Athletes and Sports: American Indian Heritage

These books tell the stories of Native athletes, from the legendary Jim Thorpe and Louis Sockalexis to more contemporary stars such NHL player Jordin Tootoo and Olympic wheelchair racer Cheri Becerra-Madsen.

Also included are the stories of kids from different historical time periods who can't get enough of their favorite game — whether it's basketball, soccer, lacrosse, or hockey — and the lengths to which they're willing to go to play.

Titles for older readers are available on our related YA booklist.

Children of the Longhouse

Age Level: 9-12

In this coming-of-age story, the children of the longhouse are 11-year-old Ohkwa'ri and Itsi:tsia. Twin brother and sister, they live in a Mohawk town in the traditional homelands of what is now eastern New York State in 1491. Reflecting the balance between male and female roles in Iroquois society, the book's chapters alternate between the events and perspectives of Ohkwa'ri and Itsi:tsia, who very definitely see things differently. Bruchac seamlessly incorporates an impressive amount of information about pre-contact Mohawk culture, society, and beliefs, and tells a good story as well.

Jim Thorpe's Bright Path

Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: This biography portrays the childhood and school years of the immensely talented Native American athlete, Jim Thorpe (1887—1953). Born in Oklahoma, Thorpe spent his first years exploring the outdoors with his father and twin brother, Charlie. At age six, the boys were sent to an Indian boarding school, which Jim hated. He struggled academically, and his only outlet was sports.

Jordin Tootoo: The Highs and Lows in the Journey of the First Inuit to Play in the NHL

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: In 2003, Jordin Kudluk "Thunder" Tootoo became the first Inuk to play in an NHL game. Jordin has had more than his fair share of fights — both on and off the ice. He's had to overcome the social problems that are associated with the North, fight his way through the discrimination and culture shock he encountered after leaving Rankin Inlet and moving to Alberta to play in the Juniors, and see his way through the grief of losing his NHL-bound older brother and hero, Terence Tootoo, to suicide in 2002.

Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer

By: Bill Wise
Illustrated by: Bill Farnsworth
Age Level: 6-9

On a Maine summer day in 1884, twelve-year-old Penobscot Indian Louis Sockalexis first fell in love with baseball. As he grew up, Louis honed his skills and dreamed of one day joining a major league team. Louis encountered opposition at every turn, from the jeers of teammates and the taunts of spectators to the disapproval of his father. With determination, courage, and quiet dignity, Louis Sockalexis smashed racial barriers and home runs, leaving an indelible mark on America's favorite sport.

Native Athletes in Action (Native Trailblazers)

Age Level: 9-12

"Along with well-known figures such as Jim Thorpe and National Hockey League hit man Jordin Tootoo, Schilling introduces Olympic wheelchair racer Cheri Becerra-Madsen, speed skier Ross Anderson, ice dancer Naomi Lang, and eight other less-familiar Native American athletes of the present and recent past. Most of the portraits are based on personal interviews; all include tribal affiliations, career notes (sometimes in boldface), brief sidebars, and small, black-and-white action photos." — Booklist

Rink Rivals (Lorimer Sports Stories)

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: When twin brothers Evan and Brynley Selkirk move with their family from the remote Cree community of Whapmagoostui to bustling Calgary, their worlds turn upside-down. In place of the grey, frigid waters of Hudson Bay, they see the downtown canyons of a modern city. Bryn, a musical prodigy, trades piano practice for hockey practice to impress a new girlfriend; Evan, the family hockey hero, starts running with a bad crowd and neglecting the game.

Rookie Season (Lorimer Sports Stories)

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Leigh Aberdeen is a proud young Métis woman who wants to take on the whole league with her all-girl hockey team, the Chinooks. Leigh's dream is threatened when her best friend Tina, the team's star goalie, mysteriously starts missing practices. To make matters worse, the coach adds a smart-aleck boy to the team roster. At the end of the season, as the Chinooks fight to come out on top, a sudden change in the line-up gives them an unexpected boost.

Soccer Star (Lorimer Sports Stories)

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Samantha Aqsarniq Keyes is used to a life on the move. Her military family has been transferred across Canada, and she has grown up with stories of her Inuit ancestors exploring the far north. For Sam, soccer has been the one constant in her life. But now that she's thirteen, her home base isn't the only thing that's changing. Sam longs to show up Carly, her school's reigning soccer star, but Sam's new interest in theatre is taking up a lot of time. Does she have the time to practice her sport and be the lead in the school play?

The Creator's Game: A Story of Baaga'adowe/Lacrosse

Illustrated by: Robert Desjarlait
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: The game of lacrosse is a gift from the Creator, given to the American Indians in the long ago. But Travis Skinaway doesn't know the full story of the game: he only knows that he struggles to catch the ball and that his teammates and coach seem to think he's hopeless. Travis is ready to hang up his gear, but then his grandfather appears in a dream, explaining to him that lacrosse is a spiritual quest, just like a prayer, a song, or a dance.

The Warriors

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: As a member of the lacrosse team and of Iroquois heritage, Jake knows how sacred the game is. When he moves to a boarding school in Washington, DC and plays for its team, however, he finds that the coach is feeding untruths to his team about the game.

Triple Threat (Lorimer Sports Stories)

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Matthew Eagletail can't wait until his online friend John Salton flies from San Francisco to Bragg Creek, Alberta for a summer visit. John is almost as big a basketball fan as Matt is, and dreams of being the first coach in the NBA to use a wheelchair. When Matt's sister Jazz tells them about the upcoming Rocky Mountain Summer Basketball League in Calgary, they decide immediately to get a team together. Unfortunately, so does Matt's archrival, John Beal. Soon the Bobcats and the Mean Machine are fighting it out on the court, determined to win by any means necessary.