Since reading about Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days by Michael Oren Fitzgerald and hearing pushback by Debbie Reese that contemporary life of Native Americans was not included, it got me thinking.
While the premise of Children of the Tipi was to document life in the bygone buffalo days, she has a point. I asked PickyKidPix about Native Americans and her perception was that they disappeared along with the buffalo. That was shocking to me! She’s in 6th grade!!
When Nancy Bo Flood tweeted me with book suggestions, everything fell into place.
@pragmaticmom suggestion, include books about today’s Native Americans – POW-WOW’s COMING, THE HOGAN GREAT-GRANDFATHER BUILT
I’m searching for more contemporary books for kids and teens about today’s Native Americans. Can you please help me out with your great suggestions? Thanks so much!!
p.s. Here are a few more
Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child, translated by Gordon Jourdain, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder
This bilingual Ojibwe/English picture book is a story of a family attending a powwow and the spiritual associations with it. The powwow dream sequence includes traditional dancers, grass dancers, and jingle-dance dancers, as well as a drum group. The connection of the Ojibwe song and dance is connected to past and present through the powwow. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
I See the Sun in the USA by Dedie King, illustrated by Judith Inglese
I really like this excellent series exploring day-in-the-life of families around the world. This book centers around family trees and a trip to North Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. We meet many families who have traveled there including the White Bear family who are part of the Lakota tribe. It is interesting to learn that while the Black Hills where Mount Rushmore is located belongs to the Lakota, the United States government won’t allow them to perform their ceremonies there. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Contemporary Native Americans in KidLit
Powwow’s Coming by Linda Boyden
Powwow’s Coming provides children with a foundation for understanding and celebrating the enduring culture and heritage of American Indians. Boyden’s exquisite cut-paper collage and engaging poem visually place readers within the scenes of a contemporary Native American community while offering a thoughtful look at powwows and their meanings to the Native participants. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Hogan That Great-Grandfather Built by Nancy Bo Flood
A story of one multigenerational Navajo family that works, plays, eats, sleeps and shares their lives together in around their family hogan. It is a charming story of how the youngest children’s lives are intrinsically linked to their home and family. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith
What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins…or hightops with bright orange shoelaces? Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa. After all, it’s Grampa Halfmoon who’s always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes — like the time they are forced to get creative after a homemade haircut makes Ray’s head look like a lawn-mowing accident. This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it’s like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a take in rural Oklahoma. [easy chapter book, ages 6 and up]
Cynthia Leitich Smith has a list of contemporary Native American chapter books and picture books and I’ve highlighted a few of them.
The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo (Creek), illustrated by Paul Lee
Aunt Shelly says that Woogie is a good luck cat. As he survives one scrape after another, her analysis seems to be right on target. But one day when he doesn’t come home, we wonder if this good luck cat’s ninth life has run out. This is a delightful look at the friendship between a cat and a young girl. And it’s — yahoo! — a children’s picture book with Indian characters wherein Native culture isn’t the main focus. Of course, it’s wonderful to have children read accurate, respectful books that touch on Indian themes; however, they should be balanced with charming stories like this one that depict daily life. [picture book, ages 4-up]
A Walk to the Great Mystery: A Cherokee Tale by Virginia A. Stroud (Cherokee-Creek)
Dustin and Rosie take a walk with their Grandma Ann, a Cherokee medicine woman, and gain insight into the Great Mystery. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Skysisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Ojibway), illustrated by Brian Deines
Big sister Allie and little sister Alex bundle up, venture into the night, encounter a deer, dance beneath the stars, and watch the northern lights. Lovely. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), illustrated by Dan Andreasen Danny
Bigtree encounters racism when he moves from the Mohawk reservation to the city. However, Danny is inspired by the Iroquois hero Aionwahta and by his own father to choose peace. [easy chapter book, ages 8-up]
The World in Grandfather’s Hands by Craig Kee Strete (Cherokee)
Jimmy struggles to adjust after the death of his father and moving from the pueblo to his Grandfather Whitefeather’s house. Strete’s characters are complex and his themes are multi-layered. Most notably, the story incorporates the U.S. government policies that recently led to the unauthorized sterilization of so many Native women. Without romanticizing, he touches on much of the sadness tied to the Indian way of life and explores the strength, humor, and community ties that weigh in the balance. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)
Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn’t know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his. It’s been six months since her best friend died, and up until now, Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia’s Indian Camp in their mostly white Kansas community, Rain decides to face the world again—at least through the lens of a camera. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)
Molly’s parents are gone, vanished. She needs to find answers and a way to go on. But Molly has been taught well of her Mohawk traditions. She understands the importance of dreams. She knows to take them seriously. This very scary contemporary Native American novel is a must read and a scary one at that. [chapter book, ages 9 and up] HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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