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Wonderful Native American and Indigenous Picture Books for Children

A list of Native American picture books for children depicting a variety of Indigenous cultures in the present-day.

This list spotlights picture books by Native American and First Nation creators. You can use the titles on this list during Native American History Month, but I encourage you to read these books all year long!

Collage of picture books featuring Native American authors and illustrators.

It's fair to say, that growing up a white girl in the 1970s and 80s, my exposure to Native American representation in children's books was woefully inadequate. I am determined my own kids will be better educated, and will understand from the start that Native peoples are part of a vibrant, present-day community. ( I also recognize that I am still learning, too. )

  • Native Americans in Children's Literature

Making sure our children's libraries are diverse is crucial, but unfortunately, not all children are represented fairly, accurately, or abundantly in picture books. Historically, Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples have been not only underrepresented in children's books, but frequently that representation is racist, either through stereotyping ( including so-called "positive" images like the "noble savage" ) or by obvious negative imagery.

When choosing and reading books with Indigenous characters, this list of Do's and Don'ts about Teaching Respect for Native Americans by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin is an extremely helpful resource for parents and educators. It's appalling to realize that almost every "don't" was a reality in my own educational experience.

Please note that whereas in what is now the present day United States we use the general terms "Native American," "American Indian" or "Native Alaskan," these terms are not used in present day Canada, which uses "First Nations" or "Indigenous People."

I encourage you, whenever possible, to use specific Nation names, such as "Diné," "Cree," or "Lenape." On this list, I've identified authors and illustrators by their tribal/nation identity. Please let me know if I've made any errors.

Table of contents

Books for babies and toddlers, ages 3 and up, ages 5 and up, more resources.

Note: this list contains Amazon and Bookshop affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may earn a commission for this blog. Bookshop also supports independent bookstores. See my giant Native American book list at Bookshop .

MORE BOOK LISTS:

  • Native American chapter books, middle grade and graphic novels
  • Books for Indigenous Peoples Day
  • Picture Book Biographies of Native Americans
  • Native American Folktales (North America)

Little You book cover

Little You by Richard Van Camp (Tłı̨chǫ Dene), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis)

Find it: Amazon | Bookshop

I absolutely love this adorable board book. Little You is a tender, rhyming love story from mom and dad to their baby. Illustrator Julie Flett uses autumnal colors to depict the family as the baby grows. Simply marvelous.

Also by Richard Van Camp:

  • Kiss by Kiss / ocêhtowina: A Counting Book for Families
  • We Sang You Home
  • Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns

My Heart Fills with Happiness board book.

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith (Cree), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis)

This is a super sweet and wonderful board book perfect for any age child. The text and joyful, colorful illustrations celebrate finding happiness in everyday events.

Also by Monique Gray Smith:

  • When We Are Kind
  • You Hold Me Up

Sweetest Kulu picture book cover.

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk (Inuit), illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis

Find it: Bookshop | Amazon

In this beautiful lullaby and greeting to a sweet Inuktitut child born in the Arctic, the sun and animals offer wisdom and kindness.

In My Anaana’s Amautik book cover

In My Anaana's Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok (Inuit), illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko

An inuit toddler ( the child's gender is ambiguous ) narrates the wonderful and utterly comforting experience of being wrapped up in the coziness of an amautik. Their narration describes the experience using sensory language like how it feels and smells. A soft sprinkling of Inuktitut words throughout the text enhances, rather than detracts, from the experience ( glossary included ) and I'm guess your child will never think of the northern terrain as frozen and barren again. Ages 2 and up.

Also by Nadia Sammurtok:

  • The Owl and the Two Rabbits
  • To My Panik: To My Daughter

Rock Your Mocs picture book cover

Rock Your Mocs by Laurel Goodluck (Mandan, Hidatsa & Tsimshian Nations), illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw)

This joyful picture book is a tribute to Rock Your Mocs Day, celebrated on November 15th. Children from different Indigenous communities ( twelve are named individually ), engaged in a variety of activities, wear their moccasins with pride. The text references the history and significance of the eponymous footwear, while also confirming its importance in the present day. Includes a pronunciation guide and an informative end note. Ages 4 and up.

Also by Laurel Goodluck:

  • Too Much: My Great Big Native Family
  • Forever Cousins

wild berries book cover

Wild Berries by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis)

A boy and his grandmother collect blueberries in the wood. Along the way they observe wildlife from the ants to the elk to the birds. The overall feeling is one of calm mindfulness and the illustrations' beautiful simplicity adds to that feeling. The spare text is in English, but some of the words are accompanied by their Cree equivalent. A glossary and pronunciation guide is included. Ages 3 and up.

Also written by Julie Flett:

  • Black Bear Red Fox: Colours in Cree
  • We All Play: kimêtawânaw
  • We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers

Berry Song picture book cover.

Berry Song by Michaela Goade (Tlingit)

A child and her Tlingit grandmother share the experience of gathering berries while singing a harvest song. They reflect on the beauty of the surrounding nature, the activity back at home while preparing the berries in the kitchen, and the changing of the seasons. Ages 4 and up.

Still This Love Goes On picture book cover

Still this Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis)

The calming text of this marvelous book is based on lyrics by Cree singer and songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. Julie Flett's illustrations are the perfect match. Each double page spread offers soaring vistas or scenes of harmonious relationships ( or both! ). The narrator is a child who expresses wonder at the natural world around them, periodically punctuated with the phrase, "and still this love goes on." Heartwarming. All ages.

Awasis and the World Famous Bannock book cover.

Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt (Wapsewsipi ) , illustrated by Amanda Strong

This absolutely delightful story has a folktale/fairy tale quality to it. Awâsis accidentally loses her grandmother Kôhkum's world-famous bannock and looks to her forest friends for help. Each of the woodland creatures assists her in gathering together the needed ingredients so Kôhkum, Awâsis and the animals can mix up a new batch. This book makes a wonderful read aloud. Cree words are seamlessly integrated into the story. Ages 3 and up.

A Letter for Bob picture book

A Letter for Bob by Kim Rogers (Wichita), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Diné)

Bob is the car that took Katie's family to powwows, on trips to visit Aka:h ( grandma ), on family vacations and everyday places like school and the library. Bob even protected the family in an accident. But in this sweet and funny book it's now time to bid farewell and thank you to Bob for all the memories and care. Charming. Ages 4 and up.

Also by Kim Rogers (Wichita):

  • I Am Osage: How Clarence Tinker Became the First Native American Major General
  • Just Like Grandma

Fry Bread book cover showing Native American woman holding child and bowl of fry bread

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard (Mekusukey Seminole), illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

This utterly marvelous and cheerful book is a celebration of fry bread and its place in Native American family culture. The bouncy verse tells the history of fry bread, its importance in Native American life, how it's eaten, enjoyed and what it represents. An end note explains the context further. Highly recommended! Ages 3 and up.

Hungry Johnny book cover

Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Wesley Ballinger ( Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe )

Here's a fun book to read that teaches kids that it is possible to be courteous and respectful, even when you are so very, very hungry for yummy treats! Before they drive over to the community center for a meal, Johnny watches his grandma cook delicious food in her kitchen. At the community meal, all the kids know that first they must listen to the Ojibwe prayer, then they must wait for the elders to eat, and only then can they help themselves. Johnny worries that there won't be any food left, but his grandmother helps him wait it out. Ages 3 and up.

Remember by Joy Harjo picture book cover.

Remember by Joy Harjo (Mvskoke), illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit)

Lush, dreamlike illustrations by Caldecott medalist, Michaela Goade, accompany the text of U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s poem. Harjo's words take readers on a journey beginning with birth under the sky, reminding us to connect with our world, the environment and our family. Beautiful. Ages 4 and up.

Thanks to the Animals picture book cover

Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin (Passamaquoddy)

During his Passamaquoddy family's move to their winter home in what is now rural Maine, Little Zoo Sap falls off the sled. The local animals care for the frightened boy and keep him warm. When his father, Joo Tum, notices his son is missing, he determinedly searches for the boy. When he finds Little Zoo Sap he takes the time to thank each animal for their protection. That was perhaps my favorite part—that the father didn't just pick up his kid and go—he was mindful and grateful to the animals! Ages 3 and up.

Keepunumuk picture book about Thanksgiving.

Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun's Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer ( Mashpee Wampanoag ), Anthony Perry ( Chickasaw ), and Alexis Bunten ( Yu'pik and Unangan ), illustrated by Garry Meeches ( Anishinaabe )

Even though this is a non-present day book, I think it's important given the way American Indians are always associated with Thanksgiving in popular culture. A grandmother tells her two Wampanoag ( "People of the First Light" ) grandchildren the story of Thanksgiving. Weeâchumun ( the Wampanoag word for "corn," here represented as a translucent woman ) is worried because she is afraid that she will not last another year. Despite a caution to be wary of the new comers, Weeâchumun asks the Wampanoag people to help the Pilgrims survive the winter by helping them plant the three sisters of corn, beans and squash. This is an important retelling of the Thanksgiving story that places the Wampanoag, and not the Pilgrims at the center of the narrative. The text includes notes, glossary, and a pronunciation guide. The book's official website has further resources . Ages 3 and up.

Only in My Hometown book cover

Kisimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani / Only in My Hometown by Angnakuluk Friesen (Nunavut Inuit ) , illustrated by Ippiksaut Friesen (Inuit)

A young girl describes life in her Inuit hometown, Nunavut. She describes daily activities, as well as the coming of the northern lights in the dark nights. Readers will be able to feel the affection the narrator has for her home, and reflect on what makes their own hometowns special, too. The text is written in both English and Inuktitut. The Inuktitut text is written out in both syllabics and Roman characters. Ages 4 and up.

We are Still Here book cover displaying modern Native Americans carrying flags in a parade.

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know  by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Frané Lessac

This is a great follow up book to Sorell and Lessac's marvelous We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga ( read it first, if you haven't already! –Ages 4 and up ). The text is structured around 12 Native American students sharing presentations about the past, present and future of Native lives for Indigenous Peoples' Day. The students' presentations cover a wide range of subjects from how the US government treated the indigenous population, to environmental, enrollment and language concerns. As the book continues, we learn about the resiliences of Native citizens and their dedication to protect their heritage and build strong economies and institutions. Includes glossary, timeline and more information in end notes. Ages 7 and up.

Also by Traci Sorell:

  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
  • At the Mountain's Base
  • Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer
  • Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series

What Your Ribbon Skirt Means to Me picture book cover.

What Your Ribbon Skirt Means to Me by Alexis Bunten ( Yu'pik and Unangan ), illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt (Diné)

For her inauguration as United States Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland wore a traditional ribbon skirt, generating interest in the ceremonial garment. This picture book pays homage to the ribbon skirt and explains its significance and connection to Indigenous womanhood and strength through the story of Pia, who crafts her own skirt while watching Haaland on television. Ages 5 and up.

Skysisters book cover

SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Nishnawbe Ojibway ) , illustrated by Brian Deines

Two Ojibway sisters bundle up and head outside where they observe and appreciate the winter nighttime landscape. As they travel across the snow, they take delight in their footprints, the taste of icicles and the animals they see. As the wind rises and they dance and make snow angels, they are finally rewarded by the colorful showing of the SkySpirits. Wonderful, a must read. Ages 5 and up.

Jingle Dancer picture book cover.

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

Jenna loves to practice her dance steps as she watches videos of her grandmother dancing and listens to the clinking sound of the jingles. She looks forward to finally being able to join in the jingle dance at the powwow but worries that she won't have just the right number of jingles for her skirt. This is a heartwarming story that celebrates family and tradition. ages 5 and up.

My Powerful Hair book cover

My Powerful Hair by Carole Lindstrom (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe ) , illustrated by Steph Littlebird (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde )

An Indigenous girl narrates her experience waiting for her hair to grow long. She describes how her mother and grandmother were denied long hair for different reasons. However, the narrator knows that hair is a source of power, memories, connection and strength for Native peoples. The woodcut illustrations are marvelous. Back matter gives more information on the importance of hair in Indigenous cultures and the history behind White people's attempt to erase Native culture by cutting their hair. Ages 5 and up.

We Are Water Protectors picture book cover.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe ), illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit)

A girl describes an Anishinaabe prophecy of a black snake terrorizing the land. The black snake is the oil pipeline that threatens the community and the life-giving natural resources of land, water, and animals. Her call to action emphasizes the importance of standing up for those that do not have a voice, protecting the vulnerable and working together. Goade's gorgeous illustrations feature symbolism from her culture. Ages 5 and up.

Also by Carole Lindstrom:

  • Autumn Peltier, Water Warrior
  • Cuthbert Grant: Leader of the Métis People

Saltypie picture book cover.

Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light by Tim Tingle (Choctaw ) , illustrated by Karen Clarkson (Choctaw )

This picture book is based on the author's experience moving from Oklahoma to Pasadena, Texas. Looking backward, the narrator describes his experience when he was six and learned his grandmother was blind. I love the intergenerational story of a close, warm family, as well as the narrator's description of Choctaw life and the explicit acknowledgement in the storytelling of the realities of Indigenous life in contrast to stereotyping. Plus, the origin of the term "saltypie" is wonderful! Ages 5 and up.

Stolen Words picture book cover.

