We’re Still Here: Books to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month
Author Traci Sorrell inspired the theme of this book list to help educators, families, and children celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Her books, We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know and We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, remind us that Native American history is not a finished chapter. The histories, experiences, and stories of Indigenous groups and people in North America and around the globe are ongoing and play a relevant part in our daily lives. We encourage you to continue to explore and celebrate Native American authors, illustrators, and stories in November and throughout the year.
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We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know
by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac
Too often, Native American history is treated as a finished chapter instead of relevant and ongoing. This companion book to the award-winning We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga offers readers everything they never learned in school about Native American people’s past, present, and future.
Precise, lyrical writing presents topics including: forced assimilation (such as boarding schools), land allotment and Native tribal reorganization, termination (the US government not recognizing tribes as nations), Native urban relocation (from reservations), self-determination (tribal self-empowerment), Native civil rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), religious freedom, economic development (including casino development), Native language revival efforts, cultural persistence, and nationhood.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac
The Cherokee community is grateful for blessings and challenges that each season brings. This is modern Native American life as told by an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.
Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman
by Sharice Davids and Nancy K. Mays, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
When Sharice Davids was young, she never thought she’d be in Congress. And she never thought she’d be one of the first Native American women in Congress. During her campaign, she heard from a lot of doubters. They said she couldn’t win because of how she looked, who she loved, and where she came from. But here’s the thing: Everyone’s path looks different and everyone’s path has obstacles. And this is the triumphant story of Sharice Davids’ path to Congress.
Beautifully illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, an Ojibwe Woodland artist, this powerful autobiographical picture book follows Sharice’s remarkable journey to becoming a U.S. congresswoman. Along the way Sharice discovers her big voice and discovers that everyone deserves to be seen—and heard!
by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
Kara and Amanda hate not being together. Then it’s time for the family reunion on the Rez. Each girl worries that the other hasn’t missed her. But once they reconnect, they realize that they are still forever cousins. This story highlights the ongoing impact of the 1950s Indian Relocation Act on Native families, even today.
This tender story about navigating change reminds readers that the power of friendship and family can bridge any distance.
by Michaela Goade
On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea, a girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth. Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries.
Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry.
Huckleberry, Snowberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.
Through the seasons, they sing to the land as the land sings to them. Brimming with joy and gratitude, in every step of their journey, they forge a deeper kinship with both the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all. Michaela Goade’s luminous rendering of water and forest, berries and jams glows with her love of the land and offers an invitation to readers to deepen their own relationship with the earth.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story (First Book Special Edition)
by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
A debut picture book about food, family, history, and culture. Fry Bread is a story told in lively and powerful verse by Seminole Nation member Kevin Noble Maillard, with vibrant art from Pura Belpre Award winner Juana Martinez-Neal.
Jo Jo Makoons #1: The Used-to-Be Best Friend
by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert
Hello/Boozhoo—meet Jo Jo Makoons! Full of pride, joy, and plenty of humor, this first book in a new chapter book series celebrates a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is.
Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn—about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly.
Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore…
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids
edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Featuring the voices of new and veteran Native writers, and edited by best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith, this collection of intersecting stories set at the same powwow bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride. Each story can be read individually, but read as a whole, the stories play off one another and intersect, providing a cohesive story.
Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from far away, shadowy spirits, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog).
They are the heroes of their own stories.
Sisters of the Neversea
by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But now their parents are planning for the family to spend the summer apart. English-born, fanciful Wendy is going with her father to New York City. Sensible Lily, who’s Muscogee, is staying behind with her mother in the suburbs of Tulsa. And though they won’t say it, both girls are fretting about what this change means for their family, especially for their little brother, Michael.
Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, merfolk, fairies, and kidnapped children, to a sea of merfolk, pirates, and a giant crocodile.
A boy who calls himself Peter Pan.
by Thomas King, illustrated by Natasha Donovan
Borders is a masterfully told story of a boy and his mother whose road trip from Alberta to Salt Lake City is thwarted at the border when they identify their citizenship as Blackfoot. Refusing to identify as either American or Canadian first bars their entry into the US, and then their return into Canada. In the limbo between countries, they find power in their connection to their identity and to each other.
This much-anthologized story has been adapted into a gripping graphic novel by award-winning artist Natasha Donovan. A beautifully told tale with broad appeal, Borders resonates deeply with themes of identity, justice, and belonging.
by Angeline Boulley
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Life in Native America
by David Treuer, adapted by Sheila Keenan, Young Reader’s Edition
Since the late 1800s, it has been believed that Native American civilization has been wiped from the United States. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee argues that Native American culture is far from defeated—if anything, it is thriving as much today as it was one hundred years ago.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee looks at Native American culture as it exists today—and the fight to preserve language and traditions.
Apple (Skin to the Core)
by Eric Gansworth
The term “Apple” is a slur in Native communities across the country. It’s for someone supposedly “red on the outside, white on the inside.”
Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.
Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.
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