Native American Heritage Month

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Join us in celebrating Native and First Nations voices all November, which is Native American Heritage Month, in our Youth and Teen Department. We have curated several displays that spotlight wonderful books across all genres and ages about and by Native and First Nations creators. There’s truly something for everybody – all year round! Visit us any time to borrow any of these fantastic books and take a copy of our booklists.

We also have provided copies of coloring pages from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, a citizen of Cherokee Nation, and illustrated by Frané Lessac. This beautiful book chronicles a year in the life of a contemporary Cherokee family and community – and our copy even includes the extraordinary audiobook from Live Oak Media!

When you stop by the library, you can write what you are grateful for on a leaf to add to our display. Check out ThankU: Poems of Gratitude, illustrated by Marlena Myles, edited by Miranda Paul, for inspiration!

We’d love to share some of our favorite books by Native and First Nations creators. The summaries are from our library catalog, as well as publisher/author websites. 

Picture Books 

For a full list of recommended picture books, click here.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpré Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal.

Fry bread is food. It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.
Fry bread is time. It brings families together for meals and new memories.
Fry bread is nation. It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.
Fry bread is us. It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

A family, separated by duty and distance, waits for a loved one to return home in this lyrical picture book celebrating the bonds of a Cherokee family and the bravery of history-making women pilots.

At the mountain’s base sits a cabin under an old hickory tree. And in that cabin lives a family — loving, weaving, cooking, and singing. The strength in their song sustains them through trials on the ground and in the sky, as they wait for their loved one, a pilot, to return from war.

With an author’s note that pays homage to the true history of Native American U.S. service members like WWII pilot Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, this is a story that reveals the roots that ground us, the dreams that help us soar, and the people and traditions that hold us up.

May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp

A beautiful board book about gratitude by celebrated Indigenous author Richard Van Camp, complemented by photos from Tea & Bannock, a collective blog by Indigenous women photographers.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Jenna, a contemporary Muscogee (Creek) girl in Oklahoma, wants to honor a family tradition by jingle dancing at the next powwow. But where will she find enough jingles for her dress?

Middle Grade

For a full list of recommended middle grade books, click here.

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day 

When twelve-year-old Edie finds letters and photographs in her attic that change everything she thought she knew about her Native American mother’s adoption, she realizes she has a lot to learn about her family’s history and her own identity.

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell

When Regina’s Umpqua tribe is legally terminated and her family must relocate from Oregon to Los Angeles, she goes on a quest to understand her identity as an Indian despite being so far from home.

The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson

Sam, Otter, Atim, and Chickadee are four inseparable cousins growing up on the Windy Lake First Nation. Nicknamed the Mighty Muskrats for their habit of laughing, fighting, and exploring together, the cousins find that each new adventure adds to their reputation. When a visiting archeologist goes missing, the cousins decide to solve the mystery of his disappearance

Young Adult

For a full list of recommended YA books, click here. For a full list of recommended informational books, click here.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Jean Mendoza & Debbie Reese

Spanning more than 400 years, this essential history  examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism. This accessible adaptation include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, edited by Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale

An eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express diverse experiences of being a Native woman.

This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel | illustrated by Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, Jen Storm | colour by Scott A. Ford, Donovan Yaciuk

Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

Chickasaw Adventures by Jen Murvin Edwards & Tom Lyle 

Johnny thinks he will never understand Grandfather’s pride in their Chickasaw heritage. But then a powerful and mysterious force gives Johnny the gift of time travel, which takes him back to important moments in Chickasaw history. Follow Johnny as he journeys into the past, discovers the unconquerable spirit of his ancestors, and at last learns what it means to be Chickasaw.

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

When her boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, Louise, who is a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation, dumps him over email. She’d rather spend her senior year with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, an ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey. But ‘dating while Native’ can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?

All the Resources!


We have compiled resources that can be helpful for caregivers and educators to learn more about Native and First Nations peoples. This is NOT an exhaustive or definitive list of resources, but a collection of tools and resources we have found helpful as we have been curating our display and continuously learning more. The descriptions are from their websites. We highly recommend checking them out! 

Websites/Blogs

American Indians in Children’s Literature (Dr. Debbie Reese)

Established in 2006, American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society. 

Indigo’s Bookshelf: Voices of Native Youth (Children of the Glades)

“Florida” Seminole & Miccosukee teens review books by and about Native peoples and comment on other news of interest to their communities. 

American Indian Youth Literature Award

Awarded biennially, the AIYLA identifies and honors the very best writing and illustrations by and about Native Americans and Indigenous peoples of North America. 

