Check out some of the best Native American children’s books for kids! Rather than teach Columbus Day, teach more about the Indigenous people and their struggles, their triumphs, and their experience. Picture books are a great way to teach about almost any topic. These are excellent children’s books for Native American Heritage Month in November, Indigenous Peoples Day in October or just to learn about celebrate the cultures of indigenous peoples.
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Check out the books:
Rabbit’s Snow Dance by Josheph and James Bruchac
Rabbit loves the winter. He knows a dance, using an Iroquois drum and song, to make it snow—even in summertime! When rabbit decides that it should snow early, he starts his dance and the snow begins to fall. The other forest animals are not happy and ask him to stop, but Rabbit doesn’t listen. How much snow is too much, and will Rabbit know when to stop?
Encounter by Jane Yolen
When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492, he encountered the Taino Indians. Told from a young Taino boy’s point of view, this is a story of how the boy tried to warn his people against welcoming the strangers, who seemed more interested in golden ornaments than friendship. Later, the boy, now an old man, looks back at the destruction of his people and their culture by the colonizers.
We Are Water Protectors
Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption. An excellent story written by Native American author Carole Lindstrom in a very lyrical way.
At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell
At the mountain’s base sits a cabin under an old hickory tree. And in that cabin lives a family — loving, weaving, cooking, and singing. The strength in their song sustains them through trials on the ground and in the sky, as they wait for their loved one, a pilot, to return from war.
With an author’s note that pays homage to the true history of Native American U.S. service members like WWII pilot Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, this is a story that reveals the roots that ground us, the dreams that help us soar, and the people and traditions that hold us up. This is a beautiful story that makes it one of the best Native American children’s book as well as a favorite book for Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day!
This book won all of the awards and honors in 2019. Seriously, check the Amazon page for this book. If they put the medals on the cover, you wouldn’t see any of Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal’s illustrations. Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family about fry bread.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. This book was written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. This look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.
When Uncle and Windy Girl and Itchy Boy (her dog) attend a powwow, Windy watches the dancers in their jingle dresses and listens to the singers. She eats tasty food and joins family and friends around the campfire. Later, Windy falls asleep under the stars. Now Uncle’s stories inspire other visions in her head: a bowwow powwow, where all the dancers are dogs. In these magical scenes, Windy sees veterans in a Grand Entry, and a visiting drum group, and traditional dancers, grass dancers, and jingle-dress dancers–all with telltale ears and paws and tails. All celebrating in song and dance. All attesting to the wonder of the powwow.
Thunder Boy Jr.
Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name…one that’s all his own. Dad’s name is big Thunder, but Little Thunder doesn’t want to share a name. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.
But just when Little Thunder thinks all hope is lost, dad picks the best name…Lightning! Their love will be loud and bright, and together they will light up the sky.
This book does not come with an Author’s Note, but my lesson plan includes information from an interview with author Sherman Alexie about Native American naming ceremonies. DO NOT read this book and have your students choose their own Native American name.
Best Native American Children’s Books for Kids
Did I miss any great children’s books for Native American Heritage Month? I’m sure I have! There’s not nearly enough on the list. Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them! I’m always looking for new great picture books!