It’s Native American Heritage Month! Celebrate with your kid, with these amazing Native American history read-alouds, both on and off our platform.
Native American Heritage Month is a time to honor and pay tribute to diverse history, traditions and contributions of Native people in American culture. To celebrate these communities and raise awareness of the challenges they’ve faced historically and today, we’ve rounded up some of the highest recommended children’s books featuring indigenous authors and characters, and reflecting the rich history of this community.
From digital board books and picture books for little ones, to chapter books for older readers, there’s something for every kid on this book list. Check out these Native American history read-alouds below!
Native American History Read-Alouds on Epic
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story (Animated book)
Written by: Kevin Noble Maillard
Illustrated by: Juana Martinez-Neal
“Fry bread is food. It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.
Fry bread is time. It brings families together for meals and new memories.
Fry bread is nation. It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.
Fry bread is us.”
Told in lively and powerful verse, this vibrantly illustrated picture book depicts a modern Native American family, honoring things old and new, similarities and differences. And all through this tribal food staple shared by Nations throughout North America.
Arrow to the Sun (Audiobook)
By: Gerald McDermott
This Caldecott Award-winning retelling of an ancient Pueblo myth explains how the spirit of the Lord of the Sun was brought to the world of men. It begins with a young boy as he searches for his father, then as he journeys through four ceremonial chambers to prove his worthiness to claim his heritage. Kids can follow along to this audio version of this tale celebrating the reverence of Native American Indians for the source of all life, the sun.
By: Danielle Daniel
Dedicated to “the thousands of Metis and Aboriginal children who never grew up knowing their totem animal,” this gorgeous yet playfully illustrated book introduces young readers to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals. In simple poems, young indigenous kids wearing animal masks describe the creatures they identify with and why. The book includes a list of totem animals and their meanings. And it adds a note on the animals’ importance and how they can guide children as they seek to understand themselves and others.
Written by: Tim Tingle
Illustrated by: Stacey Schuett
This Choctaw version of Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” turns the traditional tale on its head with humor, memorable twists and few additional characters: including a colony of ants and a cheering squad of “little bitty” turtles. And when the time comes for the boastful rabbit to get his comeuppance, Turtle gets help from a wild turkey. The bold, vibrant illustrations perfectly capture the grasslands of the High Plains of Oklahoma, while the narration teaches kids the value of resourcefulness, respect and kindness.
Written by: Robbie Robertson
Illustrated by: David Shannon
The story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, is an important part of the Iroquois oral tradition.
In this telling, Hiawatha, a strong and articulate Mohawk, is chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five Iroquois nations, succeeding in uniting the warring tribes and changing the way they self govern. This form of democracy would later pave the way for the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
Illustrated with stunning oil paintings, and told from the perspective of Hiawatha, this book conveys the journey of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker and their inspiring message of peace.
By: Ann Matzke
With beautiful photos and clear text, this Read-To-Me book gives kids a straightforward introduction to Native American life from the perspective of a member of the Lakota. Readers can learn about the Native people in the Great Plains, their traditions, how they hunted, what they wore and more details about their daily lives. The book includes fun facts throughout, as well as helpful vocab and a glossary in the back.
Written by: Ana Eulate
Illustrator: Nívola Uyá
This stunning picture book follows the life of a young mute Comanche boy named Walking Eagle, who’s known to have brought about unity and togetherness among differing tribes through his magical silent tales.
Flying and galloping into the air, Walking Eagle and his Pinto horse carry stories of solidarity with them to different tribes. Using only his face, his smile and his eyes, he tells them everything they need to hear. Then each adds a new feather to his headdress. By touching the hearts of all the tribes, he helps forge lasting bonds. This lyrical tale is a powerful lesson about the harmony that can exist among different people through the power of stories.
By: Chief Jake Swamp
In this life-affirming book by Chief Jake Swamp, he shares what’s known as the “Thanksgiving Address,” a traditional message of peace for Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. In this special children’s version of these words from the Iroquois people, kids can learn about how the Native people of upstate New York and First Nations in Canada greet each morning by saying thank you to all living things.
