Articles & Ideas

14 Great Books for National Native American Heritage Month

From Maine to Hawaii, North Carolina to Alaska, Fable Learning has more than a dozen books that feature Native American history, culture and folklore. There are picture books with legends, myths and folktales illustrated by Indian artists, nonfiction for middle school with primary source documents, and exciting historical fiction. New York State subscribers: be sure to check out Thomas in Danger 1779 for a story set in part in a Mohawk village of the Iroquois Nation.

Legends, Myths and Folktales

Illustration of Native Americans dancing, wearing buffalo costumes Illustration of Native Americans dancing, wearing buffalo costumes

Grades 3-6

Buffalo Dance by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. A young woman's courage saves her village, in a beautifully illustrated retelling of a Blackfoot myth about the significance of the buffalo dance ritual, performed before and after each hunt to show respect for, and gratitude to, the buffalo.

Illustration of Native American Woman cooking

Grades 1-3

Kanahena by Susan L. Roth. A Cherokee woman tells a young girl the legend of the tricky Terrapin who must use his wits to save himself after he gets into a great deal of trouble with Bad Wolf and the Other Wolves over a little Kanahena (a traditional Cherokee cornmeal dish). Includes a recipe for making kanahena.

Illustration of powerful looking Native American woman

Grades 1-3

The Magic of Spider Woman by Lois Duncan, illustrated by Navaho artist Shanto Begay. Tells the Navaho Teaching Tale of Wandering Girl who becomes Weaving Woman, and must learn to live a balanced life.

Illustration of bear in a snowstorm
Illustration of bear in a snowstorm Preview

Grades 2-4

Muwin and the Magic Hare by Susan Hand Shetterly, illustrated by Robert Shetterly. This tale from the Passamaquoddy People of Maine and Canada is about a Bear who meets his equal in Mahtoqehs — The Great Magic Hare of the Woods.

Illustration of boy holding coconut out to shark

Grades K-2

Punia and the King of the Sharks by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Felipe Davalos. A Hawaiian folktale about a brave boy who tries to outwit the ferocious King of the Sharks.

Illustration of Raven flying near the sun

Grades 2-4

Raven's Light by Susan Hand Shetterly, illustrated by Robert Shetterly. This myth from the People of the Northwest Coast explains how Raven made the earth, animals, moon, day and night. "This book stands out among pedestrian folktale retellings because of its descriptive verve, narrative coherence, and precision of language." (SLJ)

Fascinating Nonfiction

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Grades 5-7

The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde by Caroline Arnold. Archeologists examine the ruins of an Ancient Pueblo civilization in southwestern Colorado. This community of cliff dwellers moved in about 1300 AD, leaving unique articfacts behind. Illustrated with vivid photographs by Richard Hewett.

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Grades 6-8

The Flight of Red Bird by Doreen Rappaport. The story of Gertrude Bonin, a Yankton Sioux born in 1876 who was taken from her family at the age of 8 and sent to an Indian School where she was taught to dress and eat and behave like a white person. She later changed her name to Zitkala-Sa and became a leading advocate for justice for Native Americans. Includes letters and diary entries from Zitkala-Sa and other primary source documents.

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Grades 2-4

Nickommoh! by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Marcia Sewall. The Narragansett people gather for a joyful harvest celebration called Nickommoh, as it has been performed since before the arrival of the first Pilgrims in New England. A glossary and author's note traces the connection between Nickommoh and the "first" Thanksgiving.

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Grades 2-4

Stories on Stone by Jennifer Owings Dewey. Reveals the powerful stone art of the Southwest, carved and painted by Paleo-Indians at the end of the last ice age, as they moved south searching for warmer climates. As a child, Jennifer's parents took her to see these ancient images of spirits and animals — some of the earliest known examples of written communication. Her personal experience, along with the beautiful illustrations, will draw in young readers.

Powerful Historical Fiction

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Grades 4-6

Cherokee Sister by Debbie Dadey. When Allie MacAllister's best friend, Leaf Sweetwater, invites her to try on her buckskin dress, Allie couldn't be happier... until soldiers interrupt the girls' fun and round up Leaf's family, forcing them from their home and taking Allie with them. Together they are swept along the harsh Trail of Tears, along with thousands of other Cherokee families.

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Grades 6-9

Minik's Story by Jennifer Owings Dewey. This is the coming of age story of a 12-year-old Inuit girl in Alaska in the late 1800's. Minik is intrigued by the "longskirt" priest who arrives on a whaling vessel, hoping to convert the native people, while her wise grandmother believes nothing good can come from the "Dog Children."

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Grades 4-6

Thomas in Danger 1779 by Bonnie Pryor, illustrated by Bert Dodson. An exciting tale set during the American Revolution, Thomas in Danger 1779 follows a 12-year-old boy whose family was driven out of western Pennsylvania by Tories (Americans loyal to the English King) and their Native American allies. This vivid portrait of the Mohawk people of the Iroquois Nation will bring the village to life for readers and also give them perspective on a little-known aspect of the American Revolution — what happened to the families left behind when soldiers went off to war.

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Grades 4-6

Wind Runner by Ellie Crowe (Grades 4-6). In 1680 starving Pueblo Indians rose in battle against the cruel Spanish soldiers occupying their territory in present-day New Mexico. They sent runners to convince other Indian tribes, some their sworn enemies, to join in the effort. Running Deer, a 14-year-old boy, runs as fast as the wind to deliver a message to the neighboring tribe, taking the place of his older brother, Star Fire. But can a young boy succeed in this dangerous mission? Readers won't want to put this book down!

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