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Top 100 books by Indigenous Masters

Everyone loves a good list but finding lists that reflect the intelligence of experts in a given field can sometimes be tricky.  Consider, if you will, books about American Indians for the kiddos.  I can’t tell you how many summer reading lists I see every year that have The Indian in the Cupboard, The Matchlock Gun, or even Rifles for Watie on them.  Just once it would be nice to see a Top 100 list of books that could serve as guidelines for folks searching for good books about indigenous peoples.

You can imagine my interest, then, when Debbie Reese mentioned on the ccbc-net listserv that she had contributed to a list called “Top One Hundred Books by Indigenous Writers.”  She also said that if anyone was interested in seeing this list, they could contact her and she’d pass it on.  But with a list this good, it begs to be shared.  I asked Debbie and her fellow experts in the field if it would be all right to post the list on this site and they agreed.

Here’s is some background, from Debbie, about the books:

As we worked on the list, we limited ourselves on # of books per author so that we could be as inclusive as possible. The list is a combination of our personal favorites and recommendations from peers.

We did not delineate or mark those that are in the children/YA category. We feel strongly that those who wish to write for adults or children/YA would benefit from reading what we’re calling masters. And, we think that those who wish to strengthen their ability to select/review books about American Indians would benefit from reading the books, too. So many authors who give talks and workshops tell people that in order to write, they have to read.

I have linked some of the children’s and YA titles to reviews and records.  If I have missed any, please let me know.

Thank you Debbie, Susan, Teresa, and Tim for passing this along.  I am very pleased and moved to host it here.

A Work in Progress: Top One Hundred Books by Indigenous Writers

Compiled for ATALM [1] 2012, by

Susan Hanks, Debbie Reese, Teresa Runnels, and Tim Tingle [2]

Updated on February 24, 2014


After a year of informal surveys and queries, we offer a list of over 100 books that every museum and library should have on their shelves. Written by tribal members, these books are the foundation of our literature as Indigenous people. Just as Western culture promotes Shakespeare as a prerequisite to grasping the essence of Western word arts, we promote N. Scott Momaday, D’Arcy McNickle, and many, many others to insure that our future writers reference, in images and ideas, our Indigenous masters.


Among our list are books written for children and young adults. Though often seen as “less than” because of their intended reader, we believe books for children are as important—if not more important—than books for adults. The future of our Nations will be in the hands of our children. Books that reflect them and their nations are crucial to the well being of all our Nations.


Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene)

  • The Business of Fancydancing
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
  • Reservation Blues


Rilla Askew (Choctaw)

  • Mercy Seat


Beverly Blacksheep (Navajo)


Kimberly Blaeser (White Earth Ojibwe)

  • Absentee Indians and Other Poems


Joseph Boyden (Metis/Micmac)

  • Three Day Road


Jim Bruchac and Joe Bruchac (Abenaki)


Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)


Ignatia Broker (Ojibwe)

  • Night Flying Woman


Emily Ivanoff Brown (Native Village of Unalakleet)

  • The Longest Story Ever Told: Qayak, The Magical Man


Nicola Campbell (Interior Salish)


Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes


Robert Conley (Cherokee)

  • Medicine War
  • The Witch of Going Snake


Ella Deloria (Yankton Sioux)

  • Waterlily


Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Lakota)

  • Custer Died For Your Sins
  • Red Earth, White Lies


Jennifer Denetdale (Dine)

  • The Long Walk: The Forced Navajo Exile
  • Reclaiming Dine History


Echo-Hawk, Roger C. and Walter C. Echo-Hawk (Pawnee)

  • Battlefields and Burial Grounds: The Indian Struggle to Protect Ancestral Graves in the United States


Walter C. Echo-Hawk (Pawnee)

  • In the Courts of the Conqueror: the 10 Worst Law Cases Ever Decided


Heid Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)

  • Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems


Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)

  • The Beet Queen
  • The Last Report on the Miracles at No Horse


Jack D. Forbes (Powhatan Delaware)

  • Only Approved Indians: Stories
  • Red Blood
  • Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples


Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)

  • A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function
  • Extra Indians
  • Mending Skins


Diane Glancy (Cherokee)

  • Pushing the Bear


Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek)

  • For a Girl Becoming
  • In Mad Love and War
  • Reinventing the Enemies Language


Tomson Highway (Cree)

  • Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing
  • Kiss of the Fur Queen


Geary Hobson (Cherokee, Quapaw)

  • The Last of the Ofos
  • The Remembered Earth


Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)

  • Mean Spirit
  • Red Clay: Poems & Stories
  • Solar Storms
  • The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir


LeAnne Howe (Choctaw)

  • Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story
  • Shell Shaker


Hershman John (Navajo)

  • I Swallow Turquoise for Courage


Thomas King (Cherokee)

  • Medicine River
  • One Good Story, That One


Michael Lacapa (Apache/Hopi)

  • Antelope Woman
  • Less than Half, More Than Whole


Winona LaDuke (Ojibwe/Chippewa/Anishinabe)

  • All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life


Adrian Louis (Paiute)

  • Among the Dog Eaters
  • Shedding Skins
  • Skin
  • Wild Indians and Other Creatures


Larry Loyie (Cree)

  • As Long as the Rivers Flow: A Last Summer Before Residential School


Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee) and Michael Wallace

  • A Chief and Her People


Joseph Marshall III (Lakota Sioux)

  • The Journey of Crazy Horse
  • The Lakota Way


John Joseph Matthews (Osage)

  • Sundown


Janet McAdams (Creek)

  • After Removal (with Geary Hobson and Kathryn Walkiewicz)
  • The Island of Lost Luggage
  • The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing
  • Red Weather


Joseph Medicine Crow (Crow)

  • Counting Coup


Carla Messinger (Lenape)

  • When the Shadbush Blooms


N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)

  • House Made of Dawn
  • The Way to Rainey Mountain


D’Arcy McNickle (Cree)

  • The Hawk is Hungry
  • Runner in the Sun
  • The Surrounded
  • Wind from an Enemy Sky


Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo)

  • Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay


Jim Northrup (Ojibwe)

  • Walking the Rez Road                                   


Simon Ortiz (Acoma)

  • The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa ‘Kashtyaa’tsi  Hiyaani
  • Men on the Moon: Collected Short Stories
  • The People Shall Continue
  • From Sand Creek


Louis Owens (Choctaw)

  • The Bone Game
  • Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place
  • The Sharpest Sight
  • Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel


Leonard Peltier (Anishinabe/Lakota)

  • Prison Writings
  • My Life is My Sun Dance


William Penn (Nez Perce/Osage)

  • All My Sins Are Relatives


Susan Power (Sioux)

  • The Grass Dancer


Marcie Rendon (Anishinabe)

  • Pow Wow Summer


Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo)

  • Almanac of the Dead
  • Ceremony
  • Laguna Women: Poems
  • Storyteller


Cheryl Savageau (Abenaki)

  • Muskrat Will Be Swimming


Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)


Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche)

  • Everything You Know About Indians is Wrong


Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Lakota Sioux)


Allen J. Sockabasin (Passamaquoddy)

  • Thanks to the Animals


Shirley Sterling (Salish)

  • My Name is Seepeetza


Chief Jake Swamp (Mohawk)


Luci Tapahonso (Dine)

  • A Breeze Swept Through: Poetry
  • Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories
  • Songs of Shiprock Fair


Drew Hayden Taylor (Curve Lake Ojibwe)

  • The Night Wanderer


Tim Tingle (Choctaw)

  • House of Purple Cedar


Laura Tohe (Navajo)

  • No Parole Today


Richard Van Camp (Dogrib)

  • The Lesser Blessed
  • The Moon of Letting Go: and Other Stories
  • Path of the Warrior


Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Ojibway)

  • Morning on the Lake
  • SkySisters


Velma Wallis (Athabascan)

  • Two Old Women:  An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival


Anna Lee Walters (Pawnee/Otoe)

  • Ghost Singer


James Welch (Blackfoot/Gros Ventre)

  • Fool’s Crow
  • Heartsong of Charging Elk
  • Indian Lawyer
  • Winter in the Blood


Bernelda Wheeler (Cree/Assiniboine/Saulteaux)

  • I Can’t Have Bannock but the Beaver Has a Dam
  • Where Did You Get Your Moccasins?


