Historical Native American Children’s and Young Adult Books: Novels

This bibliography is drawn from books published between 1995 and 2020. While some award-winners and bestsellers are included, part of the goal is to feature underappreciated gems. SEE ALSO Ongoing Coverage of Native Books at CynsationsHome and Classroom Teaching: Native American Children’s Teens’ Books & Resources, and Native American Children’s and Young Adult Book Bibliographies and Educator Resources.

The Birchbark HouseTHE BIRCHBARK HOUSE by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa)(Hyperion, 1999). Readers will be engaged by appealing protagonist, Omakayas, educated by this glimpse at Ojibwe daily life, and perhaps inspired to look at history with an eye to different points of view. Ages 8-up. Look for more books in the series. Look for more books in the series, THE GAME OF SILENCE (2005), THE PORCUPINE YEAR (2008), CHICKADEE (2012) and MAKOONS (2016), all published by HarperChildren’s.

CHULA THE FOX by Anthony Perry (Chickasaw)(White Dog/Chickasaw Press, 2018). Chula, an eighteenth century Chickasaw boy, feels compelled to avenge the death of his father after a traumatic ambush and, with this uncle’s help, trains to fight. Meanwhile, he’s plagued by questions and self-doubt. Is he truly meant to go to war? Ages 8-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

DAUGHTER OF SUQUA by Diane Johnston Hamm (Whitman, 1997). Ida, a young Suqhamish girl, and her people are faced with allotment, boarding schools, and more harsh changes. But through it all, the relationships between this young girl and the people of her community, especially her grandmother, are truly inspiring. Ages 8-up.

DOVE DREAM by Hendle Rumbaut (Chickasaw)(Houghton Mifflin, 1994). In the summer of 1963, Eleanor “Dove” Derrysaw, age 13, is sent to live with her aunt in Kansas. Eleanor comes of age with her first romance, her first job, and a greater appreciation of her Chickasaw heritage while looking to her aunt’s life for inspiration. Ages 8-up.

HOW I BECAME A GHOST by Tim Tingle (Choctaw)(RoadRunner, 2013). A Choctaw boy tells the story of his Nation’s removal from its Mississippi homeland, and how its exodus to Indian Territory led him to become a ghost –one able to help those left behind. Ages 8-up. Compiled from promotional materials.

IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)(Arthur A. Levine, 2013). Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend? A wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll. Ages 12-up. Compiled from promotional materials. Look for the companion book, GIVE ME SOME TRUTH by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)(Arthur A. Levine, 2018). Learn about GIVE ME SOME TRUTH from Cynsations.

INDIAN NO MORE by Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua/Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde) with Traci Sorell (Cherokee) cover art by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek)(Tu Books, 2019). Regina Petit and her family are Umpqua and live on the Grand Ronde Tribe’s reservation. When the U.S.  government enacts a law derecognizing the Tribe, they officially become “Indian no more,” even though they live together and honor their traditional culture. So, her father signs up the family for the Indian Relocation Program, which takes them to Los Angeles, where prejudice and misconceptions about Indians are prevalent. Ages 8-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

LONGWALKER’S JOURNEY: A NOVEL OF THE CHOCTAW TRAIL OF TEARS by Beatrice O. Harrell (Choctaw)(Dial, 1999). Minko Ushi and his family are part of the Choctaw removal (or Trail of Tears) from their ancestral land to Indian Territory. In this story Minko, his father, and a pony travel ahead of the others and have adventures along the way. Ages 8-up.

MORNING GIRL by Michael Dorris (Modoc)(Hyperion, 1992). It’s 1492, and Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are two very different children who are about to encounter whites for the first time. A Native twist on the “discovery” mythology. Ages 7-up.

OWL IN THE CEDAR TREE by Natachee Scott Momaday (Cherokee) and illustrated by Don Perceval (University of Nebraska Press, 1965). A break-through book featuring Navajo life in the middle of the twentieth century and a boy’s relationship with his changing community and his love for a horse. Ages 7-up.

SEES BEHIND TREES by Michael Dorris (Modoc)(Hyperion, 1996). Set in the sixteenth century, Walnut grows into his adult name and leanrs to cope with his limited vision. Ages 8-up.

Author Insights

Debby Dahl Edwardson on Lens Shifting from Cynsations. PEEK: “My take may be partly generational and partly situational, of course. I’m of the generation that fought for civil rights and I live in the heart of an indigenous culture that’s about as remote as it gets from the centers of mass culture, a place that holds the distinction of being the northernmost spot on the north American continent, accessible by air only—no roads in, no roads out—and a place not terribly interested in the melting pot.”