Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Reading List

Receive 20% off featured titles when you use coupon code INDIGIVOICES.

In 1992, Berkeley became the first city in the U.S. to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day after over a hundred tribal nations from across the Americas convened in Quito, Ecuador to organize in resistance to the quincentenary of Columbus Day. Attended by Indigenous, human rights, and environmental activists, this gathering—the First Continental Congress on 500 Years of Indian Resistance—led many attendees, including a representative from Berkeley’s mayoral office, to commit to organizing their local communities to transform Columbus Day into a commemoration of Indigenous strength, unity, and struggle toward liberation. Today, this holiday of Indigenous solidarity is recognized by fourteen states, including the District of Columbia, and over 130 cities nationwide. 

In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we’ve compiled a reading list from our Roundhouse program—books about and by California Indian people. These titles celebrate the culture and oral traditions and delve into the histories and lived experiences of Native Californians. All titles featured below are 20% off through Sunday, October 17 when you order directly from Heyday and use coupon code INDIGIVOICES at checkout. 

An Indian Among Los Indígenas
A Native Travel Memoir

By Ursula Pike (Karuk)

What does it mean to have experienced the effects of colonialism firsthand, and yet to risk becoming a colonizing force in turn? Ursula Pike, a member of the Karuk Tribe, one of the largest Indian tribes in California, confronts this question head on in a brutally honest, occasionally deadpan, and always heartfelt memoir that brings readers halfway around the world to a rural Indigenous community in Bolivia, where for two years Pike worked and lived as a Peace Corps volunteer.

“A brutally honest and badly needed story.”

Greg Sarris

Bad Indians
A Tribal Memoir

By Deborah Miranda (Ohlone)

Winner of the PEN Oakland Book Award and shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, Bad Indians is a lyrical medley of tribal history, recordings and ethnological field notes, newspaper reporting, family photographs, and Mission-era archives that takes readers on a journey to uncover author Deborah Miranda’s Ohlone roots. Described by Book Riot as an “instant classic” about Indigenous experience, Bad Indians artfully telescopes Miranda’s journey out to capture a wide-angle view of the experience of California Indians as a whole. 

“No other history of California’s Indigenous communities that I know of presents such a moving, personal account of loss and survival.”

—Frederick E. Hoxie

Bird Songs Don’t Lie
Writings from the Rez

By Gordon Lee Johnson (Cahuilla/Cupeño)

Journalist and master storyteller Gordon Lee Johnson offers deeply moving and wryly told snapshots of Indian reservation life through this collection of short stories and personal essays. Revelatory and profoundly true to life, these windows into the rez blend of fiction and nonfiction plumbing questions of cultural erasure, reclamation of identity, and the bonds of land and family as a site of hope and power. 

“The stories within this collection—both memoir and fiction—pull on all my senses, spiral me through time: flashes of red chili sauce, cast-iron pans, fiesta, abalone shell, sage, old cars that won’t die or die too soon, the familiar weight of adobe; the voices of aunties, the omnipresent Church priest, death, hope.”

—Deborah Miranda, author of Bad Indians, in the Press-Enterprise

A is for Acorn
A California Indian ABC

By Analisa Tripp (Karuk), Illustrations by Lyn Risling (Karuk, Yurok, Hupa)

A playful and loving introduction to California’s oldest and most abiding sense of itself, this book for young readers explores the abundant world of Native California through the alphabet. From Acorn to Yucca to the Zzzzz’s of a sleeping child nestled in her cradleboard, this children’s book delights in laughter and nature with vivid illustrations.

Coyote at the Big Time
A California Indian 123

By Lyn Risling (Karuk, Yurok, Hupa)

A companion to the bestselling A is for Acorn, this children’s tale guides youngsters in a counting journey, from one clapperstick to ten twinkling stars all through the story of Coyote’s journey to the Big Time. Dancing bears, singing birds, and basketweaving raccoons immerse readers in Native Californian community traditions with heart, color, and creativity. 

The Bird Who Fell in Love With the Sun

By Cindi M. Alvitre (Tongva), Illustrations by Carly Lake

A rendition of one of California’s oldest tales, Waa’aka’ is an enchanting, richly illustrated children’s book that tells the creation story of the Tongva of Southern California. Collective care, humility, and collaboration assume center-stage in this ancient world-making tale, where birds hoist the sun into the sky under the auspices of the russet-colored hands of Wiyot, the creator. 

“Tongva cultural memory is alive and well in Alvitre’s skillful storytelling.”


Enough for All
Foods of My Dry Creek Pomo and Bodega Miwuk People

By Kathleen Rose Smith (Bodega Miwuk/Dry Creek Pomo)
Punctuated with family photographs and watercolor, acrylic, and color pencil illustrations, Enough for All celebrates Native California food gathering and preparation. Heartfelt and instructive, this small and mighty volume illuminates a world of sustainable bounty and the respect, thankfulness, joy, and sacrifice that give meaning and grace to the most ordinary aspects of daily life.