10 Books to Teach Aboriginal History

Classroom reading suggestions for teaching Aboriginal history from Dr. Timothy Winegard.

September 21, 2014

On teaching Aboriginal history, Dr. Winegard said, “They [Aboriginal peoples] are not spectators to colonization they are active participants and by removing that factor it doesn’t give them a voice. They [Aboriginals peoples] are active participants in colonization and Canadian-Indian relations. By not keeping it like that you remove their voice and their agenda. You can’t have a one-sided history.”

This list is inspired by Dr. Timothy Winegard's presentation about teaching Aboriginal history at the University of Winnipeg’s Summer Teaching Institute in July 2014.

Elementary

The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale

Appropriate from kindergarten through to grade 5

Lydia’s Dabcovich’s The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale is appropriate from kindergarten through to grade 5.

Tales From Big Spirit Series

Suitable for grades 4 to 6

We're showing the cover of the Teaching Guide by Katya Ferguson here, but there are seven books in this David A. Robertson graphic novel series suitable for grades 4 through 6. Each books takes a look at the life of an indigenous hero including: Shawnadithit, Tommy Prince, Thanadelthur, Gabriel Dumont, John Ramsay and Pauline Johnson.

Secondary

Three Day Road

For grades 9 to 12

​Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road fiction narrative is an excellent book for grades 9 to 12.

Tecumseh’s Bones

Applicable for grades 9 to 12

Guy St. Denis’ Tecumseh’s Bones is applicable for grades 9 to 12 because of the humorous tone.

Aboriginal Agency 

Suitable for a grade 12 or higher audience

J.R Miller’s Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada, 4th edition and Waiser and Stonechild’s Loyal Till Death: Indians and the North-West Rebellion are fairly technical and would suit a grade 12 or higher audience best. These texts are approachable and are the best for giving aboriginals agency. Dr. Winegard explains that these books, “ the whole idea of aboriginal agency is not lost, like it can be in other books.”

For King and Kanata

Ideal for grades 11 and 12

Timothy C. Winegard’s For King and Kanata: Canadian Indians and the First World War is ideal for a grade 11 or 12 class. The first three chapters deal with the colonial history.

1491 & 1493

Suitable for grades 9 to 12

Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created are very accessible through the narrative writing style. These books work as a pair at the high school level.

The Inconvenient Indian

Suitable for grades 11 and 12

Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America is best presented in senior high school classes. This book narrative from the perspective of Aboriginals.

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