Cynsations

Teacher and Librarian Resources for Native American Children’s and Young Adult Books

Home & Classroom Teaching: Native  American Children’s-Teens’ Books & Resources

Welcome! This bibliography is compiled in hopes of improving education related to Native peoples and Nations. Please scroll for an extensive list of resources.

SEE ALSO companion bibliographies of contemporary Native books, historical Native books and more books by Native creators.

Finding Friends (And Ourselves) In Books by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Harper Stacks. Peek: “Native fiction…educates young readers, albeit at a slant, and often without them realizing that they are learning per se. Any authentic Native book will shift the knowledge base and mindset of its readers for the better.”

“Readers Are Realizing Their Hunger For Our Stories:” Native Literature for Kids and Teens by Kelly Jensen from Book Riot. An engaging, extensive overview of the state of Native children’s-YA books.

Educator Resources

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)

Home & Classroom Teaching: Native American Children’s-Teens’ Books & Educational Resources compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) from Cynsations. PEEK: “With tremendous appreciation of all the teachers and child-caregivers who’re navigating this difficult time of social isolating, I have assembled a list of Native children’s and young adult (teen) books along with supplemental educational and/or entertaining resources.”

American Indian Library Association’s Children’s and MG-YA Booklists.

2020 Bibliography: American Indian Books by Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) from Social Justice Books: A Teaching for Change Project. Board books, elementary, middle school and high school.

2018 Summer Middle Grade & YA Book List by Naomi Bishop (Akimel O’odham/Pima) from the American Indian Library Association. CYN NOTE: Deeply honored to see HEARTS UNBROKEN on this list.

“A Different Drum: Native American Writing” by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek), “Field Notes,” (The Horn Book Magazine, July 2002)(p.407). A discussion of the value of vulnerability of Native American writing styles in the mainstream market.

Four Native YA Authors on Their Message for Teens by Alia Jones from School Library Journal. CYN NOTE: Interview features Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), Eric Gansworth (Onondaga), Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe) and Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek). Article is free, but requires email registration to view.

HarperCollins Children’s Books Launches Heartdrum, A New Native-Focused Imprint from Cynsations. PEEK: “Launching in Winter 2021, Heartdrum will offer a wide range of innovative, unexpected, and heartfelt stories by Native creators, informed and inspired by lived experience, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.”

Heartdrum Brochure: “…centers contemporary Native and First Nation stories to uplift voices of authors and illustrators from a variety of tribes and nations across North America. Books will be published in a range of formats and genres: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and teen fiction, graphic novels for all ages, and nonfiction. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books, HarperCollins will make a yearly contribution to the Native fund from We Need Diverse Books. This brochure offers information on the imprint and its foundation as well as a sneak peek of two of the books on the launch list in Winter 2021.”

Heartdrum at HarperCollins Children’s Books: a Native children’s-YA imprint, curated by author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) and edited by Rosemary Brosnan.

Honoring Alaska’s Indigenous Literature from Alaska Native Knowledge Network at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Native literary leader Lee Francis IV (Laguna Pueblo)

Interview: Lee Francis IV on Native Publishing, Bookstores & Indigenous Comic Con by Traci Sorell (Cherokee) from Cynsations. PEEK: “There are great children’s books and some young adult and then a whole bunch of adult lit but not anything that would help bridge the gap for those readers who might need more graphics. We also wanted, and still want, to work in changing the perceptions and representations of Native people by presenting stories of Native people as superheroes and unlocking the Indigenous imagination….”

Let’s Indigenize Our Bookshelves and Fully Welcome Native Kids as Readers by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) from Nerdy Book Club. PEEK: “I understood from a very young age that the Native part of myself didn’t seem to belong in the world of readers. (Did we send that message to all Native kids? Do we still? At what cost to them and to their non-Indian friends…).”

Letter to an Emerging Indigenous Writer by Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee) from Lit Hub. PEEK: “You’re part of a lineage, a tradition, a rich, vexed, complicated, troubled, and beautiful history of literary achievement. That can be a deep wellspring from which to draw strength. Please don’t accept the idea, even from our own, that Indigenous writing is a contradiction in terms, that our writing is only a colonial construct. Our peoples have been communicating knowledge in various media and forms since time immemorial…”

Native Knowledge 360° from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. PEEK: “…provides educational materials and teacher training that incorporate Native narratives, more comprehensive histories, and accurate information to enlighten and inform teaching and learning about Native America. NK360° challenges common assumptions about Native peoples—their cultures, their roles in United States and world history, and their contributions to the arts, sciences, and literature. NK360° offers a view that includes not only the past but also the richness and vibrancy of Native peoples and cultures today.”

