It is important to help students find Indigenous authors to read. This middle school books by Indigenous authors book list contains 19 book recommendations for middle school readers. I have linked the books to Amazon, but you can also look for them at your local library or look for them at an Indigenous owned bookstore.
This blog post contains affiliate links that are of no cost to the reader. If you make a purchase through the provided links this blog will receive a small commission to help with the financial costs of maintaining the site.
As Long as the Rivers Flow: A Last Summer Before Residential School by Constance Brissenden, Larry Oskiniko Loyie
In northern Alberta during the summer of 1944, Lawrence, a 10-year-old Cree boy, spends his days learning and helping his family. He is taught how to tan hides, how to sew, and he cares for a young owl. But his summer ends quickly when a truck comes and takes Lawrence and the other children away to a residential school. Lawrence is taken to St. Bernard’s Mission School, where he learns English and manual trades, away from his loving family. Winner of the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, 2003.
Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens by Ruby Slipperjack
Violet Pesheens is having a difficult time adjusting to life at Residential School. Her belongings have been taken from her, she no longer has her name – she is only a number – and she misses her grandmother. She is scared she will forget the things that mean the most to her – the names of the people she knew, her Anishinaabe language and her traditional customs. Violet is afraid she will forget who she is.
Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak wants to learn how to read – and she is ready to leave her home in the high Arctic to do so, despite the horrors of residential schools. Once Margaret finally makes the five-day journey to school, she encounters Raven, a nun who doesn’t like her strong will. Raven goes out of her way to humiliate Margaret, but the young girl’s spirit will not be broken.
John has a lot going on: friends, school, soccer and family leave him little free time. But one day he stumbles upon an Indigenous dance class and soon finds himself taking beginner classes alongside little girls, while letting his other responsibilities fall by the wayside. When he sees a powerful performance at a pow wow, John knows he wants to dance – but the closest class for boys is in the city and he hasn’t told anyone about his new passion yet. If he wants to pursue dance, John will have to be open with those around him and find a way to balance his Cree and Irish heritages.
Diane “Honey” Jacobson shares her personal journey to find her sense of place in life, while offering important commentary about the efforts of Indigenous peoples to save the salmon. Her tale is packed with adventure, action and amazing connections between people, land and water.
No Borders by Darla Evyagotailak
Through the life of Darla Evyagotailak, a 16-year-old Inuk girl, we learn about the lives of Inuit communities that have been recently divided by a territorial border. Despite the geographical division, those living in the communities of Kugluktuk, Nunavut and Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories are intricately connected through common ancestry and language. Darla joins her grandmother and great-grandparents on a trip crossing the border between where she was born and the lands that were her ancestors.
Shelly is totally comfortable catching ghosts with her grandmother – in their hair. Their job is to help those who have not transitioned to move on. But when Shelly’s mom dies unexpectedly, she starts hoarding ghosts instead of helping them move on. Cats, dogs, people – Shelly is hiding them all in her room. But the one spirit she wants to see – her mother – has yet to come home. Will she ever be back?
For hundreds of years, the Inuit have survived in harsh climates, relying on the land and their own ingenuity. This book takes a look at more than 40 Inuit ideas and items, as well as their impact on contemporary culture. From kayaks to snow goggles (before sunglasses), to shelter, food preservation and medicine, this book is a wonderful catalogue of Inuit innovation, complete with photos.
Twelve-year-old Jake Forrest has to move to a new city when his mom gets a new job. That means leaving the Haudenosaunee reservation he’s always lived on, and saying goodbye to family and friends. At his new school, Jake struggles to find a place where he belongs. His new lacrosse coach and teammates think winning is everything. When tragedy strikes, Jake must discover who he really is – will he face the warrior within? The one who leads others to something more noble than winning and who values peace?
This basketball novel tells the tale of two teams battling it out on the court and determined to win in any way they can. Matthew Eagletail and his friend John Salton – who dreams of being the NBA’s first coach to use a wheelchair – take on Matt’s rival, John Beal, and his team at a summer league in Calgary. The battle becomes too close to call – but that changes when the boys get advice from someone unexpected.
