Best Native American History Books
Importance of History
History is certainly one of the most important aspects of a tribe, a people, a nation, a country, and even a world. As we know, history can oftentimes be muddled, but it is very much important that attention and veracity are given to history because of its defining role in the world.
As such, history books are a healthy and beneficial means to get to know the various aspects of different historical accounts. What we will be attempting now is to give our best Native American history books review, so let’s get started.
First, we will take a look at the question of what the best book on Native American history is. Our first entry is Dee Brown, real name Dorris Alexander, that was a superb author during the 20th century. One of Brown’s most important works is the book from 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
The book is a carefully analyzed, touching outlook on the structured killing and murdering of the Native American people in the period of the second half of the 19th century. Brown’s account here takes into consideration all of the things that contributed to this happening while providing a heartbreaking experience from the immediate people to whom it happened to. There aren’t enough words of praise in the world. We think the book rightfully deserves its place among the best Native American books of all time.
Charles C. Mann’s 2005 publication of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus is one of the most accurate books about the history of Native Americans that provides a prodding look into the period just before the coming of Columbus.
While the opposite was believed for a great period, Charles C. Mann reveals to us here that the Native American tribes were ones the cultivated the land that they lived on, made the landscape fit their needs, and even had a rudimentary system for running water. Charles C. Mann’s insight is great and we urge the reader to pick this complete book on Native American history up as soon as possible.
One of the best books to read about Native American history is the great Black Elk’s 1988 book named Black Elk Speaks. Black Elk was a holy man that lived between the years 1863 and 1950 and his life’s work is one of the greatest in terms of the Native American people. This book is also included in our article about Native American spirituality books.
Number of Interviews
In Black Elk Speaks, we see the number of interviews that Black Elk was a part of, as the man reflects on the years he spent helping, healing, and paving the road for people to better themselves too. Black Elk’s tale started from a very young age, when he was only 9, but it continued for years and years to come. One of the finest books on the subject.
Memphis, Tennessee born author Hampton Sides is a must-read writer for anyone searching for the best history book about Native Americans. The novel is set during the year of 1846. As the great Navajo named Narbona took a look on Sante Fe, he was a stronghold that was used by the Mexicans and one that he was doing battle against for the duration of his earthly life.
Peace or War?
After he witnessed that the eon-long enemies had been defeated, he saw the men that had come from far away, but had they brought peace with them or just more trouble? As the story continues on, we see that the men from the other side of the ocean brought nothing more than a new page in the as of yet war-torn world. One of the best reads one can pick up.
C. Gwynne is a notable author who was born in Massachusetts, USA. Gwynne has also appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast where his views are expounded upon even more. His 2010 publication of Empire of the Summer Moon is our favorite Native American history textbook.
There are two tales that are told here. We begin with how the Comanches rose and how they eventually fell, in spite of the fact that they were the greatest tribe at the time. The second story speaks of Cynthia Ann Parker and Quanah, her son, and the heartfelt tale they had. Not the easiest, but one of the most worthwhile reads out there.
Rural Oklahoma Native Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is one of the best authoresses in the genre at hand and her 2014 publication of An Indigenous People’s History of the United States is one of the easiest picks for our list of the best books on Native American culture and history.
As the title of the book implies, Roxanne offers an outlook on the history of the United States of America as espoused by the indigenous people. It is no secret that the USA was formed from the blood of many Native American people so Roxanne’s work here elucidates and expands upon the things that occurred from the first voyage of Columbus, the colonies that were made, all up until the formation of the United States. An indispensable read, without a doubt.
David Treuer is a member of the Ojibwe, who was born and raised on Leech Lake Reservation. David’s work has always amazed us, but his recent book called The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the best. The year 1890 is important because that is when the Wounded Knee massacre occurred, which foretold of an end to the history of Native Americans as we know it.
Treuer’s work here speaks of the history that occurred after the fatal massacre up until the present moment. There is nothing that escapes the keen, observant eye and mighty zest of Treuer as he spells out a history that, for the most part, we have witnessed, but not experienced.
Vine Deloria Junior is a writer with great authority who we urge the reader to read as soon as it is possible. His 1969 book Custer Died for Your Sins is one of the more vintage books about the history of Native Americans on our list, but also one of the best.