Children’s authors Traci Sorell (Cherokee), Kim Rogers (Wichita) & Andrea Rogers (Cherokee)

Native Voices: Children’s-YA Author/Illustrator Interviews by Traci Sorell (Cherokee) and Kim Rogers (Wichita) from Cynsations. Conversations with well-established and up-and-coming Native children’s book creators.

Native Voices: Sharing Stories and Talking Back from We Need Diverse Books. PEEK: “I’m hopeful—in part because of voices like those I’m welcoming to this circle today, in part because I’ve seen Native and non-Indian children embrace contemporary Native characters and historical ones who’re depicted as three-dimensional human beings.” SEE ALSO Part 2.

Selective Bibliography and Guide for “I” is not for Indian: The Portrayal of Native Americans in Books for Young People: compiled by Naomi Caldwell-Wood (Ramapough Lenape Nation) and Lisa A. Mitten (Mohawk); published in conjunction with a program of the ALA/OLOS Subcommittee for Library Services to American Indian People/American Indian Library Association in 1991.

LoonSong: Turtle Island, including Kara Stewart (Sappony) and Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo). The writing workshop was coordinated by author Debby Dahl Edwardson.

Strategies for Teaching Seven Native-Centered Books to K-12 Students by Kara Stewart (Sappony) from School Library Journal. SEE ALSO Native Stories: Books for Tweens and Teens By and About Indigenous Peoples by Kara Stewart (Sappony) and Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) from School Library Journal.

Teaching Respect for Native Peoples, shared with permission of Oyate. SEE ALSO: THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE by Simon J. Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), illustrated by Sharol Graves (Absentee Shawnee) (Lee & Low, 2017) “Told in the rhythms of traditional oral narrative, this powerful telling of the history of the Native/Indigenous peoples of North America… despite struggles against greed, destruction of their lands, and oppression, The People persisted.””

Education & Library Science

AIYLA Gold Medal

American Indian Library Association: an affiliate of the American Library Association. PEEK: “a membership action group that addresses the library-related needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Members are individuals and institutions interested in the development of programs to improve Indian library, cultural, and informational services in school, public, and research libraries on reservations. AILA is also committed to disseminating information about Indian cultures, languages, values, and information needs to the library community.”

Avoiding Mistakes in the Classroom by Art Hughes from Native American Calling. PEEK: “Educational units on Native Americans continue to evolve, but there remain relics that resort to construction paper headdresses. We’ll talk with Native educators about how teachers can utilize more inclusive and accurate lessons.”

The Cradleboard Teaching Project: provides Native curriculum to tribal and mainstream schools; founded by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree).

Journal of American Indian Education: “The Journal of American Indian Education is a peer reviewed scholarly journal, which publishes papers specifically related to the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives.” It is published three times annually by the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University’s College of Education. Full text of past volumes is online, includes search engine and subscription information.

Native American Education Links from Dr. Jon Allan Reyhner at Northern Arizona University.

Native Knowledge 360° from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. PEEK: “NK360° provides educational materials and teacher training that incorporate Native narratives, more comprehensive histories, and accurate information to enlighten and inform teaching and learning about Native America. NK360° challenges common assumptions about Native peoples—their cultures, their roles in United States and world history, and their contributions to the arts, sciences, and literature. NK360° offers a view that includes not only the past but also the richness and vibrancy of Native peoples and cultures today.”

Author Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe)

An Ojibwe Education by the Blue Earth Banks from Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe). PEEK: “If all students…have a deep respect and joy for Native-authored texts, then no future young Indian girl, like myself, will have to recede away from her identity by being ridiculed for loving a book which reflects herself….”

Literary Evaluation

American Indians in Children’s Literature from Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo). PEEK: “provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society.” High-value resource that includes recommendation lists. SEE ALSO Tips for Teachers: Developing Instructional Materials About American Indians.

American Indian Youth Literature Award from the American Indian Library Association. PEEK: “presented every two years. The awards were established as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Books selected to receive the award will present American Indians in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts.” CYN NOTE: AILA Award Criteria.

The CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature from Code: Rewriting the Story for Global Literacy. PEEK: “…a Canadian literary award and readership initiative that recognizes excellence in Indigenous-authored literature for young adults (ages 12-18). With the generous support of the Consecon Foundation (formally the Literary Prizes Foundation) and generous CODE supporters, the CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature is given to literary works for youth created by First Nation, Inuit, and Métis writers, illustrators, and translators.”

How Native Writers Talk Story: Honoring Authentic Voices in Books for Young People by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) and Traci Sorell (Cherokee) from School Library Journal. PEEK: “Joyfully, the community of Native and First Nations writers creating books for children and teens keeps growing. With each publication season, an ever-expanding body of Indigenous youth literature is available. Meanwhile, as more Native writers make inroads into publishing for children and teens, it is imperative that non-Native adult readers work to see the heart of these stories—and recognize and set aside their internalized misconceptions about Native life, people, and nations.”

