Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month is celebrated each November. It started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions made by Native Americans and has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose. Illinois legislators enacted an American Indian Day in 1919, and in 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994. For additional information and resources, visit the official Native American Heritage Month website


The following list of resources can help you celebrate Native American Heritage Month by learning about the history of Native American communities in the United States, reading about the lives of Native people, and experiencing the works of Native American authors and creators. Many of the titles and authors included on this list have received awards or other honors, but this list is by no means comprehensive. 


Adult Fiction 

  • To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose: A young Indigenous woman enters a colonizer-run dragon academy after bonding with a hatchling. 

  • VenCo by Cherie Dimaline: After finding a magical object, Métis millennial Lucky St. James and her cantankerous grandmother Stella are welcomed into a network of witches. 

  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich: Award-winning author Erdrich returns to North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Reservation for this story of the efforts of a young Chippewa woman and her uncle to halt the Termination Act of 1953. 

  • Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford: An intergenerational story about mothers and daughters struggling to keep their families together in the midst of poverty, illness, and natural disasters in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. 

  • Five Little Indians by Michelle Good: Taken from their families at a young age and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie, and Maisie must find their way forward when they are released after years of detention. 

  • Savage Conversations by LeAnne Howe: The 1862 mass execution of 38 Dakota haunts Mary Todd Lincoln, institutionalized and alone with her ghosts. 

  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones: This horror novel follows four American Indian men from the Blackfeet Nation after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. 

  • There There by Tommy Orange: This novel grapples with the complex history of Native Americans by following 12 characters, each of whom has private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. 

  • A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power: This novel tells the stories of three Yanktonai Dakota women from different generations, told through the stories of the dolls they carried in 1888, 1925, and 1961.   

  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: When a small town needs her help to find a missing girl, Maggie Hoskie, a Dinétah monster hunter, reluctantly enlists the help of an unconventional medicine man to uncover the terrifying truth. 

  • Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty: Set in a Native community in Maine, this short story collection is about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and how people live, survive, and persevere after tragedy. 

  • When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky by Margaret Verble: In 1926 Nashville, Cherokee horse-diver Two Feathers is working at the Glendale Park Zoo when catastrophe strikes one of her shows and more unsettling events follow. 

  • Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden: A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx. 

  • The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson: This haunting novel spanning several generations follows a Dakhóta family’s struggle to preserve their way of life and their sacrifices to protect what matters most. 


Adult Nonfiction & Memoir 

  • Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz: This groundbreaking poetry collection won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. 

  • A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott: In this memoir, Elliott presents a portrait of her family and the effects of the personal, intergenerational, and colonial traumas they have experienced. 

  • Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann: Presents a true account of the early twentieth-century murders of dozens of wealthy Osage and law-enforcement officials, citing the contributions and missteps of a fledgling FBI that eventually uncovered a chilling conspiracy. 

  • Poet Warrior: A Memoir by Joy Harjo: Three-term Poet Laureate Harjo offers a vivid, lyrical, and inspiring call for love and justice in this contemplation of her trailblazing life. 

  • Billy Caldwell (1780-1841): Chicago and the Great Lakes Trail by Susan L. Kelsey: Written by a local Lake Forest author, this historical account follows Billy Caldwell, a Métis man living in the Great Lakes region in the early 1800s. 

  • Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot: A powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. 


Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction 

  • Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley: Daunis defers attending the University of Michigan to care for her mother and reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation of a series of drug-related deaths. 

  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. 

  • Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth: This memoir in verse explores intersectional identities through generational and personal experience. 

  • Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger: A Lipan Apache teen comes face-to-face with her cousin’s ghost and vows to unmask the murderer. 

  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Jean Mendoza & Debbie Reese: This work of nonfiction examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and fight against imperialism in the United States. 

  • Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith: Louise breaks up with her boyfriend after he makes a racist remark about her Native American heritage and begins covering the racial hostilities exposed by the casting of the new school play. 


Streaming Movies on Kanopy 

  • Barking Water: This film portrays a road trip across Oklahoma by a dying man and his former lover to visit friends and family in the Seminole Nation. 

  • The Exiles: Included in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, this movie chronicles a night in the life of a group of young Native Americans who fled reservation life to roam the Bunker Hill district of Los Angeles. 

  • Ohero:kon - Under the Husk: This short documentary follows two Mohawk girls on their journey to becoming Mohawk women.   

  • The Return of Navajo Boy: An official selection of the Sundance Film Festival, this documentary reunited a Navajo family and triggered a federal investigation into uranium contamination. 

  • Who Owns the Past?: This documentary explores the discovery of a 9,000-year-old skeleton near Kennewick, Washington, an event which reignited the conflict between anthropologists and Native Americans over the control of human remains found on ancestral Indian lands.