Native American Cultures



The following children's books about Native American cultures provide engaging and educational windows into the daily lives of Native Americas over the past many centuries. This is just a start, of course. We know there are plenty more out there--both picture books and chapter books.


It is important to expose children to a wide range of books about Native American cultures because children tend to think of Native Americans as one cohesive group--with all the same traditions, beliefs, practices, languages, etc. This is far from correct, as there are over 562 tribes in America, with many similarities but also many differences. Using a range of books can help remedy that as well as teach children about the history of the people as a whole.

*The interest age increases as you move down the page.

For other history topics, click here.



The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
by Tomie dePaola

Summary:
This charming picture book full of brilliantly colored illustrations retells an old Texas folk tale about how the 'Indian paintbrush' flower came to be. One night in a dream, a young Native American boy named Little Gopher is told where to find brushes filled with vibrant colors. The next day he locates them and paints the beautifully colored flowers. (Works great when read with Legend of the Bluebonnet).

Reading Levels:
Interest Level--K-Gr.2     Difficulty Level--age 4-8

For more: The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
The Legend of the Bluebonnet
The Legend of the Bluebonnet
An Old Tale of Texas

Summary:
Fans of DePaola will love this moving retelling of a popular Comanche legend that explains how the bluebonnet (Texas's state flower) came to be. A young orphan Indian girl named She-Who-Is-Alone offers her most cherished possession to the Great Spirits in return for an end to the long drought that has plagued her people, and in return for her selfless act, bluebonnet flowers appear on the landscape.  

Reading Levels:
Interest Level--K-Gr.2   Difficulty Level--age 4-8

For more: click here The Legend of the Bluebonnet
More Than Moccassins
More Than Moccasins:
A Kid's Activity Guide to...American Indian Life

Summary: Filled with fun ideas, kids learn the traditions and skills of Native American cultures, like code talking, weaving, pottery making (with easy to make baking clay), gardening, and many other hands-on, creative projects.

Rdg Levels:  Interest--Gr. 1-6    Difficulty--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson plan ideas, DRA & Lexile...
The Boy Called Slow
A Boy Called Slow
by Joseph Bruchac

Summary:
A picture book biography of Sitting Bull, a Lakota Sioux who grew up with the name Slow. Determined to be a great warrior, he tried his hardest in hunting, wrestling, and riding, so he was ready by age 14 to go on his first raid with the warriors. On the raid he ran ahead of the older warriors to attack the Crows, who ran away, and so his father renamed him Sitting Bill. "An inspiring story." (SLJ)


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 1-6      Difficulty Level--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
The Rough Face Girl
The Rough-Face Girl
by Rafe Martin

Summary:
This Algonquin folktale is an Indian version of the Cinderella story, with two cruel sisters, a mistreated younger sister, and a handsome 'Invisible Being' that they all want to marry. To be selected to marry him, a young woman has to prove she has seen him by answering questions correctly. In the end, it is the mistreated younger sister who is successful. Simply told with dramatic "haunting illustrations."(PW)


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 3+     Difficulty Level--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
American Girl--Kaya
American Girl Kaya, 1764
American Girl Books -- Native American Culture

Summary
:
Kaya lives with her family in the traditional Nez Perce homeland in 1764, before the arrival of the white man. She has the nickname of "Magpie," which means an irresponsible and selfish bird, because she neglected to watch her twin brothers so she could enter a horse race. Now she wants to prove she is not like a Magpie after all. There are six books in this series.

Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- Gr. 3-5    Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
The Birchbark House
The Birchbark House
by Louise Erdich

Summary:
The first in a series, this is a story of an Ojibwa family living on an island in Lake Superior in 1847. They are followed through four seasons, and the main focus is on Omakayas, a girl who is almost 'eight winters old.' They build a summer place out of birchbark, do different things in each season. This book is not for students who need a lot of action, but those who do read it will be rewarded with endearing characters and a window into Ojibwa life.


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 4+    Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763 by Mary Pope Osborne
Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan

Summary:
A young Quaker girl named Caty keeps a journal of being captured from her 18th century Pennsylvania home by Lenape Indians, her gradual understanding and appreciation of their culture and beliefs, and the struggles he has readjust to Quaker life once she has been returned.  We agree with SLJ, who called this book "a solid piece of historical fiction."

Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 4-7    Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
The Buffalo and the Indians
The Buffalo and the Indians:  
A Shared Destiny

Summary:
A brilliantly told story of the majestic buffalo herds that roamed the plains and prairies for nearly 10,000 years before slaughter by European settlers almost drove them to extinction. Patent discusses the vital role of the buffalo in the spirituality and survival of Native American cultures, and how in modern times, the buffalo herds are being restored. "Deserves a place in every collection." (SLJ, starred)


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 4-8     Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
Weetamoo: Heart of the Pocassets, Massachusetts-Rhode Island, 1653 by Patricia Clark Smith
Weetamoo: Heart of the Pocassets, 1653
Royal Diaries

Summary:
Set in a 17th century Wampanoag village, this Royal Diaries title is the fictional diary of 14-year-old Weetamoo, who lives close to the initial Pilgrims settlement. Through Weematoo's journal, readers learn about Wampanoag culture, traditions, and way of life, as well as their eventual interactions with the pilgrims. Booklist called it "a lively yet ultimately tragic tale that vividly evokes the time period."

Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 4-7     Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864 by Ann Turner
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow:
The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl

Summary:
In her journal, a thirteen-year-old Navajo girl named Sarah records the frightening, arduous, and emotionally painful 'Long Walk'--the forced 400-mile journey that Navajos were forced to undertake in 1864, leaving behind their ancestral homelands and move to Fort Sumner. En route, she and her sister are separated from their parents, but find enough strength to make it to the end. 


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 4-8    Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
Thunder Rolling in the Mountains
Thunder Rolling in the Mountains
by Scott O'Dell

Summary:
Sound of Running Feet, daughter of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians, narrates the betrayal of her people and the bloody, tearful trail they were made to follow from their home in Oregon to Montana. Real people, events, and words are woven into the story, as are details about Nez Perce culture and beliefs. SLJ called this book "an admirable final addition to O'Dell's legacy of powerful novels."


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 5-8     Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
Sweetgrass
Sweetgrass
by Jan Hudson

Summary:
Sweetgrass wants to be married like other Blackfoot girls her age, but her father thinks she is too young. Over the subsequent year, she proves her wisdom, bravery and maturity through selfless acts to help members of her family and community, and finally her father begins to see her as a woman. Full of rich detail about Indian life. "This is a book which could be enjoyed even by reluctant readers, and is one which will invite re-reading." (SLJ)


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 5-10     Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...
Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey
Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey
by Jamake Highwater

Summary:
A handsome brave named Anpao wants to marry KoKoMikeis, but she is unwilling, claiming she belongs to the Sun only. So Anpao embarks a journey to the house of the Sun, to ask permission to marry KoKoMikeis, but first he has to go back to the beginning of the world and accomplish a series of tasks to discover his genuine self and show the Sun why he should have KoKoMikeis for a wife. 


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 6+     Difficulty Level--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA and Lexile, etc...







Do you know of a good children's book about Native American cultures? If so, please let us know by completing the Suggest a Book form, located in the top right hand column. Thank you.

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