First Nations Books

First Nations Books

Here are some books that are valuable for anyone wanting to know more about First Nations and the history and process of colonization within a land. That land might be Newfoundland, Labrador, Canada as well as others around the world.

The peoples of such internal colonization is what George Manuel defined as “the Fourth World”. I’ve been thinking about that since hearing that Arthur Manuel died last week. He was a chief and political activist in British Columbia. He was also the son of George Manuel, author of The Fourth World.

I read The Fourth World at university. Wow, I thought then, and still do whenever I reread parts of it. I still have my original copy. It’s moved with me many times over four decades.Books and cat

Going through my bookshelves for it, I saw other books that I consider indispensable for thinking about First Nations and Canada.  Make a list then, I thought. I will keep adding to it as I think of more. I have put in links for purchase when I could. Otherwise, libraries and used book stores are your best bet.

The Books

prison of grass cover Amazon linkPrison of Grass: Canada from the native point of view, Howard Adams, General Publishing 1975 & 1989

"With the publication of this eloquent, passionate and scholarly work, no Canadian can ever again boast that this is a country free from the cancer of racism." - from cover blurb by Pierre Berton. (Click image for Amazon link)
surviving as indians amazon linkSurviving as Indians: The challenge of self-government, Menno Boldt, U of Toronto 1993

Government-First Nations history and how self-government might work, written at a time when band self-government agreements were sought by the federal government. (Click image for Amazon link)
Half-Breed cover imageHalfbreed, Maria Campbell, 1973

An autobiography that tells you what it was like growing up Métis in Saskatchewan in the mid-20th century. It was a 'wow' book when it was first published and still is. (Click title for all available Amazon editions)
Son of the Morning Star Amazon linkSon of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn, Evan S. Connell, North Point Press 1984.

A novel, and a history of a big moment in Euro-American and First Nation "contact" - the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn. Facts and interpretation, in lyrical writing that carries you along in the action. (Click image for Amazon link)
Son of the Morning Star DVD eBay linkSon of the Morning Star (DVD)

The 1991 movie based on Evan Connell's book stars Gary Cole and Rosanna Arquette. I didn't think a movie could do justice to the book, but this does. (Click image for eBay listings)
Stubborn Resistance Amazon linkStubborn Resistance: New Brunswick Maliseet and Mi'kmaq in defence of their lands, Brian Cuthbertson, Nimbus Publishing, 2015

A history of Maliseet and Mi'kmaq defence of their lands in New Brunswick, from the 18th century treaties signed by the new colony to the present day. (Click image for Amazon link)
Amazon link for Indigenous Peoples and Nation-StateIndigenous Peoples and the Nation-State: "Fourth-World" politics in Canada, Australia and Norway, Noel Dyck, ISER Memorial University of Nfld. 1985.

"...theoretical overview and sufficient case material to develop an understanding of the political issues facing the peoples of the Fourth World." (Click image for Amazon link)
First Nations in 21st century Amazon linkFirst Nations in the Twenty-First Century, James S. Frideres, Oxford U. Press 2011.

"...legacy of residential schools;
intergenerational trauma; Aboriginal languages and culture; health and well-being on reserves; self-government and federal responsibility...(Click image for Amazon link)
From Oral to Written Amazon linkFrom Oral to Written: A celebration of Indigenous literature in Canada, 1980-2010, Tomson Highway, Talonbooks 2017

Cree playwright, novelist and musician Tomson Highway said in interviews that he could count 19 books by indigenous writers in Canada written prior to 1980. This is his 448 page list of those written since. (Click image for Amazon link)
Grassy Narrows link to AmazonGrassy Narrows, George Hutchison and Dick Wallace, Van Nostrand Reinhold 1977

Hutchison and Wallace covered the Grassy Narrows, Ontario mercury poisoning story for the London Free Press. My mother bought me this book. The story and images were horrifying then, and they still are 40 years later. (Click image for Amazon link.)
Amazon link for The Inconvenient IndianThe Inconvenient Indian: A curious account of native people in North America, Thomas King, Anchor Canada 2013

Anything written by Thomas King is worth reading, but this look at 'being Indian' - historically and in modern Canadian society - is especially valuable. (Click image for Amazon link)
unsettling canada amazon linkUnsettling Canada: A national wake-up call, Arthur Manuel, Between the Lines 2015

