During Native American Heritage Month, and all year long, one of my top priorities is to ensure that the depictions of Indigenous and Native people in the books I read and promote are authentic and accurate. Many traditional Thanksgiving-themed books contain harmful portrayals and stereotypes of Indigenous and Native communities, but these contemporary #OwnVoices selections are written and/or illustrated, and celebrated by the communities they represent. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to interrogate children’s books that depict Indigenous and Native communities, I highly recommend American Indians in Children’s Literature, a blog run by Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) and Jean Mendoza. Reese and Mendoza also adapted a book for adults by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for a middle grade and young adult audience, called An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People, which chronicles the settlement of the “new world” from the perspective of Indigenous people, and highlights their resistance and resilience.

For more book recommendations, check out this book list from the American Indian Library Association, and the past and current winners of the American Indian Youth Literature Award.

 

 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, Frane Lessac, Hardcover |  Barnes & Noble®

We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac

Learn about a year in the life of contemporary Cherokee family, and the ways in which they express gratitude throughout each season.

   
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, Michaela Goade, Hardcover |  Barnes & Noble®

We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

A powerful and poignant look at the Indigenous fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the interconnectedness of all inhabitants of Mother Earth.

   
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, Juana  Martinez-Neal, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Fry bread might seem simple on the surface, but its history is not. Dive into this almost 150-year long tradition and its importance to Native American families of many different nations (Did you know there are about 573 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States currently?). The author even includes his own recipe, so you can try it yourself!

   
A Day With Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell, Julie Flett, Hardcover | Barnes &  Noble®

A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Julie Flett

Set in the Nicola Valley of British Columbia, Yayah takes her grandchildren on an adventure in nature, teaching them to forage plants and mushrooms, and sharing her vast knowledge of the natural world.

   

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Jenna daydreams about jingle dancing, a tradition that is shared by the women in her family, and can’t wait until she can dance at the next powwow. The only problem is, Jenna doesn’t have enough jingles for her dress. Join Jenna as she collects all the jingles she needs on her journey to her first official jingle dance. A beautifully illustrated and heartwarming tale of tradition and family, with an author’s note about the origin and varying practices of jingle dancing at the end.

   
Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child, Jonathan Thunder, Hardcover | Barnes &  Noble®

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child, translate by Gordon Jourdain, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder

Windy Girl loves to hear Uncle’s many vibrant stories while riding to the powwow with her dog Itchy Boy. One night after taking in all that the powwow has to offer, Windy falls asleep to the steady drumbeat, snuggled up with Itchy Boy, and dreams of jingle dancers, traditional dancers, a visiting drum group, and so much more--all of them with paws and tails, just like Itchy Boy! This is a joyful tale in celebration of the magic of the powwow.

 

   
At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell, Weshoyot Alvitre, Hardcover | Barnes  & Noble®

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

At the mountain’s base, there is a Cherokee family living  in a cabin, patiently weaving, singing, cooking, worrying, and waiting for the safe return of a relative serving as a pilot in the United States Armed Forces. This book pays tribute to Native women such as Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, who have served, and continue to serve their country by going to war.

   
 Powwow: A Celebration through Song and Dance by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane,  Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Powwow: A Celebration through Song and Dance by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane

A comprehensive history of the Indigenous tradition of the powwow, from its origins, to a breakdown of powwow culture, to an explanation of various songs and dances, and a look at powwows as they occur in modern days throughout the United States and Canada. With the author’s family background and photos interspersed, this is a powerful and thorough tribute to the powwow.

   
 What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal by Eldon  Yellowhorn, Kathy Lowinger, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger

This is a nonfiction book that chronicles the many invasions that Indigenous people have faced throughout history, and how they defended themselves, fought back, and sustained their livelihood. From the Vikings to Christopher Columbus, just to name a few, these stories are all told from an Indigenous perspective, one that we don’t often see in many of our history books.

   
I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day

For most of her life, Edie has always known that her mom was adopted, and that Edie has Native American heritage, but that is pretty much the extent of her knowledge. Join Edie as she discovers a mysterious box in her attic, which contains a photo of a woman who looks just like her, and begins a journey to uncover her family’s history, no matter how difficult it may be.

   
Indian No More — Traci Sorell

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell

A heartbreaking but necessary read, set in 1957, this book tells the story of Regina and her family, who are Umpqua and have always lived on the Grand Ronde reservation. Their world is turned upside down when a bill that is signed into law mandates that Regina’s tribe no longer exists, and they are displaced, having to move from Oregon to Los Angeles to find work. For the first time in her life, Regina has had to grapple with racism that is directed toward her, and the kids in her neighborhood, and must try to keep her Native identity alive in a completely unfamiliar and unwelcoming environment.

 

 


    Youth Services Assistant Librarian Stefanie Molinaro