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Books & Beyond

Indigenous Voices: Fiction and Nonfiction for Kids

By Lisa T.
October 30, 2021

A number of excellent books by Native American authors have recently been published. Here we recommend some of the finest new indigenous fiction and nonfiction for elementary and middle school aged children.   

Within the pages of these novels, you will find diverse perspectives on the contemporary Indigenous experience.  With over 500 Federally recognized  American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages, there are many stories to discover.  

The nonfiction titles offer biographies of notable Native Americans and present American history from an Indigenous viewpoint.  History is generally written by the conquerors. When those whose lands and cultures were conquered are able to tell their stories, a more complex view of our collective history emerges.  

In giving children the opportunity to read stories written by Indigenous authors, we help to dispel stereotypes and give voice to vastly under-represented perspectives.  For Native kids, we give them the rare opportunity to see themselves and their cultures centered on the page in an authentic and respectful way.  For all children, reading widely can help to develop compassion, critical thinking, and maturity.

Chapter Books

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan in this collection of intersecting stories by Native writers. 

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley; illustrated by Tara Audibert
Jo Jo Makoons Azure, a spirited seven-year-old on the Ojibwe reservation, is worried about making new friends at school.

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac
When the COVID-19 pandemic starts, Malian, a young Wabanaki girl, is quarantined with her grandparents on the reservation, where she befriends a local dog and learns about her ancestors and how they always survive together.

Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young
A boy’s summer at his grandmother’s reservation home is shaped by his uncle’s addictions and an encounter with a sacred being from the Navajo creation story.

Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupalik! by Roselynn Akulukjuk and Danny Christopher; illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
What creatures lurk beneath the sea ice? Putuguq and Kublu—two siblings who can’t seem to get along—are about to find out in this fun graphic novel.

Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story Story by Andrea L. Rogers (Cherokee)
Mary and her family are forced out of their home in Georgia by U.S. soldiers in 1838. She survives much hardship on the 1,000 mile journey to the new Cherokee Nation Territory.

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua heritage, Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde) and Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation)
In this autobiographical novel, ten-year-old Regina and her family move to Los Angeles after their Umpqua tribe, along with all Oregon tribes, is terminated.

The Sea In Winter by Christine Day
Maisie struggles to find joy again after an injury forces her to give up ballet — her blended family in the Pacific Northwest is supportive, but Maisie knows that they can’t understand how hopeless she feels.

Nonfiction

Sharice’s Big Voice:  A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman by Sharice Davids with Nancy K Mays; illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
Davids tells her story of growing up to become one of the first Native American women elected to Congress and the first LGBTQ congressperson to represent Kansas.

Maria Tallchief by Christine Day
Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief, born and raised on the Osage reservation in Oklahoma, grew up to become one of the most celebrated ballerinas in history.

We are Still Here! : Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell; illustrated by Frané Lessac.
A group of Native American kids from different tribes presents twelve historical and contemporary time periods, struggles, and victories to their classmates, each ending with a powerful refrain: “we are still here”.

The People Shall Continue by Simon Ortiz ; illustrated by Sharol Graves.
Originally published in 1977, this 40th anniversary edition shares with new generations the story of Indigenous peoples of the Americas in the US, as they endeavor to live on lands they have known to be their traditional homelands from time immemorial.

Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger.
Chronicles the history of the Indigenous populations of the Americas from the Ice Age to the arrival of the Europeans, drawing on archaeological findings and scientific research to share stories of the daily lives and rich cultures of Indigenous people prior to European contact.

What the Eagle Sees : Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger.
Sharing accounts of history from an Indigenous perspective, the authors tell stories of what Indigenous people did when invaders arrived on their homelands.

Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz; adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese.
Examines the role that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity, includes archival images, maps, and other materials to encourage readers to think critically about history.

Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present
A celebration of the lives, stories and contributions of 50 notable Native American people.

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