Celebrating November with Native American Voices

Cory Eckert, Librarian
forest from above

November is Native American Heritage Month, which offers a great opportunity to talk with students about a more accurate history of Thanksgiving and also introduce them to contemporary Indigenous voices. With more than 500 federally recognized tribes today, modern Native America thrives through its vast, rich diversity of cultures and experiences. I’ve chosen books for every level by currently writing Indigenous authors that offer outstanding literature that will enrich any home.

YCC

Kiss by Kiss/Ocêtôwina by Richard Van Camp (Dogrib Tlicho)
We should all be reminded to kiss our babies more! 978-1459816213

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith (Cree/Lakota)
This beautiful book is a joyful celebration of love. 978-1459809574

Primary

We Are Grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Cherokee)
This is a must-buy for anyone looking to preserve the Thanksgiving message of gratitude, with a more diverse update. 978-1580897723

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child (Red Lake Ojibwe)
This is a great way for kids who are not Native to learn about a vital part of traditional Native life and to see a glimpse of a contemporary religious celebration in another culture. 978-1681340777

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard (Seminole)
This book invites readers to share in the celebration of a foundational food eaten by tribes across the country, just as we celebrate coming together to break bread as a family. 978-1626727465

Lower Elementary

The Sockeye Mother & The Grizzly Mother by Brett D. Huson (Gitxsan)
This is a beautifully illustrated nonfiction work about the natural world and conservation. 978-1553797395, 978-1553797760

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson (Mohawk/Cayuga)
This book offers a version of the traditional story about the founding of the Great Iroquois Nation, with end notes about the historical figure of Hiawatha. 978-1419712203

Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend by Donald F. Montileaux (Oglala Lakota)
The author, a Lakota artist, uses traditional art techniques to authentically and respectfully retell a Lakota story. 978-0985290528

Upper Elementary

Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa)
A coming of age story about an Ojibwe girl growing up in the 1800s, this book gives a historical perspective often lost in classic literature. 978-0786814541

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day (Upper Skagit)
This is a present-day story about a Native American girl who was adopted by a white family and tries to connect with her heritage. 978-0062871992

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle (Oklahoma Choctaw)
Told from the perspective of the ghost of a Choctaw boy on the Trail of Tears, this book engages with an important period in American history. Great for students interested in I Survived of Nathan Hale. 978-1937054557

Middle School

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua)
This is a historical novel about what happened to one girl when the government declared that her tribe no longer existed in the ‘50s. Our students learn a lot about the Civil Rights Movement, but may not know that Latinx and Indigenous people were part of the fight. This is a good beginning look at how politics and identity intersect in the recent history of Native America.978-1620148396

Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)
This book follows a teenager who grew up with her white father as she visits the family of her late, Native mother and tries to figure out what it means to live in and between two cultures. 978-1602233706

Fighter in Velvet Gloves by Annie Boochever and Roy Peratrovich, Jr. (Tlingit)
This is a non-fiction book about Alaska Native Tlingit and civil rights activist, Elizabeth Peratrovich. 978-1602233706

High School

Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (Haudenosaunee)
This is a classic coming of age novel (Battle of the Bands! Struggling about whether to go into the family business! Falling in love!) set on a reservation. 978-1338143546

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leititch Smith (Muscogee Creek)
Another classic plotline, tensions in a small town school play, gets updated with storylines about plagiarism, racism, and what we do when we realize our author heroes aren’t who we wish they’d been. 978-1536213133

Adults

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson
This book is an excellent resource for understanding how a more nuanced historical understanding of our American past is important. 978-0942961201 

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo (Muscogee)
Harjo was the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States, and her memoir is breathtaking. 978-0393345438

 

Note: This list is based on the work of Dr. Debbie Reese (tribally enrolled, Nambé Pueblo), to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude for her friendship and scholarship.

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