that recognizes that Native Americans are essential to understanding the evolution of modern America.
When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. In her absence, the landscape had been altered beyond recognition, her tribal government swayed by corporate interests, and her community burdened by a surge in violence and addiction. Three years later, when Lissa learned that a young white oil worker, Kristopher 'KC' Clarke, had disappeared from his reservation worksite, she became particularly concerned. No one knew where Clarke had gone, and no one but his mother was actively looking for him. Unfolding like a gritty mystery, Yellow Bird traces Lissa's steps as she obsessively hunts for clues to Clarke's disappearance. She navigates two worlds -- that of her own tribe, changed by its newfound wealth, and that of the non-Native oil workers, down on their luck, who have come to find work on the heels of the economic recession. Her pursuit becomes an effort at redemption -- an atonement for her own crimes and a reckoning with generations of trauma. Yellow Bird is both an exquisitely written, masterfully reported story about a search for justice and a remarkable portrait of a complex woman who is smart, funny, eloquent, compassionate, and -- when it serves her cause -- manipulative. Ultimately, it is a deep examination of the legacy of systematic violence inflicted on a tribal nation and a tale of extraordinary healing.
A masterful and unsettling history of the forced migration of 80,000 Native Americans across the Mississippi River in the 1830s. On May 28, 1830, Congress authorized the expulsion of indigenous peoples from the East to territories west of the Mississippi River. Over the next decade, Native Americans saw their homelands and possessions stolen through fraud, intimidation, and murder. Thousands lost their lives. In this powerful, gripping book, Claudio Saunt upends the common view that "Indian Removal" was an inevitable chapter in US expansion across the continent. Instead, Saunt argues that it was a contested political act-resisted by both indigenous peoples and US citizens-that passed in Congress by a razor-thin margin. In telling the full story of this systematic, state-sponsored theft, Saunt reveals how expulsion became national policy, abetted by southern slave owners and financed by Wall Street. Moving beyond the familiar story of the Trail of Tears, Unworthy Republic offers a fast-paced yet deeply researched account of unbridled greed, government indifference, and administrative incompetence. The consequences of this vast transfer of land and wealth still resonate today.
For decades, Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The corridor is known as the Highway of Tears, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis. Journalist Jessica McDiarmid meticulously investigates the devastating effect these tragedies have had on the families of the victims and their communities, and how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate in which Indigenous women and girls are over-policed yet under-protected. McDiarmid interviews those closest to the victims—mothers and fathers, siblings and friends—and provides an intimate firsthand account of their loss and unflagging fight for justice. Examining the historically fraught social and cultural tensions between settlers and Indigenous peoples in the region, McDiarmid links these cases to others across Canada—now estimated to number up to four thousand—contextualizing them within a broader examination of the undervaluing of Indigenous lives in the country. Highway of Tears is a piercing exploration of our ongoing failure to provide justice for the victims and a testament to their families’ and communities’ unwavering determination to find it.
This nation's history and self-understanding have long depended on the notion of a "colonial America," an epoch that supposedly laid the foundation for the modern United States. In Indigenous Continent, Pekka Hämäläinen overturns the traditional, Eurocentric narrative, demonstrating that, far from being weak and helpless "victims" of European colonialism, Indigenous peoples controlled North America well into the 19th century. From the Iroquois and Pueblos to the Lakotas and Comanches, Native empires frequently decimated white newcomers in battle, forcing them to accept and even adopt Native ways. Even as the white population skyrocketed and colonists' land greed become ever more extravagant, Indigenous peoples flourished due to sophisticated diplomacy and flexible leadership structures. As Hämäläinen ultimately contends, instead of "colonial America" we should speak of an "Indigenous America" that was only slowly and unevenly becoming colonial. In our myth-busting era, this restoration of Native Americans to their rightful place at the very center of American history will be seen as one of the most important correctives yet.
Against long odds, the Anishinaabeg resisted removal, retaining thousands of acres of their homeland in what is now Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Their success rested partly on their roles as sellers of natural resources and buyers of trade goods, which made them key players in the political economy of plunder that drove white settlement and U.S. development in the Old Northwest. But, as Michael Witgen demonstrates, the credit for Native persistence rested with the Anishinaabeg themselves. Outnumbering white settlers well into the nineteenth century, they leveraged their political savvy to advance a dual citizenship that enabled mixed-race tribal members to lay claim to a place in U.S. civil society. Telling the stories of mixed-race traders and missionaries, tribal leaders and territorial governors, Witgen challenges our assumptions about the inevitability of U.S. expansion. Deeply researched and passionately written, Seeing Red will command attention from readers who are invested in the enduring issues of equality, equity, and national belonging at its core.
Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story. In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousmaequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the "First Thanksgiving." The treaty remained operative until King Philip's War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end. 400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day. This unsettling history reveals why some modern Native people hold a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, a holiday which celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States. This Land is Their Land shows that it is time to rethink how we, as a pluralistic nation, tell the history of Thanksgiving.
In the summer of 2017, twenty-two-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind vanished. A week after the pregnant woman disappeared, police arrested the white couple who lived upstairs from Savanna and emerged from their apartment carrying an infant girl. The baby was Savanna's, but she would not be found until her body was pulled from the Red River days later. This horrifying and unimaginable crime sent shockwaves through the country and helped bring to light the overwhelming sexual and physical violence Native American women and girls have endured since the country's colonization. With pathos and respect, Mona Gable confronts the history and attitudes towards these women and why our government has turned its back on the countless victims by highlighting this specific tragic case. Featuring in-depth interviews, personal accounts, and trial analysis, this is much more than a true crime book, it is also a call to action for those who cannot speak for themselves.
An immersive tale of the killing of a Native American man and its far-reaching consequences for Colonial America. In the summer of 1722, on the eve of a conference between the Five Nations of the Iroquois and British-American colonists, two colonial fur traders brutally attacked an Indigenous hunter in colonial Pennsylvania. The crime set the entire mid-Atlantic on edge, with many believing that war was imminent. Frantic efforts to resolve the case created a contest between Native American forms of justice, centered on community, forgiveness, and reparations, and an ideology of harsh reprisal, based on British law, that called for the killers' execution. In a stunning narrative history based on painstaking original research, acclaimed historian Nicole Eustace reconstructs the crime and its aftermath, taking us into the worlds of Euro-Americans and Indigenous peoples in this formative period. A feat of reclamation evoking Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale and Alan Taylor's William Cooper's Town, Eustace's utterly absorbing account provides a new understanding of Indigenous forms of justice, with lessons for our era.