Native American & Indigenous Heritage Month 2020

Posted & filed under Blog, Early Literacy, Youth & Teen.

Join us in celebrating Native, Indigenous and First Nations voices this November, which is Native American Heritage Month, throughout our library. The fantastic video below, created by co-founders of Little Cheiis, Wade M. Adakai (Diné (Navajo) & Antonio Ramirez (Navajo/Hopi), offers the history and origins of Native American Heritage Month.

Last year we created several book and interactive displays in our Youth & Teen Services department for Native American Heritage Month. This year we’ve expanded our displays throughout our library across all genres and ages 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 resources. You can also use the links below to put books on hold to pick up at your convenience. They also make excellent gifts from your local indie bookshop. (We have also updated this post with additional resources throughout the year.)

Book Displays

Adult & Teen

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

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

We also have included resources and Change the Story infographics from Illuminatives in our display. You can learn more and take action here.

We have also added an invaluable resource to help advocate for more incredible, authentic books by Native creators 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 and resources to take action and learn more on the back. You can see the 2019 CCBC Diversity Statistics here.

Middle Grade

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

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

Picture Books

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

Listening Stations

This year we have innovated to create touchless listening stations where patrons can listen to incredible audiobooks/read alouds from Native creators. You can use a smartphone to scan the QR code on our signs, which takes you the readalong book in Hoopla to listen with your headphones.

You can create your own listening station at home (or in your classroom/library), too! You can listen while reading your copy of the print book or even while you do an activity from the activity guides. (Thank you to Lisa for making this beautiful signs.)

Listen to the award-winning readalong audiobook of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation) & illustrated by Frané Lessac on Hoopla! Read by Cherokee citizens Lauren Hummingbird, Agalisiga (Choogie) Mackey, Ryan Mackey, Traci Sorell, & Tonia Hogner-Weavel. You can listen here on Hoopla. You can access an incredible activity & discussion guide and coloring sheets here. We are also so excited for Traci & Frané’s new book, e Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, coming out on April 21, 2021, from Charlesbridge! Check out this amazing video with Traci and editor Karen Boss about the making of this outstanding. book!

Listen to the readalong audiobook of the award-winning book, Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard (Mekusukey band of the Seminole Nation), illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. Read by Kevin Noble Maillard. You can listen here on Hoopla. You can access an activity and discussion guide here.

Listen to the read aloud of We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinabe/Métis and is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians) and illustrated by Michaela Goade (member of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska). You can access an activity and discussion guide here.

We also have a Grab n’ Go Gratitude Jar activity that you can pick up in the Great Green Box or inside the library. It is inspired by ThankU: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscokee Creek). You can read it right now without waiting on Hoopla! The Editor’s Note to Educators and Parents in ThankU is a valuable resource to discuss and focus on gratitude all year.

Digital Resources for Learning More about Native, Indigenous, and First Nations Peoples

We have compiled resources that we hope can be helpful. This is NOT an exhaustive or definitive list of resources, but a collection of tools and resources we have found useful and informative as we have been curating our display and continuously learning more. The descriptions are from their websites. We put together a paper brochure in our displays for patrons to take, explore, & share. We’ve adapted the handout to make it accessible online here.


Native Land

This is a resource for North Americans (and others) to find out more about local Indigenous territories and languages.

Reclaiming Native Truth

Reclaiming Native Truth is a national effort to foster cultural, social and policy change by empowering Native Americans to counter discrimination, invisibility and the dominant narratives that limit Native opportunity, access to justice, health and self-determination. Reclaiming Native Truth’s goal is to move hearts and minds toward greater respect, inclusion and social justice for Native Americans. It was co-designed and co-led by IllumiNative founder Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma) and Echo Hawk Consulting.

Native Knowledge 360°

Native Knowledge 360° (NK360°) from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian provides educators and students with new perspectives on Native American history and cultures. 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.

Molly of Denali (Teaching Resources Collection)

Informational text and Alaska Native culture form the basis of the groundbreaking Molly of Denali series and its educational resources. This collection offers videos, digital games, lessons, teaching tips, and activities so that educators can utilize the series in the classroom and home.

Living Nations, Living Words (signature project from Joy Harjo, 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States)

Each location marker reveals a Native Nations poet and features an image, biography, and a link to hear the poet recite and comment on an original poem. This body of work forms the foundation of a “Living Nations, Living Words” online collection in the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center.

Find & Evaluate Books

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Established in 2006 by Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo, American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) provides critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books. Dr. Jean Mendoza joined AICL as a co-editor in 2016.

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

Indigo’s Bookshelf: Voices of Native Youth

“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.

Teacher and Librarian Resources for Native American Children’s and Young Adult Books

Cynthia Leitich Smith, a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is a best-selling, award-winning children’s-YA writer, writing teacher, and the author-curator of the Native-centered Heartdrum imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books. This bibliography is compiled in hopes of improving education related to Native peoples and Nations. (Cynthia’s entire website is an invaluable resource.)

You can learn more about Heartdrum here! You know we’ll be ordering all the Heartdrum books (and raffling off ARCS we just received from the publisher!)! Check out the graphic below from Heartdrum to behold all the beautiful books coming in 2021. “Heartdrum is the first Native imprint at a major children’s publisher. In uplifting and centering Native voices, Heartdrum offers a wide variety of heartfelt, groundbreaking, and unexpected stories by Native creators. Heartdrum books place an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.”