Robert A. Williams (Lumbee)

  • Like a Loaded Weapon: The Rehnquist Court, Indian Rights, and the History of Racism in America


Daniel H. Wilson (Cherokee)

  • Robopocalypse


Craig Womack (Creek)

  • Drowning in Fire
  • Red On Red: Native American Literary Separatism


For further information and titles, contact Susan Hanks at, Debbie Reese at, Teresa Runnels at, or Tim Tingle at


[1] The 2012 conference of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. ATALM Website:

[2] This list was compiled for presentation at the ATALM conference. We encourage all librarians to purchase a copy of every book by the writers on our list, and we encourage you to ask when out-of-print books will be back in print. In preparing our list, we limited ourselves to no more than four titles per author. The titles are our personal favorites. Our contact info is below.



About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Glad to see The Christmas Coat on here. It’s one of my favorites, and has circulated well (mostly at Christmas, of course).

  2. What a fabulous list. I love that you don’t differentiate among the audiences and age ranges of the texts. And I am reminded of all the wonderful Native writers I’ve found during my years of living in the American southwest–Nora Naranjo-Morse, Lucy Tapahanso, Jennifer Denetdale. Such riches in this list. So I want to ask–is there a similar list that features Native illustrators?

  3. One of the books I really liked last year was Eric Gansworth’s If I Even Get Out of Here so was happy to see it on this list.

  4. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says

    What are we to make of a list that does not include THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie? I know it’s not billed as a children’s/young adult list, but the presence of so many titles from those fields demands its presence on the list. Otherwise, it just undermines the whole thing.

    Also, does anybody find it odd that the author with most titles represented–five!–also happens to be one of the contributors to the list. Weird. Another impropriety?

    • Marlon Sherman says

      Sorry you feel that way about the list, Mr. Hunt. So many people have critiques or complaints after the fact. What needs to be accounted for here is the fact that this is an arbitrary list, one that was limited to the “top” 100. It’s self-limiting. So it looks as if the only limitations here were the number and the tribal backgrounds of the authors. This list is not limitless. There are authors and books missing, that some think should have been included. However, rather than complaining, maybe it would be better to make your own list with your own preferences and parameters.

      • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says

        Um . . . “After a year of informal surveys and queries, we offer a list of OVER 100 books that every museum and library should have on their shelves.”

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Actually that was my bad. There was an update made to the list that removed one of Tingle’s titles. It wasn’t entered initially but I’ve made the correction and it’s back down to four. Sorry ’bout that.

    • Someone will take issue with any list, no matter who develops it or who is/is not on it. Note that did say the books are amongst our “personal favorites” and that the list is a work in progress.

      As Betsy noted, I mentioned the list during the CCBC-NET discussion. She asked permission to put it here on her blog. I asked the other contributors if it was ok with them (it was), and if we could add a handful of books to the list we developed in 2012. They said yes, and I added Tingle’s latest two books, Gansworth’s IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE, and Boyden/THREE DAY ROAD. If I had thought to ask Betsy “can we have a couple of weeks to work on it a bit more” she’d probably have said yes, but the fact is–a book list is the sort of thing that you can agonize over/add to/sit on forever. Meanwhile, it doesn’t do the good it could do if it were ‘out there’ for public reference.

      I’m grateful to Betsy for the opportunity to share it here.

      • Elizabeth Bird says

        Well, I’m just delighted that you let me post it. And yes, absolutely, a delay would have been fine, but no list will every have everybody’s favorites. I was certainly reminded of that when I recently helped make NYPL’s 100 Great Children’s Books list. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of this, Debbie.

  5. Thanks for posting, Betsy. A great list that will expand my reading choices. I was reminded of several of my favorites (Birchbark House, Counting Coup), and now I know where to go to find more.

  6. Naomi Bishop says

    I’m very surprised not to see two of my all time favorite authors on this list. David Treuer (Ojibwe) and Ofelia Zepedia (Tohono O’odham) have some indredible books that every library should own.
    David has some amazing books including: Little, The Hiawatha, and Rez Life.
    Ofeila has one of my favorite books of poetry Where Clouds are Formed, The University of Arizona Press.

  7. Adding a bit of wonderful news to the discussion thread:

    Teresa Runnels was selected as one of LJ’s “Movers and Shakers” for 2014!

    She is the person who created the READ poster, in several different Native languages, that people can download and use in their libraries. See here for more information:

  8. Jill Shepard Erickson says

    Excellent but surprised to not see works by Charles Eastman and Luther Standing Bear who wrote so beautifully of the point of transition from their original culture to education into the mainstream culture.


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