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence (Cree), illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

I got a little teary eyed when reading this book. (T hat happens to me more often than you think! ) A happy young girl walks with her grandfather and asks him if he can tell her the Cree word for "grandfather." Her grandfather becomes sad and tells her he does not know and then tells her about how, when he was a boy, he was taken to a white school where he wasn't allowed to speak his Cree language. The next day the girl brings home an Introduction to Cree book and presents it to her grandfather who starts to remember the stolen words. Ages 5 and up.

When the Shadbush Blooms picture book cover.

When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger (Turtle Clan Lenape ) and Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden (Akwesasne Mohawk )

Find it: Your Library | Amazon

A Lenape girl reflects on how her experiences throughout the seasons were mirrored generations ago by her ancestors. This mirroring is reflected in the illustrations. For example, a group of traditional Lenape fish from their canoes is on one page, and a contemporary Lenape family catches fish with modern fishing poles on the next. What I love about this book is that it doesn't confine the Lenape traditions to either the past or the present, but demonstrates that they can exist in both. Ages 6 and up.

Here are some resources for further reading:

  • American Indians in Children's Literature
  • Teaching Young Children about Native Americans - Illinois Learning Project
  • Native American Literature in Your Classroom - National Museum of the American Indian

Reader Interactions

Leinana Two Moons says

October 17, 2017 at 9:32 am

My husband is Native American, we have 2 small ones, and I love this list. I would also add "Mama Do You Love Me?" by Barbara M. Joosse

October 18, 2017 at 11:03 am

I love that book! Great suggestion.

Nicole says

October 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Also 'Hungry Johnny" https://www.amazon.com/Hungry-Johnny-Cheryl-Kay-Minnema/dp/0873519264 Published by MN Historical Society Press

November 11, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Thanks for the recommendation!

Karen Lucas says

October 16, 2020 at 12:14 pm

I always appreciate your lists and I want to make sure you have access to Dr. Debbie Reese's recommendations and book reviews. Dr. Reese has some really great advice in terms of looking at looking at Native representation in children's books. Her blog is called American Indians in Children's Literature. It has a search feature that allows readers to find reviews of particular books. She also has a listing of Native authors currently publishing. Thanks for your work, Karen

October 16, 2020 at 1:27 pm

Thanks Karen! I do read Dr. Reese's blog. It's a great resource.

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picture books native american

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Book Nerd Mommy

raising readers

20+ Picture Books that Celebrate Native American Culture and Heritage

Native American culture is something that should be taught and celebrated. I want my children to know the rich heritage of the land that they live in and love. The roots of this land run deep and there is so much to learn and appreciate. Below is a list I curated of over 20 books about Native Americans on the North American continent. There are many tribes featured in this list from the Cree, to Lakota, to Navajo, to Cherokee, to the Anishinaabewaking, and more. Each book is a celebration of the strength and beauty of these people ands a lot to offer.

This post contains affiliate links below.

picture books native american

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell and Frane Lessac- his beautiful book highlights the Cherokee Nation and shares bits of their culture as well as Cherokee words and pronunciations. There is a reason why this incredible book has awards.

picture books native american

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal- I adore this book! It tells the story of a family making traditional fry bread together and is a beautiful tribute to how food brings us together and is a part of our heritage.

picture books native american

The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose and Bryna Waldman- This book gives an introduction to quite a few Native American tribes and how they lived.

picture books native american

The People Shall Continue Simon J. Ortiz and Sharon Graves- This book tells the history of Native American people from how they lived, then how their lands were stolen, to how they still continue on in their culture and traditions.

picture books native american

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving Joseph Bruchac and Greg Shed- This book tells the Story of Squanto and the First Thanksgiving in a more accurate way than I have seen in other Thanksgiving books. It is very well done.

picture books native american

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ying-Hwa Hu, Cornelius Van Wright- The story of a young girls first time joining in festivities as a Jingle Dancer. The text has wonderful rhythm and the story is fantastic.

picture books native american

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know: Niibing, dgwaagig, bboong, mnookmig dbaadjigaade maanpii mzin’igning by Brittany Luby and Soshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley- This book is bilingual and written in both English and Anishinaabemowin . It tells about an Anishinaabewaking grandmother and grandchild and their appreciation for the many joys and blessings of each season.

picture books native american

We Are Water Protectors by Carol Lindstrom and Michaela Glade- A call from the indigenous people of North America to care for our water and protect it’s cleanliness/purity. The illustrations are fantastic and the text is empowering.

picture books native american

The Circle of Thanks by Bruchac- This beautiful book contains a collection of poems about giving thanks form various groups of Native Americans. It is so well done and we love it.

picture books native american

Birdsong by Julie Flett- A gentle and thought provoking book about a young girl as she adjusts from a move, develops a sweet relationship with a senior neighbor and accepts the changing of the seasons and the changing of her new friends failing health. It is beautifully done and is also a celebration of Cree culture.

picture books native american

I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner and Michaela Goade- In this book a Native American mother prepares for the birth of her little one. She gathers small items of importance in a bundle for her new babe. Items that will bring them strength, connection to heritage and more throughout their life.

picture books native american

Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story S. D. Nelson-This is the story of a Hidasta woman named Buffalo Bird Girl. The author uses her actual words and stories for the writing of this book and includes actual photographs mixed in with his illustrations. It covers what life was like for the Hidasta people and is very well done and lengthy in text.

picture books native american

When We Were Alone David A. Robertson and Julie Flett- This book tells the story of young child questioning her grandmother about her past and their Cree culture. She explains how her culture was taken away and not respected. It covers a very serious and important topic, but does it in a gentle way for younger readers.

picture books native american

The Star People: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson- This retelling of a traditional Lakota story tells of a brother and sister who venture from their village to watch the cloud people. They are are caught in a wildfire, head to the water for safety then are protected and comforted by the spirit of their beloved grandmother. The traditional style of the illustrations is also really fantastic.

picture books native american

Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale by Gerold McDermott – This book tells a Pueblo story about a boy who was the Sun’s child and his quest to find his origin, prove his heritage and his glorious return. I love the geometric and bright illustrations.

picture books native american

When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messengered Susan Katz and David Kanietakeron Fadden- This is a story about a Lenape family and some of their typical activities together throughout the year from tending to the garden to sledding. My favorite part is that each page spread is split in half with the left showing an illustration dejecting similar scenes, but with their ancestors and the right dejecting their family.

picture books native american

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble- This book is a Navaho story about a young girl who loved horses. She went to live with wild horses and legend says that she became one herself. It is beautifully illustrated and award-winning.

picture books native american

Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way by S. D. Nelson- This book is one that is full of gratitude for the beautiful world we live in. It expresses thankfulness for little, everyday blessings and is also a wonderful tribute to the Lakota culture.

picture books native american

The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac and Anna Vojtech- This book is written by an award-winning Native American storyteller and is the retelling of a Cherokee legend about forgiveness and love. It is also a legend on how the world go the first strawberries.

picture books native american

SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose and Brian Deines- Two Ojibway sisters head to the top of coyote hill to watch the Sky Sisters (northern lights) together. Its beautifully written and makes a magical read aloud.

picture books native american

My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett- This little book is a joyful celebration of heritage, culture and the things that bring us joy. Simple and sweet.

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This book list has over 20 kids picture books that celebrate Native American culture and heritage.

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The Indianapolis Public Library

Best Picture Books for Kids by and about American Indians

picture books native american

the traveler butterfly - family travel blog

  • Sep 16, 2023

30 + Inspiring Illustrated Books by Native American Authors for Kids.

The voices of Native American authors and the vibrant illustrations in their books offer young readers a unique and invaluable opportunity to explore the rich heritage, cultures, and traditions of indigenous peoples. These 30+ illustrated books for kids, authored and illustrated by Native Americans, bring forth stories that are both captivating and educational. Through their pages, they not only entertain but also serve as powerful tools to foster awareness, appreciation, and respect for the diverse indigenous cultures that have thrived across North America for centuries.

From the mesmerizing artwork to the heartfelt narratives, each of these books takes young readers on a journey of discovery, inviting them to explore the unique experiences, histories, and perspectives of Native American communities. Whether it's a glimpse into the significance of the lunar calendar, the exploration of cultural practices, or the celebration of indigenous heroes, these books provide a window into the rich tapestry of indigenous life.

Moreover, they offer a platform for important discussions about the challenges faced by Native American communities, such as the historical impact of residential schools and the ongoing efforts to protect the environment. By delving into these pages, children can gain a deeper understanding of the resilience, strength, and wisdom of indigenous peoples.

As we embark on this literary journey through the eyes of Native American authors and illustrators, let us not only embrace the captivating stories but also recognize the importance of acknowledging and respecting the indigenous cultures that have contributed immensely to the tapestry of North American history. This carefully curated collection of 30 + illustrated books serve as a bridge, connecting young readers to the vibrant, diverse, and enduring world of Native American heritage. They encourage empathy, appreciation, and ultimately, a commitment to honoring and preserving indigenous traditions for generations to come.

The Hunter’s Promise: An Abenaki Tale by Joseph Bruchac , illustrated by Bill Farnsworth (2005):

This heartwarming tale from the Abenaki culture explores the bond between hunters and animals. It teaches children about trust, loyalty, and the interconnectedness of all living beings in nature. Through beautifully detailed illustrations, readers embark on a journey that celebrates the harmony between humans and the animal world.

2. The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Anna Vojtech (1993)

In this charming Cherokee story, children learn about the importance of love, forgiveness, and cooperation. The book beautifully captures the legend of the first strawberries and how they came to be. With vibrant illustrations, it paints a vivid picture of Cherokee traditions and the enduring power of love.

3. A Man Called Raven by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by George Littlechild (1997)

Through captivating illustrations and storytelling, "A Man Called Raven" introduces children to the mischievous and clever Raven, a central figure in indigenous folklore. The book shares Raven's adventures and the valuable lessons he learns along the way, making it an engaging and educational read for kids.

4.The Boy Who Lived With the Bears and Other Iroquois Stories told by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Murv Jacob (1995)

This collection of Iroquois stories offers young readers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Iroquois people. The tales, accompanied by evocative illustrations, explore themes of wisdom, kindness, and respect for nature. Each story imparts valuable life lessons in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening.

5. How Chipmunk Got His Stripes by Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey (2001)

Through delightful illustrations and storytelling, this book explains how Chipmunk got its stripes in a Native American folktale. Kids will enjoy learning about animals and their unique characteristics while discovering the origins of Chipmunk's stripes in a playful and engaging narrative.

6. Spearfinger by Charles Suddeth, illustrated by Carrie Salazar (2001)

This bilingual Cherokee/English folktale is an adventurous story of a young boy's bravery and resourcefulness. Readers are immersed in the Cherokee culture as they follow the protagonist's journey. The book not only entertains but also promotes language appreciation and cultural understanding.

7.The Stone Cutter & The Navajo Maiden by Vee F. Browne , illustrated by Johnson Yazzie

This bilingual book in English and Navajo provides insight into Navajo culture and storytelling. Through enchanting illustrations and a captivating narrative, it shares tales that have been cherished by Navajo people for generations.

8. Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: Native American Year of Moons by Joseph Bruchac

This beautifully illustrated book takes young readers on a journey through the Native American lunar calendar. Each moon has a special name and significance in Native American culture, teaching children about the changing seasons, nature's rhythms, and the cultural importance of timekeeping.

9. I CAN SEE YOU BY ROSEMARIE AVRANA MEYOK, ILLUSTRATED BY MICHELLE SIMPSON

Through expressive illustrations and a heartfelt narrative, this book invites children to step into the world of an Inuk girl. Readers get a glimpse of her daily life, her connection to nature, and her unique perspective, fostering understanding and empathy.

10. STILL THIS LOVE GOES ON BY BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE, ILLUSTRATED BY JULIE FLETT

This beautifully illustrated book celebrates enduring love and the connections between generations. It takes readers on a journey through the seasons, emphasizing the importance of family and heritage in indigenous cultures.

11. THE STAR THAT ALWAYS STAYS BY ANNA ROSE JOHNSON

In this touching story, children learn about the bond between generations. Through captivating illustrations, it introduces the concept of loved ones who have passed away but continue to shine in the night sky, teaching children about life's cycles and the enduring power of love.

12. BERRY SONG BY MICHAELA GOADE

Through vivid illustrations, this book explores the significance of berries in Native American culture. It teaches children about the importance of nature, traditional harvesting, and the sense of community that comes from gathering and sharing food.

13. KEEPUNUMUK: WEEÂCHUMUN’S THANKSGIVING STORY BY DANIELLE GREENDEER, ANTHONY PERRY, AND ALEXIS BUNTEN, ILLUSTRATED BY GARY MEECHES SR.

A must-read picture book about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective. It invites children to explore indigenous traditions and the true spirit of gratitude, offering a fresh perspective on this holiday.

14. My Heart Fills With Happiness Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih by Gray Smith, Monique:

Through gentle text and warm illustrations, this book encourages children to find happiness in simple moments. It emphasizes the importance of appreciating the small joys in life that fill our hearts with happiness.

15. A Day With Yayah by Campbell, Nicola I.

This heartwarming story follows a young girl as she spends a day with her grandmother (Yayah). Through their interactions, readers gain insight into the beauty and wisdom of indigenous culture, highlighting the importance of intergenerational relationships.

