10 of the Best Books on Native American History

Last updated on March 8th, 2023 at 06:02 am

Books about Native American history offer a unique and important perspective on the past. They can provide insights into the cultures and customs of indigenous people, as well as the challenges they have faced over the years. Here are ten of the best books on Native American history.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne

Empire of the Summer Moon tells the story of Quanah Parker, the last great chief of the Comanche tribe. Gwynne traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, from their humble beginnings as a small, nomadic tribe to their domination of the American West. 

Along the way, he details their fierce fighting style, intricate network of trade and alliances, and sophisticated use of horsemanship and weaponry. 

He also chronicles Parker’s personal journey from boyhood to warriorship to leadership, painting a portrait of a complex and contradictory man who was both a fierce warrior and a gifted diplomat. 

Ultimately, Empire of the Summer Moon is a fascinating history of one of America’s most powerful Indian tribes. If you enjoy Native American history books, this is a must-read.

In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians by Jake Page

In the Hands of the Great Spirit is a sweeping history of the American Indians, tracing their origins back over 20,000 years. 

Author Jake Page draws on a wealth of archaeological and historical evidence to paint a vivid picture of the Native American way of life. 

He chronicles the arrival of the first humans in North America, their subsequent dispersal across the continent, and the development of distinct cultures in different regions. 

The result is a fascinating and enlightening book that will appeal to anyone interested in Native American history.

The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America by James Wilson

James Wilson’s The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America is a sweeping and deeply moving account of the mistreatment of America’s native peoples.

 Spanning centuries and told through the eyes of both Native Americans and Europeans, the book details the countless injustices inflicted upon indigenous peoples, from the genocide of entire tribes to the displacement of entire cultures. 

Though often brutal, The Earth Shall Weep is also an inspiring story of survival and resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.

 As one reviewer put it, “This is not a history book for the faint of heart. But it is an important one, and should be required reading for everyone.”

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown 

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Indian History of the American West is a 1987 book by Dee Brown that covers the history of Native Americans in the American West in the late nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the Lakota Sioux. 

The book was inspired by the 1903 Wounded Knee Massacre, in which the 7th Cavalry Regiment killed over three hundred Lakota men, women, and children.

 Brown’s account chronicles the broken promises and mistreatment of Native Americans by the United States government, as well as their eventual decline due to disease, displacement, and warfare. 

Despite its sobering subject matter, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is an important work of history that offers a moving and nuanced view of a much-maligned people.

The History of the American Indians Paperback by James Adair 

James Adair’s The History of the American Indians is one of the most important works on the Native American experience. 

First published in 1775, it is one of the earliest accounts of the lives and cultures of the indigenous people of North America. Adair spent more than 20 years living among the Cherokee and other tribes, and his book provides a first-hand account of their customs, beliefs, and way of life. 

Although it is sometimes critical of Indian culture, The History of the American Indians is an indispensable record of a vanished world and a must-read for anyone interested in the Native American experience.

Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory Paperback by Claudio Saunt 

In Unworthy Republic, Claudio Saunt offers a sweeping reinterpretation of the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homes in the southeastern United States. 

Saunt argues that removal was not simply a response to the pressures of Manifest Destiny or a product of racism but rather an attempt to violently remake Native American societies in the image of the republican ideal. 

Through a close study of the lives of individual Native Americans, Saunt reveals the human cost of this process and the tenacity with which Native communities resisted attempts at cultural genocide. 

Unworthy Republic is an essential book for anyone interested in understanding the history of America’s relationship with its indigenous peoples.

The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West Paperback by Peter Cozzens 

In his New York Times bestselling book The Earth Is Weeping, Peter Cozzens tells the powerful and distressing story of the long Indian Wars for the American West.

From the end of the Civil War to the Wounded Knee Massacre, it was a time when Plains Indians fought tenaciously to preserve their way of life, and the U.S. cavalry mercilessly sought to subdue them.

This dark period in American history is brought to light through Cozzens’s expert use of firsthand sources, including diaries, journals, letters, and military reports.

He weaves together a complex and harrowing narrative that captures the terror and bloodshed of battle and the copious negotiations, betrayals, and alliances between Indians and whites.

Featuring an ensemble cast of generals, presidents, warriors, homesteaders, showmen, missionaries, activists, and visionaries, The Earth Is Weeping is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the American West was truly won.

The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America Hardcover by H. W. Brands 

The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America by H. W. Brands tell the story of the final years of the American Indian Wars. 

The book focuses on two major events: General William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the Civil War and the final capture of Apache leader Geronimo in 1886. 

Brands skillfully weaves these two stories together to show how the end of the Indian Wars signaled the beginning of a new era in American history. 

The Last Campaign is a well-researched and engagingly written book that will appeal to readers interested in American history, the Civil War, and the West.

Nine Years Among the Indians, 1870-1879: The Story of the Captivity and Life of a Texan Among the Indians by Herman Lehmann

Herman Lehmann was only nine years old when the Apache Indians captured him in 1870. For the next nine years, he lived as a captive among the Indians, learning their ways and fully assimilating into their culture.

In 1879, Lehmann was finally rescued by the U.S. Cavalry and returned to his family in Texas. His book, “Nine Years Among the Indians, 1870-1879: The Story of the Captivity and Life of a Texan Among the Indians,” is a fascinating account of his experiences during those years. 

Lehmann provides a rare insider’s view of life among the Indians, and his detailed descriptions of their customs and way of life are fascinating to read. Ultimately, his book provides a unique and insightful look at a vanishing way of life.

Enslavement in America Paperback by Andrés Reséndez 

Detailed and immensely researched, The Other Slavery uncovers the longest-lasting slavery in American history. 

Andrés Reséndez illuminates this hidden chapter in our country’s past, revealing how millions of indigenous people were enslaved long before the Europeans ever arrived on the continent. 

He expertly weaves together fascinating new evidence from archaeology, anthropology, and history to paint a comprehensive picture of the scale and scope of this little-known form of bondage. 

This is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the complex history of race and slavery in America.

If you’re looking to learn more about Native American history, these ten books are an excellent place to start.

They provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the events and experiences that have shaped this population over thousands of years.

From pre-contact times to the present day, these volumes tell the story of the Native American people in all its complexity and beauty.

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