The featured books and DVDs for Native American Heritage Month showcase histories and personal narratives that explore the varied identities and cultures included within the broad term, “Native American.” This year, the Penn Libraries partnered with the Penn Native Community Council (PNCC) to curate this list.
“The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people” says Ralph J. De Lucia, PNCC’S founder and chair.
De Lucia explains that the display “will serve to educate our community about the unique challenges Native people have faced, both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.”
There’s also plenty to learn through the events and exhibits hosted by the official National Native American Heritage Month website, presented jointly by the Library of Congress and several other national organizations, and by visiting the Penn Museum exhibit, Native American Voices.
Note: The descriptions below are collected from publishers and edited for brevity and clarity.
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
In what is described as the first history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how colonialist policy against the Indigenous peoples was designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants and displace or eliminate them. Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes U.S. history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.
Children of the Stars: Indigenous Science Education in a Reservation Classroom by Ed Galindo with Lori Lambert
Science teacher Ed Galindo tells the story of a team of Shoshone-Bannock high school students he worked with in the 1990s to design an experiment used by NASA astronauts. Galindo’s story also touches on the complexities of community belonging and understanding; although Indigenous himself, Galindo is not a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and was still an outsider who had as much to learn as the students. Galindo’s story shows that through supportive, culturally relevant education, students can overcome the limitations of an underfunded reservation school to reach great heights.
Manoomin, wild rice, also known as “the good berry,” first drew the Anishinaabeg people to the Great Lakes region in search of the prophesied food that grows on water. Ethnobotanist Tashia Hart, who is Red Lake Anishinaabe, shares recipes, foraging tips, and basic preparations that equip home cooks to expand their repertoire with The Good Berry Cookbook. Through storytelling and science, she emphasizes food as medicine: good choices for our environment and good choices for our plate unite as we enjoy the benefits the good berry and its botanical neighbors have to offer.
Fred Sasakamoose, torn from his home at the age of 7, endured the horrors of residential school for a decade before becoming one of 120 players in the most elite hockey league in the world. He was heralded as the first Indigenous player with Treaty status in the NHL, making his official debut as a 1954 Chicago Black Hawks player on Hockey Night in Canada … but he left after just 12 games. Sasakamoose’s groundbreaking memoir sheds piercing light on Canadian history and Indigenous politics, and follows this extraordinary man’s journey to reclaim pride in an identity and a heritage that had previously been used against him.
An Indian among los Indígenas: A Native Travel Memoir by Ursula Pike
When she was 25, Ursula Pike boarded a plane to Bolivia and began her term of service in the Peace Corps. A member of the Karuk Tribe, Pike expected to make meaningful connections with Indigenous people halfway around the world, but over the next two years began questioning her role in a colonizing force. Pike’s memoir of this experience is a sharp, honest, and unnerving examination of the shadows that colonial history casts over even the most well-intentioned attempts at cross-cultural solidarity.
Filmed during the 2016 Standing Rock protests in South Dakota, Sky Hopinka’s Dislocation Blues offers a portrait of the movement and its water protectors, refuting grand narratives and myth-making in favor of individual testimonials. Footage of activist Terry Running Wild during the protests describes what his camp is like, and what he hopes it will become, while interviews with activist Cleo Keahna reflect on his experiences entering, being at, and leaving the camp and the difficulties and the reluctance in looking back with a clear and critical eye.
Barking Water uses the ruggedly beautiful backdrop of rural Oklahoma to tell the story of Frankie, a proud Native American attempting to reconnect with his estranged family. Released from the hospital, but still very ill, he hits the road with his ex-lover Irene, who acts as Frankie's nurse but refuses to offer forgiveness for his past indiscretions. As they travel through the sun-dappled country, they encounter various eccentric personalities, but Frankie’s journey really begins when he reunites with his daughter and finally meets her newborn child.
A young Lakota Sioux, adopted by a wealthy Jewish couple in Beverly Hills, gets in touch with his cultural roots and solves a mystery in this thriller. Because of his upbringing, Jesse Rainfeather Goldman knows almost nothing of Native American traditions when he suddenly receives an amulet from the Lakota reservation in Sioux City. Discovering it came from his birth mother, Jesse travels to his birthplace to learn why she sent it. Jesse must work with the unwelcoming local police force and understand his tribe’s customs in order to discover what happened to her.
This adaptation of an ancient Inuit legend is set at the dawn of the first millennium, when nomadic Inuit were masters of the frozen arctic. Evil in the form of an unknown shaman divides a small community of Inuit in Igloolik, upsetting its balance and spirit. Twenty years later, wo brothers emerge to challenge the evil order: Amaqjuaq, the Strong One, and Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner. Can Atanarjuat escape the cycle of vengeance?
Mohawk Girls is a feature-length documentary about three teenage-girls growing up in the Kahnawake Mohawk community, outside of Montreal. Shot over the span of two years, Mohawk filmmaker, Tracey Deer, takes viewers into the lives of these girls and offers a surprising inside look at Native youth culture in the 21st century. Deer later developed the film into a comedy-drama series she described as “Sex and the City for the Native set.”