16. Awâsis and the World-famous Bannock by Hunt, Dallas

In this delightful tale, children learn about the importance of sharing and community. The story revolves around Awâsis and her quest to bake the world's greatest bannock. It's a fun and educational exploration of indigenous traditions and a beloved snack.

17. Shin-chi's Canoe by Campbell, Nicola I.

This poignant book follows Shin-chi, a young boy, and his sister as they leave their family to attend a residential school. It provides insight into the challenges and emotions faced by indigenous children during this difficult period in history.

picture books native american

18. We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga

Through vibrant illustrations and a heartfelt narrative, this book explores the concept of gratitude in Cherokee culture. It takes readers through the seasons, sharing traditional Cherokee ceremonies and celebrations. It's a beautiful celebration of thankfulness and cultural pride.

19. Go Show the World A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Kinew, Wab

This inspiring book introduces young readers to a diverse group of indigenous heroes who have made significant contributions to society. It's a tribute to their achievements and a reminder of the potential for greatness within all children.

20. The People Shall Continue by Ortiz, Simon J.

This powerful book tells the story of Native American history and resilience. It emphasizes the enduring spirit of indigenous people and their determination to overcome challenges. Through thoughtful text and illustrations, it offers valuable insights into the strength of indigenous communities.

21. Saltypie A Choctaw Journey From Darkness Into Light by Tingle, Tim

Through heartfelt storytelling, this book shares the journey of a Choctaw family facing difficult circumstances. It explores themes of love, hope, and resilience, providing children with a moving narrative about the power of family bonds.

22. When Turtle Grew Feathers A Folktale From the Choctaw Nation by Tingle, Tim

This Choctaw folktale invites children to explore the origin of turtles and their unique characteristics. It's a delightful and educational story that combines elements of nature and transformation in a captivating narrative.

23. Red Cloud A Lakota Story of War and Surrender by Nelson, S. D.

Through vivid illustrations and a compelling narrative, this book tells the story of Red Cloud, a Lakota leader. It offers young readers an engaging introduction to Native American history, leadership, and the challenges faced by indigenous communities.

24. Buffalo Bird Girl A Hidatsa Story by Nelson, S. D.

This beautifully illustrated book provides a glimpse into the life of Buffalo Bird Girl, a young Hidatsa girl. It immerses children in her daily experiences, traditions, and the rich cultural heritage of the Hidatsa people.

25. Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code A Navajo Code Talker's Story by Bruchac, Joseph (2018)

This book tells the incredible story of Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. Through compelling storytelling and historical context, it highlights the heroism and importance of their code in protecting military communications.

26. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robertson, Robbie

Through striking illustrations and engaging storytelling, this book shares the legendary story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, who brought unity and peace to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) nations.

27. Tasunka A Lakota Horse Legend by Montileaux, Donald F.

In this captivating tale, children learn about the legend of Tasunka, the Lakota Horse. Through beautiful illustrations and storytelling, it explores themes of bravery and the special bond between humans and animals.

28. Tuniit Mysterious Folk of the Arctic by Qitsualik-Tinsley, Rachel

This book delves into the mysterious folklore of the Tuniit, a group of indigenous people from the Arctic. It's an exploration of their rich culture and the intriguing stories that have been passed down through generations.

29. When I Was Eight by Jordan-Fenton, Christy

Through the eyes of an Inuit girl, readers gain insight into her experiences growing up in the Arctic. The book touches on themes of family, cultural pride, and resilience, offering a heartfelt narrative for young readers.

30. Lessons From Mother Earth by Mcleod, Elaine

This book imparts important lessons about taking care of the Earth and respecting nature. It encourages children to be mindful of their environment, teaching them about the interconnectedness of all living things.

31. The Christmas Coat Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk

Drawing from the author's own childhood memories, this book shares the warmth and generosity of the Sioux people during Christmas. It's a touching and heartwarming story of community, sharing, and the true spirit of the holiday season.

32. Una Huna What Is This? by Aglukark, Susan

This bilingual book in English and Inuktitut invites children to explore the Arctic environment and learn about traditional Inuit activities and objects. It promotes language appreciation and cultural understanding.

33. We Are Water Protectors by Lindstrom, Carole

Through powerful illustrations and a compelling narrative, this book emphasizes the importance of protecting water and the environment. It calls on children to be stewards of the Earth and advocates for environmental conservation.

34. Encounter by Luby, Brittany (2019)

This book offers a unique perspective on the encounter between Native Americans and European settlers. Through striking illustrations and a thought-provoking narrative, it tells the story of a young Taino boy who witnesses the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

35. Shi-shi-etko by Campbell, Nicola I.

This poignant book explores the experiences of a young First Nations girl who is taken from her family to attend a residential school. It provides a heartfelt and eye-opening narrative about the challenges and emotions faced by indigenous children during this period in history.

picture books native american

In the pages of these 30 + illustrated books by Native American authors, we have embarked on a remarkable voyage of discovery—a journey that has led us into the heart of indigenous cultures, offered glimpses of ancestral wisdom, and kindled a profound sense of respect and appreciation. As we conclude this exploration, we are reminded of the enduring power of storytelling, artistry, and heritage in shaping young minds and nurturing a generation of compassionate, open-hearted individuals.

These books are not merely stories; they are bridges of understanding and empathy. They invite us to celebrate diversity, to acknowledge the struggles and triumphs of indigenous communities, and to embrace the universal values of kindness, gratitude, and environmental stewardship that resonate through these narratives.

In our fast-paced, interconnected world, it is crucial to instill in our children a deep sense of respect for all cultures and an unwavering commitment to preserving the planet we share. Through the pages of these books, young readers are offered a glimpse into the beauty of indigenous traditions, the importance of intergenerational connections, and the profound connection between humans and the natural world.

We have had the privilege of exploring stories that celebrate the strength of indigenous heroes, share the warmth of family bonds, and teach us the significance of gratitude and unity. These books are not only windows into Native American heritage but also mirrors reflecting the values that unite us all as global citizens.

As we close this chapter of our literary journey, let us carry forward the lessons and insights gained from these pages. Let us continue to seek out diverse voices and stories that broaden our horizons, enrich our understanding, and inspire us to be agents of positive change in our communities and our world.

May these books serve as a lasting testament to the enduring legacy of indigenous cultures and the power of literature to foster awareness, respect, and unity. And may they continue to touch the hearts and minds of generations to come, igniting the flame of curiosity, empathy, and cultural appreciation in young readers across the globe.

picture books native american

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24 Children's Books About Native Americans

Published June 13, 2023

Discover a curated selection of children's books dedicated to illuminating the rich heritage of Native American culture. From interactive books to folktales, biographical tales, and picture books about traditions, these engaging reads promise to educate, entertain, and inspire young minds towards a deeper understanding of diversity.

Table of Contents

Interactive children's books about native americans, native american folktales for kids, biographical children's books on native american heroes, children's picture books about native american traditions.

Understanding and appreciating diverse cultures is a critical part of a child's education, and what better way to introduce them to the rich heritage of Native American culture than through the captivating world of children's literature? These books not only serve as a fascinating source of entertainment but also open doors to an enriching educational experience. By delving into stories centered around Native American traditions, history, and heroes, children are offered a unique opportunity to cultivate respect, understanding, and appreciation for the important contributions of Native Americans to our shared history.

In this post, we've curated a list of 24 children's books about Native Americans, categorized into four engaging sections. Each category has been thoughtfully designed to encapsulate an aspect of Native American culture and history, ensuring a comprehensive and insightful journey for our young readers. From interactive books and folktales to biographies and picture books about traditions, our selection promises a plethora of learning opportunities.

Reading these books with your children opens up a platform for active learning and dialogue. These narratives not only spark curiosity but also promote critical thinking, encouraging children to ask questions and engage in meaningful conversations. Furthermore, they can serve as the catalyst that sparks a lifelong interest in history, storytelling, and cultural diversity. So, whether you're an educator, a parent, or a guardian, these books can be a valuable resource to instill a profound understanding and appreciation of Native American culture in young minds. Let's embark on this enriching journey together!

Explore the rich culture, history, and traditions of Native Americans through these interactive and informative books. From games and stories to a comprehensive guide, these books provide an engaging and educational journey into Native American heritage.

  • Native American History for Kids by Karen Bush Gibson : Karen Bush Gibson's book provides an engaging exploration of Native American history, from their ancient origins to their interactions with European settlers. It includes hands-on activities, trivia, and historical accounts.
  • The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose : Cara Ashrose's book introduces young readers to the history and culture of Native Americans, highlighting their contributions and way of life through vivid illustrations and easy-to-understand text.
  • North American Indians by Douglas Gorsline : Douglas Gorsline's illustrated book offers a comprehensive look at the diverse Native American cultures across North America. With detailed illustrations and informative text, readers can learn about different tribes, customs, and history.
  • Spotlight on Native Americans by Bobbie Kalman : Bobbie Kalman's book sheds light on the diverse cultures of Native Americans. It explores different aspects of Native American life, including art, music, dance, and traditions, offering a glimpse into their vibrant heritage.
  • Native American Games and Stories by Joseph Bruchac, James Bruchac : Joseph Bruchac and James Bruchac bring Native American traditions to life with a collection of games and stories. Readers can learn about traditional games, storytelling, and the values celebrated in Native American cultures.
  • A Kid's Guide to Native American History by Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder : Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder provide a kid-friendly guide to Native American history, covering topics such as ancient civilizations, notable figures, and modern issues. It includes activities and resources for further exploration.

Discover the rich world of Native American folktales with these captivating stories. From trickster tales to legends of sacred places, these books offer a glimpse into the cultural heritage and wisdom of Native American traditions.

  • Between Earth & Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places by Joseph Bruchac, Thomas Locker : Joseph Bruchac and Thomas Locker invite readers to explore Native American sacred places through captivating legends. With stunning illustrations and informative text, this book offers a deeper understanding of Native American spirituality.
  • Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott : Discover the mischievous adventures of Raven, the trickster figure from the Pacific Northwest, in this captivating tale by Gerald McDermott. With bold and colorful illustrations, this book brings to life the magic and humor of Raven's antics.
  • How the Stars Fell into the Sky by Jerrie Oughton, Lisa Desimini : Jerrie Oughton and Lisa Desimini present a captivating retelling of a Navajo legend about the creation of the stars, weaving together beautiful illustrations and poetic storytelling.
  • The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola : Tomie dePaola shares a legend of the Native American Plains tribes about a young boy with a special talent for painting. With his signature illustrations, dePaola brings this enchanting tale to life.
  • The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble : Paul Goble's award-winning book tells the story of a young Native American girl who has a deep connection with wild horses. With breathtaking illustrations, it celebrates the bond between humans and animals.
  • The Rough-Face Girl by David Shannon, Rafe Martin : Rafe Martin and David Shannon retell a powerful Algonquin Cinderella story that celebrates inner beauty and resilience. This beautifully illustrated book encourages readers to embrace their true selves.

Discover the inspiring stories of Native American heroes with these biographical children's books. From courageous leaders to influential figures in various fields, these books celebrate the achievements and contributions of Native American individuals.

  • Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac, S.D. Nelson : Joseph Bruchac and S.D. Nelson bring to life the story of Crazy Horse, a legendary Lakota warrior and leader. This book explores Crazy Horse's childhood, his vision, and his commitment to defending his people's way of life.
  • Sacagawea by Lise Erdrich, Julie Buffalohead : Lise Erdrich and Julie Buffalohead tell the extraordinary story of Sacagawea, the young Shoshone woman who played a vital role in the Lewis and Clark expedition. Through beautiful illustrations and engaging storytelling, readers can learn about her bravery and resilience.
  • Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People by S.D. Nelson : S.D. Nelson shares the compelling story of Sitting Bull, a prominent Lakota leader who fought to protect his people's land and traditions. With striking illustrations and informative text, this book offers a deeper understanding of Sitting Bull's legacy.
  • Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina by Larry Brimner : Larry Brimner celebrates the remarkable life of Maria Tallchief, the first Native American prima ballerina. This book traces Tallchief's journey from her childhood on an Osage reservation to her rise to international fame in the world of ballet.
  • Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing by James Rumford : James Rumford tells the true story of Sequoyah, the Cherokee man who developed a writing system for his people. Through vibrant illustrations and engaging storytelling, readers can learn about the impact of Sequoyah's invention on the Cherokee Nation.
  • Jim Thorpe's Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac, S.D. Nelson : Joseph Bruchac and S.D. Nelson chronicle the life of Jim Thorpe, a Native American athlete who achieved remarkable success in the early 20th century. This book highlights Thorpe's determination, resilience, and the challenges he overcame to become an Olympic champion.

Explore the rich and vibrant traditions of Native American cultures through these children's picture books. From dances and celebrations to expressions of gratitude, these books provide a glimpse into the diverse traditions and values of Native American communities.