Resources and Kid Lit About American Indians from School Library Journal. PEEK: “At a conference held at the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center in the early 1990s, James Ransome was asked why he had not illustrated any books with American Indian characters. His response, in short, was something to the effect of, ‘I haven’t held their babies.’”

SELF-DETERMINED STORIES: THE INDIGENOUS REINVENTION OF YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE by Mandy Suhr-Sytsma (Michigan State University Press, 2018). PEEK: “…reads Indigenous-authored YA—from school stories to speculative fiction— not only as a vital challenge to stereotypes but also as a rich intellectual resource for theorizing Indigenous sovereignty in the contemporary era.”

We Are Still Here? An Interview with Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) from NCTE. PEEK: “I wish that teachers would do all they could to push against that monolithic ‘primitive’ and ‘uncivilized’ depiction that is so pervasive and damaging to our youth, but all youth, too, who play and learn alongside our children.”

Media

American Indian Newspapers and Magazines: list of links to tribal newspapers, Indian Country Today, and the Native American Journalist’s Association from The Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Native America Calling: The National Electric Talking Circle: a project of Koahnic Broadcast Corporation (think radio interviews, NPR).

Organizations

The American Indian College Fund: non-profit organization that raises scholarship, endowment, and operating monies for Native American tribal colleges.

National Indian Education Association: “Since NIEA was founded in 1969, Native educators and advocates have fought to ensure Native students receive an equitable and quality education that is afforded to many of their peers.”

Native American Rights Fund “Standing Firm for Justice”: the premier legal advocacy organization.

Oyate: evaluates educational resources and fiction by and about Native people, leads workshops for teachers, and distributes excellent examples of such materials, making an effort to highlight Native authors and illustrators.

Returning The Gift: “Founded in 1992, Returning the Gift Literary Festival (RTG) is a conference created by Indigenous writers specifically for Indigenous creatives after years of under-representation and isolation at other industry events. Since then, RTG conferences have been held all over the United States and Canada, included Indigenous artists and authors from all over the world, and honored the work of many amazing Indigenous creators.”

Talk Story: Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture: a joint project of the American Indian Library Association and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.

Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers: “to ensure the voices of Native and indigenous writers and storytellers — past, present, and future — are heard throughout the world.”

Resource Guides

American IndiansAMERICAN INDIANS: STEREOTYPES & REALITIES by Devon A. Mihesuah (Choctaw)(Clarity Press, 1997). Valuable overview—deconstructs and re-educates, especially recommended to teachers, but also a good fit for young adults. Ages 12-up.

A KID’S GUIDE TO NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY: MORE THAN 50 ACTIVITIES by Yvonne Wakim Dennis (Cherokee) and Arlene Hirschfelder (Chicago Review Press, 2009). From the promotional copy: “Hands-on activities, games, and crafts introduce children to the diversity of Native American cultures and teach them about the people, experiences, and events that have helped shape America, past and present.”

NATIVE AMERICA IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA edited by Mary B. Davis with assistant editors Joan Berman, Mary E. Graham, and Lisa A. Mitten (Mohawk)(Garland, 1994). A vast collection of articles, forty percent of which are by Native people, address a variety of topics such as BIA schools, art, health, individual Native Nations, supplemented by bibliographies, maps, and photographs.

NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY: RESOURCES AND ACTIVITIES FOR EDUCATORS GRADES 4-8 by Arlene Hirschfelder and Yvonne Beamer (Cherokee)(Libraries Unlimited, 2000). Wakim has worked in Indian education and community services for more than 25 years. Hirschfelder has written numerous non-fiction books on Native people and has worked for the Association on American Indian Affairs for more than 20 years.

RED ON RED: NATIVE AMERICAN LITERARY SEPARATISM by Craig S. Wormack (Muscogee Creek-Cherokee)(University of Minnesota Press, 1999). A fascinating examination of the way in which Native literature should be evaluated—on its own terms with the understanding that it is not a branch on the tree of mainstream literature but rather a tree unto itself (to paraphrase the author). Unfortunately, there wasn’t space for the author to consider Native children’s literature, which has its own (younger) primary audience and criteria, but we recommend the title with that caveat.

THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE by Simon J. Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), illustrated by Sharol Graves (Absentee Shawnee) (Lee & Low, 2017) “Told in the rhythms of traditional oral narrative, this powerful telling of the history of the Native/Indigenous peoples of North America recounts their story from Creation to the invasion and usurpation of Native lands…despite struggles against greed, destruction of their lands, and oppression, The People persisted.”