Required Reading: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

This year, the White House has released a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day to “honor the perseverance and courage of Indigenous peoples, show our gratitude for the myriad contributions they have made to our world, and renew our commitment to respect Tribal sovereignty and self-determination.” But what does this holiday mean in the wake of the shooting of Indigenous activist Jacob Johns in New Mexico by a white man wearing a MAGA hat, or ongoing Indigenous-lead protests against a new mining development in Ontario that have gone largely unnoticed by the media? The Cherokee Nation continues to campaign for the US House of Representatives to seat Kim Teehee as the Cherokee Nation delegate, as their website explains, since the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, “forced [their] ancestors to give up their ancestral homelands and move west on the Trail of Tears,” and promised them a delegate in the US Congress. “For nearly 200 years, Congress has failed to honor this promise.”

Despite these setbacks, Indigenous folks across the country continue to strive for sovereignty, equality, and climate protection, while according to the New York Times, “lawmakers from the House and Senate reintroduced a bill that would establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a federal holiday on the second Monday of October, replacing Columbus Day.” Resources like the website Native Land, which allows you to geographically search for tribal histories of lands across the globe, teach us about the history and living cultures of Indigenous peoples. Land acknowledgement statements – while appropriately and brilliantly parodied on the comedy show, Reservation Dogs – can at least offer a starting point to learn more about Indigenous history. NPR interviewed Indigenous scholars and activists across the country who ask settlers to go further than that, though – take action and vote to support Indigenous activists, lift up their stories, and donate money.

NYU Press is located on the homeland of the Lenape people (also called Lenapehoking) who were violently displaced as a result of European settler colonialism over the course of 400 years. This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we hope to contribute to the growing field of Indigenous Studies with these excellent books highlighting the lives and histories of Indigenous peoples.

Sonic Sovereignty

Hip Hop, Indigeneity, and Shifting Popular Music

Liz Przybylski

Sonic Sovereignty explores music as a creative mode of expressing self-determination, and as a way to access Indigenous sentiments about sovereignty, nonlinear storytelling, and postcolonial futures. As Przybylski writes, “Sound and silence are mechanisms through which power is enacted and felt. The book is rooted in hip hop practices that create moments when time extends, stops, and repeats. Hip hop welcomes nonlinear listening, and many North American Indigenous listening practices, drawn from storytelling, visit and revisit moments. These practices create new, decolonial possibilities.” You can listen to her playlist on From the Square!

Clearing The Plains

Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life

James Daschuk

Published by University of Regina Press

This award-winning book reveals how Canada’s first Prime Minister used a policy of starvation against Indigenous people to clear the way for white settlers. Called “one of the most important books of the twenty-first century” by the Literary Review of Canada, Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk sheds a crucial light on how ethnocide, climate destruction, and starvation fueled the pursuit of nation-building. This harrowing history is an important read for those seeking to understand the brutal legacy of colonialism in both Canada and the US, where similar policies of ethnocide and forced extraction were deployed by the government against Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Memory, Urban Reality

Stories of American Indian Relocation and Reclamation

Michelle R. Jacobs

Michelle Jacobs examines the new reality of American Indians living in or near cities today, describing through detailed interviews how some individuals work to reclaim their Indigenous identities, while others invest themselves in their urban environment. Jacobs explains that “Indianness” is a highly contested phenomenon among these two groups: some are accused of being “wannabes” who merely “play Indian,” while others are accused of being exclusionary and “policing the boundaries of Indianness.” Kari Marie Norgaard, author of Salmon and Acorns Feed Our People: Nature Colonialism and Social Action, says: “Jacobs presents a view of the complexities of contemporary Indigenous identity that beautifully bridges key conversations in sociology and Indigenous studies.”

The Life and Times of Augustine Tataneuck

An Inuk Hero in Rupert’s Land, 1800-1834

Renee Fossett

Published by University of Regina Press

This captivating biography tells the story of Augustine Tataneuck, an Inuk man who worked as an interpreter on two overland expeditions in search of the northwest passage during the 19th century. Tataneuck’s life offers a glimpse into narratives often erased from the historical record – he left no diaries or letters. Using the Hudson’s Bay Company’s journals and historical archives, historian Renee Fossett has pieced together a compelling biography of this important player in the struggle for the possession of northwest North America. Separated from his family, community, and language, Tataneuck still found his place in history.

The Way I Remember is a heartfelt and telling memoir written over the course of several decades about Solomon Ratt’s experience in a residential school and its effects on language, family, and culture. In many ways, these stories reflect the experience of thousands of other Indigenous children across Canada, but Ratt’s stories also stand apart in a significant way: he managed to retain his mother language of Cree by returning home to his parents each summer, and now he has created this dual-language memoir full of traditional tales to help teach Cree to others. Even when his memories are dark, Ratt’s Cree sense of humour shines, making kâ-pî-isi-kiskisiyân / The Way I Remember an important celebration of perseverance and life after a residential school.

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