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November is Native American Heritage Month and Insider had the opportunity to speak with Nicole McLaren, the owner and founder of Raven Reads, a book subscription box that shares the voices and work of Indigenous authors while reinvesting money into other Indigenous-owned businesses.
McLaren, who identifies as Métis, Cree, and European, stressed the importance of supporting Native-owned businesses, especially women-owned businesses. “There’s a huge ripple effect by directing your consumer dollars into companies that are owned by Indigenous peoples, specifically women,” McLaren said. “And I think it just has a much broader impact in your local community, in your region, and in your state that you just won’t get buying more big brands from big chain stores.” By purchasing from Native-owned businesses, McLaren added that you’re investing money into diversifying economies to produce sustainable wealth in Indigenous communities and families.
In addition to highlighting Native businesses to support, McLaren recommended several books by Indigenous authors that showcase the stories, struggles, and successes of Native characters. These books encourage readers to learn about the people whose traditional land we live on and “those vibrant cultures that still exist today,” she said.
“I think just reaching out and engaging with all those Indigenous communities around you and just getting to know a bit more about the people that are there and learning a bit more about maybe some of those inequities and then how you can play a role in improving,” McLaren said.
Take a look at this map to see which Indigenous land you reside on.
“There, There” by Tommy Orange, available at Amazon and Eleanor’s Bookshop, from $11.49
The first book recommended by McLaren is “There, There” by Tommy Orange, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. “I definitely look for books that really connect historical context with modern societal issues,” McLaren said.
The novel highlights a variety of Native voices as the characters prepare to travel to the Big Oakland Powwow. The twelve characters are urban Native Americans who, through essays, share the complexities of history, trauma, identity, violence and colonialism they continue to face in modern society.
“The Break” by Katherena Vermette, available at Amazon and Eleanor’s Bookshop, from $9.36
McLaren recommended “The Break” by Métis author Katherena Vermette. “I really appreciate how her storytelling helps people really make connections with intergenerational trauma and how the impact of residential schools still impacts families today. And I think that was a fundamental story that everybody should read,” she said.
“The Break” follows the story of ten women that are intertwined through trauma and loss after a crime occurs in Winnipeg’s North End neighborhood. The novel highlights issues of race and violence surrounding Indigenous women and the effects of generational trauma in Indigenous communities.
“Seven Fallen Feathers” by Tanya Talaga, available at Amazon and Birchbark Books, from $16.25
Tanya Talaga is Ojibwe and the author of “Seven Fallen Feathers.” “This one is nonfiction, but it speaks about children in Northern Ontario that were killed in Thunder Bay,” said McLaren. “It talks about the systemic racism that occurs in many of those communities and the inequities that children face in our education system.”
This book shares the harrowing stories of Indigenous children who died while attending residential schools in 1966 and throughout the 2000s. Along with the stories of the children, Talaga sheds light on the history and current effects of racism, inequality, and cultural genocide of Indigenous people and children.
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