5 books you should read on Indigenous history, perspectives

Ivy Secrest

(Graphic Illustration by Trin Bonner | The Collegian)

It is so easy to practice mindless advocacy: speaking on behalf of groups you don’t understand and can never be a part of. Indigenous groups are often included in this kind of allyship. 

It is easy to defend groups that have been treated like relics — long gone pieces of history that can’t defend themselves. However, they can and they do. Indigenous voices are alive and well, and if you are interested in working with them, then you should listen to them. 

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Here are books you should read if you are interested in learning about Indigenous history and modern Indigenous practices.

1. ‘Dreaming the Council Ways: True Native Teachings from the Red Lodge’ by Ohky Simine Forest

This book provides perspectives from Indigenous Canadian, Mongolian and Mayan backgrounds around shamanic practices, matriarchal structures and ways in which to embody council practices. 

A combination of practice and application, this book is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a universe disregarded by standard textbooks. 

2. ‘Roots of Our Renewal: Ethnobotany and Cherokee Environmental Governance’ by Clint Carroll

Providing an explanation of the multifaceted ties the Cherokee people have with the lands they have inhabited since their forced removal, this book explores a connection in regard to natural resource management through Native governance. 

Drawing on his own experience as a member of the Cherokee nation, Clint Carroll provides an alternative way of governing the environment and how Native practices can protect tribal lands. 

3. ‘Ceremony’ by Leslie Marmon Silko

If you’re looking for more of a fictional read with overarching themes of Indigenous identity struggle and the impacts of the history you’re familiar with on Indigenous people, then “Ceremony” is for you. 

This novel follows Tayo, a half-Native, half-white man and his struggles with PTSD upon his return home from World War II. This book provides insight on several issues, including the consequences that World War II had on the Indigenous people who served. 

4. ‘The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America’ by Thomas King 

In another summary of Indigenous history in North America, Thomas King discusses the influences of media on common knowledge of Indigenous groups and provides an in-depth look at a frequently brushed-over aspect of American history. 

If you are interested in actually understanding the Indigenous perspective, this book provides the necessary context to further educate yourself. 

5. ‘Tribal Theory in Native American Literature: Dakota and Haudenosaunee Writing and Indigenous Worldviews’ by Penelope Myrtle Kelsey

A deep dive into the use of Indigenous language and the worldview it creates, this book uses Dakota storytellers to explore broader themes of tribal theory. 

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Penelope Myrtle Kelsey evaluates several Dakota writers in a heavily academically inclined assessment of Dakota literature and oral tradition. If you are looking to develop your understanding of tribal theory, this book is an excellent resource. 

While we cannot turn back time and undo the actions of colonizers, we can do better than mindlessly regurgitating information about Indigenous cultures we learned in outdated history courses. 

In honor of Indigenous history and the struggles that Indigenous cultures have faced due to centuries of oppression, it is imperative that we educate ourselves, listen and make room for Indigenous voices. 

Reach Ivy Secrest at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.