"...chronicles the modern struggle for Indigenous rights covering fifty years of struggle..."(Click image for Amazon link)
cover the fourth world book by george manuelThe Fourth World, George Manuel and Michael Posluns, Don Mills: Collier Macmillan Canada 1974

Colonization within lands and the connections between "Fourth World" peoples. Available in libraries and, if you're lucky, somewhere for sale. (I couldn't find it online at a reasonable price)
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse Amazon linkIn the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement, Peter Matthiessen, Penquin (revised ed.) 1992

Afterword by Martin Garbus, the lawyer who defended the author and publisher in a libel suit brought against them about this book by the FBI and South Dakota's attempt to stop its publication. (Click image for Amazon link)
Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A history of Indian-White relations in Canada, J. R. Miller, U of Toronto Press 2000 3rd ed.

I asked Dr. Gordon Inglis, of the Anthropology Dept. at Memorial University, what would be good texts for an introductory class on indigenous issues. This was one he recommended. He was right. (Click image for Amazon link)
Big Chief Elizabeth Amazon linkBig Chief Elizabeth: How England's adventurers gambled and won the New World, Giles Milton, Hodder and Stoughton 2000

Queen Elizabeth I's 16th century adventurers in North America. The early colonies, and also Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his "discovery" of an already fairly crowded St. John's harbour. (Click image for Amazon link)
We Were Not The Savages Amazon linkWe Were Not The Savages: Collision between European and Native American civilizations, Daniel N. Paul, Halifax: Fernwood 2006

A history of European-First Nations relations, from before contact to the late 20th century. The focus is on Atlantic Canada from the point of view of the Mi'kmaq. (Click image for Amazon link)
People of Terra Nullius link to AmazonPeople of Terra Nullius, Boyce Richardson, Douglas & McIntyre 1993

"Terra Nullius, a land that is empty of people. This is a legal concept used by Europeans when they first arrived in North America." (Click image for Amazon link)
Lumbee Indian Histories link to AmazonLumbee Indian Histories: Race, ethnicity, and Indian identity in the Southern United States, Gerald Sider, Cambridge U. P. 1993

A fascinating look at definitions of identity. The Lumbee of North Carolina fought for many, many years for recognition as an indigenous people. Dr. Sider also has spent a lot of time in Newfoundland. (Click image for Amazon link)
Enough is enough Amazon linkEnough is Enough: Aboriginal women speak out, Janet Silman (compiler), Women's Press, 1992

Stories from the Maliseet women of Tobique NB. They tell about their lives and their protests against gender discrimination in the Indian Act. (Click image for Amazon link)
A Knock On The Door Amazon linkA Knock On The Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Edited and Abridged, TRC, U. of Manitoba Press, 2015

Published in collaboration with the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation,  with a foreword by former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine. The archive of recordings and documents collected by the TRC is in an afterword by Aimée Craft. (Click image for Amazon link)
Nitassinan link to AmazonNitassinan: The Innu struggle to reclaim their homeland, Marie Wadden, Douglas & McIntyre 1991

The story of the Labrador Innu, internally colonized perhaps doubly. First by the Dominion of Newfoundland, then by Canada. (Click image for Amazon link)
Where the Pavement Ends link to AmazonWhere The Pavement Ends: Canada's aboriginal recovery movement and the urgent need for reconciliation, Marie Wadden, Douglas & McIntyre 2009.

Like The Dispossessed, a journalist travels around First Nations communities. The stories told are both sad and hopeful, personal and political. (Click image for Amazon link)
Stolen Continents: Conquest and resistance in the Americas, Ronald Wright, Penguin Canada 1992

First subtitled 'The "New World" through Indian eyes since 1492', it is the story of contact and its aftermath in North, Central and South America told from the perspective of the indigenous peoples. (Click image for Amazon link)
The Dispossessed link to AmazonThe Dispossessed: Life and death in native Canada, Geoffrey York, Vintage UK 1989

This was the other book that Dr. Gordon Inglis suggested as a Native Issues course text. Some students said it was depressing. Yep, it is. And what's more depressing is that, all these years later, it still reads like current news. (Click image for Amazon link)
People of the Pines link to AmazonPeople of the Pines: The Warriors and the legacy of Oka, Geoffrey York and Loreen Pindera, Little, Brown & Co. 1991

The standoff in the summer of 1990 at Oka and Kahnawake told by two reporters who covered it. (Click image for Amazon link)
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