  • The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo, Paul Lee : Joy Harjo and Paul Lee explore the significance of cats in Native American folklore. This book tells the story of a lucky cat who brings joy, protection, and connection to a community. It celebrates the power of storytelling and the bonds between humans and animals.
  • Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin, Rebekah Raye : Allen Sockabasin and Rebekah Raye share a traditional Penobscot tale of gratitude for the animals that provide sustenance and clothing. Through vivid illustrations and poetic storytelling, readers can appreciate the deep connection between Native American peoples and the natural world.
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Frané Lessac, Traci Sorell : Traci Sorell and Frane Lessac introduce readers to the Cherokee word 'otsaliheliga,' which means gratitude. This book explores the seasons, traditions, and celebrations of the Cherokee people, highlighting the importance of gratitude and interconnectedness.
  • Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cornelius Van Wright : Cynthia Leitich Smith and Cornelius Van Wright tell the story of a young girl who learns and performs the jingle dance, a tradition from the Muscogee (Creek) and Ojibwe tribes. This book celebrates the power of community and the importance of honoring one's heritage.
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard : Celebrate the traditions and resilience of Native American families through the story of fry bread, exploring the cultural significance of this beloved food and the diverse experiences within Native communities.
  • Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, Erwin Printup Jr. : Chief Jake Swamp and Erwin Printup Jr. present a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) good morning message that expresses gratitude for all aspects of the natural world. This book encourages readers to appreciate the beauty of nature and the blessings it brings.

In this post, we revisited the importance of children's literature as a powerful tool for introducing young readers to the diverse and rich heritage of Native American culture. We explored books grouped into categories designed to offer a comprehensive understanding, from interactive books to biographical stories and traditional folktales. Each category holds immense educational value, designed to engage young readers and create a well-rounded perspective of Native American history and traditions.

Reading and engaging with these curated books have the potential to significantly shape a child's understanding of diversity and inclusion. These narratives do more than just tell a story; they encourage respect and appreciation for a culture that has immensely contributed to the world we know today. These tales, characters, and settings can inspire children to further explore and appreciate the beauty of diversity.

As we wrap up, we would like to emphasize the crucial role of cultural education in shaping our younger generation's mindset. Let these books be a starting point in your child's journey of exploring and understanding the world's many vibrant cultures. By fostering a deep sense of respect and appreciation for cultural diversity, we guide them towards becoming responsible global citizens. Here's to the joy of learning, the power of understanding, and the beauty of diversity!

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Rabbit Trails Homeschool

picture books native american

20 Picture Books About Native Americans

Learning about Native Americans is important for many reasons. Not only do we get to learn about those that have come before us, but it’s important to learn about Native Americans throughout history through a lense of what really happened, not just the happy stories that are in many of our textbooks. This list of 20 picture books about Native Americans will take you through the different regions of the United States, plus some extras that shouldn’t be missed. Let’s dig in to some of these beautiful books together!

20 Picture Books About Native Americans. 20 of the best picture books about Native Americans. Picture Books about Native American Tribes. #picturebooks #booklist #nativeamericans

Books about the Northwest Native Americans

Raven: a trickster tale from the pacific northwest by gerald mcdermott.

picture books native american

I love this tale. As Raven flies around looking for where the light went, he finds it shining from the Sky Chief’s house. As he watches his daughter, Raven forms a plan. Read on to find out what happens to Raven and see if he can to steal the light.

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

picture books native american

A Kulu is a term of endearment the Inuits use when talking about their babies and young children. The amazing illustrations show different animals from the Arctic. This poem makes the best bedtime story. This is a great gift for families with newborns.

The Owl and the Two Rabbits by Nadia Sammurtok

picture books native american

In this traditional Inuit story, two rabbits disobey their parents and decide to play on the open tundra. It didn’t take long for trouble to find them in the form of a very hungry owl. The sisters must act quickly. 

Books About the Southwest Native Americans

Arrow to the sun: a pueblo indian tale by gerald mcdermott.

picture books native american

Gerald McDermott’s illustrations fit this book perfectly. The Pueblo Indian art not only shares the story but also helps showcase this unique art.  In this ancient legend, a young boy searches for his father. He is sent to the sun by the arrow maker and must pass through four ceremonial chambers to prove himself. You can find this book and learn more about the Pueblo Indians in Rabbit Trails through Literature: Volume 1.

Dragonfly’s Tale by Nancy Bo Flood

picture books native american

After an abundant harvest, the elders decided to have a mock battle where their weapons would be made of food. The Corn Maidens watched with heavy hearts and decided to take away the harvest and a famine began. The Ashiwi people must leave to find food but accidentally leave two children behind. The oldest child makes a dragonfly from corn stalks. This dragonfly turns into the miracle the children need to survive. 

How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend by Jerrie Oughton

picture books native american

In this Navajo legend, First Woman tries to write the laws of the land with stars in the sky. Coyote inquires about what the First Woman is doing. He wants to help but doesn’t like that it is taking so long. He decides to get the job done as quickly as he can. 

Books About the Plains Native Americans

The girl who loved wild horses by paul goble.

picture books native american

I love all of Paul Goble’s books. He does such an amazing job telling the stories of the Plains tribes. This story is about a girl who loved horses. She was completely devoted to caring for them and understood them better than others. In the end, she eventually becomes one of the wild horses and gets to run free forever. You can learn more about the Plains Indians in Rabbit Trails through Literature: Volume 2.

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

picture books native american

If I find a Tomie dePaola book while working on Rabbit Trails lessons, I try my hardest to find where I can fit it in. A young boy has a Dream-Vision that revealed that he will “paint a picture that is as pure as the colors in the evening sky.” As he grew, he painted many pictures, but couldn’t capture the sunset. Read on to find out what happens in the end.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard

picture books native american

Yum! Fry bread! In this story, the author uses great adjectives so we can experience fry bread with all of our senses. He also shows us how important not just eating fry bread is to his family and many different native tribes. Make sure to try out the recipe at the back of the book.

Picture Books About the Southeast Native Americans

The first strawberries by joseph bruchac.

picture books native american

Joseph Bruchac has many beautiful books that share many Native American legends. In this Cherokee legend, a man and woman quarrel. The woman leaves in anger. The man tried to catch up with her, but she was too quick. The Sun saw how sorry the man was and attempted to slow down the woman. Read on to find out what Sun does to help. Learn more about the Cherokee tribe with this book and more in Rabbit Trails through Literature: Volume 3. 

The First Fire: A Cherokee Story by Brad Wagnon

picture books native american

This book gives us a glimpse into the beliefs of the Cherokee tribe. The animals needed a source of heat at night. Great Thunder sends some lightning and it starts a fire in a sycamore tree on an island. The animals all take turns to try to bring the first across the water. Which animal do you think will be successful?

Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale by Greg Rodgers

picture books native american

Chukfi Rabbit does whatever he can to avoid work. Are you like him? He tells his friends that he is too busy to help build a new house for Ms. Possum. When he finds out there will be a feast of delicious foods once the house is built, he makes a plan. He helps himself to some of the homemade butter while the other animals work. What happens to Chukfi Rabbit? 

Picture Books About the Northeast Native Americans

Hiawatha and the peacemaker by robbie robertson.

picture books native american

A Mohawk warrior, Hiawatha, lost everything and is consumed with anger. He is greeted by a spiritual guide, the Peacemaker. The Peacemaker shares the Great Law and says that the warring nations need to find peace to save themselves. Hiawatha travels with Peacemaker to share the message with all the tribes. Enjoy this beautiful story and illustrations as you find out how Hiawatha’s travels end.

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp

picture books native american

Chief Jake Swamp adapts this beautiful message just for children. This is the way the Mohawk children were taught to give thanks to Mother Earth each day. This message shows their belief that the world is a precious and rare gift.  

When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger

picture books native american

I absolutely love how this book shows what life was like for a Lenape Indian girl’s family and her ancestors. As you read the story, which is based on what is happening now, you also get to see this same task happening in the past. It shows the importance of being with family and carrying on traditions. 

Even More Picture Books About Native Americans

Between earth & sky: legends of native american sacred places by joseph bruchac.

picture books native american

The paintings are beautiful in this book. We learn about sacred places for many different tribes through poetry. Enjoy learning about these sacred places. You can learn more about Native Americans in Rabbit Trails through History: Early Settlers.

Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native America by Joseph Bruchac

picture books native american

We get to see and learn about 26 different Native American tribes. It is a great book to introduce your children to the different tribes. The illustrations help us to picture what each tribe wore or what they lived in. 

The People Shall Continue by Simon J Ortiz

picture books native american

We learn about the history of Native Americans through their eyes with this book. Many times when we study history, we only learn about one side of the story. It’s always important to listen to all sides, when possible. You can learn more about how the Native Americans were affected by the Removal of Natives Act in Rabbit Trails through History: Westward Expansion . 

This Land Is My Land by George Littlechild

picture books native american

Here’s another book to share with your children about how the Native Americans were affected by the explorers. He shares their struggles and triumphs during this difficult time. 

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell

picture books native american

Despite everything that happened, Native Americans can say, “We are still here!” This is definitely a hard book to read and hear all the things that the white people did to the Natives. Even though it’s hard to hear, it’s still important to read this book. 

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What Books Would You Add?

There are 20 picture books about Native Americans for you to read to your children! What books would you add to the list? Let us know down in the comments or over in our online homeschool community.

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picture books native american

Whether you are a media specialist seeking excellent additions to your collection or titles to recommend, or an educator seeking gold for both remote and in-person learning, you’ll find plenty of options here, with accurate and authentic books by and about Native Americans and First Nations people.

Our world is experiencing a social and political reckoning. In such turbulent times, literature can serve as a tool of enlightenment and escape. Whether you are a media specialist seeking excellent additions to your collection or titles to recommend, or an educator seeking gold for both remote and in-person learning, you’ll find plenty of options here. Most importantly, the accurate and authentic books here are by and about Native Americans and First Nations people.

According to a Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 infographic , one percent of books published in the United States and Canada in 2018 had content about, or depicted characters with, Native American/First Nations backgrounds. Of that one percent , 40 books were by Native American/First Nations people and 56 were about Native American/First Nations people. This data does not reflect the quality of those representations, only quantity. Many of the books published each year about Indigenous people contain misrepresentations of Native people and cultures. While the number of books by Native American/First Nations authors released by U.S. and Canadian publishers has slowly increased over the past decade, with this past year signaling perhaps a watershed moment, there is a long way to go.

In-person, remote, and hybrid instructional models this year will all yield even less actual teaching time than previous years. To maximize time with students, the titles we use must meet high standard: They must serve as instructional resources, they must be accurate and authentic, and they must be engaging enough to return to time and again as mentor texts.

The featured picture books, board books, and graphic novel are for all ages. These titles showcase beautiful language and a higher vocabulary, and can be used with multiple levels of readers. They also explore prevalent themes and important concepts, which can be used across subject areas.

Additionally, these books transcend standards for pre-K–12 learning. They can be used in reading, writing, and language instruction. Some are appropriate for social studies and even science. They can also serve as mentor texts and touchstones, which provide continuity for students while saving instructional time by using familiar books. The best part? They will ignite curiosity and keep readers engaged.  

Picture Books for All Ages

CHILD, Brenda J. Bowwow Powwow. illus by Jonathan Thunder. tr. from Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain. Minnesota Historical Society. 2018. ISBN 9781681340777. Gr 2-4 –This recipient of the 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award for Picture Books is an Ojibwe dual-language celebration of “the history of Ojibwe song and dance, past and present,” according to the author’s note. Intriguing illustrations that blend historical with contemporary powwows depict Windy Girl, her uncle, and her dog Itchy Boy dancing, enjoying food, and bonding with friends at a summer powwow. Windy Girl falls asleep that night and dreams of a different powwow, the kind Itchy Boy would love.

FLETT, Julie. Birdsong . illus. by author. Grey­stone Kids. 2019. ISBN 9781771644730. Gr 2-7 –Set against the backdrop of the four seasons and sprinkled with Cree words, this gorgeous tale—and 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Honor Award winner for Picture Books—follows young Katherena as she and her mother move from the city to the country, and as she and Agnes, her elderly neighbor, forge an unusual friendship. How Katherena deals with Agnes’s health is just one of the lessons she learns throughout the year.  

LINDSTROM, Carole. We Are Water Protectors . illus. by Michaela Goade. Roaring Brook. Mar. 2020. ISBN 9781250203557. Gr 2-4 –This multilayered picture book was written in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. It can be used on a surface level with younger children and on a deeper, more informed level with older students. The author’s and illustrator’s notes provide valuable information, and there is a pledge children can sign to protect the environment.

MAILLARD, Kevin Noble. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story . illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Roaring Brook. 2019. ISBN 9781626727465. Gr K-4 –Fry bread is so much more than a food! It is shape, sound, color, flavor, time with family, and tradition. Weaving history and the strength of Native people into the story of fry bread, this picture book showcases Indigenous diversity of appearance and nation. Don’t miss the author’s note and recipe in the back.

picture books native american

ROBERTSON, Joanne. The Water Walker . illus. by author. tr. from Ojibwe by the author. Second Story. 2019. ISBN 9781772601008. Gr 3-8 –This is the new dual-language edition of the story of Josephine Mandamin, an Ojibwe grandmother, and the Water Walkers, who walked around the Great Lakes to raise awareness of the need to protect the water. With contemporary references and illustrations, Robertson creates a call to action for environmental issues.

