6 Native American Picture Books to Share with the Kids
I was looking for Native American children’s books written by and about Native Americans. I found Debbie Reese’s website, American Indians in Children’s Literature. What a great resource! Today I’d like to share some of the books we read together this past week. I went with the books that were available at our library and that were appealing to the kids.
1) Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story (affiliate link) This is a longer book but it was really full of a lot of wonderful details about daily life.
S.D. Nelson, author, is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux/Lakota tribe of the Dakotas
Buffalo Bird Girl was a member of the Hidatsa people who lived in permanent villages along the Missouri River in the Great Plains. This book shares her story as she planted crops, tended the crops, tended the fields, did chores, played games and trained her dog. The book weaves teh words and stories of Buffalo Bird Woman with art work and actual photos. This book had rich details about her daily life and included real photos such as this picture of squash spread out on a drying stage:
Picture Courtesy of the UPenn Digital Library
2) The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood (affiliate link)
Virginia Driving Hawk Snerve, author, spent her childhood on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.
Each day, Virginia has to walk to school fighting the frigid, bitter winds of South Dakota prairie. Each year congregations in the East send used clothing, shoes, coats and other items. She has outgrown her winter coat and longs for a replacement. Since her father was the Episcopal priest, she was taught that “The others need it more than we do.” This is a really sweet book. I’ll definitely add this to the books we read at Christmas time because I love its message of having a generous spirit.
3) Shi-shi-etko (affliate link) Our family really loved this book!
Nicola Campbell, author, is of Interior Salish and Metis ancestry. She grew up in British Columbia’s Nicola Valley.
This is the story of Shi-shi-etko, which means “she loves to play in the water.” She has just days until she has to go to the India Residential School. Once she arrives at school, she won’t see her parents for months or even years. She will lose her traditional name and will be forced to speak English.
The kids loved this story and we talked about how the Aboriginal children in Australia were also separated from their families to be sent off to school. These children are referred to as the “Stolen Generation” in Australia.
4) The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale (affiliate link)
Joseph Bruchac, author, is of Abenaki Indian and European origin.
Gayle Ross, author, is of Cherokee origin.
Virginia Stroud, illustrator, is Cherokee-Creek by birth.
This is a traditional Cherokee legend which tells of the time when the world was new and there weren’t many stars in the sky. An elderly couple found that someone had been stealing cornmeal from them. This tale tells how the community worked together to drive off the thief–a great spirit dog.
Joseph Bruchac has other highly praised Native American books including (These are affiliate links.)
- The First Strawberries (We read this when we did our Native American Unit.)
- Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back
- The Earth under Sky Bear’s Feet
- A Boy Called Slow (who becomes Sitting Bull) (We read this when we did our Native American Unit.)
- Children of the Longhouse
Gayle Ross also wrote: How Rabbit Tricked Otter: And Other Cherokee Trickster Stories (affliate link)
5) Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story (affiliate link)
Adapted from the memories of Donald Uluadluak from Arviat, Nunavut (northern Canada)
In this story, Jake’s Grandfather explains how dogs were raised and trained when the Inuit relied on dogs for transportation and survival. His Grandfather shares tales of how these dogs became helpful, obedient, hard working.
6) Jingle Dancer (affiliate link)
Cynthia Leitich Smith, author, is a mixed-blood member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
This is a contemporary story about a girl who is a member of the Muscogee Nation and is also of Ojibway descent. Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family. She hopes to dance in the next pow-pow and visits with other women in her family to see if she can borrow jingles to sew on her dress.
Here are a few other Native American books that come highly recommended (affiliate links):
Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness Into Light
Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way
If you are looking for Native American books for Tots, you might read this post by Debbie Reese: Top Board Books for the Youngest Readers. And for Native American books for Middle School students, I recommend browsing through these lists (also by Debbie Reese):
- 2010: Top Ten Books Recommended for a Middle School Library
- 2013: Best Books, Middle School
- Also, Louise Erdrich’s books have been highly recommended: The Birch Bark House is about an Ojibwa girls, the sole survivor of a smallpox outbreak in 1847. I plan to read this aloud with the kids. It pulls you in from the very first sentence… “The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl.”
You may be interested in these related posts:
- Native Americans of the Northeast (Part I: The Algonquian Indians)
- Native Americans of the Northeast (Part II, Iroquois Indians) where I shared our Wampum belt project and the free printable you see below:
Native Americans of the Southeast: Cherokee, Seminole Indians, Trail of Tears (free)