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4 books to check out by indigenous writers

This International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, celebrate their diverse stories and experiences with these four books.
BY Anandamayee Singh |   09-08-2019

4 books to check out by indigenous writers

What comes to mind when you think of indigenous people? Perhaps you instantly imagine Disney’s Pocohantas, or Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto in The Lone Ranger. If you followed the news last year, maybe the idea of indigenous people brings to mind the American missionary who got killed by an isolated tribe near the Sentinel islands. None of these representations are accurate. According to the World Bank, there are 370 million indigenous people around the world, belonging to different tribes and nations.  In honour of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, here are five books, both literature and theory, that explore and celebrate the diverse lives and experiences of indigenous folks around the world.
 

Mohawk Interruptus- Audra Simpson

Mohawk Interruptus is a look at the politics of the indigenous people in the Kahnawà:ke reserve, located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, near Montreal, Quebec. Simpson-- a professor of Anthropology at Columbia University-- draws from her ethnographic work to challenge pre-existing narratives of the Kahnawà:ke people and indigenous existence in academia.. She brings in the colonial roots of anthropology to highlight a consistent lack of accountability in ethnographic researchers studying indigenous communities. Would the researcher be comfortable returning to the community after the work is published? Simpson asks powerfully, urging for greater scientific responsibility when it comes to ethnographic work, especially for indigenous communities, whose narratives are rarely given the room to be holistically expressed. This book is a great introduction to the role anthropology has played in creating tropes of the lives and histories of inidgenous communities.
 

Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide- Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith’s powerful work is both painful and necessary in the way it brings to attention the destruction of Native women’s bodies in the project of conquests. In the book, Smith explicitly connects patriarchy and colonialism, drawing an uncomfortable and heartbreaking historical tapestry of sexual and gender violence as a means to destroy indigenous sovereignty in the United States. It also emphasizes the link between imperialism and the environment, and indigenous communities unique knowledge and position in this specific resistance. While brutally honest, Smith is hopeful of future resistance. She highlights the work by indigenous activists and other activists of colour in fighting the many gendered and sexual violences of imperialist states like the US, and stresses the need for solidarity amongst marginalized activists.
 

The Whale Rider- Witi Ihimaera

As the first published author of Maori descent, Witi Ihimaera is known for emotionally evocative narratives that celebrate and commemorate Maori traditions and lives. His novel, The Whale Rider beautifully weaves together gender, nature, friendship, family and the politics of indigeneity in a settler colonial state. The story revolves around eight year old Kahu, the last surviving grandchild of the patriarchal Wangharu tribal leader, believed to be direct descendants of whale rider Kahutia Te Rangi. When hundreds of whales beach themselves, the future of her tribeis threatened, and only Kahu, with the inherited gifts from Kahutia Te Rangi, can save them. Ihimaera’s moving story is a wonderful snapshot of the role nature plays in the politics and sovereignty of the Wangharu tribe, and the implications of the ‘progress’ brought about settler colonialism.
 

Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature- Qwo Li Driskill

As the first American anthology of two spirit literature, this book is a revolution in itself. It includes poetry, essays and short fiction and explores perititent themes to queer indigenous existence, such as memory, history, sexuality, friendship and loss. The anthology is a loud and proud celebration of the love, lives and art of indigenous LGBTQ people, often overlooked in the larger narrative of indigeneity. This book is perfect for anyone interested in understanding expressions of gender and sexuality that lie outside of the normally acceptable and popular white narrative.

 

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