SORRELL, Traci. At the Mountain’s Base. illus. by Weshoyot Alvitre. Penguin/Kokila. 2019. ISBN 9780735230606. Gr K-5 –Native American women and men have served at high rates in all branches of the military. A 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Honor Award winner for Picture Books, this lovely poem is a tribute to them and their loved ones back at home. Glimpses of daily life through the lens of a World War II pilot and a fictional Cherokee Nation family illuminate this era in history.

VAN CAMP, Richard. Kiss by Kiss. illus. by author. Orca. 2018. ISBN 9781459816213. Gr PreS-K –This delightful rhyming counting book in Cree and English will have the youngest learners asking for it over and over. Beautiful close-up photography of faces will entrance, while the rhythmic words will pull kids in.

VAN CAMP, Richard. Welcome Song for Baby. illus. by author. Orca. 2018. ISBN 9781459820104. Gr PreS-K –This dual-language book is a poem, a lullaby, a declaration, and a pledge to every child reader. Lyrical language describes the value of each child, each identity, while exquisite photos capture the diverse beauty of babies and adults.

VANDEVER, Daniel W. Fall in Line, Holden! illus. by author. Salina Bookshelf. 2017. ISBN 9781893354500. Gr K-12 –This is one of those rare, multilayered picture books that can be used with all ages of students, from the tiniest readers to high schoolers. On the surface, younger readers will delight in the imaginative Holden’s impatience for recess and difficulty standing still in line. But the text serves as an allegorical tool to open discussions of Native boarding schools, a “grim period in American history.” From the first paragraph to illustrations of mouthless students, this book is a treasure complex enough for secondary students and accessible and engaging for primary students.

Graphic Novel

AKULUKJUK, Roselynn & Danny Christopher. Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupalik! illus. by Astrid Arijanto. Inhabit Media. 2019. ISBN 9781772272284. Gr 1-3 –This graphic novel for newly independent readers will have students in stitches as Putuguq’s imagination runs away with him. He and his big sister, Kublu, listen to their grandfather’s story of the qalupaliit—strange creatures that live under the sea ice and snatch children. Grandpa tells them to be extra careful on their way and listen to the sea ice. Told with humor, modern-day relevance, and traditional story-within-a-story structure, this gem uses an attractive graphic novel format to show a grandfather’s care to keep children safe and aware as they cross the ice.

Kara Stewart, an enrolled member of the Sappony Tribe, is a literacy coach and reading specialist in the public schools of Orange County, NC.

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Cynthia Leitich Smith

  • Books for Kids
  • Books for Young Adults

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Official Author Site

Native american authors and illustrators: picture books.

picture books native american

This bibliography is drawn from books published between 1995 and 2020. While award-winners and bestsellers are included, part of the goal is to feature underappreciated gems. SEE ALSO Ongoing Coverage of Native Books at Cynsations ,  Home and Classroom Teaching: Native American Children’s Teens’ Books & Resources , and  Native American Children’s and Young Adult Book Bibliographies and Educator Resources .

traditional stories within contemporary

picture books native american

stand-alone stories

picture books native american

AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva/Scots-Gaelic)(Kokila, 2019). A Cherokee family waits and prays for the return of their loved one, a woman military pilot, to return home from war. Ages 4-up. More  and more on this title from Cynsations.

BIRDSONG by Julie Flett  (Cree-Métis)(Greystone Kids, 2019). An intergenerational tale of friendship and changing seasons. Ages 4-up.

picture books native american

A BOY CALLED SLOW by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), illustrated by Rocco Baviera (Philomel, 1995). A look at the boyhood of a young Lakota who grows into Sitting Bull, a medicine man and chief. Ages 4-up.

CIRCLE OF WONDER: A NATIVE AMERICAN CHRISTMAS STORY by N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)(Clear Light, 1993). Inspired by the author’s first childhood Christmas in Jemez Pueblo, this is the story of Tolo, a boy who follows a man who seems to be his late grandfather. Ages 5-up.

picture books native american

THE GOOD LUCK CAT by Joy Harjo (Muscogee) and illustrated by Paul Lee (Harcourt, 2000). Aunt Shelly says that Woogie is a good luck cat. As he survives one scrape after another, her analysis seems to be right on target. But one day when he doesn’t come home, we wonder if this good luck cat’s ninth life has run out. This is a delightful look at the daily life friendship between a cat and a young girl. Ages 4-up.

GRANDMOTHER’S PIGEON by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), illustrated by Jim La Marche (Hyperion, 1996). Grandmother has caught a ride to Greenland on the back of a porpoise, and what’s more, a nest of birds has hatched in her bedroom. Where did they come from? Ages 4-up.

picture books native american

JINGLE DANCER  by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperChildren’s, 2000)( Heartdrum , 2021). Jenna, a Muscogee girl, wants to jingle dance at the upcoming powwow. With time running short, she seeks the assistance of women of her contemporary intertribal community in bringing together her regalia. A story of reciprocity and respect. Ages 4-up.

picture books native american

JOSIE DANCES by Denise Lajimodiere (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), illustrated by Angela Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) (Minnesota Historical Society, 2021). An Ojibwe girl practices her dance steps, gets help from her family, and is inspired by the soaring flight of Migizi, the eagle, as she prepares for her first powwow.

LESS THAN HALF, MORE THAN WHOLE by Kathleen Lacapa (Mohawk-English-Irish) and Michael Lacapa (Apache-Hopi-Tewa), who also is the illustrator (Northland, 1994). When Will calls Tony “only half, or less than half Indian,” Tony tries to figure out what that means. With TaTda’s (Grandfather’s) help, Tony realizes that, like the Creator’s gift of corn, he is whole. Ages 4-up.

picture books native american

ON THE TRAPLINE by David A. Robertson (Norway House Cree), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis)(Tundra Books, 2021). A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up.

POWWOW SUMMER: A FAMILY CELEBRATES THE CIRCLE OF LIFE by Marcie Rendon (White Earth Ojibwe), photographs by Cheryl Walsh Bellville (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003). A nonfiction photo essay; makes a terrific companion book to JINGLE DANCER .

THE RANGE ETERNAL by Louise Erdrich (Ojibwe), illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (University of Minnesota Press, 2020). A story of hearth and home, of memory and imagination, of childhood recaptured in the reflection of a shiny blue woodstove, of the warm heart of family. Ages 4-up.

SHAPED BY HER HANDS: POTTER MARIA MARTINEZ by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo), illustrated by Aphelandra (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin descendant) (Albert Whitman & Company, 2021). Picture book biography of renowned potter, Maria Martinez, who discovered a firing technique to create black-on-black pottery. Maria’s pottery became world famous and prized by collectors. Ages 4-up.

SKYSISTERS by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Ojibwe), illustrated by Brian Deines (Kids Can, 2000). Big sister Allie and little sister Alex bundle up, venture into the night, encounter a deer, dance beneath the stars, and watch the northern lights. Ages 5-up.

SONGS OF SHIPROCK FAIR by Luci Tapahonso (Navajo), illustrated by Anthony Chee Emerson (Navajo)(Kiva, 1999). All the joy, excitement, family love and creativity of the fair brought to life. Ages 5-up.

picture books native american

A WALK TO THE GREAT MYSTERY by Virginia A. Stroud (Cherokee-Muscogee Creek)(Dial, 1995). Dustin and Rosie take a walk with their Grandma Ann, a Cherokee medicine woman, and gain insight into the Great Mystery. Ages 5-up.

picture books native american

WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge, 2018). A year-round celebration of the Cherokee concept, celebrations and experiences of gratitude. Ages 4-up. More on this title from Cynsations. Look for Traci Sorell’s first picture book biography CLASSIFIED: THE SECRET CAREER OF MARY GOLDA ROSS, CHEROKEE AEROSPACE ENGINEER, illustrated by Natasha Donovan (Métis) (Millbrook, 2021).

WE ARE STILL HERE! NATIVE AMERICAN TRUTHS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge, 2021). Twelve Native American kids present historical and contemporary laws, policies, struggles, and victories in Native life. Topics include forced assimilation, relocation,  Native civil rights, religious freedom, economic development, Native language revival efforts, cultural persistence, and nationhood. Ages 4-up.

picture books native american

WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinaabe/Métis), illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit)(Roaring Brook, 2020). Native people come together to protect the Earth from environmental destruction. A gorgeously illustrated, beautifully written rallying cry. Ages 4-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR MOCCASINS by Bernelda Wheeler (Cree-Saulteaux-Scottish-French) and illustrated by Herman Bekkering (Peguis Publishers (now Portage & Main Press), 1982). Introduces the balance of traditionalism and contemporary life to very young children. Ages 3-up.

WHERE WONDER GROWS by Xelena González (Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan), illustrated by Adriana M Garcia (Cinco Puntos Press, 2021). Granddaughters gather around their grandmother as she points them to the wonders in her marvelous garden. Ages 4-up.

songs and traditional stories

CAN YOU HEAR WIND SING YOUR NAME? AN ONEIDA SONG OF SPRING by Sandra De Coteau Orie (Oneida) and illustrated by Christopher Canyon (Cherokee)(Walker, 1995). Exquisite paintings compliment this celebration of the circle of life and the connection between Oneida people and the natural world. Author’s note useful for curriculum and cross-cultural insight. Ages 3-up.

picture books native american

THE MUD PONY retold by Caron Lee Cohen and illustrated by Shonto Begay (Navajo)(Scholastic, 1992). Mother Earth brings to life a pony made of mud. Ages 5-up.

illustrated nonfiction

A KID’S GUIDE TO NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY: MORE THAN 50 ACTIVITIES by Yvonne Wakim Dennis (Cherokee) and Arlene Hirschfelder (Chicago Review Press, 2009). From the promotional copy: “Hands-on activities, games, and crafts introduce children to the diversity of Native American cultures and teach them about the people, experiences, and events that have helped shape America, past and present.”

THIS LAND IS MY LAND by George Littlechild (Plains Cree) (Children’s Book Press, 1993). In a collection of short essays, Littlechild offers insights into Native identity, history, and culture which compliment his internationally acclaimed art. Ages 7-up.

THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE by Simon Ortiz (Acoma) and illustrated by Sharol Graves (Children’s Book Press, 1998).For all of its poetry and brevity, this oral chronicle of the history of Native peoples to present day is honest, inspiring, and surprisingly complete. Ages 5-up. Look for the 40th anniversary edition from Lee & Low.

picture books native american

SHAPED BY HER HANDS: POTTER MARIA MARTINEZ by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo), illustrated by Aphelandra (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin descendant) (Albert Whitman & Company, 2021). Picture book biography of renowned potter, Maria Martinez, who discovered a firing technique to create black-on-black pottery. Maria’s pottery became world famous and prized as collector’s items. Ages 4-up.

picture books native american

TALLCHIEF: AMERICA’S PRIMA BALLERINA by Maria Tallchief (Osage) with Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Gary Kelly (Viking, 1999). This picture book autobiography looks at the early life of an outstanding ballet dancer. Ages 5-up.

hybrid (fiction/nonfiction)

picture books native american

photo essays

picture books native american

DRUMBEAT HEARTBEAT: A CELEBRATION OF POWWOW (WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) written and photographed by Susan Braine (Ansiniboine, Fort Peck Reservation), illustrations by Carly Bordeau (Anishinabe, White Earth, Minnesota)(Lerner, 1995). A detailed overview of the powwow and its traditions. Ages 5-up.

FOUR SEASONS OF CORN: A WINNEBAGO TRADITION (WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Sally M. Hunter (Ojibwe) with photographs by Joe Allen (Lerner, 1996). Hunter’s husband and children are members of the Hochunk Eagle Clan. Russell, who lives in Minneapolis travels to a farm with his family to help plant and later harvest and enjoy corn. Includes recipe for Indian corn soup, glossaries. Ages 5-up.

GRANDCHILDREN OF THE LAKOTA by LaVera Rose (Rosebud Sioux) with photographs by Cheryl Walsh Bellville (Carolrhoda, 1998). A personal overview of her people by a talented author with a voice echoing oral tradition.Touches on Lakota diversity, history, economics, culture, government, families, children, education, lifestyles, and more. Includes a pronunciation guide. Ages 5-up.

picture books native american

KINAADLDA: A NAVAJO GIRL GROWS UP (WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Monty Roessel (Navajo) (Lerner, 1993). Celinda McKelvey completes the coming-of-age ceremony for Navajo girls. Ages 5-up.

THE SACRED HARVEST: OJIBWAY WILD RICE GATHERING (WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Gordon Regguinti (Leech Lake Band Ojibway) with photographs by Dale Kakkak (Menominee) and a forward by Michael Dorris (Modoc) (Lerner, 1992). Ages 5-up.

picture books native american

SONGS FROM THE LOOM: A NAVAJO GIRL LEARNS TO WEAVE (WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Monty Roessel (Navajo)(Lerner, 1995). Although this list reflects many exquisitely photographed books, this one stands out. The subject matter lends itself to beauty, and the close look at tradition to warmth. Centered on photographer’s daughter Jaclyn. Ages 5-up.

picture books native american

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Imagination Soup

20 Exceptional Middle Grade Indigenous and Native American Books for Kids

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Indigenous and Native American Heritage Month reminds us of the importance of reading Native American children’s books to learn and celebrate the culture, contributions, history, and traditions of American Indians and Indigenous groups from the United States and Canada.

