children's literature is an effective way to counter deeply held
stereotypes and teach cultural respect.
"There are plenty of "good"
books -- well-written, exciting, from respected authors, much-loved
by their readers, with well-developed characters -- that are inaccurate,
stereotypical, fanciful, or just plain dehumanizing in their depiction
of the Native characters," write Naomi Caldwell, Gabriella
Kaye and Lisa Mitten in I is for Inclusion.
Yet curriculum writers Guy Jones and Sally
Moomaw say, "... with the possible exception of classroom visits
by American Indian people, excellent children's literature is the
most effective way to counter deeply held stereotypes and help children
focus on similarities among peoples as well as cultural differences."
How can parents, teachers and caregivers
know which books to choose? In honor of Native American Heritage
Month, Burke Patch presents this sampling of books for kids, which
accurately portray Native American culture and history.
1621: A New Look
at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace
The embellished story of the first Thanksgiving is put into more
accurate context, looking at the lives and perspectives of both
the English colonists and the Wampanoag people.
Dance by Gerald Dawavendewa
Flower Maiden has practiced for weeks, but she still is nervous
about performing her first butterfly dance.
Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond
by Joseph Medicine Crow
In this 2008 American Indian Youth Literature Award Winner, Chief
Joseph Medicine Crow tells his life story.
Vision by Joseph Bruchac
This is a fictionalized account of the Lakota boy who became the
leader and defender of his people.
Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom by
Martha Tom, a young Choctaw, crosses the Bok Chitto River while
berry picking, encountering hundreds of plantation slaves longing
for freedom. This is another 2008 American Indian Youth Literature
by Helen Frost
While helping with her family's sled dogs and struggling to fit
in, twelve-year-old Willow learns of her history and heritage as
an Athabascan in Alaska.
by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Jenna works to find enough bells so that she can be a jingle dancer,
just like Grandma Wolfe.
Navajo Long Walk:
The Tragic Story of a Proud People's Forced March from Their Homeland
by Joseph Bruchac
Shedding fresh light on a tragic chapter of American history, this
book documents a shameful episode in the 1860s, when U.S. soldiers
forced thousands of Navajo to march 400 miles from their homeland
to a desolate reservation.
A Native Boy from the Chesapeake Bay Area by Gabrielle
This book introduces Naiche, a Maryland boy of Piscataway and Apache
descent, looking at his family, the history of his tribe, and traditional
ceremonies and customs still observed.
Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich
In the sequel to her award winning books The Birchbark House and
The Game of Silence, Erdrich continues the story of Omakayas, a
young Ojibwe girl who lives with her family on an island in Lake
Superior in 1850.
The Story of
the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale by Joseph Bruchac
When cornmeal is stolen from an elderly couple, the others in the
Cherokee village drive off the thief, creating the Milky Way in
Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief
This picture book autobiography traces the early life of a prima
ballerina of Native American descent.
Thanks to the
Animals by Allen Sockabasin
When Little Zoe falls from his family's sled, the animals keep him
safe until his father returns to find him.
on Turtle's Back: A Native American Year of Moons by
Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London
Young Sozap learns from his grandfather that like the thirteen scales
on a turtle's back there are thirteen moons in a year, each with
its own name and story.
For more information and additional titles,
see the American Indian Library
Association (AILA) website and American
Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) blog.