Molly of Denali (Teaching Resources Collection) 

Set in a rural Alaskan village, and featuring the adventures of Molly, her family, and friends, Molly of Denali models the many ways that children can access and create informational text in their daily lives. At the same time, the stories are infused with Alaska Native values, history, traditions, language, as well as contemporary life. The Molly of Denali educational resources collection offers videos, digital games, lessons, teaching tips, and activities so that educators can utilize the series in the classroom/home.

Native Knowledge 360 (Resources from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)

Native Knowledge 360° (NK360°) provides educators and students with new perspectives on Native American history and cultures. Most Americans have only been exposed to part of the story, as told from a single perspective through the lenses of popular media and textbooks. NK360° provides educational materials and teacher training that incorporate Native narratives, more comprehensive histories, and accurate information to enlighten and inform teaching and learning about Native America. 

Oyate

Oyate’s work includes critical evaluation of books and curricula with Indian themes, conducting workshops on “Teaching Respect for Native Peoples,” administration of a small resource center and reference library; and distribution of literature and learning materials for children, youth, and their teachers. 

Podcasts

All My Relations

All My Relations is a team of folks who care about representations, and how Native peoples are represented in mainstream media. On each episode hosts Matika Wilbur (Tulalip and Swinomish) and Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), delve into a different topic facing Native peoples today, bringing in guests from all over Indian Country to offer perspectives and stories.

Native American Calling

Native America Calling is a live call-in program linking public radio stations, the Internet and listeners together in a thought-provoking national conversation about issues specific to Native communities. Each program engages noted guests and experts with callers throughout the United States and is designed to improve the quality of life for Native Americans. Check out their recent episode, “Avoiding mistakes in the classroom.” 

Teaching Hard History Podcast (Teaching Tolerance)

What we don’t know about American slavery hurts us all. From Teaching Tolerance and host Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Teaching Hard History brings us the lessons we should have learned in school through the voices of leading scholars and educators. It’s good advice for teachers, good information for everybody. Check out “Teaching Slavery through Children’s Literature, Part 2 with Dr. Debbie Reese.

This Land 

Hosted by Rebecca Nagle, a citizen of Cherokee Nation, This Land is about the 1839 assassination of a Cherokee leader and a 1999 murder case – two crimes nearly two centuries apart provide the backbone to an upcoming 2019 Supreme Court decision that will determine the fate of five tribes and nearly half the land in Oklahoma.

Unreserved with Rosanna Deerchild

Unreserved is the radio space for Indigenous community, culture, and conversation. Host Rosanna Deerchild takes you straight into Indigenous Canada, from Halifax to Haida Gwaii, from Shamattawa to Ottawa, introducing listeners to the storytellers, culture makers and community shakers from across the country. The Unreserved team offers real talk from the people behind the headlines, with a soundtrack from the best in Indigenous music.

Articles/Teaching Resources

Teaching Respect for Native Peoples by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin (printed on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website with permission from Oyate) 

2019 Arbuthnot Lecture: An Indigenous Critique of Whiteness in Children’s Literature by Dr. Debbie Reese (Children and Libraries). You can watch the recorded livestream of the lecture here

Critical Indigenous Literacies: Selecting and Using Children’s Books about Indigenous Peoples by Dr. Debbie Reese (Language Arts)

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month: Dos and Don’ts by Ruth Hopkins (Teen Vogue)

American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian 

Deconstructing the myths of “The First Thanksgiving by Judy Dow (Oyate)

Origin Narrative: Thanksgiving: A Lesson Plan, created by Dr. Natalie Martinez (Laguna Pueblo), to support  Chapter 3 (“Cult of the Covenant”) in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People.

Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 Infographic


As we celebrate and spotlight books created by and about Native and First Nations creators, we also wanted to share an invaluable resource to help advocate for more incredible, authentic books to be published. The Diversity in Children’s books 2018 Infographic shows the “percentage of books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds based on the 2018 publishing statistics compiled by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).” Please take a copy of the infographic postcard, which includes the infographic above and resources to take action and learn more on the back. It is worth noting an important change in this infographic from the previous one:

“One important distinction between the 2015 and 2018 infographics is that we made a deliberate decision to crack a section of the children’s mirrors (Rudine Sims Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” 1990) to indicate what Debbie Reese calls “funhouse mirrors” and Ebony Elizabeth Thomas calls “distorted funhouse mirrors of the self.” Children’s literature continues to misrepresent underrepresented communities, and we wanted this infographic to show not just the low quantity of existing literature, but also the inaccuracy and uneven quality of some of those books.” Note the broken glass on the ground beside the children in the infographic as you reflect on it.” 

Source: Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/

Which books by Native and First Nations creators have you shared with young people in your lives? Let us know!