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Contributions, Stories, Legacies

By Kevin Cretsos

November is Native American Heritage Month. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as National American Indian Heritage Month. Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including Native American Heritage Month and National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month) have been issued each year since 1994.

Join University Libraries as we celebrate the contributions and legacies of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples. While celebrating their stories and learning about their perspectives, we must also acknowledge the historical injustices committed against Native Americans and the inequities that persist. 

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the University Libraries have compiled a list of books, collections and other resources to explore and share.


  • The Night Watchman: A Novel, by Louise Erdrich: Based on the life of Louise Erdrich’s grandfather Patrick Gourneau, who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, the story unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor and depth of feeling of a literary master.
  • Future Home of the Living God: A Novel, by Louise Erdrich: Born on an Ojibwe reservation and adopted by a couple who prioritized a connection to her tribal roots, Cedar is 26, single, pregnant and living in a dystopian near-future in which evolution appears to be reversing. On the run from oppressive authorities who want her unborn child, Cedar must decide whom to trust: the father of her child, her missing adoptive parents or her tribal family.
  • There There, by Tommy Orange: This debut novel follows 12 Native American characters in Oakland, California, facing personal struggles ranging from depression and alcoholism to unemployment and fetal alcohol syndrome. There There is a multigenerational story about violence and recovery, hope and loss, identity and power, dislocation and communion, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people.


  • Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years, by Joy Harjo: In this selection of poems, Harjo, a three-time U.S. Poet Laureate, celebrates her 50 years as a poet. While musical, intimate, political and wise, they intertwine ancestral memory and tribal histories with resilience and love. She offers poems on birth, death, love and resistance and everything they encompass.
  • Trickster Academy, by Jenny L. Davis: These poems explore being Native in academia — from land acknowledgment statements to mascots to the history of using Native American remains in anthropology.
  • Aurum: Poems, by Santee Frazier: Unflinching and magnetic, this collection reveals the prominent reality of Native people being marginalized and discarded in the wake of industrial progress. While uncovering forms of oppression that estrange Native Americans from their own land, these poems explore the raw and disturbing aspects of living in the wastelands of contemporary America.
  • Weaving the Boundary, by Karenne Wood: Evocative, haunting and hopeful, this collection explores personal and collective memories and contemporary realities through lenses of human loss, desire, violence and love.
  • Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930, edited by Robert Dale Parker: This collection recasts the early history of Native American literature and the history of American poetry by presenting a vast but forgotten archive of Native American poems. Through extensive archival research in small-circulation newspapers and magazines, manuscripts, pamphlets, rare books and scrapbooks, the editor has uncovered the work of more than 140 poets who wrote before 1930.


  • A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, by Alicia Elliott: The author, a member of the Haudenosaunee confederation, provides a personal and critical meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression and racism in North America. She asks essential questions about Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma: What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language — both figurative and literal? How does white privilege operate in different contexts? How do we navigate the painful contours of mental illness in loved ones? How does colonialism operate on the level of literary criticism?
  • Headed Into the Wind: A Memoir, by Jack Loeffler: With compassion and concern for Southwestern traditional cultures and their respective habitats in the wake of Manifest Destiny, the author, a jazz musician, fire lookout, museum curator, bioregionalist and self-taught aural historian, shares his life story with humor, imagination, adventures, observations, reflections and meditations.


  • Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America, by Nicole Eustace: In the summer of 1722, on the eve of a conference between British-American colonists and the Five Nations of the Iroquois, two colonial fur traders brutally killed 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. The author reconstructs the crime and its aftermath.
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer: The received idea of Native American history has been that it essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. Not only did 150 Sioux die at the hands of the U.S. Cavalry, but Native civilization did as well. Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist and researching Native life past and present for his nonfiction and novels, the author has uncovered a different narrative in which he melds history with reportage and memoir.
  • Before American History: Nationalist Mythmaking and Indigenous Dispossession, by Christen Mucher: This book argues that the current understanding of North America’s past was created as a tool of nationalism and that it required the misappropriation of Indigenous histories. In the United States and Mexico, the Indigenous past was repurposed as American history while erasing and denigrating Native peoples.
  • Committed: Remembering Native Kinship in and Beyond Institutions, by Susan Burch: Between 1902 and 1934, the United States confined hundreds of adults and children from dozens of Native nations at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, a federal psychiatric hospital in South Dakota. For them, Canton Asylum was one of many places of imposed removal and confinement, including reservations, boarding schools, orphanages and prison hospitals. Drawing on oral history interviews, correspondence, material objects and archival sources, Burch reframes the histories of institutionalized people and the places that held them.
  • A Line of Blood and Dirt : Creating the Canada-United States Border Across Indigenous Lands, by Benjamin Hoy: This book examines the creation and enforcement of the Canada-United States border from 1775 until 1939. Built with Indigenous labor on top of Indigenous land, the border was born in conflict. Federal administrators used deprivation, starvation, and coercion to displace Indigenous communities and undermine their conceptions of territory and sovereignty.
  • An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States, by Kyle T. Mays: Beginning with pre-Revolutionary America and moving into the movement for Black lives and contemporary Indigenous activism, the author, an Afro-Indigenous historian, argues that the United States has anti-Black and settler colonialist roots and that these parallel oppressions continue into the present. He explores how Black and Indigenous peoples have always struggled for freedom, sometimes together, sometimes apart, and shows how calls for justice have consistently sought to uproot white supremacy.
  • An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America, by Michael Witgen: This book explores the formation of a Native New World in North America. Until the middle of the 19th century, Indigenous peoples controlled the vast majority of the continent. Most of the continent's indigenous peoples, however, were not conquered, assimilated or even socially incorporated into the settlements and political regimes; instead, Native peoples forged a new world of their own. This history remains largely untold in histories of early America.


  • Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor: This encyclopedic summary covers prehistory, history, cultures, and political and social aspects of Native peoples.
  • Encyclopedia of American Indian Issues Today, edited by Russell M. Lawson: This reference examines the history, culture and modern tribal concerns of Native Americans in North America.
  • Encyclopedia of the American Indian Movement, by Bruce E. Johansen: After more than a century of poverty and repression, stoked by the example of the movement against the Vietnam War and the upheaval among Black and Chicano civil rights activists, the American Indian movement saw Native peoples taking a stand for fishing rights and land rights and forming resistance to coal and uranium mining on tribal land. This work tells the story of that movement, and provides the first encyclopedic treatment of this subject.
  • Encyclopedia of Native American Music of North America, by Elaine Keillor, Timothy Archambault, and John M.H. Kelly: This resource documents the varied musical practices among Native Americans, both historically and in a modern context, and supplies an overview of their substantial contributions and influence. The entries address how ethnomusicologists with Native American heritage are revolutionizing approaches to the discipline and showcase how musicians with Native American heritage are influencing modern musical forms.


These require a UD username and password to access.

Bibliography of Indigenous Peoples in North America: This resource includes over 350,000 records covering Indigenous culture, history and life in North America from the 16th century to the present. These citations are connected to newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books, reviews and trade publications from the United States and Canada with expanded content from Great Britain and Australia.

North American Indian Thought and Culture: This database covers biographical information on North American indigenous people from the 17th century to present, including biographies, oral histories, reference works, manuscripts and photographs.

Internet Resources

— Kevin Cretsos is a library systems support specialist and a member of the University Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Team.

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