With 574 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States and 67 state-recognized tribes, there is plenty to learn from their vast history. These beautiful books about Native Americans weave tales of the past into the present, teaching valuable lessons along the way. For even more recommendations and a critical analysis of selections, check out this extensive list from the AICL (American Indians in Children’s Literature).
1. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard
Awaken the five senses while learning about this traditional Native American food and its roots. Learn about Native American life from past to present and the strength of cultural ties. This Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Winner and American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award Honor Book will have you and your students craving fry bread!
Buy it: Fry Bread at Amazon
2. We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell
The Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude. This book takes us through each season, focusing on the Cherokee culture of today while honoring the past.
Buy it: We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga at Amazon
3. Roadrunner’s Dance by Rudolfo Anaya
Rattlesnake takes possession of the only road in long-ago New Mexico, cutting off the villagers’ ties to food and friends. The elders reach out to Desert Woman for help, who in turn creates the infamous Roadrunner, who saves the day!
Buy it: Roadrunner’s Dance at Amazon
4. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
A young warrior takes a stand against an evil snake, whose mission is to destroy the Earth by poisoning all of its water. This Caldecott Medal–winning book reminds us of the importance of taking care of Earth’s precious water sources.
Buy it: We Are Water Protectors at Amazon
5. The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola
The Comanche tribe is experiencing a drought like no other. She-Who-Is-Alone sacrifices her prized warrior doll, the only possession left of her deceased family, to the Great Spirits. The next day, Bluebonnet flowers spring up as far as the eye can see, bringing the land back to life.
Buy it: The Legend of the Bluebonnet at Amazon
6. Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher by Becky Ray McCain
Say goodbye to bad dreams while learning about dreamcatchers and other Chippewa traditions. There are even directions on how to make your own dreamcatcher at the end!
Buy it: Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher at Amazon
7. The First Blade of Sweetgrass by Suzanne Greenlaw
In this modern tale, Musquon finally is invited to join her grandmother to gather sweetgrass for traditional basketmaking. It is not as easy as she expects; it takes time, patience, and great care of the environment.
Buy it: The First Blade of Sweetgrass at Amazon
8. Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Jenna loves the tinkling sound her grandmother’s dress makes. She hopes to dance like her at the next powwow, until she realizes she doesn’t have a jingly dress. How will she solve her problem?
Buy it: Jingle Dancer at Amazon
9. Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child
Windy Girl loves hearing Uncle’s stories about past traditions. She attends a powwow with her dog, enjoying herself from sunup to sundown. This inspires a magical dream with dancing dogs and other whimsical scenes.
Buy it: Bowwow Powwow at Amazon
10. Keepunumuk: Weeachumun’s Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten
If you’re looking for books about Native Americans that focus on the origins of the first Thanksgiving, this one is a must-read. Told from the Wampanoag tribe’s point of view, this story explains it in an age-appropriate way that’s easy for kids to understand.
Buy it: Keepunumuk: Weeachumun’s Thanksgiving Story at Amazon
11. Raven: A Trickster Tale From the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott
The Raven leaves his cold, dark home in search of light and warmth. He tricks the Sky Chief by transforming himself, steals the sun, and returns it to the people of the Earth.
Buy it: Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest at Amazon
12. The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
This Algonquin Indian version of Cinderella is a must-read when exploring books about Native Americans. Check it out, and compare it with the original tale.
Buy it: The Rough Face Girl at Amazon
13. Awasis and the World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt
Awasis is sent by her grandmother to deliver handmade bannock (flatbread) to a relative. When she accidentally drops it, she receives help from the creatures of the forest to make a replacement.
Buy it: Awasis and the World-Famous Bannock on Amazon
14. SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose
Two sisters head out into the woods on a cold winter’s night to witness the Northern Lights. Their strong bond shines through on their adventure.
Buy it: SkySisters on Amazon
15. Birdsong by Julie Flett
This heartwarming book proves that age is just a number when it comes to friendship. See how young Katherena and her elderly neighbor Agnes bond over their favorite things as the seasons change.
Buy it: Birdsong by Julie Flett
16. At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell
This heartwarming story centers around a family’s typical day in the WWII era. As they rely on each other for support and love, they eagerly await the return of a loved one from fighting in the war.
Buy it: At the Mountain’s Base on Amazon