Skip to Main Content

Indigenous Literatures and Authors

An introduction to indigenous literary writers and writing from around the world with particular emphasis on the Canadian and North American context.

Books and E-books at Ryerson

Keyword Searching in the Catalogue

Keyword searching can be very fruitful.

Search examples:

Browsing Library of Congress Subject Headings in the Catalogue

Browsing the Library of Congress subject headings index in the catalogue can be effective.
For critical works about specific authors, search by subject by the name in inverted order (last name first). Often there will be a subdivision such as --Criticism and interpretation:

For critical works about a specific genre or period of literature, use the name of the genre etc. Look for the subdivisions indicating the ancestry of the authors, such as --Inuit authors, and also look for the subdivision --History and criticism:

For works by or about specific tribal groups, use the name of the tribe and look for subdivisions such as --Drama; --Fiction; --Juvenile fiction; --Poetry; --Literary collections:

You can browse by general or more specific topical subject headings as in the following examples:

Browsing Canadian Subject Headings in the Catalogue

Canadian Subject Headings (CSH) are widely used in the Ryerson catalogue. These complement and are often more specific than the headings found in Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). There are also some important distinctions and explanations.

For Canadian literary terms such as Canadian literature, Canadian fiction, Canadian drama, Canadian literature (English)

CSH uses the subdivision --Native authors, for collective works written in English and/or French by members from all three designated groups of native ancestry: Indians, Métis, and Inuit. Otherwise it uses specific subdivisions such as --Indian authors; --Metis authors; --Inuit authors; --Innu authors. The following examples may be assigned to works that present collections of literary works ans well as works about the type of literature written by members of the identified groups. Works of criticism will often have the additional final subdivision --History and criticism.

Example Canadian Subject Headings:

Items may be catalogued with combination of CSH and LCSH headings so it is wise to try more than one option. Sometimes cataloguers may have assigned headings incorrectly. For example, many works solely about English language Canadian works may be assigned a more general heading such as Canadian literature, when the more specific heading Canadian literature (English). Items catalogued using LCSH however do not use Canadian literature (English), preferring instead to simply use Canadian literature.

For CSH headings about Native peoples in Canada, use headings that begin with Native peoples--Canada only if the work deals with the three groups of peoples of native ancestry collectively: Indians of North America, Métis, and, Inuit. Otherwise use specific headings of the form: Indians of North America--Canada, Métis, and, Inuit--Canada.

Example Canadian Subject Headings for literary works:

Additional critical works can be found using LCSH and CSH headings of the type:

CSH does not use the terms such as French-Canadian literature. The preference is for terms that use the qualifier (French) as in the examples

Identifying Literary Authors of Indigenous Ancestry

Some reference resources may help you identify some core writers. You can find dynamic lists through Wikipedia and searches on the internet. See for example:

Quick Facts

Use to find brief background information.

Encyclopedias and dictionaries remain valuable sources of bio-bibliographical information and concise critical commentary on authors and types of literature. Consider keyword searches such as:

Bibliographies can provide useful citations to articles, books and other resources on a topic. Older resources cited in printed bibliographies may not be indexed in more modern electronic resources.

See for example these subject headings:


A bibliography focusing upon Australian Aboriginal, Canadian First Nations, and US-American Native Indian cultures and literatures was prepared by Angeline O'Neill (The University of Notre Dame, Australia) and Albert Braz (University of Alberta, Canada) and published in 2011:

O'Neill, Angeline; and Braz, Albert. "Bibliography of Scholarship on Indigenous Literatures and Cultures." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 13.2 (2011): <>


Companions and handbooks to a literature may contain one or more essays or chapters dealing with indigenous topics. Some may include individual entries for specific persons. See for example:

Getting More From E-books

Increasingly, the Ryerson LIbrary and Archives is acquiring books in electronic only formats.  These can be found in the main library catalogue and when using the Search Everything box.  Many of the e-books have virtual call numbers so you can link on the call number field and see both print and electronic books.  This will give you a more accurate understanding of our collection than just browsing the printed books in the library stacks.

Many of the e-books that we have access to can also be found in Scholars Portal Books, along with large numbers of books published prior to 1922 that are presumed to be out of copyright, and other works created using a Creative Commons License that allows free access.

The Internet Archive has many more freely accessible books, videos and sound recordings. It is especially good valuable for works printed in English prior to 1923.  The Hathi Trust Digital Library is another large digitization initiative with a lot of books and magazines that are no longer protected by copyright.

More Resources From the Toronto Public Library (TPL)

The Toronto Public Library has an excellent collection that supports the study of English literature. Many scholarly works are only available at the Toronto Reference Library located on Yonge Street one block north of Bloor Street. These items generally must be used in the library. Some material is part of the vast circulating collection. Online databases and books are becoming more common.

Literature Criticism Online covers contemporary and classical literature, drama and poetry as well as children's literature.

Literature Resource Center is a database that is also available through Ryerson.
A TPL account is required for log-in.  All members of the Ryerson Community are eligible for TPL borrowing privileges.