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Land Acknowledgement : Print and Digital Resources



When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through

Edited by Joy Harjo

“There is no such thing as a Native American,” declares U.S. poet laureate Harjo, whose decades of writing and activism on the subject of indigenous peoples have generated the most comprehensive and nuanced anthology of Native Nations poetry to date. Harjo’s introduction provides historical context for such terms as Native American and American Indian, and clarifies that many poets of Native Nations identify primarily with tribal and cultural affiliations, which have close relationships to their traditional homelands. As such, the anthology groups poets by region, beginning with the Northeast, and moving across the continent, landing finally in the Southeast, with its deadly legacy of forced relocation and genocide. Each of the five sections includes a preface by a poet from the region, which provides further detail about each geographic area. Together with uncredited historical pieces and collectively authored verses, the anthology includes poems by established authors, such as N. Scott Momaday and Leslie Marmon Silko, and showcases emerging voices, like Layli Long Soldier and Natalie Diaz, and also introduces relative newcomers, such as Jake Skeets and Tommy Pico. If there’s one poetry anthology that belongs on every bookshelf in this country called America, it’s this one. The Death of Sitting Bear: New and Selected Poems  (9780062961150): Momaday, N. Scott: Books

The Death of Sitting Bear: New and Selected Poems

By N. Scott Momaday

In the 50 years since his groundbreaking novel, House Made of Dawn (1968), won the Pulitzer Prize, Momaday has established himself as a preeminent voice in Native American literature. Momaday’s influential oeuvre includes novels, folklore, poetry, memoir, stories, plays, children’s books, and mixed media work, and this generous collection of new and thoughtfully selected older poetry showcases more than a hundred short poems, many consisting of a single stanza, energized by imagistic brevity: “In my dream, a blue mare loping, / Pewter on a porcelain field.” Enlivened by Momaday’s gift for depicting the natural world (“The patchwork of morning on gray moraine”) and situated against his sense of living mythology (“Time is the red rock and the blue cloud floating above Olijeto”), each poem reflects a lifetime of writing across the intersections of history, identity, and language. The collection also includes a section, “A Century of Impressions,” made up of one hundred haikus as well as a brief section on the famous Kiowa warrior, Sitting Bear. This accessible compendium allows readers to savor the life’s work of an unparalleled poet.


A Sonnet at The Edge of the Reef – Poetry Daily

Habitat Threshold

By Craig Santos Perez

Celebrated as “a phenomenal ambassador for our island” by the Guam legislature, Chamorro professor, editor, and writer Perez explores environmental themes endemic to his island home and also to the inhabitants of other Pacific communities and the planet as a whole, such as carbon emissions, sea level rise, and the scourge of omnipresent plastics. Perez applies sharp wit and surprising humor through an expansive variety of forms, from a sonnet that recycles Neruda to a “geo-engineering lullaby” (“Hush little planet, don’t say a word, / Daddy’s gonna buy you an air filter”). He offers a concrete poem in the shape of an hourglass and haiku that zig-zag down the page (and one that simply asserts itself: “the world / briefly sees us / only after / the eye / of a storm / sees us”). But it’s perhaps the poems that speak tenderly about his wife and child that will, perhaps, move readers to action. A wickedly intelligent, endlessly talented poet, to be read alongside Daniel Borzutzky, Juliana Spahr, and Clarissa Mendiola.


Postcolonial Love Poem | Graywolf Press

Postcolonial Love Poem

By Natalie Diaz

Diaz follows her stellar debut, When My Brother Was an Aztec (2012), with another groundbreaking collection. Diaz’s electrifying poems buzz with erotic energy in lines that whisper privately to a lover (“Imparadise me.”) but also confront intensely complicated notions of attraction, often framed against this country’s ongoing imperialism: “an American drone finds then loves / a body.” Throughout, Diaz paints vivid landscapes, from the intimate, “middle-night cosmography of your moving hands” to the linguistic cartography of “Manhattan Is a Lenape Word.” As in her previous book, the speaker’s brother appears, as do other relations from her Mojave community, most notably in a series of prose reflections on the importance of basketball to reservation life: “Only a tribal kid’s shot has an arc made of sky.” Entire dissertations could be written about Diaz’s uses of light and color in this book’s lithe lyrics, from the exacting, evocative imagery (“My brothers’ bullet is dressed / for a red carpet / in a copper jacket”) to the book’s many corporal illuminations: “Blood-Light,” “Skin-Light,” “Snake-Light.” An unparalleled lyric work, with one of the sexiest lines of poetry ever penned, “in the kitchen of your hips, let me eat cake.” Dissolve (9781556595455): Bitsui, Sherwin: Books


