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Native American Heritage Book List

Every student deserves to see their traditions and culture reflected in the books they read. Check out these must-read titles from Native American authors.


"We want to continue building culturally relevant curriculum in our schools by being intentional about what we teach with. We can go beyond land acknowledgments as a community and create a different narrative by centering Indigenous stories missing from our classrooms." —Mr. Yu, Elementary School teacher, OR

Every student deserves to see their traditions and an accurate history of their culture reflected in the books they read. The titles below are must-read books that center Native American voices and highlight the heritage of Native peoples.

Elementary Books

We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell

This nonfiction picture book is filled with vivid depictions of how the Cherokee people celebrate every aspect of life  — from food to family to festivals.  

Filled with Cherokee words and pronunciations, this book can teach you more about the Cherokee culture.

Key themes: The connecting power of music, family, migration, biography

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes, by Wab Kinew

Go Show the World is a tribute to historic and modern-day Native American heroes in the United States and Canada, such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, NASA astronaut John Herrington, and NHL goalie Carey Price. 

This collection of stories empowers readers with the message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.”

Key themes: Identity, trailblazers, empowerment, connection

I Can Make this Promise, by Christine Day

Inspired by her family’s real-life experiences, Day tells the story of Edie who discovers her own Native American identity after years of living in uncertainty. This heartfelt account of adoption and separation highlights the importance of family and heritage.

With beautifully illustrated pictures, this moving story will take you on a journey as Edie uncovers buried family secrets. 

Key themes: Father-daughter relationship, culture symbols, love

Middle School Books

Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief

Based on true events, this historical fiction novel tells the story of Maria Tallchief, America’s first Native American prima ballerina. According to Osage tradition, women are not allowed to dance. Fortunately, Maria’s parents believed in her talent and led her to make history.

Today, Maria Tallchief is admired for her courage, talent, and strength. This fascinating story will captivate and inspire all readers. 

Key themes: Family relationships, finding your talent, overcoming obstacles

Talking Leaves, by Joseph Bruchac

A work of historical fiction, Talking Leaves describes the creation of the Cherokee alphabet. When Uwohali’s father, Sequoyah, returns to their village, many confuse his brilliance in creating a new alphabet with many failing to recognize the brilliance of his newly created alphabet.

Uwohali must defend his father’s honor against those that question his efforts, which ultimately led Sequoyah to be one of the most important figures in Native American history.

Key themes: Family, culture preservation, coming of age

Two Roads, by Joseph Bruchac

In this Great Depression-era tale, a young Cal leaves life with his father, a WWI veteran, to join the unknown world of the Challagi Indian Boarding School. 

Along with other Creek boys in the boarding schools, Cal discovers more of his Creek heritage after an unexpected turn of events. 

Key themes: Family, culture preservation, coming of age

High School Books

There There, by Tommy Orange

This multigenerational tale tells the stories of different characters who are all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow in California. With each chapter, the reader gets to know a new person and understand their unique relationship with their Native American heritage. 

Each character will capture the hearts of the reader and demonstrate just how much of a person’s journey lies below what we see on the surface.

Key themes: Storytelling, family history, complexities of identity

Where the Dead Sit Talking, by Brandon Hobson

This 2018 National Book Award Finalist follows a teenage Cherokee boy through his journey in the foster care system. Sequoyah must define and redefine home as he bounces from house to house in rural Oklahoma. 

Key themes: Home, identity, displacement

To honor Native American Heritage month, we're celebrating the history, heritage, and culture of Native Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. There are 574 federally recognized Indigenous tribal nations in the mainland United States alone. Check out some of our favorite classroom projects!

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