Book Beat: Native American Voices

Submitted by J. Alder on

November is Native American Heritage Month, also called American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month also offers a great opportunity to learn about tribes, to gain a greater awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and still today, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.

FVRLibraries celebrates the Native communities in our service area and beyond by sharing their stories. I hope you enjoy something from this list. You’ll find more books and resources for Native American Heritage Month here. Of course, for more reading suggestions, you can always ask our staff at the library, call us at 360-906-5000, or contact us online

  • Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry by Joy Harjo. A collection that highlights the voices of 47 contemporary Native American poets, curated by the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Mornaday. This novel tells the story of a young Kiowa man named Abel, home from a foreign war and caught between two worlds: his father's traditional one, and an industrialized American one.
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer. The author points out the many ways Native Americans and their culture have survived and thrived despite centuries of oppression and forced assimilation into the dominant culture.
  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. Erdrich pays tribute to her night watchman grandfather in this novel about Native American dispossession in the 1950s. Central character Thomas Wazhashk’s life is upended when he learns that the U.S. government has earmarked his Chippewa community for “emancipation”. The Night Watchman follows Thomas’s tireless efforts to persuade the U.S. government to honor treaties that protected what remained of their lands.
  • White Grizzly Bear's Legacy: Learning to be Indian by Lawney Reyes. The author, a Colville Tribal member, tells of the drowning of Kettle Falls, what it was like to live in Old Inchelium as flooding forced people to move, the character of Coulee City during the days of dam construction, and boarding school life at Chemawa.

Library tip of the month: Check out an activities backpack kit containing binoculars, field guides, educational materials, and a Discover Pass. The Check Out Washington Pass offers you access to millions of acres of state recreation lands in Washington, including more than 100 state parks plus many other state lands. Place a hold and pick it up when it’s available. 

Janet Alder is Marketing and Communications Coordinator with Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries, which has 15 locations in Clark, Skamania, Klickitat, and Cowlitz Counties. Call 360-906-5000 or visit the library district website for more information.

A version of this column first appeared in The Messenger, November 2023.

Find more book columns in our Off the Shelf blog.