The National American Indian Heritage Month in November began in 1990. Only recently has the world of children’s literature caught up with the importance of publishing and reading Native voices and stories.

In fact, Harper Collins recently launched the  Heartdrum Imprint ! Heartdrum publishes children’s books that “ emphasize the present and future of Indian Country and the strength of young Indigenous heroes. “

Use this list to share amazing, inclusive middle grade books and a few YA Native American books with your kids and students; books that represent indigenous voices and indigenous heroic main characters.

Native American books

If you’re looking for picture books with Native American characters,  go here .

Visit Pragmatic Mom for more resources  to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

Native American Books for Kids

Middle grade (ages 8 – 12).

Indigenous / Native American Heritage Month Books for Kids

Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga  by David A. Robertson Foster kids with Indigenous heritage, Morgan and Eli, discover a portal in the attic leading to a magical world of Cree language and mythology.  It’s a world with talking animals who walk on two legs who need their help. Ochek, the Fischer, asks the kids to end the starving community’s forever winter by finding the human man who stole all the birds and, with them, summer. Their dangerous quest triggers Morgan’s memories of her mother and a new perspective about who she is. The children travel far with their new friends and experience danger and trials in order to save this beautiful world. Amazon Bookshop

picture books native american

Race to the Sun  by Rebecca Roanhorse The compelling, well-written middle grade book jumps into action immediately when  Nizhoni, from the Diné (Navajo) people, sees a monster (disguised as a human) at her basketball game.  Making matters worse, it’s her dad’s new boss who kidnaps her dad and wants her little brother, too. She escapes with her brother and best friend to ask the Spider Woman for help, learning that she and her brothers are the descendants of the Hero Twins. Her journey challenges her with heroic trials in order to meet the Sun who will give her weapons to fight the monsters and culminating in a fierce battle between the good guys and the monsters. I LOVED this story — it’s a fast-paced hero’s journey with a rich, diverse mythology. Amazon Bookshop

picture books native american

I Can Make This Promise  by Christine Day This book skillfully weaves an important,  heartfelt story about growing up, family, and finding your identity in the context of adoption, historical maltreatment of Native Americans, and the mystery of your own heritage.  Edie’s mom is an adopted Native American who can’t trace her heritage. When Edie unexpectedly finds a box of photos and letters from the woman she suspects was her mom’s birth mother, it prompts a journey to discover the truth of her heritage. And the truth is not what she expects but it opens her eyes (and ours) to the unjust but common practices that happened throughout U.S. history of taking Native kids away from their birth parents; parents whose only crime was being Native. Amazon Bookshop

picture books native american

No Place Like Home by James Bird I love the character development, the vivid details, and the incredibly strong narrative voice in this story about homelessness, the challenges of getting out of poverty, an Ojibwe perspective and culture about the systemic oppression of Native people, growing up, family, and the love of a dog. Based on James’ childhood, Opin is a sweet, hopeful boy who lives with his mom and his older brother in their car, traveling from city to city. He adores his mother, but he’s scared of his angry, violent older brother, who comes and goes as he pleases. When Opin finds a hurt dog, the love of a dog fills a void for Opin, until his brother takes it away. Despite the challenges of their life, there is beauty and joy threaded through this compelling story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page. *Sensitive readers, there are a few swear words. Amazon

picture books native american

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse  by Joseph Marshall III, illustrated by James Mark Yellowhawk Jimmy McClean’s grandfather takes him on a road trip where he shares the stories of Crazy Horse’s life and battles up to his death.  The duo travel from the Dakotas (home of the Lakota) to Wyoming and other places significant to Crazy Horse. The result teaches readers a sobering true history and is one that will stay with you long after you’re done reading this book. Amazon Bookshop

picture books native american

The Star that Always Stays  by Anna Rose Johnson This is a rich coming-of-age historical fiction story set around the first World War about an introspective girl dealing with racism, prejudice, and knowing herself.  Norvia struggles with other people’s disdain for her family because of her divorced mother, and she’s hiding that she’s half Ojibwe. Her Uncle Virgil helps Norvia see that changes always happen and she can decide how to respond to those changes. The characters hold Christian beliefs and share Bible verses to encourage each other. Her blended, loving family helps Norvia embrace her full self and live honestly with courage as a Native girl with big dreams. Amazon Bookshop

picture books native american

YA Native American Books Month (ages 13+)

picture books native american

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Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, former teacher & literacy trainer, and freelance education writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Penguin Random House's Brightly website, USA Today Health, Adobe Education, Colorado Parent, and Parenting. She is passionate about matching kids with books that they'll love.

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Native American and Indigenous Children's Books

Books that celebrate Native American and Indigenous heritage and stories.

Board Books

Picture books, elementary fiction, elementary/middle grade nonfiction.

A book list for older kids:  Middle Grade and YA Titles

Cover of We Are Grateful: Otsalihel

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

The word "otsaliheliga" (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. This picture book chronicles a full year of Cherokee celebrations and experiences.

Cover of I Can See You

I Can See You

In this adorable book to be shared with babies and toddlers, mothers explore their love for their babies as experienced through the five senses. From the sound of a baby's giggles to the smell of a kunik, this book celebrates the unique bonds shared between mothers and babies.

Cover of Cradle Me

The rich Native American tradition of carrying babies safely, comfortably and close to their mothers in cradle boards endures to this day. Cradle Me celebrates Native American families and shows how they carry their babies.

Kiss by Kiss / Little You / May We Have Enough to Share

Board books for babies and toddlers that celebrates every child and the joy babies bring into the world.

Cover of  Mi'kmaw Daily Drum: Mi'km

Mi'kmaw Daily Drum: Mi'kmaw Culture for Every Day of the Week

Mi'kmaq artist Alan Syliboy's daily drum artworks paired with a different day of the week in an accessible and beautiful baby board book.

Cover of Sweetest Kulu

Sweetest Kulu

This beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic.

Cover of Remember

Picture book adaptation of US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo's iconic poem, Remember.

Cover of Rock Your Mocs

Rock Your Mocs

This picture book by Laurel Goodluck (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Tsimshian) and illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw) is a joyful and colorful introduction to the annual celebration of Rock Your Mocs DayNovember 15because moccasins and Native pride shouldn't be saved just for ceremonies and powwows but celebrated all year round!

Cover of Just like grandma

Just like grandma

Becca loves spending time with Grandma. Every time Becca says, "Let me try," Grandma shows her how to make something beautiful. Whether they are beading moccasins, dancing like the most beautiful butterflies, or practicing basketball together, Becca knows that, more than anything, she wants to be just like Grandma. And as the two share their favorite activities, Becca discovers something surprising about Grandma.

Cover of My powerful hair

My powerful hair

After generations of short hair in her family, a little girl celebrates growing her hair long to connect to her culture and honor the strength and resilience of those who came before her.

Cover of What your ribbon skirt mea

What your ribbon skirt means to me

A picture book homage to community and contemporary Native pride-intimately set in the comfort of an urban Native community center that is celebrating the inauguration of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior on March 18, 2021.

Cover of Berry Song

On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea, a girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth. Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries. Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry. Huckleberry, Snowberry, Strawberry, Crowberry. Through the seasons, they sing to the land as the land sings to them. Brimming with joy and gratitude, in every step of their journey, they forge a deeper kinship with both the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all. Michaela Goade's luminous rendering of water and forest, berries and jams glows with her love of the land and offers an invitation to readers to deepen their own relationship with the earth.

Cover of Where Wonder Grows

Where Wonder Grows

Three girls follow their grandmother into her garden, where they examine her collection of rocks, crystals, shells, and meteorites and learn about the marvels they reveal.

Cover of Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun's

Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun's Thanksgiving Story

Wampanoag children listen as their grandmother tells them the story about how Weeâchumun (the wise Corn) asked local Native Americans to show the Pilgrims how to grow food to yield a good harvest--Keepunumuk--in 1621.

Cover of Powwow Day

Because she has been very ill and weak, River cannot join in the dancing at this year's tribal powwow, she can only watch from the sidelines as her sisters and cousins dance the celebration--but as the drum beats she finds the faith to believe that she will recover and dance again.

Cover of Hiawatha and the Peacemake

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

Hiawatha, a Mohawk, is plotting revenge for the murder of his wife and daughters by the evil Onondaga Chief, Tadodaho, when he meets the Great Peacemaker, who enlists his help in bringing the nations together to share his vision of a new way of life marked by peace, love, and unity rather than war, hate, and fear. 

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I Am Not a Number

When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from. When she goes home for the summer, her parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. What will happen when they disobey the law?

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Jo Jo Makoons: Fancy Pants

Filled with lots of glitter, raised pinkies, and humorous misunderstandings, this second book in the Jo Jo Makoons series is filled with the joy of a young Ojibwe girl discovering her very own special shine from the inside out. First grader Jo Jo Makoons knows how to do a lot of things, like how to play jump rope, how to hide her peas in her milk, and how to be helpful in her classroom. But there's one thing Jo Jo doesn't know how to do: be fancy. She has a lot to learn before her Aunt Annie's wedding! Favorite purple unicorn notebook in hand, Jo Jo starts exploring her Ojibwe community to find ways to be fancy.

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Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer

An eleven-year-old girl sets out to prove that the deceased Elvis Presley is in fact alive and her neighbor, while finding sanctuary with a Salish woman over her neglectful mother.

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Sisters of the Neversea

In this magical, modern twist on Peter Pan, stepsisters Lily and Wendy are spirited away to Neverland by a mysterious boy and must find a way back to the family they love.

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The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories

Loup Garrou, trickster rabbits, and spirits with names that can't be spoken--the plains and forests of North America are alive with characters like these, all waiting to meet you in this collection of folklore retold in comics!

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Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

Mary Golda Ross designed classified projects for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as the company's first female engineer. Find out how her passion for math and the Cherokee values she was raised with shaped her life and work.

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The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

Fifteen thousand years before Europeans stepped foot in the Americas, people had already spread from tip to tip and coast to coast. Like all humans, these Native Americans sought to understand their place in the universe, the nature of their relationship with the divine, and the origin of the world into which their ancestors had emerged. The answers lay in their sacred stories.

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Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock

At the age of eight, Aslan arrived in North Dakota to help stop a pipeline. A few months later he returned - and saw the whole world watching. Read about his inspiring experiences in the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. Learn about what exactly happened there, and why.

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We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know

A group of Native American kids from different tribes presents twelve historical and contemporary time periods, struggles, and victories to their classmates, each ending with a powerful refrain: We are still here!

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Finding My Dance

In her debut picture book, professional Indigenous dancer Ria Thundercloud tells the true story of her path to dance and how it helped her take pride in her Native American heritage.

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She Persisted: Wilma Mankiller

The descendant of Cherokee ancestors who had been forced to walk the Trail of Tears, Wilma Mankiller experienced her own forced removal from the land she grew up on as a child. As she got older and learned more about the injustices her people had faced, she dedicated her life to instilling pride in Native heritage and reclaiming Native rights. She went on to become the first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.  

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Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers From Past and Present

An accessible and educational illustrated book profiling 50 notable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, from NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Standing Rock Lakota to Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. Celebrate the lives, stories, and contributions of Indigenous artists, activists, scientists, athletes, and other changemakers in this illustrated collection. Also offers accessible primers on important Indigenous issues, from the legacy of colonialism and cultural appropriation to food sovereignty, land and water rights, and more. An indispensable read for people of all backgrounds seeking to learn about Native American heritage, histories, and cultures, Notable Native People will educate and inspire readers of all ages.

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Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples' Day is about celebrating! The second Monday in October is a day to honor Native American people, their histories, and cultures. People mark the day with food, dancing, and songs. Readers will discover how a shared holiday can have multiple traditions and be celebrated in all sorts of ways.

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She Persisted: Deb Haaland

Biography of the first Native American to become a cabinet secretary.

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Indigenous ingenuity

Corn. Chocolate. Fishing hooks. Boats that float. Insulated double-walled construction. Recorded history and folklore. Life-saving disinfectant. Forest fire management. Our lives would be unrecognizable without these, and countless other, scientific discoveries and technological inventions from Indigenous North Americans. Spanning topics from transportation to civil engineering, hunting technologies, astronomy, brain surgery, architecture, and agriculture, Indigenous Ingenuity is a wide-ranging STEM offering that answers the call for Indigenous nonfiction by reappropriating hidden history. The book includes fun, simple activities and experiments that kids can do to better understand and enjoy the principles used by Indigenous inventors. Readers of all ages are invited to celebrate traditional North American Indigenous innovation, and to embrace the mindset of reciprocity, environmental responsibility, and the interconnectedness of all life

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25 Picture Books to Honor Native American Heritage Month

August 1, 2022 //  by  Rachel White

Every November, we celebrate American Indian / Native American Heritage Month. It is also called Indigenous People Month. Whichever name you prefer, it is a month meant to share the stories of the American Indians, the people who were living in this country long before the white man ever set foot on this land.  These are the same people who later were forced to leave their land by the white man. This month is an opportunity to share their truths and the American Indian culture.

Here are twenty-five picture books you can use to introduce your children to the incredible American Indians.

