9 Must-Have Audiobooks for Native American Heritage Month | entertainment

The exponential growth of the audiobook market is amplifying more and more diverse voices, including the life and experiences of indigenous people. Here are just a selection of some outstanding recent audiobooks to listen to this Native American Heritage Month.

If ever there was a title that cried out to be heard, even by readers who otherwise prefer print, it was Nicola I. Campbell’s memoirs, “Spíləx̣m: A weaving of recovery, resilience, and resurgenceis one such book. Spíləx̣m is a Nłeʔkepmxcín term for remembered stories, and award-winning Nłeʔkepmx, Syilx and Métis author Campbell weaves these memories and narratives together with poetry, songs, letters and essays in strong English, interspersed with words casually of several Indigenous languages. Rendered on the page in glyph-laden phonetic spellings designed to confuse the unwritten, these words take flight when released into sound. With her soothing voice, Campbell gives a heartfelt and moving performance that easily shifting between styles and registers, including a spirited spontaneous incarnation of her younger self as she recounts her coming of age and her eventual reckoning with and work to heal personal and collective colonial trauma. At the end of the book, Campbell recalls a Lushootseed speaker Elders at a language conference Erence in Seattle, who wisely warned his listeners of the power of the stories we tell and their ability to heal and harm: “You are a spirit within yourself, and we are but the conduit that brings you to life awakened. Like tiny beings, they dance, they move, and they enter us, and then they do their job.” With care, humility, and stirring eloquence, Campbell crafts her own stories to the best of their ability, and we feel privileged to preserve them.

In last winter’s column on hockey audiobooks, I forgot to include Fred Sasakamoose’s recent memoir,”call me indian.” Born in 1933 in Sandy Lake Reserve, Saskatchewan (now the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation), Sasakamoose was taken at age 6 from a home “full of song, dance, and tradition…full of wonder and mystery…of family, love, and community.” , loaded onto a truck bed full of crying children and sent to St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, where he suffered physical and psychological humiliation and abuse like thousands of other Indigenous children across North America.Sasakamoose found some escape by playing hockey, in which he excelled, eventually becoming the first Indigenous player on contract in the National Hockey League in 1953. St. Michael’s Residential School remained in operation until 1996. Sasakamoose died of complications from COVID-19 in 2020, ahead of his memoir In An Inspired Choice Will Be Book narrated by Cree attorney and chief executive Wilton Littlechild, himself a dorm survivor and accomplished activist t is for indigenous rights, reconciliation and healing. Littlechild brings a deep experience and understanding of his own life to the reading for a fittingly authentic and quietly moving listen. If the story of Sasakamoose sounds familiar to you, it was in part the inspiration for Richard Wagamese’s novel “Indian horse,” recently adapted into an award-winning film of the same name and provided with powerful and compelling audiobook narration by Jason Ryll. Whether through fiction or memoir, witnessing the tragic history of boarding and boarding schools is important in order to understand the challenges and struggle that indigenous peoples of North America face to this day.

Generational trauma casts a long shadow over Lakota author David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s dark crime debut.winter matters.” Recovering alcoholic Virgil Wounded Horse scrapes a meager life he can afford and finds an unhealthy degree of satisfaction in bringing justice to those whose crimes are willingly ignored by federal authorities. When his nephew Nathan nearly dies of an opioid overdose, Virgil goes to work on his own to bring down the predatory dealers who feed off the pain and poverty of South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation. Virgil is Torn by his own mixed-blood heritage, a classic battered knight, and narrator Darrell Dennis delivers a regretful, sardonic read that captures his tough and tender sides. Dennis also recently narrated long overdue audio productions of three classic James Welch novels: “fools crow,” “The death of Jim Loney,” and Welch’s 1974 debut, “winter in the blood‘ which subtly captures the humor and heartbreak of Welch’s estranged anti-hero.

Listeners looking for something lighter can listen to the LA Theater Works production of Larissa FastHorses “The Thanksgiving Game,” a wide-ranging cultural sensitivity comic show in which a desperately woken-up drama troupe tries to right the wrongs of American history through a hilarious school parade, only to find out their leading lady isn’t Indigenous as they thought. The actor’s ridiculous hypersensitivity is offset by pathetic excerpts from actual Thanksgiving plays, each more insulting than the last. Indigenous humor’s resilience in the face of these uncomfortable extremes forms the backbone of Kliph Nesterhoff’s “We had a little real estate problem,” a fascinating and thorough examination of Native American history through the lens of entertainment, ranging from the Wild West shows and variety shows of the 19th century through the heyday of Will Rogers to the Native American comics of today.


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