Tales from Big Spirit Series by David Alexander Robertson
This graphic novel series explores the stories of seven Indigenous heroes – some well- known, others not – from Canadian history.
The Ballad of Nancy April Shawnadithit by David Alexander Robertson
A shortcut home at the end of the school day ends up taking Jessie on a trip through time to Newfoundland in the early 19th century where she meets Shawnadithit, the last surviving member of the Beothuk.
The Poet: Pauline Johnson by David Alexander Robertson
Kathy is too shy to read her poetry in class, but she is inspired by the story of Pauline Johnson who travelled the country sharing her poems and becoming one of the most beloved literary figures of the Edwardian era.
The Land of Os: John Ramsay by David Alexander Robertson
On a canoe trip, Richard and his classmates meet an elderly woman who tells them about her grandfather John Ramsay, of the Sandy Bar community on Lake Winnipeg. His land was taken by the government and given to settlers who came in 1875. But they needed Ramsay to survive and he helped them through hunger, the freezing winters and a horrible smallpox epidemic.
The Scout Tommy Prince by David Alexander Robertson
While searching a wooden path for a baseball, Pamela meets a veteran soldier in front of a monument for Sgt. Tommy Prince, who is the most decorated Indigenous soldier in Canada. The veteran is happy to share the story of Price, who was renowned for his bravery in World War II and the Korean War and was an expert marksman and tracker.
Cole is terrified to speak in public and doesn’t want to give a presentation in front of his class. But when he learns the story of Thanadelthur, a woman who was a peacemaker between the Dene and Cree and interpreter for Fort York Governor, he’s so inspired he is able to conquer his fears.
The Rebel: Gabriel Dumont by David Alexander Robertson
History class is boring for Tyrese – until his friend shares a secret that brings history to life. Through the great Métis leader of the Northwest Resistance, Gabriel Dumont, the boys encounter Louis Riel, have a scrap with the Blackfoot, go on a bison hunt, and experience a Northwest Resistance battle at Batoche, Saskatchewan.
The Misewa Saga by David Alexander Robertson
The first book in this fantasy series sees two Indigenous children, Morgan and Eli, forced from their homes and put together in foster care in Winnipeg. The pair are feeling disconnected from their culture and struggle to fit in. But then they find a portal to another reality, where they are welcomed into the frozen and barren grounds. The pair are taught traditional survival ways, but soon the need for food becomes desperate and they must go on a dangerous mission before the cold of winter freezes everything.
The Great Bear by David Alexander Robertson
The second book in this fantasy series brings Morgan and Eli back to the Barren Grounds, following their first adventure. Since returning home, they’ve been having separate personal issues and decide to return to visit their animal friends in Misewa. The pair head back in time and meet a young fisher – could this be their lost friend? But they again find the village in trouble and have to find the strength to help their friends. Will they then have the strength to deal with their own problems at home?
The Stone Child by David Alexander Robertson
When Morgan finds Eli’s almost lifeless body by the Great Tree, there’s not a lot of time to save him – and to do so, she must ask for help from new and old friends. Travelling into the northern woods, a place they are not supposed to go, the group deals with attacks from odd and terrifying creatures. Can they find Eli’s soul before it’s too late?
Also, check out these Indigenous-run bookstores the next time you are buying books:
- Good Minds – This store sells at their store in Brandford, ON, and online.
- Strong Nations - This store is based in Nanaimo, BC, but sells exclusively online.
- Iron Dog Books – This is a bookstore and book truck in Vancouver, BC. They sell online as well.
- Barely Bruised Books – This bookstore is located in Ottawa, ON, but ships worldwide.
- Massy Books – This bookstore is located in Vancouver, BC, but ships international.
- Librairie Hannenorak is located in Wendake, QC.
- Orange Shirt Day Resources For Middle School Teachers
- Middle School Book Recommendations
- Toronto school board adopts mandatory Indigenous education in Grade 11