1. In My Anaana's Amautik

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This sweet story takes us into the amautik - the pouch in the back of a mother's parka. We get to experience the world through the eyes of a baby nestled in his mother's pouch. This wonderful book will introduce your children to new perspectives and imagery.

Learn More:  Amazon

2. Thunder Boy Jr.

Thunder Boy Jr. wants his own name. His dad is Big Thunder and he is Little Thunder but he doesn't want to share names. He wants to be different. What can he do to earn a name for himself?

3. A River Ran Wild

Follow the history of the Nashua River in Massachusetts. Native Americans were the first to settle on the Nashua River, but over time, the river became polluted. Today, descendants of Native Americans and European settlers are teaming up to fight the pollution and bring life and beauty back to the Nashua River.

4. Brother Eagle, Sister Sky

The great North American Indian Chief Seattle once said that the Earth does not belong to us, but rather, we belong to the Earth. This book is filled with incredible illustrations that bring to life the beauty of nature and the land while honoring the people who once protected the land.

5. The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

This story follows a young Native American girl who was responsible for the care of her tribe's horses. The beautiful illustrations tell a sweet story of the friendship between girls and horses.

6. The Gift of the Sacred DogThe Gift of the Sacred Dog

After a young boy prays for help, he is approached by a man riding an unknown creature. He is told the creature is a sacred dog and will help the boy and his tribe.

7. The Boy and His Mud Horses

Paul Goble shares another beautifully illustrated book full of twenty-seven stories from Native American tribes such as the Pawnee, Blackfoot, and Lakota. Many of the stories in this book were first recorded in the 19th century.

8. When We Are Kind

Celebrate acts of kindness and explore the feelings behind giving and receiving kindness with this bilingual English/Navaho book. With incredible illustrations, this beautiful story is a great opportunity to encourage and challenge your children.

9. Sacred Song of the Hermit Thrush

This Native American legend from the Mohawks tells the story of how the hermit thrush got his song. Long ago, the Great Spirit promised a song to the highest flying bird so the Hermit Thrush jumped on the back of the eagle, and together they soared high above the rest. The Hermit Thrush was awarded the song and now hides away in the woods.

10. Dance of the Sacred Circle

A young boy goes on a journey to find the Great Chief in the Sky in this Blackfoot legend. The Great Chief is impressed by the boy's bravery and creates a creature to help the Blackfoot tribe.

11. Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun

In this Cherokee tale, the animals live in constant darkness. The animals devise a plan to steal a piece of the sun from the other side of the world. When the animals get stuck and can't figure out the solution, grandmother spider is the one to save the day.

12. Powwow Day

Cherokee author Traci Sorell shows the excitement and history of powwows in North America. When River is too sick to dance in the powwow, she feels sad and alone until her community comes together to cheer her up.

13. Josie Dances

Josie Dances is a beautiful coming-of-age story of a young Ojibwe girl who shares the process of preparing for a powwow. Josie is excited to dance in the powwow next summer but first must learn the dances and prepare her costume.

14. Sootface

This Cinderella retelling comes from the Ojibwe tribe. Two older sisters force their youngest sister to do all of their work. When she accidentally burns her skin and hair in a fire, they begin calling her Sootface. She dreams of a warrior whisking her away from her family, but when one finally shows up, she must compete with her sisters for his hand in marriage.

15. When the Shadbush Blooms

In this story, a young Lenape girl is learning about the traditions of honoring the seasons. The story is told from both Traditional Sister and Contemporary Sister in their own time period.

16. Encounter

This imaginative story depicts the first encounter of French explorer Jacques Cartier and a Stadaconan fisher. While they are focused on their differences, the animals around them are seeing all of their similarities. The story and illustrations were crafted by two Indigenous women.

17. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message

This good morning message is the children's version of the Thanksgiving Address. This Address is given still today at gatherings of the Iroquois people.

18. Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way

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Learn how the Lakotas start each morning with gratitude and celebration. The Lakota people appreciate every aspect of their surroundings and this book teaches its readers to do the same.

19. Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People

Take a look into the life of Lakota/Sioux chief, Sitting Bull. For over twenty-five years, Sitting Bull was able to resist the U.S. government and keep his people's land. This biographical picture book spans from his childhood to his surrender and everything in between.

20. Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present

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In this remarkably illustrated book, celebrate the true stories of fifty Native American men and women who made an impact on American culture. From sculptors, scientists, and athletes to linguists who revived the language of the Wampanoag people, this book shares the legacy of many.

21. The People Shall Continue

Recount the history of the Native and Indigenous peoples from North America. Learn the true story of invasion in their lands depicted in this beautiful narrative. This book is an excellent tool for raising antiracist children and showing them the true history of Native America.

22. We Are Still Here

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We Are Still Here is a 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Book and a 2022 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. This book recognizing the Native American history will prepare you in a new way for Native American Heritage Month. Twelve children address topics such as assimilation, termination, and relocation.

23. Treaty Words: For As Long As the River Flows

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This book takes a look at the indigenous culture and their views on treaties. Treaties have existed and been honored long before humans roamed the earth. Mishomis and his granddaughter discuss these treaties and the value of honoring them.

24. Turtle Island: The Story of North America's First People

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Travel back even further in time than just 1492. In this Native American myth, North and Central America were formed on a turtle's back. This book explores some of the ancient stories and legends dating back to the Ice Age.

25. What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal 

In this follow-up from Turtle Island, What the Eagle Sees is full of stories from the Indigenous peoples and tales of how they survived the invasion of their homelands.

12 Best Native American Picture Books (2023)

Best native american picture books, absolutely stunning.

When the time comes that ordinary writing gets tedious, monotonous, or plain boring, people turn to a variety of things. They might watch a movie, play a game of sorts, go out for a walk, a run, to the theatre, but if one doesn’t want to stray a lot from books, one can easily pick up a picture book.

It is by far easier to get through a picture book than an ordinary book, but the sense of gratification and the benefits are the same. As such, we would like you to take a look at our best Native American picture book reviews.

The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin

Looking for a spouse.

At the present moment, Rafe Martin resides in Rochester, New York. Rafe is a terrific author and his works never cease to amaze us. The 1998 novel The Rough-Face Girl is no exception and it was a collaboration with David Shannon.

A mighty being, an invisible one, is out and about trying to find a spouse. The prospective women of the local village are all competing against each other so that they may be chosen, but the trick is that only the girl that is able to see the being will be picked.

Special Ability

In spite of the attempts made by the pretty, yet bratty girls, it is Rough-Face-Girl that is picked by the being. Rough-Face-Girl is a girl with many a scar on her body, but also with the innate ability to see this invisible entity. One of the best-selling picture books about Native Americans.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a go-to author for many people in terms of picture books about Native Americans. Her best one, perhaps, is the 2000 novel Jingle Dancer which was illustrated with the help of Ying Hwa-Hu and Cornelius Van Wright.

Jingle Dancer follows the main character named Jenna. The heart of Jenna is one that jumps up on the rhythm of the drum while her mind is transported by the jingle dancing of her grandmother.

Missing Jingles

The women in Jenna’s family had been brilliant jingle dancers for a number of generations, with Jenna wanting to be the next one. However, there’s one thing that bothers her very much and it is her dress that is missing jingles. How can she be a dancer if her dress doesn’t jingle? The illustrations here are top-notch and we urge the reader to pick this book up.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble

Masterpiece.

Born and raised in England, Paul Goble is a fine novelist and one that we pride ourselves on when we say that we are his fans. One of his works that we think definitely belongs on any list of the good Native American books with pictures is the 1978 book The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses.

Lost in the Mountains

The illustrations in this book are brilliant, vivid, and just a sight to behold. The story is about a Native American girl that has found herself lost amid the mountains while a raging storm is scarring the plain. A stallion, by chance, comes by the girl and the two of them become friends immediately. Soon, though, their friendship is put to the test when the girl needs to choose whether to go back home or to go with it.

Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle

Tim Tingle is a wonderful writer and an easy pick for our list of the most popular Native American picture books. His 2006 novel Crossing Bok Chito is one of our favorites and it was illustrated by the masterful Jeanne Rorex Bridges. Perfect example of Native American children’s book .

The novel follows Martha Tom, who is a young girl of the Choctaw. Bok Chito is a perilous journey to undertake for any mighty man, but one day Martha finds herself there while trying to find some blackberries. A slave comes by Martha Tom and soon the two form a bond. Martha meets the slave’s family, too. However, trouble arises when the mother is to be sold, so that Martha Tom is faced with a decision that might just change everyone’s lives.

Saltypie by Tim Tingle

Story of a family.

Tim Tingle finds himself on our list of the best-rated Native American picture novels once more with his 2010 entry titled Saltypie. The illustrator of Saltypiewas Karen Clarkson and her work is amazing here. The novel at hand features a great story. It speaks of a family that was relocating all the way from Choctaw country, in Oklahoma, towards Pasadena, in Texas.

Simply Brilliant

The novel spans for more than a half-century, as we look at a novel that will rock the reader to his or her very core – the writing of Tim Tingle and Karen’s brilliant art come together to form a superb novel. One of the best in this genre, we cannot recommend Tim Tingle’s work here more, especially if you are looking for Native American picture books to teach your kids with.

Raven by Gerald McDermott

A suggestion.

The extensive accolades of Gerald McDermott speak volumes about this man’s work. We really do suggest that the reader drop everything and pick up his novel Raven that was published in the year of 1993.

Lasting Impression

Raven, the titular character, is a trickster and a Native American. Raven thinks that those in the tenebrous shadows of life need to be aided, so he takes it upon himself to lead them towards a brighter, more beautiful way of life. The story of Raven right here is one that will leave the reader with a lasting impression and a genuinely filled heart. One of the easiest picks for our best Native American picture book.

The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac

Cherokee legend.

Joseph Bruchac, a resident of Greenfield Center, in New York, is an amazing novelist that we recommend with great ease. The 1993 novel of Joseph Bruchac titled The First Strawberries is one that we think everyone should read at least once in their lives.

It exemplifies everything that a picture book should aspire towards. A Cherokee legend, one of how strawberries were begotten, is being told by Bruchac right here.

First Man and Woman

An indistinct length of time ago, a man and a woman had an argument – the first man and woman. The lady stormed off, enraged, however the brilliance of the Sun tried to help the woman think twice with the berries it left for her. This is one of the best Native American picture books about the Cherokee that hits differently.

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

Vivid nature.

Tomie dePaola was a terrific writer who left behind a brilliant oeuvre. Sadly, Tomie passed away earlier this year, but his glory will not be forgotten. The 1988 work titled The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is one we think that belongs on any list trying to deduce what the good picture book about Native Americans is.

When the period of Spring hits, Texas’ and Wyoming’s meadows and hilltops are majestically aglow with vivid colors that the Indian Paintbrush glimmers with.

Magical Painting

A time ago, while people were traversing the plains, a Native American boy was graced with a vision where he was told that he would make a painting, the most beautiful of all. As the life of the boy went on, he soon threw himself headlong towards making this magical painting. A heartwarming and heartbeat-stopping tale from dePaola that we strongly recommend. For more dePaola’s books, check out our selection of the top dragon picture books .

Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott

Proof of worth.

Gerald McDermott’s next entry on our list is his 1974 novel Arrow to the Sun. The illustrations in Arrow to the Sun are a career achievement for Gerald and ones that we are continually amazed with. The story follows a boy as he tries to find his dad.

However, prior to any kind of descent-claiming, the boy is tasked with providing proof for his worth by going to a total of four chambers.

Dangerous Journey

The first is the kiva of lions, then the kiva of snakes, of bees, and of lightning. The journey is a dangerous, perilous one, but one that the boy is dead-set on taking. Gerald McDermott did a fine job with this story and we cannot wait to pick it up again. It is one of the best picture books about Native American culture.

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

Stunning illustrations.

Canadian authoress Melanie Florence’s 2017 novel titled Stolen Words is certainly one of the best picture books about Native American culture, at least in our opinion. The artistic pictures were made by the deft hands of Gabrielle Grimard, while the touching story stems from the wild imagination that Melanie has.

Magical Bond

We see a bond that was made by a young girl and her granddad. The granddad is a Cree, though when the granddaughter asks him to say a certain thing in Cree, he reveals that as a child his language was taken from him. As the two begin a search for the granddad’s language, we enter into a dream world that only the double forces of Melanie Florence and Gabrielle Grimard could have concocted.

The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola

Childhood legend.

There was no chance that we would leave Tomie dePaola with only one entry on our list as his 1983 work The Legend of the Bluebonnet is a book to marvel at. The brilliant story which is contrived from a childhood legend of dePaola’s blends perfectly with the artistic prowess that Tomie has. It is a novel that the reader won’t forget any time soon.

As a pestilent draught begins its attack on the tribe’s resources, we see a young, bold, strong-willed Comanche girl giving the thing she loved the most as a sacrifice. The tribe’s entity of belief then grants more than just a bit of rain to the tribe, but also something else for the trouble of the young girl.

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr.

Grandad’s story.

Bill Martin Junior and John Archambault wrote a good deal of books together, but the 1987 tale Knots on a Counting Rope is not just one of their best, but the top Native American picture book. Ted Rand did the illustrations for the novel and they are beautiful.

The tale follows Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, as he is bearing witness to the retelling of his story by his granddad. As an infant, Boy was quite often afflicted with ailments.

