Best Native American Books


“Does that mean, Grandfather … that the more you know in your mind the less you can carry in your hand?”
— Joseph Marshall III, The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage.

At St. Joseph’s Indian School, we’ve partnered with Native American youth and families to educate for life — mind, body, heart and spirit — since 1927. Preserving and sharing the Lakota (Sioux) culture is a core part of our mission and being well informed on Native American books and authors is a key part of that effort.

In addition to having cultural experts on staff, we regularly take the time to educate ourselves through different texts and books about the Native American people and culture.

Here are some of our top picks for Native American books and authors.


Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

Native American books - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown

Eloquent, heartbreaking, and meticulously documented, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee follows the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the 19th century. Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, the book highlights the voices of American Indians who actually experienced the battles, massacres and broken treaties. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History

by Joseph M. Marshall

Native American books - The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, by Joseph M. Marshall

As the peerless warrior who brought the U.S. Army to its knees at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse remains one of the most perennially fascinating figures of the American West. Drawing on extensive research and a rich oral tradition that is rarely shared outside the Native American community, Marshall gives us a uniquely complete portrait of Crazy Horse. The Journey of Crazy Horse celebrates an enduring culture and gives vibrant life to its most trusted and revered hero. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Journey of Crazy Horse at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


Walking with Grandfather

by Joseph M. Marshall

Native American books - Walking with Grandfather, by Joseph M. Marshall

In Walking with Grandfather, Joseph M. Marshall shares the very best from a lifetime of lessons passed on to him by his grandfather. With him, readers gain access to the timeless teachings that, until now, remained largely unheard outside the culture of the Lakota people. Marshall takes the reader through the rich oral history of the Lakota and shows us how we can rediscover the invaluable wisdom of our elders. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Book includes CD with author commentary and teaching stories.

Find Walking with Grandfather at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Sioux: Life and Customs of a Warrior Society

by Royal B. Hassrick

Native American books - The Sioux: Life and Customs of a Warrior Society, by Royal B. Hassrick

For many people, the Sioux — as warriors and as buffalo hunters — have become the symbol of all that is American Indian … colorful figures endowed with great fortitude and powerful vision. They were the heroes of the Great Plains, and they were the villains, too. Hassrick eloquently describe the ways of the people, the patterns of their behavior, and the concepts of their imagination. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Sioux: Life and Customs of a Warrior Society at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


Lakota Belief and Ritual

by James R. Walker

Native American books - Lakota Belief and Ritual, by James R. Walker

From 1896 until 1914, Walker collected material relating to nearly every aspect of the old Lakota way of life. This collection records teachings by men whose statements of belief show the energy, depth, and imaginative intensity characteristic of the Lakota response to specific cultural, social, and ecological challenges. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find Lakota Belief and Ritual at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


Witness: A Hunkpapha Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of the Lakotas

by Josephine Waggoner

Native American books - Witness: A Hunkpapha Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of the Lakotas, by Josephine Waggoner

Witness offers a rare participant’s perspective on 19th and early 20th century Lakota and Dakota life. This work includes extraordinary firsthand and as-told-to historical stories by tribal members — such as accounts of life in the Powder River camps and at the agencies in the 1870s, the experiences of a mixed-blood girl at the first off-reservation boarding school, and descriptions of traditional beliefs — in addition to sixty biographies of Lakota and Dakota chiefs and headmen. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find Witness: A Hunkpapha Historian’s Strong-Heart Song of the Lakotas at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Gift of the Sacred Pipe

by Vera Louise Drysdale

Native American books - The Gift of the Sacred Pipe, by Vera Louise Drysdale

The Gift of the Sacred Pipe is an illustrated edition of Black Elk’s account of the seven sacred rites of the Oglala Sioux. The sacred pipe is the central instrument in the holy rites of the Sioux people. The White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared on the Plains to give the pipe to the Sioux so that they might “send their voices” to Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit. She related the seven rites of the pipe: the keeping of the soul, the rite of purification, crying for a vision, the Sun Dance, the making of relatives, preparation for womanhood, and the throwing of the ball that symbolizes the earth and gives strength to future generations. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Gift of the Sacred Pipe at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

by Sherman Alexie

Native American books - The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie

