Books about the American West from a Native perspective?
July 10, 2020 8:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting to read more books about the American West, and would like to find some that are specifically by and about Native peoples. Fiction, non-fiction, historical or modern are all welcome!

Inspired by having just finished Ivan Doig's This House of Sky, and a childhood reading the Little House books. (And an adulthood reading critiques of said books. And, frankly, my own move west a few years ago.) I've read a handful of true Westerns, but I'm more interested in, I guess, meditations on the American West, the landscape and the living there and what it means to live there and be from there and so on. So far I've read Borderlands/La Frontera, but I'm not sure where to even start looking next.

I'm okay with scholarly works, but I'm really looking more for something for the general public. Any genre is fine, fiction or non-, historical or modern. I love memoirs. Geographically, anything west of the Mississippi River, I guess? I fell in love with Montana after traveling through it, and the PNW has especial meaning to me, but this is not to exclude other regions at all.

(Important caveat: I am well aware that it wasn't just white and indigenous peoples in the American West! But for the moment, I am particularly interested in a primarily Native point of view/experiences/writings/etc.)
posted by kalimac to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Black Elk Speaks.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:53 AM on July 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Books by Louise Erdich.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:03 AM on July 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Full-Court Quest: The Girls from Fort Shaw Indian School Basketball Champions of the World

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:07 AM on July 10, 2020

Best answer: Leslie Marmon Silko (though skip Almanac of the Dead).
posted by gudrun at 9:38 AM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sherman Alexie
posted by golden at 10:36 AM on July 10, 2020

Best answer: Tom King's The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America zooms in and out of a North America-wide perspective, but covers the American West (and media portrayals thereof) quite a bit in the second chapter ("The End of the Trail").
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:46 AM on July 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For the PNW, strongly reccommend Eden Robinson, e.g., Monkey Beach.
posted by Rumple at 10:55 AM on July 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In addition to The Inconvenient Indian, you might take a look at Thomas King's novel Green Grass, Running Water (though again, it's got more of a continent-wide perspective than a strictly American one.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:59 AM on July 10, 2020

Best answer: This is not geographically specific but is a really wonderful collection. Say We Are Nations: Documents of Politics and Protest in Indigenous America since 1887. Table of contents for your reference.

Also while I LOVE Robin Wall Kimmerer, her work is definitely situated east of the Mississippi.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:18 AM on July 10, 2020

Best answer: I haven't read it, but God is Red comes highly recommended by people I know.
posted by Dmenet at 11:23 AM on July 10, 2020

Best answer: The Lakota Times, Indian Country News (and I'm sure many other Native media outlets) publishes book reviews that are a good place to find recommendations (and critiques / takedowns). Wade Davies' Native Hoops: The Rise of American Indian Basketball 1895-1970 looks great. From a fun interview with the author.
A prominent Navajo educator once told historian Peter Iverson that “the five major sports on the Navajo Nation are basketball, basketball, basketball, basketball, and rodeo.” The Native American passion for basketball extends far beyond the Navajo, whether on reservations or in cities, among the young and the old. Why basketball—a relatively new sport—should hold such a place in Native culture is the question Wade Davies takes up in Native Hoops; The Rise of American Indian Basketball 1895-1970.
I've also have been meaning to read Scott Berg's 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:56 AM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: mary crow dog/brave bird's memoirs
posted by brujita at 2:43 PM on July 10, 2020

Best answer: The Grass Dancer by Susan Power.
posted by suelac at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Anything by James Welch or N. Scott Momaday.
posted by goatdog at 3:38 PM on July 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also check out Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's memoirs.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:54 PM on July 10, 2020

Best answer: David Trueur's The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present is really good (Trueur's mother is a member of the Ojibwe tribe, and he was raised on the Leech Lake reservation in Minnesota).
posted by box at 7:54 AM on July 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so very much. Braiding Sweetgrass has been on my to-read list for awhile now, so it gets grandfathered into my not that strict geographical limits. I'm really excited to dive into all of these -- thank you again!
posted by kalimac at 2:09 PM on July 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding N. Scott Momaday.
posted by peripatetron errant at 7:32 PM on July 13, 2020

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