Looking for the best Indigenous Peoples book to read to your kids? Here are some great books about Native Americans including children’s books by Indigenous authors. These children’s books about Indigenous peoples include both nonfiction own voices stories as well as historical fiction Native American books. Ideas for elementary school teachers looking for Indigenous Peoples Day children’s books with Native reads! Picture books for Kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade.
If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!
Indigenous Peoples Book
There are many great books about Indigenous peoples written by Indigenous authors. These are great reads at any time of year, but they are also awesome Indigenous Peoples Day children’s books to read.
Native American Children’s Books by Indigenous Authors and Illustrators:
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie
Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name…one that’s all his own. Dad is known as 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. Also an excellent book for Native American Heritage Month!
The Turkey Girl
This is a truly Native American fairytale as told by Indigenous author Penny Pollock based on a Zuni Cinderella story. The lesson in the story even follows Native American story structure. This book would also be excellent for November’s Native American Heritage Month!
Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer
This book tells the story Mary Golda Ross’s journey from being the only girl in a high school math class to becoming a teacher to pursuing an engineering degree, joining the top-secret Skunk Works division of Lockheed, and being a mentor for Native Americans and young women interested in engineering. In addition, the narrative highlights Cherokee values including education, working cooperatively, remaining humble, and helping ensure equal opportunity and education for all.
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!
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell
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. 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.
We Are Still Here! by Traci Sorell
Too often, Native American history is treated as a finished chapter instead of relevant and ongoing. This companion book to the award-winning We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga offers readers everything they never learned in school about Native American people’s past, present, and future. Precise, lyrical writing presents topics including: forced assimilation (such as boarding schools), land allotment and Native tribal reorganization, termination (the US government not recognizing tribes as nations), Native urban relocation (from reservations), self-determination (tribal self-empowerment), Native civil rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), religious freedom, economic development (including casino development), Native language revival efforts, cultural persistence, and nationhood.
Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard
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.
Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child
When Uncle and Windy Girl and Itchy Boy 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.
Rabbit’s Snow Dance by Joseph 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?
Native Reads – Illustrated by Indigenous Authors / Illustrators:
These books, while not writte by Native authors, were illustrated by Indigenous illustrators.
Unspeakable by Carole Boston Weatherford
Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community.
News of what happened was largely suppressed, and no official investigation occurred for seventy-five years. This narrative non-fiction book sensitively introduces young readers to this tragedy and concludes with a call for a better future.
Historical Fiction Native American Stories:
Encounter by Jane Yolen
When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492, what he discovered were the Taino Indians. Told from a young Taino boys 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. Years later the boy, now an old man, looks back at the destruction of his people and their culture by the colonizers. An excellent alternative book to read for Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.
Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martínez-Neal
Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning, she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer? Acclaimed author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal explores the wonders of the rain forest with Zonia, an Asháninka girl, in her joyful outdoor adventures.
Best Indigenous Peoples Book
There you have them. Which do you think is the best Indigenous Peoples book? Are there a must read Indigenous Peoples book that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it! Another great resource to find awesome Native reads is this blog.