Smart and Humorous
The always witty, strikingly humorous, and all the more ironic quill of Deloria is not amiss here, as his account of how the Native American culture and their history changed throughout the years – it has even received an update because of certain events – is one of the most interesting out there. Vine wrote some of the academic books about Native American history and we enjoy all of them, but his work here is a career achievement if we ever saw one.
Mexico City-born Andres Resendez has always gone above and beyond to deliver brilliant works and some of the best books about the history of Native Americans. The 2016 book The Other Slavery in America achieved so without a single doubt.
From the very period of Columbus’ arrival, it was viewed as illegal to have slaves, though Andres reveals that it was a practice that was common for a long time, though not out in the open.
Unlike other forms of slavery, this one never received a motivating movement that liberated them. Resendez’s attempt here is to show that it was slavery, not the other disaster that befell the Native Americans, that wiped them out. With substantiated claims and facts, Andres presents the case that the reader will be more than just intrigued by.
Born in Rosebud Sioux Reservation, it is clear that Joseph M. Marshall III had firsthand experience that wonderfully translates into his works. One of the best-selling books on the history of Native Americans that we’ve come across is Joseph’s 2004 book The Journey of Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse is a very notable figure during the American Wild West.
More Than a Warrior
The view that has been taken of Crazy Horse is that of celebration for his might, but as Joseph takes a look at how the Lakota viewed him, we see that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. The man was more than just a ceaseless warrior. He has a mighty legacy today, but his life is much more than the warrior’s glory. As the reader jumps into Joseph’s work, he sees a story that will not leave him the same.
Peter Cozzens has written more than a dozen wonderful books, all of which we recommend, but his best, in our opinion, is one of the recent books about Native American history called The Earth Is Weeping. As the Civil War came to a close, the continued augmentation of the States’ borders did not stop.
The conflict that arose was on that lasted some thirty-years before anything changed. When Cozzens expounds on the particulars of the events, we see a war-torn land that was taken from the tribes in spite of the fact that they were the ones that had cultivated and cared for it for so long.
The lifework of Nathaniel Philbrick is one very much deserving of praise and of veneration. The man has done a lot in his life, but the thing we will be focusing on is one of the most popular books about the history of Native Americans titled The Last Stand. Nathaniel Philbrick in this great book, tells us a tale of two figures, Sitting Bull and George Armstrong Custer.
The two of them were the ones that led the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Battle of the Little Bighorn is regarded as the last stand that the Cheyenne and the Sioux people had before they were overtaken too. It is nothing short of the top book about the history of Native Americans and a worthwhile read and we recommend it very much.
Published in 1983 by the great author Peter Matthiessen, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse is, in our opinion, one of the most famous history books about Native Americans. We see in the year of 1975 a shootout that occurred between the Native Americans and the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
One of the Native Americans and two of the FBI’s agents were killed as a result of this. What led to this event that took three lives and sentenced a number of others is what Matthiessen brings for the readers and it is a harrowing tale that will leave the reader thinking and ruminating on what he or she has just read.
Journalist and writer Bob Drury teamed up with Tom Clavin so as to brings us the immense success that is The Heart of Everything that Is, an American Legend. This 2013 publication is one of the best-rated books about the history of Native Americans and tells the events surrounding the life of Red Cloud. Red Cloud was a Sioux that helped, for the only time ever, his people to be victorious in a battle against the US army.
When Red Cloud was at his strongest and most respected, the Sioux were a force to be reckoned with not just in terms of wartime battles. It is strange that Red Cloud is not spoken of as much as we think he should be, but Bob’s narrative here delivers a tale that uncovers many truths and secrets about the mighty warrior’s life. We recommend it wholeheartedly.
Having received the prestigious Pulitzer Award, Timothy Egan is a brilliant author. His work is well-read and loved. His 2011 book Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher is one of his most adored works and a perfect example of the good books about the history of Native Americans. Edward Curtis, in his hay-day, was an entrancing, attractive man, a photographer, and a notable mountaineer.
Weight of Time
Edward was prominent in a number of high-society circles, whose life’s work was mainly concerned with capturing the traditions of the Native Americans before these traditions perished under the weight of time. We will only say that Timothy Egan’s work here is nothing short of mesmerizing and insightful and it is a book we find ourselves re-reading over and over. One of the easiest picks for our list of Native American history book recommendations.
Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.