Written by: Traci Sorell
Illustrated by: Frané Lessac
The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. In this beautiful nonfiction picture book, kids can follow along with the celebrations, traditions and experiences of the Cherokee community throughout the year to express their feelings of gratitude for the blessings and challenges that each season brings. Complete with a glossary and the syllabary (like an alphabet, but marks syllables instead of sounds) to the Cherokee language, the book gives kids an authentic and inviting introduction to the language and traditions of these Native people.
Written by: Jan Bourdeau Waboose
Illustrated by: Francois Thisdale
In this mystery by Ojibway storyteller Jan Bourdeau, cousins Will and Tom want nothing more than to become trackers just like their uncle. One night, Uncle tells them about the fearsome Windigo, the wandering night spirit of winter. Mysteriously, they later hear strange thumps and bangs outside, and the next morning, they find huge tracks in the snow. They’re convinced it must be the Windigo, and like good trackers, they follow the trail to solve the mystery. As your kid helps follow the clues, they might even pick up a few tracking skills of their own.
Written by: Joseph Bruchac
Illustrated by: S.D. Nelson
Given a wild horse at eleven-winters old, a boy named Curly receives a vision of a horse dancing in a storm. After conflict erupts between his tribe and nearby settlers, he transforms into the wise and brave Tashunka Witco, translated in English as Crazy Horse. With this new identity, he defends his people and today is known as a bold yet compassionate military genius. This beautifully illustrated Read-To-Me book is a heartfelt introduction to the true story of this famed Lakota warrior.
This compilation of folktales is filled with captivating stories passed down from generations of Plains-region Native American communities. Stories include universal themes like creation myths, animal fables and epic tales of bravery, alongside magical lore around witches, giants and more. Middle-grade and young adult readers can get lost in traditional favorites like “The Buffalo and the Field-Mouse,” “The Raccoon and the Bee-Tree” and others in this book of authentic, time-honored legends.
Want more? Here are a few other amazing Native American history read-alouds off our platform, all available on Amazon.
Road Allowance Era: A Girl Called Echo, Vol. 4
Written by: Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk
In this fourth book in the A Girl Called Echo series, a young girl named Echo travels back in time to 1885 when many of the Métis are forced to flee their land during the Northwest Resistance. As new legislation chips away at Métis land rights, Echo witnesses the plight of own her family, and discovers the strength and resilience of her people, forged through loss and pain of the past. This was a top recommendation from Debbie Reese’s organization, the American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), in 2020!
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids
By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
From the author of “Jingle Dancer” comes this collection of intersecting stories filled with themes of hope, resilience and pride. In each tale, Nation families from across the continent gather for the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Michigan. People dance, sell beadwork and other wares, and celebrate friendship and heritage as youngsters meet relatives, mysterious strangers and even one scrappy rez dog.
By: Julie Flett
A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, this story follows young Katherena as she moves with her mother to a small town and navigates loss and change. At first lonely and out of place, Katherena meets an elderly artist named Agnes who shares her interests in arts and crafts, birds and nature. With vibrantly textured images of birds, flowers, art, and landscapes, and lyrical storytelling, this book teaches kids about the power of friendship, shared passions and nature. It also includes a glossary and pronunciation guide to Cree words that appear in the text.
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
By: Joseph Bruchac
Navajo code talkers saved countless American lives in the U.S. effort against Japan during World War II, sending messages back and forth using their native language. In this true yet rarely told story by Joseph Bruchac, 16-year old Ned Begay becomes one of these brave individuals. This book is a celebration of those who dared to serve, as well as the culture and language of the Navajo people.
The Birchbark House
By: Louise Erdrich
This first installment in a series chronicling 100 years in the life of one Ojibwe family follows Omakayas, or Little Frog, and her life on an island in Lake Superior. As growing numbers of non-indigenous people start to move onto the island, their lives are turned upside down when a visitor arrives one winter night. What follows leads to tragedy. Then Omakayas, only a baby, is rescued and welcomed into a family on Madeline Island.
That’s our list of our favorite Native American history read-alouds! These only scratch the surface of incredible children’s literature written by and about indigenous people. If you’re interested in exploring more about American Indians in children’s literature, a great place to start is one of our many educator-created Native American Children’s Book Collections. For more own-voices books to share with your kids, check out our post: “20 Own-Voices Picture Books.”