Indigenous Short Stories: Native American, First Nations, Inuit & More

These short stories feature American Indians or the indigenous people of other countries. Most of them were also written by indigenous authors, but also included are stories with indigenous characters.

Indigenous Short Stories

“The Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club” by Sherman Alexie

The narrator was born with water on the brain. He explains what this means, and outlines the wide variety of other physical difficulties and peculiarities he suffered from. He definitely stood out as different, and was treated as such.

“The Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club” is the first story in the preview of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThis amazing novel can also be read as a series of connected short stories. They’re often excerpted in this way. If you haven’t read any of it yet, you’re in for a treat.

“Why Chicken Means So Much to Me” by Sherman Alexie

The narrator tells us the worst thing about being poor. It’s not hunger, as you might think. He tells the story of the time his best friend Oscar, his dog, got sick.

“Why Chicken Means So Much to Me” is the second story in the preview of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

The following two stories can be found in  The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

“Indian Education” by Sherman Alexie

A chronicle of the life of Victor, from grade 1 through high school. Victor gets bullied, wrongly judged by teachers, and sees his peers take destructive paths.

“The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” by Sherman Alexie

A Native American man goes to the store for an ice cream. He is used to being viewed as a crazy Indian by white people. He remembers a relationship he had with a white girl and how it ended.

“Blue Winds Dancing” by Tom Whitecloud

A young American Indian man, lonely and disillusioned with school, leaves for home to be with his own people again. (Summary)

“The Man to Send Rain Clouds” by Leslie Marmon Silko

On an Indian reservation, an old man is found dead from natural causes. Two younger men prepare his body for burial according to their customs. One of their wives suggests that the local Catholic priest should be invited to take part in the ceremony.

This story can be read in the preview of The Man to Send Rain Clouds: Contemporary Stories by American Indians.

The following three stories are also in the above anthology.

“Whispers From a Dead World” by Joseph Little

Walter leaves his house and walks to the tribal bar, getting there just before noon. He’s looking for his wife. The bartender last saw her in the bar with Walter, two days ago. He stays there for hours, then goes to the creek with a friend.

“Nowhere to Go” by R. C. Gorman

A young Navajo man hitchhikes on Highway 66 in Arizona. A white boy in a navy uniform stops for him. He had left his reservation for Alcatraz. The white boy asks a lot of questions. The hitchhiker talks about his people’s history, going back to when the Apaches and Navajos roamed as one people.

“The End of Old Horse” by Simon J. Ortiz

Two brothers, Native American boys, go to a creek to fish and keep cool on a hot day. On their way, they see Old Horse, a dog, tied up, straining excitedly against his rope. They tell the owner, but he says to ignore it.

The following  four stories can be found in Talking Leaves: Contemporary Native American Short Stories.

“Deer Woman” by Paula Gunn Allen

Two young men, Ray and Jackie, drive around one afternoon looking for women. When they stop at a tavern after dark, they find out about a stomp dance nearby. They go over there with a third guy. He soon meets a beauty and leaves. Ray and Jackie keep talking to women and generally enjoying themselves. As morning nears, they spot two strikingly beautiful women.

“Swimming Upstream” by Beth Brant

Anna May stopped at a motel to rest. She dreamt of her son Simon again, drowning while she tried to save him. At first it was a nightmare, but now the dream is familiar. When she’s awake, she imagines things about him. Her ex-husband had custody of Simon. She was unfit—she lived with a woman and had a history of alcoholism. Anna needed to get away for a while. She’s been thinking lately about drinking, just one bottle of wine.

“Going Home” by Joseph Bruchac

Jake and Tom are driving home in a new Ford van. Tom talks about the prison he was in. There were more than twenty Indians there, but it had no sweat lodge. They asked for one through the proper channels. An inmate, Harold Buffalo, said something that was interpreted as a threat. They talk about an inmate, The Fox, who escaped from another facility.

“Killing the Bear” by Judith Minty

A woman lies in a hammock in the afternoons. She gets up at dawn and works on her cabin. The porch is nearly done. One day, there’s a bear in the trees. She had a stuffed bear when she was little.

“The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich

Lyman Lamartine’s brother, Henry, goes to war in Vietnam and returns three years later a changed man.

Read “The Red Convertible”

“Idolatry” by Sherman Alexie

An Indian woman auditions at a singing competition, but she is stopped after the first verse.

“The Eskimo Connection” by Hisaye Yamamoto

Emiko Toyama, a Japanese poet and widow, gets a letter from Alden Walunga, a young Eskimo man in a federal penitentiary. Despite their differences, she begins a correspondence with him and learns a lot about his life.

“Totem” by Thomas King

Some visitors and staff at the Southwest Alberta Art Gallery and Prairie Museum are annoyed by the noise coming from a totem pole. The director, Walter Hooton, didn’t even know they had a totem pole. He decides to have it moved into temporary storage until they can remove it completely.

Read “Totem”

I’ll keep adding short stories about Native Americans and other indigenous peoples as I find more.