Art from a Lakota tent, depicting Lakota men with their horses

Do you love learning about history? If so, then you’ll definitely want to check out some of the best books on Native American history. These books provide a detailed look at the cultures and histories of indigenous peoples in North America.

From the early days of indigenous societies and cultures to the present, these books offer an insightful overview of Native American societies, culture, and interactions with colonizers. So if you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating topic, be sure to check out some of these great titles!

1. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

In his landmark book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann offers a fresh and compellingly written look at indigenous societies in pre-Columbian America. Drawing on new archaeological and historical evidence, Mann challenges many long-held assumptions about the pre-Columbian world. In this work, he delivers a fresh look at native America was like.

He reveals that the Americas were home to a vast array of people, cultures, and languages. Far from being a static and unchanging “wilderness,” the Americas were actually a dynamic and ever-changing land, shaped by the people who lived there.

In addition to being one of the best books on Native American history, 1491 is also an important work of environmental and early American history, showing how human activity has influenced the ecology of North and South America for millennia.

Whether you are interested in history, anthropology, or ecology, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus is sure to enlighten and entertain you.

2. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

In 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, New York Times bestseller Charles C. Mann returns to set out to uncover the new era that colonization had created. He draws on a wealth of recent scholarship to provide a groundbreaking look at the cultures and ecology of the Americas before European contact.

The book is sweeping in scope, covering everything from the origins of the indigenous nations of early America to the effects of disease and warfare after the Europeans arrived on the east coast of the two great continents. Mann’s greatest achievement is his ability to synthesize a vast body of complex material into a clear and concise narrative of the colonial Americas.

This is one of the best books on Native American history that I have ever read. It provides a much-needed corrective to the traditional story of Columbus and his “discovery” of America. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the experience of indigenous nations or European colonization.

3. Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

At a time when the study of Native American history is undergoing a renaissance, Camilla Townsend’s Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs is a welcome addition to the field. Drawing on a wealth of archival material left by native scholars, Townsend gives us a fresh and nuanced portrait of the Aztec people.

fShe brings to life the everyday realities of Aztec life in early Mexico, from the grind of maize production to the politics of marriage and divorce. She also challenges some of the prevailing myths about the Aztecs, such as their supposed love of human sacrifice.

In doing so, she offers us a much more realistic and human portrait of a people too often seen through the lens of conquest and decline. For anyone interested in the Aztec empire, Fifth Sun is essential reading.

4. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History is one of the best books on American Indian history. It tells the story of Quanah Parker, the last Comanche chief, and his people’s struggle to survive in the face of tremendous odds.

New York Times bestseller S.C. Gywnne does an excellent job of describing the world of the Comanche that spread across New Mexico, Texas, and Okalhoma. From their everyday lives to their fierce battles against America’s westward expansion, Gywnne brings the vividly Comanche to life. He also does a good job of making Quanah Parker a sympathetic figure, even as he chronicles his brutal raids and massacre.

Overall, this is a highly readable and well-researched book that provides a fascinating look at a little-known part of the story of North America.

Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power

If you’re looking for a new history of Indigenous power, Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power by Pekka Hämäläinen is a great place to start. This book offers a fresh perspective on the American Indian experience, tracing the rise and fall of the Lakota Sioux in the American west, from the early 1500s to the present day.

Hämäläinen paints a vivid picture of Lakota society, highlighting the nation’s culture, values, and way of living. He also discusses the major challenges faced by the Lakota, such as European colonization and the US government’s attempts to forcibly assimilate them into white culture.

Importantly, Hämäläinen shows how the Lakota have persevered in the face of these adversities, maintaining their proud tradition and unique identity.

With its engaging style and insightful analysis, Lakota America is one of the best books on Native American history available today.

6. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815

In The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, Richard White presents a sweeping history of the native peoples of the Great Lakes region and their interactions with the competing empires of France, Britain, and the United States.

Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, White weaves a complex and fascinating picture of the century leading up to the War of 1812.

He argues persuasively that the various native groups should not be viewed as passive victims of imperial expansion, but rather as active participants in the creation of a new American identity.

One of the first books to display the agency of indigenous nations in the wake of colonialism, The Middle Ground Richard White is essential reading for anyone interested in this period.

7. When Montezuma Met Cortez: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History

When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History is one of the best books written about the Aztec Empire. It tells the story of the meeting between Montezuma, the emperor of the Aztecs, and Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, in 1519.

Montezuma was intrigued by Cortés and saw him as a possible ally against the Aztecs’ enemies. However, the meeting did not go well, and tensions quickly rose between the two men.

