November is National Native American Heritage Month, and Nov. 26 is Native American Heritage Day. Today — and every day — is the perfect time to pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.
Below are five #ownvoice picture books that can help children learn about Native American culture and traditions.
1. "We are Water Protectors" by Carole Lindstrom; illustrated by Michaela Goade. This book — the winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal — was inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America. The book tells the story of the importance of water and how a black snake threatens to destroy Earth and poison its waters. But one young water protector stands up to defend the Earth's most sacred resource. Ages 3 to 6.
2. "We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" by Traci Sorell; illustrated by Franne Lessac. This story shows modern Native American as told me an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who are grateful for the blessings and challenges each season brings. The book teaches kids about the word "otsaliheliga," which is how members of the Cherokee Nation express gratitude. Kids will follow along each page as a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences goes by. The book also includes a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, which was originally created by Sequoyah. Ages 3 to 7.
3. "Hiawatha and the Peacemaker" by Robbie Robertson and David Shannon. In this book, kids will learn about Hiawatha, a Mohawk, who was chosen to translate his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker's message of unity for the five warring Iroquois Nations during the 14th century. The message worked in uniting the nations and served as a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire those who authored the U.S. Constitution. The story is told by Robbie Robertson, who was born of Mohawk and Cayuga descent. Some versions of the book include a CD featuring a song written and performed by Robertson. Ages 4 to 8.
4. "Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes" by Wab Kinew; illustrated by Joe Morse. This uplifting book celebrates the stories of Indigenous people throughout time. Through author Wab Kinew's powerful lyrics, kids will get to know many Indigenous heroes such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price. The book will help kids understand: "We are people who matter, yes, it's true; now let's show the world what people who matter can do." Ages 5 to 9.
5. "Not My Girl" By Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton; illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. This book, based on the life of co-author Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, is about what happens when Indigenous children come home from residential schools. Margaret can't wait to see her family, but her homecoming isn't what she expected. The book will move and inspire readers, and also show how these type of places affected families and cultures. Ages 6 to 7.