By Jason Larsen
November is National American Indian Heritage Month and the University Library comic collection wants to pay tribute to Native/Indigenous people by sharing our comic recommendations. We believe these selections highlight some great works that will show readers Indigenous characters that were either created by Indigenous creators and/or represented in a non-deficient way in the stories.
The Native/Indigenous people of North America have endured a continuous cycle of disrespect and devaluation of their culture, bodies, and sovereignty so the materials below may contain subjects or materials that are uncomfortable to read and/or intense in their nature. And equally important is to recognize the Native/Indigenous people whose land we occupy at UIUC so we ask that you please read the University’s Land Acknowledgement statement here.
Comics Available on the Shelf
Rape and violent sexual acts are committed against Native/Indigenous women at a rate more than 2.5 times of any other ethnicity. This anthology provides an access point to learn more about the violence that targets Native/Indigenous women across North America. It contains over a dozen stories from Native women sharing stories not just about the violence itself but surviving, healing from it, and finding empowerment from their experiences.
Many of us have been taught that colonial settlement was some sort of natural expansion into undeveloped spaces. In reality, it was an invasion of Native/Indigenous people’s lands and cultures. Creator Gord Hill’s expanded and revised work has become a seminal testimony about the resistance of the Native/Indigenous peoples against the various colonial incursions over the last five centuries. The book examines nine different confrontation points in history beginning with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan empires and moving forward to the 2020 pipeline protests in Canada.
This semi-fictional story focuses on excerpts from a real letter written by an Indigenous Canadian teenager to the Winnipeg Chief of Police that went viral. The story focuses on the of neglect local authorities both in conducting investigations and in notifying the public of missing Indigenous girls and women. The letter is especially chilling as it calls for them to “not treat me as the Indigenous person I am proud to be” so that she might be found if she were to go missing.
If you are looking to explore what types of Native/Indigenous creators are out there then this series is for you. This is the first volume of an ongoing anthology series that highlights stories created by various Native/Indigenous creators. Volume one contains 14 different stories that range from traditional stories given new form to Indigenous Futurism.
Creator Jim Terry’s autobiography explores his struggles from childhood to early adulthood. Whether living in the Ho-Chunk community in Wisconsin or with his peers in the suburbs of Chicago, he struggled with finding his place in either world. Those years would lead to battling with alcoholism and finding sobriety, and eventually walking a path of discovery that ended at the Dakota Access Pipeline. Follow his struggles through these challenges as he finds hope and belief in something more.
There was a more recent period in history that neither Canada nor the United States acknowledges very well– the Residential/Boarding School Era. This was a period when both countries forcefully took Native/Indigenous children from their families to “properly” educate them. This era ran well into the 1920s and creator Jason EagleSpeaker’s book takes true stories of this dark period and provides us with an unflinching look at the troubled history both countries have with this system and the impact this still has on generations of Native/Indigenous families today.
Comics Available and Forthcoming in ComicsPlus
This horror action series focuses on a pair of soldiers in Vietnam. They come across rumors of a gold treasure buried in the jungle by Japan during World War II. They decide it is time to leave the war and seek their fortune. What starts out as a treasure hunt turns into a twisting spiral of paranoia. The closer they get to the gold, the more they start to distrust each other. And if that wasn’t enough, a serial killer seems to be stalking the pair through the jungle.
Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain: The Story of Chief Joseph and the Nez (Agnieszka Biskup and Rusty Zimmerman)
A biographical story of a specific period of the Native American chief who wanted to peacefully exist in the West. The story follows the chief as he has to lead his people, the Nez Perce, in a fighting retreat from the US Army after violent encounters lead his people to attempt to flee to Canada and join Sitting Bull’s Lakota in seeking political asylum.
In the year 2112 the world has become what had been predicted, an unfixable ecological disaster. A group of Indigenous survivors find a way to travel in time and determine the pivot point in history where everything went wrong when the New World was discovered. Their plan? Kill Christopher Columbus before he sets the future in motion. But could there be different consequences to those left in the present by doing so?
Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band (Christian Staebler, Sonia Paoloni, and Thibault Balahy)
Redbone is a true journalistic biography, done with cooperation of the family, about two Native American brothers who created an all-Native American Rock band on their terms. Follow the brothers and the band through music history as their aspirations for rock and roll success come up against their cultural identity and pride during the American Indian Movement. And if you think you haven’t heard their music before, if you watched Guardians of the Galaxy, then you would be wrong.
If you are unfamiliar with the ComicsPlus application, the service provides our students, staff, and patrons with access to over 20,000 comics from 87 different publishers in a digital format. Check out the video links below as they provide additional details on the application.
Additional Resources on Native/Indigenous Comics
If you like any of the selections above, or are interested but looking for something different to read, we encourage you to explore the links below. These will take you to additional resources about Native/Indigenous comics where you can explore the many facets of work available and find your next new favorite comic!
- Red Planet Books & Comics – The only Indigenous comic store in the world and a great place to look for more possible selections.
- The Mazinbiige Indigenous Graphic Novel Collection – The University of Manitoba in Canada has created both a great resource guide and curated collection.
- NAGPRA Comics – Resource that discusses the importance, and has comics about, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
- Indigenous Peeps in the Industry Blog – A great resource to explore and find Native/Indigenous comic creators.