Pratt Library staff recommend their favorite nonfiction titles. All of them are available at the Pratt Library. Click the cover to reserve your copy today!
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Special Collections has a number of interesting books on Native Americans and the westward expansion of the United States, with particular focus on relations between Native Americans and Europeans moving into the American West. These books often include descriptions of tribal life, customs, and language as encountered and recorded by Europeans. One example is Caleb Atwater’s Indians of the Northwest (1831). Atwater was an archaeologist known for work on the mounds and earthworks of the Ohio Valley. In 1831 he published his experiences while he was employed by the United States government to negotiate with the people of the upper Mississippi. In the book he described customs, including games, music, and dancing. Atwater also recorded lists of common words in the Sioux or Dacota language.
Examples from another interesting and important work can be found in the Library’s Hilde P. Holme Print Collection (find scanned images in Digital Maryland). The collection includes a small group of hand colored lithographs originally part of a larger work, McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844). The prints are thought to be some of the most accurate 19th century portraits of Native Americans. Many of the prints are based on the portraits of Charles Bird King who was hired by McKenney, then Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the U.S. War Department, to preserve the likenesses of treaty delegates visiting Washington, D.C. for negotiations. McKenney was rightly concerned about the tribe’s culture under threat of settlers and unsympathetic government officials. Then President Andrew Jackson was critical of McKenney’s sympathies toward Native Americans and in 1830 removed McKenney from office. McKenney then secretly had the original portraits copied for engraving so that the lithographs could be made. They were eventually published in a three volume set that included brief descriptions that accompanied each lithograph. King’s original portraits were moved to the Smithsonian, but most were destroyed by fire in 1865. All that is left are the hand colored lithographs.
Explore more history in Digital Maryland.
The National Day of Mourning is a day of protest started by Native American activists in the 1970s to mourn, recognize, and educate the American people about the erasure of Native American history, culture, and lives that has been ongoing since Europeans settled in North America. It takes place on the same day as Thanksgiving.
To honor this day of mourning, please find resources from the Humanities department below of literature, graphic novels, plays, and poetry by and about Native Americans. Texts written by Native Americans have an asterisk next to the title. Click on the picture to check out the title.
‘Injuns!’: Native Americans In The Movies by Edward Bucombe, Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision Of A Native Filmmaker byRandolph Lewis, Wiping The War Paint Off The Lens: Native American Film And Video by Beverly R. Singer
Indeh: A Story Of The Apache Wars by Ethan Hawke
Literature and Culture
*Native American Literature: A Very Short Introduction by Sean Kicummah Teuton (Cherokee), *Voice Of The Turtle: American Indian Literature by Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo), Encyclopedia Of American Indian Literature edited by Jennifer McClinton-Temple and Alan Velie, Masterpieces Of American Indian Literature edited by Willis Goth Regier, Native American Fiction: A User’s Manual edited by David Treuer (Ojibwe), Searching For Lost City: On The Trail Of America’s Native Languages by Elizabeth Seay, *Sister Nations: Native American Women Writers On Community edited by Heid E. Erdrich (Ojibwe), Tracks That Speak: The Legacy Of Native American Words In North American Culture by Charles L. Cutler, Feathering Custer by W.S. Penn (Nez Perce), Native American Women’s Writing C.1800-1924: An Anthology by Karen L Kilcup.
*Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo (Muscogee), *The Woman Who Watches Over The World: A Native Memoir by Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)
*New Poets Of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich, (Ojibwe), *Combing The Snakes From His Hair: Poems by James Thomas Stevens (Akwesasne Mohawk)
Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality by Philip Jenkins, Gods Of War, Gods Of Peace: How The Meeting Of Native And Colonial Religions Shaped Early America by Russell Bourne
*American Gypsy : Six Native American Playsby Diane Glancey (Cherokee)
Native American Heritage Month is a time to continue to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. The Social Science and History Department created an all-ages reading list for you to start your exploration. Click on the hyperlink to reserve your copy today.
An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Following in the tradition of Howard Zinn’s classic People’s History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ work centers the history of the United States from an indigenous perspective. In particular, Dunbar-Ortiz analyzes the colonialist origins of American gun ownership, explores how American military Special Forces originated in the suppression of Native Americans, and examines the long history of American betrayals of indigenous peoples, both before and after their conquest.
Rez Life by David Treuer. Part autobiography, part well-researched reporting, David Treuer’s Rez Life traces the history of how Native Americans were forced to live on and be so heavily associated with reservations, as well as the current living conditions found on said reservations. Treuer draws on his personal experiences as an Ojibwe resident of the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota to illustrate how government policies profoundly shape the Native experience of American life.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann. 1491 serves to puncture several myths surrounding the pre-Contact Americas, and is in general and excellent introduction to the history of the pre-Contact Western Hemisphere. Mann challenges the popular conception of Native Americans as socially simplistic peoples, examining the intricate bureaucracy of the Incan empire in the Andes, the rise and fall of Cahokia, the cultivation of maize and cotton, and the archaeological evidence that the Amazon was partially cultivated by the local Native cultures.
Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest by Matthew Restall. Restall’s work focuses on the myths and retroactive justifications wielded in defense of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Peru, and the American Southwest. Utilizing a bevy of primary and secondary sources, Restall addresses myths such as the idea that the Native civilizations of Mesoamerica were overthrown by a handful of Spanish adventurers, or that the Aztecs believed that Cortez was a god. Restall also examines the history of how these myths became such a key part of the conventional narrative of the conquest and colonization of the Americas.
The Zapatista Reader edited by John Hayden and The War Against Oblivion: The Zapatista Chronicles by John Ross. The Zapatistas are a peasant rebellion and indigenous rights movement centered on the Mexican state of Chiapas. Originally sparked by the Mexican government’s implementation of NAFTA, the Zapatista movement continues to serve as an illustration of the struggle for Native American rights throughout the Americas. The Zapatista Reader is a collection of essays and primary source documents on the movement, while The War Against Oblivion is a reporter’s history of the early years of the movement.
The Social Science and History Department at the State Library Resource Center contains a wide array of additional resources on Native American cultures and histories, ranging from histories of specific First Nations and Indigenous folklore to more academic texts on Native American history, religion, cultural practices, and interactions with the United States and other governments.
When We Were Alone by David Alexander Roberson, Illustrated by Julie Flett. A recently written picture book, When We Were Alone is an excellent introduction to the history of residential schools–the system of forced educational assimilation practiced in Canada until the end of the 20th century. In this beautifully illustrated and heartfelt story, a Cree grandmother compares her childhood to her granddaughter’s, recalling tenderly how she and other Cree children preserved their culture in private moments of community.
Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis. Written by an Inuit author, Sweetest Kulu is a bedtime poem for young children. The author draws upon her heritage to relate a tale of the gifts given to a newborn child by the wild animals that inhabit the Arctic.
The Children’s Department at the State Library Resource Center contains many additional works by Native American authors, such as Lesson for the Wolf, Hello Humpback!, and My Heart Fills with Happiness.
Maryland Department Resources
The Maryland Department at the State Library Resource Center also contains several resources regarding the history of Native Americans in the region. The Department has collected several archaeological site reports regarding Native American schools and business establishments in Baltimore City, as well as a Morgan State University overview of the Native American community in the city as of 1998.