By Sherwin Bitsui

Winner of the American Book Award, Bitsui skillfully translates many aspects of his Navajo heritage into verse, and this new collection is no exception. It is perhaps a more ambitious undertaking, as it consists of an initial, short poem, “The Caravan,” followed by “Dissolve,” a multisection poem that comprises the rest of the book and overflows with abundantly imaginative imagery (“the flattened field is chandeliered / by desert animal constellations”) and arresting depictions of familiar sensations, like that of “saltwater masks sweating / on our smeared faces.” The result is a complex and ephemeral combination of contemporary concerns (“we wear slippers of steam / to erase our carbon footprint”) and poetic objets d’art: “Jeweled with houseflies, / leather rattles, foil wrapped, / ferment in beaked masks / on the shores of evaporating lakes.” Interrupting the hallucinatory flights are injections of wry humor: “How self-indulgent that moon—always looking down.” As with his contemporary dg nanouk okpik (Corpse Whale, 2012), the only way to read Bitsui is to trust his poetic momentum and embrace his brilliant work. New Poets of Native Nations (9781555978099): Erdrich, Heid E.:  Books

New Poets of Native Nations

Edited by Heid E. Erdrich

Indigenous storytelling and poetry have flourished for millennia in the Americas, yet few U.S. residents can name a single native poet. Editor Erdrich (Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media, 2017) recenters this issue by narrowing the focus of this masterfully curated collection to “Twenty-One Poets for the Twenty-First Century,” as her generous, elucidating introduction explains. Several names, such as Layli Long Soldier, Craig Santos Perez, and Natalie Diaz, will stand out for fans of contemporary poetry. Jennifer Elise Foerster paints tactile and visionary images (“the sky a belt of blue and white beadwork”). Others, like dg okpik, draw on unusual experiences (“She and I make a bladder bag to draw water from the ice trench”). Even the contributor bios take a different approach, forgoing long lists of achievements and awards; instead, each poet recounts his or her lineage, relationship to a native tongue (if any), writers they regard as mentors, and other native poets they recommend. In this way, Erdrich extends the scope of the collection. An immensely important anthology that belongs in every library.


Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®


By Layli Long Soldier

In 2009, President Obama signed a Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans, which could have proven historically monumental, but the resolution was never read aloud, no tribal leaders received it, and the apology was subsumed in a Defense Appropriations Act. For this searingly intelligent, masterfully crafted, and unarguably important debut book of poetry, Long Soldier takes the Resolution of Apology as a bulwark against which to orient a poetic response. Blending prose and verse, writing in heritage language and foster tongue, playing with white space and marginalia, Long Soldier articulates an argument against the conventional framing of Native space surrounded and dominated by federal lands, hijacking legalese to resist this ongoing colonization. In the process, she generates singular and ineffable imagery: “I’m chewing at a funeral and. I’m nibbling my pulp knuckles.” Elsewhere, “A tick head burrows in the skin of a question.” A wickedly smart, necessarily solemn, and unmistakably urgent addition to a continually burgeoning canon of Native poetry, alongside such authors as Natalie Diaz, dg okpik, and Jennifer Foerster. Manifestation Wolverine: The Collected Poetry of Ray Young Bear  (9781504014151): Young Bear, Ray: Books

Manifestation Wolverine

By Ray Young Bear

Over the course of his 40-year career, poet and novelist Young Bear has been recognized for his outstanding contributions to Native American literature. As a member of the Meskwaki settlement in Iowa, Young Bear expresses feelings of isolation and loss shared by many Americans in the idiosyncratic vernacular of his tribal heritage. This comprehensive edition includes three complete collections—Winter of the Salamander (1978), The Invisible Musician (1990), and The Rock Island Hiking Club (2001)—as well as new work. Throughout, Young Bear’s poetic voice and subject matter evolve, from his early songs of life and celebration (“it was windy that day and spider webs / were in the air offering rides to the river”) to mid-career reflections on wartime service (“All I could think of / was the absence of my name / on a distant black rock.”) to later narrative forms, in which the character, Edgar Bearchild, assumes center spotlight. Young Bear’s new work includes “concrete poems,” which take the physical shape of their subjects, and provide a capstone to this volume. Highly recommended for aficionados of American poetry.


