Columbus Who? 3 Indigenous Novels That Decolonize History

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Let’s take the time to honor Indigenous stories that have made their mark. Here are 3 books to get you started.

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Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day sign

October 10th marks the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Throughout history, indigenous stories have been ignored and tossed aside by the powers of colonization and racism. Today, let’s honor the hard work and sacrifice these authors made to fight the forces that be and get their stories out into the world.

Legacy by Waubgeshig Rice

Indigenous Peoples' Day recommended book 'Legacy' by Waubgeshig Rice

The Author

As a well-known author within the Anishinaabe community, Waubgeshig Rice has shown the importance of telling stories of Native lives. Originally from Wasauksing First Nation, Rice details the trials and tribulations of Native life through short stories, journalism, and fiction writing. In 2014, he received the Debwewin Citation for Excellence in First Nations Storytelling from the Union of Ontario Indians. 

The Story

In Rice’s first novel, he packs a huge punch of sorrow, tragedy, and grief in his book, Legacy. Set in the winter of 1989, the story follows Eva Gibson and her siblings as they navigate the feelings of loss and revenge. Eva tries to live her life while dealing with waves of homesickness. Her purpose? To learn as much as she can to help her Anishinaabe family back in Ontario. But while she studies at the University of Toronto, her life is abruptly cut short. 

After being murdered by a man in a bar, the Gibson siblings, Stanley, Maria, Norman, and Edgar now have to walk through life without their sister. However, this new journey isn’t without its struggles. On top of their grief, the siblings work through alcoholism, racism, and injustice. This heart-wrenching tale uncovers the damage of generational trauma that is healed through family connection and a return to their native roots.

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

Indigenous Peoples' Day recommended book 'The Inconvenient Indian' by Thomas King.

The Author

Thomas King is a legend within the Native storytelling community. Combining his love of writing and his Cherokee descent, he’s produced many titles that tell the importance of Native life and culture. His collection of work spans writing six novels, two nonfiction books, and two collections of short stories. Additionally, he’s received multiple awards for his literature, including the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the RBC Taylor Prize.

The Story

Looking for a book that accurately details the first interactions of the white colonizers and the Native people of the Americas? Look no further! In his first nonfiction novel, The Inconvenient Indian, King debunks fabricated and racist stories of Native “savagery.” Through multiple lenses, King analyzes the effects of these stereotypes and how they still impact the Native community today.

This read provides all the nuance you need when trying to understand the continued oppression of Native people. Not only do you get an accurate description of events, but King’s grace and humor throughout the novel pull you in even deeper. This is a must-read for anyone who wants a better understanding of the hidden truths of history through storytelling.

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

Indigenous Peoples' Day recommended book, 'The Reason You Walk' by Wab Kinew.

The Author

Wab Kinew was named one of the “9 Aboriginal movers and shakers you should know,” by Postmedia News. There’s no wonder he got that title with his stunning reads Go Show the World and The Reason You walk. As a follower of the Anishinaabe way of life, Kinew elicits powerful emotions in his fictional pieces of modern Native life and its struggles. He’s a name in the Native community that you don’t want to forget.

The Story

In this powerful memoir, The Reason You Walk, Wab Kinew details the reconnection of himself and his father after many years apart. After Kinew finds out that his father has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he leaves his destructive lifestyle behind. He travels back home and spends a year with his father. During this time, the two confront both of their broken pasts and struggle with learning how to heal. 

Kinew learns of his father’s upbringing, growing up in both his traditional Anishinaabe culture and Catholicism. Living in two different spheres of life impacted his father in ways that Kinew never understood before. He describes the abuse his father faced while growing up in Canada’s residential schools, but by upheaving the past, the two understand each other more than ever.

This is a story of overcoming hardships, forgiveness, and healing. Kinew shows us that it’s never too late to reconnection and begin the journey of generational healing.

No matter what day of the year it is, we should all take the time to familiarize ourselves with the stories of Indigenous people. Their stories are pivotal to decolonizing our minds, and ensuring that Indigenous voices are rightfully amplified for all to hear.

Interested in learning about more Indigenous writers? Keep reading here!