Blue Horses

Having no clue of what to do, the parents let the granddad take him to two blue horses where once Boy put his hand out, he was given the strength that he required. From that moment on, a bond was made with the horses and the mighty story of Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses is one that we recommend the reader picks up as soon as possible.

picture books native american

Alissa Wynn

Alissa is an avid reader, blogger, and wannabe writer. (She's a much better cook than a writer actually). Alissa is married, has one human, one feline, and two canine kids. She always looks a mess and never meets a deadline.

Best Native American Books Review

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7 #Ownvoices Native American Picture Books

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Margaret Kingsbury

Margaret Kingsbury grew up in a house so crammed with books she couldn’t open a closet door without a book stack tumbling, and she’s brought that same decorative energy to her adult life. Margaret has an MA in English with a concentration in writing and has worked as a bookseller and adjunct English professor. She’s currently a freelance writer and editor, and in addition to Book Riot, her pieces have appeared in School Library Journal, BuzzFeed News, The Lily, Parents, StarTrek.com, and more. She particularly loves children’s books, fantasy, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, and any books with disabled characters. You can read more about her bookish and parenting shenanigans in Book Riot’s twice-weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter. You can also follow her kidlit bookstagram account @BabyLibrarians , or on Twitter @AReaderlyMom .

View All posts by Margaret Kingsbury

Indigenous People’s Day celebrates the native populations of North America in protest against the celebration of Christopher Columbus—a genocidal racist —on Columbus Day. So instead of reading books that celebrate a man falsely claimed as “discovering America” with our children, let’s celebrate the millions of indigenous Americans who had already settled the country by reading picture books by and about Native American life.

When I started my research for this post, I immediately went to my library’s website to request my favorite Native American picture books from childhood. I was horrified when I discovered book after book written by white authors, mostly men. Every. Single. Book. While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with books written outside the author’s cultural experiences—given that the author does their research—it becomes a problem when those books are the ones that predominantly get published and receive the awards and accolades over #ownvoices books.

I’m also very aware that I am a white blogger writing about #ownvoices Native American picture books. Because of that, and because it’s important to support #ownvoices bloggers as well as authors, I encourage you to check out Debbie Reese’s phenomenal blog: American Indians in Children’s Literature . Debbie Reese has compiled an amazing list of books and reviews that she constantly updates. The American Indian Youth Literature Award is also an amazing place to find new #ownvoices Native American books to read.

Too often we think of Native Americans in the past. These seven picture books depict Native Americans in the present. I included tribal information for the authors and illustrators when I could find the information.

7 #Ownvoices Native American Picture Books

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All Around Us by Xelena Gonzalez, Illustrated by Adriana Garcia

A lovely story about the relationship between a little girl and her grandfather, as he teaches her about the circles that make up existence. The vibrant illustrations depict their relationship as they go about their everyday routine in vivid colors and swirls. This picture book is so beautiful and touching and award-worthy. Look at that cover! Xelena Gomex is from the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation.

Grandmother’s Pigeon by Louise Erdrich, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

While Louise Erdrich’s more well-known adult fiction tends to be dark and complicated, her children’s books are delightful and still rich in character. In Grandmother’s Pigeon , at a beach trip a girl’s grandmother rides away on the back of a porpoise to go traveling the world. Once back home, bird eggs hatch into extinct passenger pigeons, in grandmother’s room, of course. This picture book is a bit denser than most, so I recommend it for older kids, in the 7–8 year old range. Louise Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

First Laugh: Welcome, Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

I can’t even begin to describe how perfect and adorable this book is. It didn’t turn up in my internet research, but when I went to work a few days ago (at a bookstore), the children’s book director had set this aside for me! And it was love at first sight. In Navajo custom, a baby celebrates becoming a member of the Navajo tribe on the day of its first laugh. In this picture book, a Navajo family eagerly await their new baby’s first laugh. I love that the illustrations depict the family in modern settings and keeping Navajo traditions. Rose Ann Tahe was born into the Naaneesh’t’ezhi Tachii’nii nish’li (The Charcoal Streaked Division of the Red Running Into the Water Clan), born for Ashiihi bashish’chiin (Salt People Clan). Jonathan Nelson is Navajo, of the Kiiyaa’áanii (Towering House Clan) and Naakai Dine’é (Mexican Clan). Rose Ann Tahe died before the book could be published, and Nancy Bo Flood finished it for her.

The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo, Illustrated by Paul Lee

The cat Woogie has had a super hard life and already used up eight of his nine lives. But now he has the perfect little girl and family for owners—what could go wrong? Joy Harjo is an amazing poet, and while she writes this picture book in prose, her lyrical writing skills still show. The dark-toned illustrations are vivid and realistic, and perfectly capture the mischievous and lovable Woogie. Joy is a member of the Mvskoke Nation.

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

I first came across this book in college, when I was researching for a presentation on the necessity of teaching with own voices Native American literature in elementary schools (back when hashtags weren’t a thing). It’s just as charming and special as a reread. In Jingle Dancer , Jenna dreams of dancing the jingle dance, just like her grandmother. But she doesn’t have any jingles for her dress. By helping her friends and relatives, she acquires enough jingles to dance. This books celebrates helping others in addition to honoring Native American culture. Cynthia Leitich Smith is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

When The Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger and Susan Katz, Illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden

When the Shadbrush Blooms tells side-by-side stories of two Lenape tribe girls—one from the past, one from the present. In detailed illustrations, it shows how both families structure their lives around the changing seasons. Carla Messinger is a descendant of the Lenape (Delaware) Indians (Turtle Clan). Mohawk David Kanietakeron Fadden is from the Wolf Clan.

Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Kay Minnema, Illustrated by Wesley Ballinger

This is the only book on the list I haven’t read. I ordered it from the library and it has yet to come in. But it looks adorable, and I am also hungry and like food. Cheryl Kay Minnema is of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Looking for more diverse picture books? Check out these 30 diverse children’s books .

What are your favorite #ownvoices Native American picture books?

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COMMENTS

  1. 30 Best Children's Picture Native American Books About Families

    Big sister cooks blue cornmeal mush. Nima weaves a tree-of-life rug. Papa tick-tickles baby's tummy. As each person spends time with this cerished baby, they all try to make him laugh. Because when a baby laughts for the first time, it's an important moment and subsequent ceremony for welcoming a new Navajo baby into the clan.

  2. Native American Picture Books (346 books)

    Native American Picture Books (346 books) Discover new books on Goodreads Meet your next favorite book Join Goodreads Listopia Native American Picture Books flag All Votes Add Books To This List ← Previous 1 2 3 4 Next → 346 books · 62 voters · list created November 3rd, 2013 by Kerry (votes) .

  3. 25+ Native American Picture Books by Indigenous Authors

    Historically, Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples have been not only underrepresented in children's books, but frequently that representation is racist, either through stereotyping ( including so-called "positive" images like the "noble savage") or by obvious negative imagery.

  4. 10 New Children's Books by Native American & Indigenous Authors

    Kapaemahu by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Joe Wilson, and Dean Hamer, Illustrated by Daniel Sousa This stunningly illustrated picture book retells the Indigenous Hawaiian legend about four mythic figures who are mahu — contain both male and female spirits — bringing the healing arts to Hawaii.

  5. 20+ Picture Books that Celebrate Native American Culture and Heritage

    20+ Picture Books that Celebrate Native American Culture and Heritage Native American culture is something that should be taught and celebrated. I want my children to know the rich heritage of the land that they live in and love. The roots of this land run deep and there is so much to learn and appreciate.

  6. Best Picture Books for Kids by and about American Indians

    1-25 of 31 items We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Sorell, Traci Book - 2021 A group of Native American kids from different tribes presents twelve historical and contemporary time periods, struggles, and victories to their classmat... Show more Available in some locations Place hold I Sang You Down From the Stars

  7. 9 Indigenous and Native American Picture Books to Read Right Now

    A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell and Julie Flett On the surface, A Day With Yayah seems to be a simple story about a girl and her grandmother out in the forest. Digging deeper, it becomes clear that this is a story about intergenerational knowledge, language preservation, and the general timeless wisdom of elders.

  8. 30 + Inspiring Illustrated Books by Native American Authors for Kids

    The voices of Native American authors and the vibrant illustrations in their books offer young readers a unique and invaluable opportunity to explore the rich heritage, cultures, and traditions of indigenous peoples. These 30+ illustrated books for kids, authored and illustrated by Native Americans, bring forth stories that are both captivating and educational.

  9. Indigenous Voices for Little Ears: 15 Books About Native American

    Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Millard and Juana Martinez-Neil. Fry Bread gives us a glimpse into the modern indigenous family. Fry Bread is food, it is time, love, patience, and it is ancient. It's a sweet story that helps us remember that our families have roots; and Indigenous people are still here, with roots ...

  10. 25 Picture Books, Graphic Novels, and More with Indigenous Protagonists

    Since 1990, November has been designated National Native American Heritage Month in the U.S. Share these titles featuring Indigenous characters with young children, tweens, and teens this month and all year. Picture Books . Biindigen! Amik Says Welcome by Nancy Cooper. illus. by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. Owlkids. ISBN 9781771475150.

  11. Amazon.com: Native American Picture Books

    1-48 of over 3,000 results for "native american picture books" Results Best Seller Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun's Thanksgiving Story by Danielle Greendeer , Anthony Perry , et al. 109 Hardcover $1399 List: $17.99 FREE delivery Fri, Nov 24 on $35 of items shipped by Amazon Or fastest delivery Mon, Nov 20 Ages: 3 - 7 years Other format: Kindle Best Seller

  12. 24 Children's Books About Native Americans

    Published June 13, 2023 Discover a curated selection of children's books dedicated to illuminating the rich heritage of Native American culture.

  13. 20 Picture Books About Native Americans

    20 Picture Books About Native Americans - Rabbit Trails Homeschool February 18, 2023 - Thisbitoflife 20 Picture Books About Native Americans Learning about Native Americans is important for many reasons.

  14. Native Perspectives: Books by, for, and about Indigenous People

    Picture Books for All Ages. CHILD, Brenda J. Bowwow Powwow. illus by Jonathan Thunder. tr. from Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain. Minnesota Historical Society. 2018. ISBN 9781681340777. Gr 2-4 -This recipient of the 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award for Picture Books is an Ojibwe dual-language celebration of "the history of Ojibwe song and dance, past and present," according to the ...

  15. Native American Authors and Illustrators: Picture Books

    CIRCLE OF WONDER: A NATIVE AMERICAN CHRISTMAS STORY by N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa) (Clear Light, 1993). Inspired by the author's first childhood Christmas in Jemez Pueblo, this is the story of Tolo, a boy who follows a man who seems to be his late grandfather. Ages 5-up.

  16. 20 Exceptional Middle Grade Indigenous and Native American Books for

    Indigenous and Native American Heritage Month reminds us of the importance of reading Native American children's books to learn and celebrate the culture, contributions, history, and traditions of American Indians and Indigenous groups from the United States and Canada.. The National American Indian Heritage Month in November began in 1990.

  17. Native American and Indigenous Children's Books

    Board Books Picture Books Elementary Fiction Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction A book list for older kids: Middle Grade and YA Titles ... Like all humans, these Native Americans sought to understand their place in the universe, the nature of their relationship with the divine, and the origin of the world into which their ancestors had emerged ...

  18. 25 Picture Books to Honor Native American Heritage Month

    1. In My Anaana's Amautik This sweet story takes us into the amautik - the pouch in the back of a mother's parka. We get to experience the world through the eyes of a baby nestled in his mother's pouch. This wonderful book will introduce your children to new perspectives and imagery. Learn More: Amazon 2. Thunder Boy Jr.

  19. 12 Best Native American Picture Books (2023)

    12 Best Native American Picture Books (2023) Best Native American Picture Books Absolutely Stunning When the time comes that ordinary writing gets tedious, monotonous, or plain boring, people turn to a variety of things.

  20. Beautiful Native American Picture Books

    While the children's literature industry has a ways to go to ensure that kids of all cultures (and backgrounds, races, and religions, too!) are represented in stories, there are some new Native American picture books - books featuring Native characters and created by Indigenous authors and illustrators - that are must-adds to your children's boo...

  21. Twenty #ownvoices children's books about Native Americans and First

    Related Post: Learning Native American History with 5 #ownvoices books from Chickasaw Press Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child, Gordon Jourdain, and Jonathan Thunder. Find on Bookshop (supports independent bookstores) Windy Girl's favorite part of the summer is attending the powwow with her uncle and her noisy dog, Itchy Boy.

  22. Amazon.com: Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest: A

    Don't miss this beautiful picture book, a Caldecott Honor winner! Raven, the trickster, wants to give people the gift of light. ... If you are a preschool teacher and you are doing a unit on the Native Americans this book as well as the book Totem tale are must haves. They both have beautiful illustrations and great stories. Read more. 3 people ...

  23. 7 #Ownvoices Native American Picture Books

    Grandmother's Pigeon by Louise Erdrich, illustrated by Jim LaMarche While Louise Erdrich's more well-known adult fiction tends to be dark and complicated, her children's books are delightful and still rich in character. In Grandmother's Pigeon, at a beach trip a girl's grandmother rides away on the back of a porpoise to go traveling the world.