Native American Heritage Month was established in 1990 as a time to celebrate and recognize Native Americans’ numerous contributions to the United States of America. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a large number of books being published that are written and illustrated by Indigenous people, and we’d love to see these #OwnVoices titles get a bit more love. Here are a few board books & picture books to check out!
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith & Julie Flett
A beautiful book about what makes one happy. At the end, you can discuss what fills your heart with happiness.
Kiss by Kiss by Richard Van Camp
A counting book in Plains Cree and English which features fantastic pictures of different families.
May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp
A great book about gratitude and hopes for the future, with photographs provided by a collective of Indigenous women photographers called Tea & Bannock.
Hello Humpback by Roy Henry Vickers & Robert Budd
With high contrast illustrations that are bright and fun, this is a wonderful book to introduce babies and toddlers to the environment of the West Coast.
We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp/Julie Flett
A cute book about welcoming a child into their family. With simple prose and beautiful illustrations, this is a must-read!
First Laugh Welcome, Baby! By Rose Tahe & Nancy Bo Flood; Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
In this book, a Navajo or Diné family eagerly awaits their baby’s first laugh. While the story is all about the anticipation of that first laugh, the supplemental information in the back of the book about the First Laugh Ceremony, and the inclusion of other cultures’ ceremonies for their babies is very informative.
We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Illustrated by Michaela Goade
Inspired by the Indigenous-led movements all over North America, this book emphasizes the importance of protecting our water and environment. This would be a great book to introduce/reintroduce children to the protests at Standing Rock and to learn about the other movements still in place to protect our environment.
At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell and Illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre
This moving story focuses on the traditions that keep us together in times of worry, as a family waits for their family member to return home from the military. The touching author’s note at the end gives tribute to the Native women who served and are serving in wars.
Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard and Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
If you haven’t read this book about this delicious treat, you are missing out! A staple of many Indigenous cultures in the United States, this book explores how it brings families together and even provides you with a recipe to try. The author’s note gives an expanded context for the story and the illustrations.
When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and Illustrated by Julie Flett
As a young girl is asking her grandmother questions about her – why she has long hair, wears the clothes she wears, speaks the language she speaks – her grandmother reveals information about her time in the residential school where her culture and heritage were taken away. Indian boarding schools in the United States were run from 1860 to 1978 and were created to force assimilation onto the Native/Indigenous populations. These institutions existed in Canada as well and were operated between the 1870s and 1990s. Families were forced apart, and many children were traumatized and abused at these institutions.
Another picture book that takes place in a Native boarding school is Fall in Line, Holden by Daniel W. Vandever. A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell and illustrated by Julie Flett showcases how many families are dealing with the aftermath of lost knowledge created by these schools.
Birdsong by Julie Flett
As a young girl and her mother move far away from home, the girl feels sad and lonely. As the seasons change, she becomes closer to her elderly neighbor, Agnes, who helps her feel more like herself. However, as Agnes becomes bed-bound and unable to leave the house, what can the girl do to help Agnes feel loved? This is a beautiful story of an intergenerational friendship that also addresses the emotional weight of loss.
Continue celebrating Native American Heritage Month with the following:
For additional titles, ask your friendly neighborhood librarian, or check out this great resources page from the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition.
Written by Pamela Jayne
Youth Services Librarian