Favorite Picture Books about Native Americans

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This past fall we listened to Bruchac's Children of the Longhouse about a 15th century Mohawk boy and Erdrich's Birchbark House series about an Ojibwe family living in the Lake Superior region in the mid-1800s. These audiobooks inspired us to take a deep dive into Native American peoples and cultures. We read dozens of picture books by and about Native Americans, most of them #ownvoices. These were our favorites.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

I am a huge fan of non-fiction books like this: each spread features accessible and engaging text on a topic that is then elaborated upon in the back matter. This book written by Kevin Noble Maillard uses fry bread as a window into the diversity, history, and richness of Native American communities and cultures. Worth owning.

The Rough-Face Girl

My children were captivated by this Algonquin version of the Cinderella story. Striking illustrations by David Shannon.

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

Fascinating account of the creation Haudenosaunee/ Iroquois Nation by songwriter Robbie Robertson. Vividly illustrated by David Shannon.

We Are Water Protectors

This picture book powerfully expresses the sacred nature of water and the importance of environmental stewardship to many indigenous peoples. It also encourages the reader to protect and safeguard water as a resource for all. Bold painted illustrations.

Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Joseph Bruchac's telling of the Thanksgiving story from the point of view of Squanto, a Patuxet Indian who played a pivotal role in the lives of both the newly arrived English settlers and the indigenous peoples of Plymouth.


A poignant contemporary story from Cree-Metis author/ illustrator Julie Flett featuring an intergenerational friendship. Gorgeous illustrations.

How Raven Got His Crooked Nose: An Alaskan Dena'ina Fable

Fabulous illustrations and not your typical story. Many fun surprises. The fable is told with graphic novel elements alongside a regular picture book frame narrative. Thanks to this book I can also now distinguish between a crow and a raven!

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker's Story

Bruchac's account of the use of Navajo as a military code during WWII. It is so tragically ironic that the US government tried to eradicate the Navajo language when these soldiers were children (which the book also addresses). An amazing story of loyalty to America in spite of terrible treatment. This is a story that you find again and again in American history, which I find both incredibly tragic and hopeful. I feel so grateful to all those who have given America another chance to do better!

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

We Are Grateful by Cherokee author Traci Sorell is a book about the Cherokee tradition of expressing gratitude throughout the seasons. I am glad we were able to listen to the audio of this book because the story incorporates many Cherokee words and it was wonderful to hear them pronounced correctly by a native speaker.

At the Mountain's Base

This picture book also written by Traci Sorell introduced me to the tradition of Native American women serving in wars, including within the United States Armed Forces. A beautiful depiction of a Cherokee family's bond and the strength of their cultural traditions.

The Hunter’s Promise

A captivating and haunting tale from the Abenaki by Joseph Bruchac. Beautiful painted illustrations.

Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

This non-fiction book by S.D. Nelson (member of the Standing Rock Sioux/ Lakota tribe of the Dakota) includes the actual words and stories of Buffalo Bird Girl (a Hidatsa girl born in the 1830s) alongside archival photographs and illustrations. I planned to read this texty picture book over an entire week but the kids and I were all so fascinated by Buffalo Bird Girl's accounts of her childhood experiences and traditional Hidatsa ways that we finished it in a single sitting. Absolutely fascinating.

Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back: A Native American Year of Moons

Thirteen poems tell one moon story from each of thirteen Native American tribal nations in different regions of the continent. A wonderful peek into the native people's traditional ways and connection to nature and the seasons.


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