Indigenous Peoples' Day is observed on the second Monday in October. These children's books about indigenous lives and experiences are a wonderful way to honor Native lives. Books are a great portal for learning about others as well as seeing ourselves. Reading with your kids promotes knowledge, paving the way for greater understanding and compassion.
This book list is comprised of titles from Native voices and artists and includes a number of books that incorporate Native languages. Each book was specifically selected as a great read aloud. I've included mostly picture books, but also a great anthology of short stories, perfect for middle school and high schoolers. Each summary includes recommended ages, and even adults will love these books.
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Indigenous Peoples Picture Books
We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know
by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frank Lessac
This is a great follow up book to Sorell and Lessac's marvelous We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (read it first, if you haven't already! –Ages 4 and up) . The text is structured around 12 Native American students sharing presentations for Indigenous Peoples' Day about the past, present and future of Native lives. The students' presentation cover a wide range of subjects from how the US government treated the indigenous population, to environmental, enrollment and language concerns. As the book continues, we learn about the resiliences of Native citizens and their dedication to protect their heritage and build strong economies and institutions. A glossary, timeline and more information are found in the end notes. Ages 7 and up.
Sharice's Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman
by Sharice Davids & Nancy K. Mays, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, became one of the first female Native American representatives in the U.S. Congress. In this memoir picture book, Davids describes her path growing up as a person who always looked for ways to serve others. After a time where she studied martial arts, worked in customer service and gave back to her community, she went to law school, eventually deciding to run for congress in the state of Kansas. Ages 5 and up.
Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock
by Dallas Hunt, illustrated by Amanda Strong
This absolutely delightful story has a folktale/fairy tale quality to it. Awâsis accidentally loses her grandmother Kôhkum's world-famous bannock and looks to her forest friends for help. Each of the woodland creatures assists her in gathering together the needed ingredients so Kôhkum, Awâsis and the animals can mix up a new batch. This book makes a wonderful read aloud. Cree words are seamlessly integrated into the story. Ages 3 and up.
MORE: Native American picture books
At the Mountain's Base
by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre
I adored the artwork in this tranquil picture book. Each page reveals an intimate scene contained by a continuous multi-colored string. The spare but calming text tells the story tells the story of a Native American woman serving in the military in World War II and the family that waits for her. An author's note reveals Sorell was inspired by pilot Ola Mildred Rexroat (an Oglala Lakota citizen), the only Native American Air Force service pilot in WWII. You can watch a recording of Sorell reading her book here. Ages 4 and up.
Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know
by Brittany Luby, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
A vibrantly illustrated look at the changing seasons told in Anishinaabemowin and English. A grandparent and child explore and observe their surroundings in Great Lakes region. The grandparent explains the signs of the seasons and how to watch animals and plant life for signals that the seasons are changing. Lovely. Ages 3 and up.
by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
This utterly marvelous and cheerful book is a celebration of fry bread and it's place in Native American family culture. The bouncy, rhythmic verse tells the history of fry bread, its importance in Native American life, how it's eaten, enjoyed and what it represents. An end note explains the context further. Highly recommended! Ages 3 and up.
We Are Water Protectors
by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
An Indigenous girl narrates an Anishinaabe prophecy that describes a black snake that comes to terrorize the land. The black snake, of course, is the oil pipeline that threatens the community and the life-giving natural resources of land, water, and animals. Her call to action emphasizes the importance of standing up for those that do not have a voice, protecting the vulnerable and working together as a community. Native artist, Goade's gorgeous illustrations feature symbolism from her culture. Ages 5 and up.
The People Shall Continue
by Simon J. Ortiz, illustrated by Sharol Graves
Beginning with Creation and following through to the usurpation of their lands, Ortiz has crafted a powerful and accessible history of Native Americans. It is also a story of survival and the importance of community. A must read for everyone. Ages 7 and up.
MORE: Native American Middle Grade Novels
A Man Called Raven
by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by George Littlechild
Van Camp's contemporary story draws upon traditional legends he heard from his Dogrib elders. Two brothers abusing a raven are confronted by a man who tells them a story of a man who, like them mistreated a raven and was transformed into one. As a raven, he learned respect for life and to take care of others who are in trouble, sometimes transforming back into a man to teach others the same lesson. At the end of his tale, there is a great swirl of feathers! Gorgeous artwork, too! Ages 6 and up.
MORE: Native American Folktales for Kids
Indigenous Voices Anthology
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids
edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Ancestor Approved is a collection of short stories by Native American authors. The book is structured around an intertribal powwow in which the authors tell their stories. Tales range from funny and silly to serious. Topics cover an incredible range of issues making this not just a book in which Native kids can see their lives reflected, but a must-read anthology for non-Natives that will promote a deeper understanding of Native life. Ages 9 and up.
Another wonderful indigenous story is Robert Munsch's A Promise Is A Promise.