Native American Heritage Month: 10 Children’s Books By Native Writers

November is Native American Heritage Month! Native American Heritage Month evolved from the efforts of various individuals at the turn of the 20th century who tried to get a day of recognition for Native Americans. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a resolution that appointed November as Native American Heritage Month. You can learn more about Native American Heritage Month here.

For many years, Native people were silenced and their stories were set aside, hidden, or drowned out. That’s why it’s especially important to read stories about Native characters, told in Native voices. Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with these great books by Native writers:


Quiet Hero by S.D. Nelson – Ira Hayes grew up on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. When he was in his late teens, World War II raged, and Ira Hayes joined the Marine corps. Eventually they were sent to the tiny Japanese island of Iwo Jima, where a chance event and an extraordinary photograph catapulted Ira to national awareness and transformed his life forever. 

Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by S.D. Nelson – Crazy Horse, whose childhood nickname was “Curly,” defies traditional custom and risks his own life by running away, up to the hills, to seek a vision.

Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by S.D. Nelson –  While Jim Thorpe struggled at school, he excelled at sports. He later went on to win several Olympic medals.


Home to Medicine Mountain by Chiori Santiago, illustrated by Judith Lowry – Two Native American brothers are sent to a strict, government-run boarding school. There, they are forced to speak English and to unlearn their Native American ways. Inspired by their dreams of home and the memories of their grandmother’s stories, the boys embark on an adventurous journey from the harsh residential school to their home in Susanville, California.

Sky Dancers by Connie Ann Kirk, illustrated by Christy Hale – John Cloud’s father is in New York City, far away from their Mohawk Reservation, building sky scrapers. One day, Mama takes John to New York City and he sees his Papa high on a beam, building the Empire State Building.

Kiki’s Journey by Kristy Orona-Ramirez, illustrated by Jonathan Warm Day –  Kiki is a city girl that calls Los Angeles her home. Her family left the Taos Pueblo reservation when she was a baby, so it doesn’t feel like home. How will it feel to revisit the reservation?


Stories for Teens

Rattlesnake Mesa by EdNah New Rider Weber, photographs by Richela Renkun – When EdNah’s beloved grandmother dies, she is sent to live on a Navajo reservation with a father she barely knows. Once EdNah finds herself getting used to her new life, she is sent to a strict government-run Indian boarding school.

Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac – When Luke King’s father, a black ops infiltrator, goes missing, Luke realizes his life will never be the same again. Luke sets out to search for his father, all the while trying to avoid the attention of the school’s mysterious elite clique of Russian hipsters, who seem much too interested in his own personal secret

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac – In a future where technology has failed, Lozen has been gifted with a unique set of abilities magic and survival skills that she uses to hunt monsters for the people who kidnapped her family. As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero.

Rose Eagle by Joseph Bruchac – Several years before Killer of Enemies, the Lakota are forced to mine ore for the Ones, their overlords. Rose Eagle’s aunt has a vision of Rose as a healer. She sends Rose on a quest to find healing for their people.


What other books by Native American authors and illustrators do you recommend?



16 thoughts on “Native American Heritage Month: 10 Children’s Books By Native Writers”

  1. Tim Tingle, Eric Gansworth and Cynthia Leitich Smith are AWESOME Native authors! Tim Tingle’s Saltypie, A Choctaw Journey from Darkness to Light is a beautifully written story from his own family. Cynthia Leitich Smith has a number of great books out there (as does Tingle) but Jingle Dancer is one of my favorites. It shows a young girl getting ready to dance in a powwow, and makes that a perfectly normal and beautiful thing (as opposed to something exotic). There are even parts in it that mainstream (caucasian) kids may have a hard time comprehending at first, but many Native kids will pick up on immediately. Kind of switches the usual dynamic in the classroom of the mainstream kids always understanding what is presented in instruction! Also Eric Gansworth’s If I Ever Get Out of Here is a great read. True to life, written from the heart. And Tim Tingle’s How I Became A Ghost is a superb read taken from Choctaw history and turned into a book you can’t put down.

  2. I love The Butterfly Dance by Gerald Dawavendewa, who’s an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe. And I definitely agree with Kara about Tim Tingle — his work is fantastic!

  3. Reblogged this on Vamos a Leer and commented:
    As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I wanted to share the open book’s post from yesterday. It has great suggestions for literature written by Native writers that you could use in the classroom. We hope you’ll check it out!

  4. So many favorite books on this list !! Crazy Horse’s Vision is such a good book and the illustrations from S.D.Nelson bring the story to life wonderfully.

    I haven’t read the Joseph Bruchac teen books yet but they are on our list.

    Thanks for sharing these great reads.

  5. I feel Louise Erdrich definitely deserves to be mentioned … her recent award and multitude of childrens’ books: Grandmother’s pigeon, Chickadee, the Birchbark House & Call Me home.

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