A young Native American writer hailed by the New York Times as “one of the major lyric voices of our time” … Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, brilliantly weaves characters, themes and language as he evokes the complex density of life in and around the Spokane Indian Reservation, an existence filled with pain, anger and bitterness but also, more importantly, forgiveness and resilient hope … Alexie writes with affection, grace, and most of all, passion. He is a modern myth maker with a razor-sharp eye for the ironies of modern Indian life, recording the estrangement between Indians and the rest of the world, while affirming the continuing power of his tribe’s cultural history and language. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder

by Kent Nerburn

Native American books - Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder, by Kent Nerburn

Kent Nerburn draws the reader deep into the world of an Indian elder known only as Dan in a world of Indian towns, white roadside cafes, and abandoned roads that swirl with the memories of the Ghost Dance and Sitting Bull. Neither Wolf nor Dog takes readers to the heart of the Native American experience. As the story unfolds, Dan speaks eloquently on the difference between land and property, the power of silence and the selling of sacred ceremonies. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows

by Kent Nerburn

Native American books - The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows, by Kent Nerburn

A note is left on a car windshield, an old dog dies, and Kent Nerburn finds himself back on the Lakota reservation where he traveled more than a decade before with a tribal elder named Dan. The touching, funny and haunting journey that ensues goes deep into reservation boarding-school mysteries, the dark confines of sweat lodges and isolated Native homesteads far back in the Dakota hills in search of ghosts that have haunted Dan since childhood. In this fictionalized account of actual events, Nerburn brings the land of the northern High Plains alive and reveals the Native American way of teaching and learning with a depth that few outsiders have ever captured. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder and the Light from an Ancient Sky

by Kent Nerburn

Native American books - The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky, by Kent Nerburn

A haunting dream that will not relent pulls author Kent Nerburn back into the hidden world of Native America, where dreams have meaning, animals are teachers and the old ones still have powers beyond our understanding. In this moving narrative, we travel through the lands of the Lakota and the Ojibwe, where we encounter a strange little girl with an unnerving connection to the past, a forgotten asylum that history has tried to hide and the complex, unforgettable characters we have come to know from Neither Wolf nor Dog and The Wolf at Twilight. Part history, part mystery, part spiritual journey and teaching story, The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo is filled with profound insight into humanity and Native American culture. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


Black Elk Speaks

by John G. Neihardt

Native American books - Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neihardt

Black Elk Speaks is the story of the Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and his people during the momentous twilight years of the 19th century. Neihardt and Black Elk worked together on this work to convey Black Elk’s experiences in this powerful and inspirational message for all humankind. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find Black Elk Speaks at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living

by Joseph M. Marshall

Native American books - The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living, by Joseph M. Marshall

Rich with storytelling, history and folklore, The Lakota Way expresses the heart of Native American philosophy and imparts the path to a fulfilling and meaningful life. In this book, Marshall focuses on the twelve core qualities that are crucial to the Lakota way of living: bravery, fortitude, generosity, wisdom, respect, honor, perseverance, love, humility, sacrifice, truth and compassion. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Sacred Pipe

by Joseph Epes Brown

Native American books - The Sacred Pipe, by Joseph Epes Brown

Black Elk was the only qualified priest of the older Oglala Sioux still living when The Sacred Pipe was written. This is his book, orally translated by Joseph Epes Brown during his time on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Beginning with the story of White Buffalo Cow Woman’s first visit to the Sioux to give them the sacred pipe, Black Elk describes and discusses the details and meanings of the seven rites, which were disclosed — one by one — to the Sioux through visions. He takes the reader through the sun dance, the purification rite, the keeping of the soul and other rites, showing how the Sioux have come to terms with God and nature and their fellow men through a rare spirit of sacrifice and determination. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Sacred Pipe at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.


The Long Death: The Last Days of the Plains Indians

by Ralph K Andrist

Native American books - The Long Death: The Last Days of the Plains Indians, by Ralph K Andrist

This compelling narrative explains how Native Americans found themselves time and again betrayed by the ever-expanding white nation of the East, fighting for lands on the edge of the shrinking frontier. — Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Find The Long Death: The Last Days of the Plains Indians at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.