Sacred Smokes | University of New Mexico Press

Sacred Smokes

By Theodore C. Van Alst

Growing up in a gang in the city can be dark. Growing up Native American in a gang in Chicago is a whole different story. This book takes a trip through that unexplored part of Indian Country, an intense journey that is full of surprises, shining a light on the interior lives of people whose intellectual and emotional concerns are often overlooked. This dark, compelling, occasionally inappropriate, and often hilarious linked story collection introduces a character who defies all stereotypes about urban life and Indians. He will be in readers’ heads for a long time to come.


There There by Tommy Orange

There There

By Tommy Orange

One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering bestselling novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.

Future Home of the Living God

By Louise Erdrich

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.



By Leslie Marmon Silko

More than thirty-five years since its original publication, Ceremony remains one of the most profound and moving works of Native American literature, a novel that is itself a ceremony of healing. Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed ancestry, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him. Masterfully written, filled with the somber majesty of Pueblo myth, Ceremony is a work of enduring power. The Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition contains a new preface by the author and an introduction by Larry McMurtry.



By Tommy PIco

The fourth book in the Teebs tetralogy (Junk, 2018; Nature Poem, 2017; IRL, 2016) is one freewheeling, semi-stream-of-consciousness poem that follows its predecessors in its book-length format, spanning a wide array of subjects, from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego to the Greek kósmos, with many stops along the way. Pico includes a preface that situates the work along the High Line of New York City—the abandoned elevated railway converted into park space—with its “cultivated gardens of wildness‚” a fitting description of the author’s approach to poetry, with it’s quick shifts in style and form, including snippets of dialogue, pronunciation guides, social commentary, and more. If anything coheres the collection, it’s an incessant, remarkable wit, evident on nearly every page (“A hot person farts on the tarmac and gets super embarrassed and I’m like this is what it sounds like when doves cry”). Pico’s lyrics may strike readers as unconventional in terms of the traditional Western canon, but they are forged in and speak urgently to a twenty-first-century audience. Another powerhouse collection from this incredibly prolific new voice in poetry.


Perma Red

By Debra Magpie Earling

Earling follows the literary trail blazed by Louise Erdrich in her poignant if familiar debut novel, which explores life in the tiny town of Perma, Mont., through the adventures of the restless Louise White Elk as she struggles with a problematic passion for irresistible bad boy Baptiste Yellow Knife. The tempestuous duo's love-hate relationship is complicated by Charlie Kicking Woman, the local police officer who admires Louise from afar even as she breaks up his marriage. The other romantic subplots are less captivating—Louise's affair with the reservation's white real estate mogul, Harvey Stoner, is contrived and stilted, and Baptiste's attempts to arouse Louise's jealousy are even more forgettable. Narrated alternately by Louise, Baptiste and Charlie, the plot veers between hallucinatory, poetic descriptions of reservation life and tumultuous romantic encounters as Louise and Baptiste conduct their erotic duel, until the passions finally give way to murder. When Harvey decides to attack Baptiste, Louise and Charlie are left to make their own pivotal choices. Earling offers first-rate characterizations, and she does an equally fine job portraying tribal life in the Flatland Nation. The predictable and disorganized plot makes this book less memorable than it might have been, but there's little doubt that Earling has considerable potential.


Abandon Me

By Melissa Febos

In her dazzling Abandon Me, Febos captures the intense bonds of love and the need for connection -- with family, lovers, and oneself. First, her birth father, who left her with only an inheritance of addiction and Native American blood, its meaning a mystery. As Febos tentatively reconnects, she sees how both these lineages manifest in her own life, marked by compulsion and an instinct for self-erasure. Meanwhile, she remains closely tied to the sea captain who raised her, his parenting ardent but intermittent as his work took him away for months at a time. Woven throughout is the hypnotic story of an all-consuming, long-distance love affair with a woman, marked equally by worship and withdrawal. In visceral, erotic prose, Febos captures their mutual abandonment to passion and obsession -- and the terror and exhilaration of losing herself in another.

At once a fearlessly vulnerable memoir and an incisive investigation of art, love, and identity, Abandon Me draws on childhood stories, religion, psychology, mythology, popular culture, and the intimacies of one writer's life to reveal intellectual and emotional truths that feel startlingly universal.


Men We Reaped

By Jesmyn Ward

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life-to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth-and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. A brutal world rendered beautifully, Jesmyn Ward's memoir will sit comfortably alongside Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying, Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, and Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.




The American Indian Experience is a digital resource that illuminates the histories and contemporary cultures of the Native peoples of North America.


A joint collaboration between the Chicago History Museum, the Newberry Library and Northwestern University.

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