November is National Native American History Month. We’re fortunate that the last several years have seen an increase in the number of books reflecting the diverse, vibrant indigenous cultures of this land. These new opportunities to learn about and celebrate these people, histories, and traditions can only enrich our experience of this place we call home. I’ll share some of my favorites with you here and encourage you to seek out books and stories by indigenous authors. There’s something for everyone in this growing collection of written knowledge.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell and Frane Lessac
A beautiful picture book about the modern day lives and traditions of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, featuring Tsalagi (Cherokee) vocabulary, and information about the Tsalagi syllabary. Traci Sorrell’s other books are all highly recommended!
When We Were Alone by David A. Robinson and Julie Flett
A Cree child’s curiosity brings out a grandmother’s stories about life in a residential school, including the ways she and the other children resisted by continuing their cultural practices in secret. Now, the child’s elders always do what was not allowed at the school.
Just Like Grandma by Kim Rogers and Julie Flett
Becca wants to be just like her grandma, and so learns from her grandma how to do everything from dancing to painting. But her grandma also wants to be just like Becca. This is a lovely story about family ties and passing knowledge between generations, in all directions.
We All Play/Kimetawanaw by Julie Flett
This book, both written and illustrated by Julie Flett (of whom I am clearly fond; Flett is one of my favorite illustrators) is a joyful little meditation for toddlers about how little humans and other little animals play. This title includes Cree vocabulary.
My Powerful Hair by Carole Lindstrom and Steph Littlebird
A gorgeously illustrated new entry into the pantheon of books about the cultural importance of hair, this book focuses on one child’s journey with growing and cutting her hair and embracing all the power and tradition it holds.
Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorrell
In 1953, the United States Congress passed a resolution disbanding indigenous tribes, selling their land, and relocating them to other parts of the country. This middle grade novel brings these events, often called “The Termination Era,” to life, following an Umpqua family who is relocated to Los Angeles from their tribal lands in Oregon. The back matter includes more historical information about this period, as well as photographs.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants for Young Adults by Robin Wall Kimmerer, adapted by Monique Gray Smith and Nicole Neidhardt
I have recommended the original version of Braiding Sweetgrass on this blog before and I am thrilled to have a young readers’ edition to recommend as well. This edition of the book is simplified, beautifully illustrated, and intentionally designed to be accessible for all types of learners and readers. We’re so lucky to have a new entry point for all of this juicy wisdom.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese
This book is a factual retelling of this continent’s history from the indigenous perspective. I will not lie, even in this more simplified, accessible edition designed for young adults, this is often difficult reading. But the things I learned in reading this book about the struggles and resistance of indigenous peoples have shifted how I think about the world in a way that few other books have. I highly recommend either edition!