The book describes in detail the events that led up to the meeting, as well as its aftermath. It is a fascinating story that provides new insights into both the history of the Aztec Empire and Spanish colonial history.

8. Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America

Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America, winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize, is one of the best books on American Indian history that I have read in a long time.

It tells the story of the murder of a young Indigenous woman in colonial America and the quest for justice that follows. Nicole Eustace does an excellent job of transporting readers back in time to the seventeenth-century.

The book is also very well researched, and Eustace does an admirable job of weaving together different strands of evidence to create a compelling narrative.

I would highly recommend Covered With Night to anyone interested in learning more about the complicated story indigenous peoples’ history in America.

9. The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West- needs work

The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West by Megan Kate Nelson is one of the best books on Native American history.

This book tells the story of the war that unfolded between the Union, the Confederacy, and native people in the fight for the American west. The author does an excellent job of telling this complex story, offering a interesting new look at the American Civil War and how it affected, and was affected by, the Native Nations of the west.

Within this struggle, the author delves into the lives of nine powerful figures. Within these characters, Nelson shows their fight for self-determination, and just, exactly, that meant for each.

The book is well researched and provides a detailed account of the events that led up to and during the war. If you are looking for a book that will give you a better understanding of the indigenous peoples’ history in the southwest, I highly recommend The Three-Cornered War.

10. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present is one of the best books on Native American history. It chronicles the histories of the Native American people from 1890 to the present day.

The author, David Treuer, is a Native American himself, and he brings a unique perspective to the story. The book covers a wide range of topics, including the Massacre at Wounded Knee, the Trail of Tears, the Indian Removal Act, and the civil rights movement.

In addition, the book includes a section on contemporary Native American issues, such as tribal sovereignty and economic development.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer is an essential read for anyone interested in the indigenous history of America.

11. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People

If you’re looking for one of the best books out there, look no further than Elizabeth A. Fenn’s Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People

This book is a fascinating account of the Mandan people, who lived in what is now North Dakota in the American west. Fenn tells the story of the Mandan people from their earliest known history to the present day. 

Fenn draws on a wealth of primary sources to paint a picture of Mandan life before and after the arrival of European settlers. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the way it details the changing relationships between the Mandan and other nations, as well as between the Mandan and the newcomers.

This is a masterful work of history that should be required reading for anyone interested in American Indian culture.

12. The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

One of the best books on Native American history is The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend. This book tells the story of Red Cloud, a Sioux chief who was the only Native leader to defeat the United States Army in battle – and he did so repeatedly.

Thanks to a newly discovered autobiography, Drury and Calvin bring Red Cloud to life in this fascinating account of the man, the times he lived in, and his effort to preserve his people and their land in the American west. Through their meticulous research, they provide readers with an intimate look at the man behind the legend.

With its vivid prose and insightful analysis, The Heart of Everything That Is is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.

13. The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America

Andrés Reséndez’s The Other Slavery: Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America is one of the best books on Native American history that I have ever read.

Reséndez brings to light the little-known story of the enslavement of native people in America, which has been largely overshadowed by the more well-known history of African slavery. The book is thoroughly researched and beautifully written, and it sheds new light on the often brutal treatment of Native peoples by European settlers.

I was particularly impressed by the way he weaves together personal narratives, historical records, and archaeological evidence to tell this little-known story.

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in learning more about the complex history of race and slavery in America.

14. Facing East From Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

In his book, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America, Daniel K. Richter offers a comprehensive and deeply engaging story of American Indians in early America. And, one of the first major works on colonialism from the native perspective.

Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Richter weaves together the stories of individual Native Americans and American Indian Nations to create a rich tapestry of native history and life in the pre-Columbian era. He also provides readers with a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between Native Americans and Europeans.

Perhaps most importantly, Richter challenges many of the myths and stereotypes about Native Americans that have long been perpetuated by historians.

As a result, Facing East From Indian Country is widely considered to be one of the best books on Native American history.

15. Geronimo and Sitting Bull: Leaders of the Legendary West

If you’re looking for the best books on Native American history, look no further than Geronimo and Sitting Bull: Leaders of the Legendary West by Bill Markley.

This book chronicles the lives of two of the most famous American Indian leaders of all time.

Geronimo led the Chiricahua Apache in a series of resistance campaigns against the US government, while Sitting Bull was a Lakota leader who united the Sioux in their fight against white expansion into the American west.

Markley’s detailed account of the lives of both of these men is fascinating and enlightening. If you want to learn more about the experience of American Indians, this is the book for you.

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