National Native American Heritage Month

Every year in November the nation celebrates Native American Heritage Month — also commonly referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. It’s a month to celebrate and understand the great contributions of Native Americans, as well as to rejoice in the diverse and rich cultures, histories, and traditions of Native American people. Celebrations spread awareness by educating the nation on the various challenges Native Americans face — in the past and today’s present. Many communities will put together events and exhibits to celebrate Native American Heritage Month; check local community centers, libraries, and museums to see if they have any fun activities to participate in and learn more about Native American Heritage.

We’ve put together a list of books that celebrate the past and present of Native American and Indigenous peoples. This is by no means a list that encompasses the entirety of Native American experiences, cultures, and traditions, but rather a small sampling of what the S-Collection has to offer. We’ve made sure that each book represented includes main characters who are Native American and Indigenous and that each book is by a Native American and Indigenous individual.

Boulley, Angeline
Firekeeper’s Daughter. 2021 (Teen).
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother. Her only bright spot is meeting Jamie — but Daunis feels he’s hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation. Daunis agrees to go undercover, secretly pushing her own investigation. But the deceptions and death keep piling up, and Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community.
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Bruchac, Joseph
Two Roads. 2018 (Middle Grade).
It’s 1932, and twelve-year-old Cal Black and his pop have been riding the rails for years after losing their farm in the Great Depression. Cal likes being a knight of the road with Pop, even if they’re broke. But then Pop has to go to Washington, D.C. and Cal can’t go with him. So Pop tells Cal something he never knew before: Pop is actually a Creek Indian, which means Cal is too. And Pop has decided to send Cal to a government boarding school for Native Americans in Oklahoma called the Challagi School. At school, the other Creek boys quickly take Cal under their wings. Even in the harsh, miserable conditions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, he begins to learn about his people’s history, heritage, language, and customs. And most of all, he learns how to find strength in a group of friends who have nothing beyond each other.
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Dupuis, Jenny Kay and Kathy Kacer
Illustrated by: Gillian Newland
I Am Not a Number. 2016 (Nonfiction Picture Book).
When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school, she’s confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school — who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene’s parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law? Based on the life of co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother.
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Kalluk, Celina
Sweetest Kulu. 2016 (Picture Book).
This bedtime poem written by an internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer describes the gifts bestowed upon a newborn baby by all the animals of the arctic. As they visit, the animals and the land itself endow little Kulu with a set of qualities: from Arctic Char who gives tenderness, to the Caribou who gives patience and a sense of direction, to the Snow Bunting who gives Arctic cotton seeds and flowers. Together, all the gifts show that the Earth is made up of all living things, and those living things are connected in many ways.
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Leatherdale, Mary Beth and Lisa Charleyboy
#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women. 2017 (Nonfiction Teen).
This collection presents an eclectic combination of poems, essays, interviews and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.
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Little Badger, Darcie
Elatsoe. 2020 (Teen).
Elatsoe lives in a slightly strange America — one that’s been shaped dramatically by magic, monsters, knowledge, and the Indigenous legends of its people. Elatsoe can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Now her beloved cousin has just been murdered in a town that wants no prying eyes, but Elatsoe is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect façade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and Elatsoe will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.
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Maillard, Kevin Noble
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. 2019 (Picture Book).
An ode to fry bread and Native American culture, this picture book expresses the deep meaningfulness and cultural importance of traditional foods and the way such foods are not just a thing, but rather continue to grow and have a life of their own as traditions are carried on. Fry bread brings families together, is shared by many, and is a celebration of old and new.
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Quigley, Dawn
Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend. 2021 (Chapter Book).
Hello/Boozhoo — meet Jo Jo Makoons: a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn — about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly. Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, Jo Jo’s best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore…
[This book is on order as of November 2021 and should be available to check out soon!]

Sorrell, Traci
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga. 2018 (Nonfiction Picture Book).
The word otsaliheliga (oh-ja-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. This picture book is a look at modern Native American life, as told by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
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Young, Brian
Healer of the Water Monster. 2021 (Middle Grade).
When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a pretty uneventful summer. Still, he loves spending time with Nali and his uncle Jet — though it’s clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him. One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds something extraordinary: a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story — a Water Monster — in need of help. Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to help Uncle Jet heal from his own pain.
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