We’re Still Here: Books to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

Author Traci Sorrell inspired the theme of our latest book list to help educators, families, and children celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Her book, We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, reminds us that Native American history is not a finished chapter. History and heritage of all cultures and peoples are ongoing and play a relevant part in our daily lives. Our latest book list, put together by Yukari Matsuyama – Senior Cataloging Manager, encourages readers to continue to explore and celebrate Native American heritage in November and throughout the year. 

Eligible educators, supporting Title I schools and organizations can shop our Native American & Indigenous Characters and Cultures section on the Marketplace for even more titles at a reduced cost; families and other First Book supporters can shop these titles and support us through Bookshop.org. 10% of your purchase directly supports First Book. 

Baby and Board Books 

My Heart Fills with Happiness  

by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett  

The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy. 

International speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote My Heart Fills with Happiness to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families, and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy. 

Shop at: MarketplaceBookshop 

First Laugh—Welcome Baby!  

by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, illustrated by Johnny Nelson 

The First Laugh Ceremony is a celebration held to welcome a new member of the community. As everyone—from Baby’s nima (mom) to nadi (big sister) to cheii (grandfather)—tries to elicit the joyous sound from Baby, readers are introduced to details about Navajo life and the Navajo names for family members. Back matter includes information about other cultural ceremonies that welcome new babies and children, including man yue celebration (China), sanskaras (Hindu) and aquiqa (Muslim). 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

Picture Books 

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! 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

At the Mountain’s Base  

by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre  

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. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes  

by Wab Kinew, illustrated by Joe Morse  

Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book, illustrated by the acclaimed Joe Morse. Including figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, Go Show the World showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well known and the not- so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.” 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

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. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know  

by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane 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. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

Middle Grade Books 

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. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

eBook: In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse  

by Joseph Marshall III 

Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy—though you wouldn’t guess it by his name: his father is part white and part Lakota, and his mother is Lakota. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history. Drawing references and inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition, celebrated author Joseph Marshall III juxtaposes the contemporary story of Jimmy with an insider’s perspective on the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse (c. 1840-1877). The book follows the heroic deeds of the Lakota leader who took up arms against the US federal government to fight against encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Along with Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse was the last of the Lakota to surrender his people to the US army. Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

Rez Dogs  

by Joseph Bruchac  

Malian loves spending time with her grandparents at their home on a Wabanaki reservation. She’s there for a visit when, suddenly, all travel shuts down. There’s a new virus making people sick, and Malian will have to stay with her grandparents for the duration. 

Everyone is worried about the pandemic, but Malian knows how to keep her family and community safe: She protects her grandparents, and they protect her. She doesn’t go outside to play with friends, she helps her grandparents use video chat, and she listens to and learns from their stories. And when Malsum, one of the dogs living on the rez, shows up at their door, Malian’s family knows that he’ll protect them too. 

Told in verse inspired by oral storytelling, this novel about the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the ways Malian’s community has cared for one another through plagues of the past, and how they keep caring for one another today. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

The Sea in Winter  

by Christine Day  

Maisie Cannon is having a hard time. 

It’s been months since her knee injury, and her recovery process has been painfully slow. As a serious ballet student, Maisie is eager to rebuild her strength and get back to the dance studio. She knows all her ballerina friends are auditioning for prestigious summer dance programs, while she remains sentenced to physical therapy. 

But the injury isn’t her only problem. Maisie has been irritable toward her parents and little brother lately and can’t always explain why. And as Maisie and her family set out on a midwinter road trip, her secrets and anxieties and dark moods are starting to hurt as much as the aches and pains in her knee. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

Young Adult Books 

Firekeeper’s Daughter  

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. 

Shop at: Marketplace Bookshop 

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask  

by Anton Treuer, Young Reader’s Edition 

From the acclaimed Ojibwe author and professor Anton Treuer comes an essential book of questions and answers for Native and non-Native young readers alike. Ranging from “Why is there such a fuss about nonnative people wearing Indian costumes for Halloween?” to “Why is it called a ‘traditional Indian fry bread taco’?” to “What’s it like for natives who don’t look native?” to “Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?”, and beyond, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers’ Edition) does exactly what its title says for young readers, in a style consistently thoughtful, personal, and engaging. 

Shop at: Marketplace | Bookshop 

Join Our Network 

Educators can join First Book’s network — the largest and fastest-growing network of educators, schools, and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada — to bring these titles to your classroom and to gain access to even more free resources. 

JOIN FOR FREE