We need to be reading books by Native American authors year-round. We need to be turning to books by Native American authors to support different themes, as the kickoff to many different kinds of lessons, and as bedtime stories even in the middle of July. However, November is Native American Heritage Month, and it’s also one of the prime seasons where misinformation and whitewashing of Indigenous history runs rampant in the United States. It’s when we’re combating “pilgrim and Indian dress up day” in elementary schools and balancing the family themes of the U.S. Thanksgiving against the knowledge that we’re also celebrating the beginning of the colonization of Native Land, picture books by Native American authors are more important than ever.
Currently, the book world is beyond blessed by more and more picture books being published by authors Indigenous to North America. Some titles fight fiercely to correct commonly accepted lies told in social studies class. Others share insight into beautiful traditions and communities. And then there are the ones that are simply lovely stories that are told from a perspective that is needed. All in all, more insightful, gorgeous, and truth-telling stories are being released into libraries and bookstores every year. Seeing as our understanding of history is often rooted in the impressions we get from movies, TV, and books, this gift from Native American authors is so important. Below I have eight titles that you won’t want to miss.
We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell and Frané Lessac
Let’s start off with a powerful book that addresses a misstep in modern education. Many students do not grasp that Native American tribes are a part of modern life. Reading books by Native American authors is a good start, and We Are Still Here! presents past, present, and future victories and struggles facing Native American people.
Still This Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Julie Flett
Based on Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song of the same name, Still This Love Goes On is a gorgeous promise that the ones we love are with us forever. Flett, a powerhouse of an illustrator, uses bold and muted colors together to create a stunning keepsake book.
Finding My Dance by Ria Thundercloud and Kalila J. Fuller
This autobiographical picture book follows the dance journey of Ria Thundercloud. Ria is a talented dancer who studies many different disciplines, but delights in the expressiveness of Indigenous dance above all. Familiar concepts like feeling different and finding solace in family are highlighted, and the illustrations are captivating.
Powwow Day by Traci Sorell and Madelyn Goodnight
In Powwow Day, River has been feeling isolated and sad since suffering an illness. The worst part? She cannot dance at the powwow like she does every year. With a little help from her community, River is able to enjoy the amazing time, even if it looks a little different. Information about the history of powwows is included.
Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck and Jonathan Nelson
Kate and Amande are more than cousins — they are best friends. When one of the girls moves off the reservation, both are devastated. The true test comes when it’s time for the family reunion, and both are relieved that distance did not change their love! A symbol of the forced separation that Indigenous familes have historically endured, Forever Cousins is a celebration of all the ways families stay together even when they’re apart.
Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, Alexis Bunter, and Garry Meeches Sr.
Several people have referred to this book filling an important gap, and I cannot agree more. This story, narrated by a grandmother sharing the story of “the first Thanksgiving” from the Wampanaog point of view, adds important depth to the frequently recycled story most often shared. This book celebrates Weeâchumun (corn), Keepunumuk (harvest), and, most importantly, centers the Wampanaog people. I am adding more than one copy to my school library.
Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman by Sharice Davids, Nancy K. Mays, and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
This picture book autobiography follows Sharice Davids, one of the first Native Americans in congress, and the first LGTBQ+ congressperson to represent Kansas. Including informational back matter and beautiful illustrations by Ojibwe Woodland artist Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, this small book packs a big punch. Readers leave with the important message that no matter where they are from, what they look like, or who they love, they can make a difference.
Josie Dances by Denise Lajimodiere and Angela Erdrich
Josie is preparing for her first dance at powwow, and there are so many things that need to fall into place for this to go well. Luckily, she is surrounded by love from her family, her community, and her ancestors. This lushly illustrated book will entrance children and adults alike as we are given a glimpse into the gorgeous ritual of powwow and Josie’s first dance.
Looking for more books by Native American authors? Check out 9 Indigenous and Native American Picture Books To Read Right Now or 8 Children’s Books With Indigenous Main Characters in Latin America. Happy reading!