Wanted: Books written by or about contemporary Native Americans.
Needed: Books that include contemporary Native American children presented without stereotypes or clichés.
Every child needs to see their own people and their own experiences in the books they read: yet in the United States less that 5% of children’s books published are written by or about Native Americans.
All young people need books that describe contemporary children who are Native American, not just historical accounts as though Indian children lived “past tense”, only a long time ago. The following books have “real” characters and engaging stories that include traditional celebrations continued in contemporary ways – with food, family, dance.
Secret of the Dance by Alfred Scow and Andrea Spalding (Orca, 2006);
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson, illustrated by Annie Patterson (Charlesbridge, 2003);
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins, 2000);
The Butterfly Dance by Gerald Dawavendewa (Abbeville, 2001);
Powwow’s Coming by Linda Boyden (University of New Mexico Press, 2007);
Little Coyote Runs Away by Craig Kee Strete (Putnam, 1997);
When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron (Tricycle Press, 2007).
With each of these books, if one asks, “Is this how an American Indian child would want to be perceived?” I think the answer is, “Yes.”
For Older Readers:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little Brown, 2007);
Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001);
Bowman’s Store: A Journey to Myself by Joseph Bruchac (Lee & Low, 1997);
Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Puffin Books, 1997);
Rattlesnake Mesa: Stories from a Native American Childhood by EdNah New Rider Weber, photographs by Richela Renkun (Lee & Low, 2004);
House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (Harper & Row, 1968 – new reprint edition, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010).
In every area of the curriculum – art, literature, sports, science, government and politics – include contemporary Native Americans. For example, in sports, one of the greatest American athletes of the past century was Jim Thorpe. But how often is his biography included in a list of American athletes? Joseph Bruchac, whose work reflects Native American traditions as well as his own Abenaki Indian heritage, (more…)