Join the Heartdrum virtual launch event at Birchbark Books on Wednesday, February 10th at 7pm CST! “Join HarperCollins, We Need Diverse Books, the National Indian Education Association, and Birchbark Books for an evening celebrating the launch of Heartdrum, a new Native-focused imprint led by award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith. Heartdrum offers a wide range of innovative, unexpected, and heartfelt stories by Native creators, informed and inspired by lived experience, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes This virtual event will feature authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Christine Day, Dawn Quigley, and Brian Young and will be moderated by Ellen Oh, co-founder of We Need Diverse Books. All Heartdrum titles purchased from Birchark Books will include an exclusive art print. While supplies last!”


Empower Native Kids to Read by Aliyah Chavez (Kewa Pueblo) (Indian Country Today)

How Native Writers Talk Story: Honoring Authentic Voices in Books for Young People by ​​​​​​​Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek Nation) and Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation) (School Library Journal)

Native Perspectives: Books by, for, and about Indigenous People: Great Books by ​​​​​​​Kara Stewart (Sappony) (School Library Journal)

Unteaching the Native Narrative by Kara Stewart (Sappony) (School Library Journal)

“Readers are Realizing their Hunger for our Stories:” Native Literature for Kids and Teens by Kelly Jensen (Book Riot)

Cynthia Leitich Smith and Rosemary Brosnan Talk with Roger by Roger Sutton (Horn Book)


Native America 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.


Unreserved is the radio space for Indigenous community, culture, and conversation. Past host Rosanna Deerchild (O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation) & current host Falen Johnson (Mohawk and Tuscarora (Bear Clan) from Six Nations Grand River Territory) take 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.

All My Relations

All My Relations is a team of folks who care about representations, and how Native peoples are represented in mainstream media. Hosts Matika Wilbur (Tulalip and Swinomish) and 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.

This Land

Hosted by Rebecca Nagle, a citizen of Cherokee Nation. An 1839 assassination of a Cherokee leader and a 1999 murder case – two crimes nearly two centuries apart provide the backbone to a 2020 Supreme Court decision that determined the fate of five tribes and nearly half the land in Oklahoma.


Kīwew is a five-part podcast in which Governor General award-winning author David A. Robertson (Norway House Cree Nation) dives into his family’s history and mysteries as he discovers and connects with his Cree identity.

Learning Opportunities

NK360° Webinars: Giving Thanks: Telling More Complete Narratives About Thanksgiving (Native Knowledge 360° from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)

Session 1 (11/10, 6pm CST): Engage with primary sources and artwork to grapple with the mythology of the “First Thanksgiving”. Teachers will identify how misrepresentations contribute to the false narratives around the First Thanksgiving and its participants.

Session 2 (11/17, 6pm CST): Learn about the food traditions practiced by different Native communities, as well as why some communities give thanks throughout the year. Teachers will then engage with suggested resources and discuss appropriate strategies they can use in their classrooms.

Black and Indigenous Storytelling as Counter-History (11/11 at 3pm CST)

For untold centuries, storytelling has been foundational to the ways Black and Indigenous people understand and connect to the world around them. However, knowledge systems upheld in academic settings continually disavow these narratives and those who hold them as valid sites of intellectual production. For BIPOC heritage professionals, storytelling taps into historically marginalized ways of knowing. It offers ways to reclaim and retell histories that often counter the harmful and one-sided narratives told about Black and Indigenous peoples through archaeology, museums, and heritage sites. In this webinar, we explore storytelling through artifacts, cultural landscapes, comics, graphic novels, and video games as a means of counter-history, illuminating new ways of imagining pasts, presents, and futures for Black and Indigenous people. Panelists will discuss how they engage storytelling as an intellectual entryway to interpretations of the material evidence of Black and Indigenous histories.

Rethinking Thanksgiving: History, Holidays, and Gratitude (11/12 at 12:30pm CST)

Award-winning authors Kate Messner and Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation) offer a thought-provoking author visit based on their books about the real history of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, the myth of the “First Thanksgiving,” and modern-day Native traditions of gratitude.

A Discussion of Contemporary Native Children’s Literature with Authors Traci Sorell and Carla Messinger (11/12 at 3pm CST)

Join Lee & Low Books as they discuss high-quality, #ownvoices and contemporary Native literature, classroom applications, and ways to make sure that you are teaching about modern Native history authentically and accurately in your relevant setting. Authors Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation), and Carla Messinger (Turtle Clan Lenape) will share their insights, experiences and knowledge about their writing processes, tips and strategies for selecting quality Native literature, and applicable classroom activities.

Our local library system, Chicago Public Library, is offering an incredible variety of Native American Heritage Month and beyond programs online from Finding Home: An Indigenous Perspective on Land, Language and Identity with Dr. Anton Treuer (11/10), Honoring Native Voices: A Book Talk with Librarian Cindy Hohl (11/14), Climate Activism with the Chicago Chapter of the International Indigenous Youth Council (12/2) and more!

We’d love to hear what you’ve learned and read during this month and beyond- and ways you plan to continue learning.

*Citation: Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. 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: Retrieved from