A Rich Heritage: American Indians Today

These contemporary stories offer glimpses into the lives of young American Indians, with a particular emphasis on the important family ties, friendships, and traditions that empower characters to embrace their heritage and identity.

Cloudwalker: Contemporary Native American Stories

Illustrated by: Carson Waterman
Age Level: 9-12

This collection of six short stories features characters from various Native nations.… "Grandfather Crosses Over" chronicles Doreen's respect and then grief for her grandfather of the Jicarilla Apache nation. In "Powwow," fancy dancer Homer watches with pride as his older brother Lester, a new army private, carries the American flag at a powwow at the Sac and Fox fairgrounds. The book also includes an introduction to dispel stereotypes and an extensive glossary. — Cynthia Leitich Smith

Eagle Song

Illustrated by: Dan Andreasen
Age Level: 9-12

Danny Bigtree's family has moved to a new city, and Danny can't seem to fit in. He's homesick for the Mohawk reservation, and the kids in his class tease him about being an Indian — the thing that makes Danny most proud. Can Danny, drawing on his Mohawk heritage, find the courage to stand up for himself?

High Elk's Treasure

Age Level: 9-12

Google Books: Caught in a raging storm, Joe High Elk and his sister, Marie, seek shelter in the cave of their ancestor, Steps High Like an Elk, where they learn their family history and discover High Elk's hundred-year-old forbidden treasure.

Activity Guide available.

Hungry Johnny

Illustrated by: Wesley Ballinger
Age Level: 3-6

"I like to eat, eat, eat," choruses young Johnny as he watches Grandma at work in the kitchen. Wild rice, fried potatoes, fruit salad, frosted sweet rolls — what a feast! Johnny can hardly contain his excitement. In no time, he'll be digging in with everyone else, filling his belly with all this good food. But Johnny has a few more things to do before he can eat. As Johnny watches anxiously, Grandma gently teaches. He understands, just as Grandma does, that gratitude, patience, and respect are rewarded by a place at the table — and plenty to eat, eat, eat.

Indian Shoes

Age Level: 6-9

Ray is a Seminole-Cherokee who lives with his grandfather in contemporary Chicago. In each of six short stories, Ray meets universally recognizable challenges while remaining cognizant of his Indian heritage. Short stories are told with humor and compassion.

Jingle Dancer

Age Level: 6-9

Jenna wants to dance in the powwow as her grandmother and other women in her family have. But she wonders: will she have enough jingles to make her dress sing? Traditional and contemporary activities come together in this appealing, clearly illustrated story of a modern girl and her background, based on the author's Muscogee (Creek) heritage.

Kiki's Journey

Illustrated by: Jonathan Warm Day
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Like millions of other children who call Los Angeles home, Kiki's a city girl, even if she was born on a reservation. Her parents left the Taos Pueblo long ago, and she hasn't been back since she was a baby. But when she returns with her parents during spring break, Kiki feels like a tourist in a place that should feel like home. An honest look at the challenges and rewards of contemporary American Indian life.

Morning on the Lake

Illustrated by: Karen Reczuch
Age Level: 6-9

A young Ojibwe boy and his grandfather set out in a birchbark canoe early one spring morning to discover the peaceful beauty of the lake, climb a rocky cliff, and venture into the woods. Under the patient and gentle guidance of his grandfather, the boy gradually comes to respect the ways of nature and to understand his own place in the world.

Muskrat Will Be Swimming

Illustrated by: Robert Hynes
Age Level: 6-9

Living in a lakeside community of "cellar holes, trailers, and old winterized cottages," a girl of Native American and French descent loves her home, but feels demeaned when classmates call her a lake rat. She confides in Grampa, who listens, questions, and reminds her of a legend concerning Muskrat. A dream and a symbolic dive into the lake help the girl fully accept where she's from and who she is. — Booklist

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

Owl in the Cedar Tree

Age Level: 9-12

Haske, a Navaho boy, is torn between the past of his people's rich, self-sustaining culture and a present that opens up new possibilities. His parents propel him in one direction, his grandfather in another, his teacher in still another. The boy has a secret wish, but its fulfillment seems beyond reach. At night he listens to the hoot of the owl in the cedar tree and wonders if good fortune or bad is in store. This beautifully written story finally supplies the answer.

Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Marcie Rendon follows Sharyl and Windy Downwind and their children as they travel from their home on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota to powwows all around the region. At ceremonies and in daily life, Windy and Sharyl celebrate Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) culture by teaching their children traditional skills, dance steps, and lifeways, all part of the circle of community and the seasons and life.

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.

Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story

Illustrated by: Adam Gustavson
Age Level: 9-12

Canadian guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson is known mainly for his central role in the musical group The Band. But how did he become one of Rolling Stone's top 100 guitarists of all time? Written by his son, Sebastian, this is the story of a rock-and-roll legend's journey through music, beginning with the songs and stories he learned from his mother's family as a child on a Six Nations reservation north of Toronto.

Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light

Illustrated by: Karen Clarkson
Age Level: 6-9

Looking back to his childhood, Choctaw storyteller Tingle introduces his capable, comforting Mawmaw (grandmother); recalls his shock as a six-year-old at realizing that she was blind (possibly, he learns, as a result of a racially motivated assault in her own youth); and recounts a hospital vigil years afterward when she received an eye transplant…A lengthy afterword provides more details about Tingle's family and Choctaw culture, and offers much to think about regarding American Indian stereotypes. — Booklist

Skeleton Man

Age Level: 9-12

Ever since the morning Molly woke up to find that her parents had vanished, her life has become filled with terrible questions. Where have her parents gone? Who is this spooky old man who's taken her to live with him, claiming to be her great-uncle? Why does he never eat, and why does he lock her in her room at night? What are her dreams of the Skeleton Man trying to tell her? There's one thing Molly does know: she needs to find some answers before it's too late.

Super Indian: Volume 1

Age Level: 9-12

Hubert Logan was an ordinary Reservation boy until he ate tainted commodity cheese infused with Rezium, a secret government food enrichment additive. Known as Super Indian, Hubert fights evil forces who would overtake the Reservation's resources and population. Assisted by his trusty sidekicks Mega Bear and Diogi, they fight crime the way they know how — with strength, smarts, and humor.

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 Moccasins

Illustrated by: Julie Flett
Age Level: 3-6

Based on the author's life, this simple yet profound book is about the pair of moccasins that a child receives from his foster mother. Through the moccasins, the child's mother encourages him to take pride in his Ktunaxa (First Nations) heritage. Earl Einarson dedicates this book to "all foster parents who give of themselves and provide love when it is most needed."

The Origin of the Milky Way and Other Living Stories of the Cherokee

Age Level: 9-12

Cherokee people have lived in the Great Smoky Mountains for thousands of years telling stories to explain how things came to be, to pass on lessons about life, and to describe the mountains, animals, plants, and spirits around them. This collection of 26 stories is presented by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in their own words; the stories appear in free-verse form, like poems on the page, so that if you read them aloud, you can hear the rhythm of the stories as they were originally told.

The Range Eternal

Age Level: 6-9

In this evocative glimpse into the past, a narrator recalls the blue enamel stove of her childhood home in the mountains of North Dakota ; The stove provides light and comfort against night fears and casts shadows on the wall that turn into pictures of the plains long ago, thick with grazing buffalo…This is a peaceful story of imagination, memories, and the ties among generations. — School Library Journal

The Return of Skeleton Man

Age Level: 9-12

Molly thought she'd put her traumatic past behind her when she escaped from Skeleton Man last year. She rescued her parents and tried to get her life back to the way it used to be. She thought her family would live happily ever after and just be normal again. She thought wrong. Skeleton Man is back for revenge — but this time Molly is ready. In this long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Skeleton Man, Joseph Bruchac revisits his most terrifying villain yet.

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.

Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City

Age Level: 12-14

The majority of Natives in North America live "off the rez." How do they stay rooted to their culture? How do they connect with their community? Urban Tribes offers unique insight into this growing and often misperceived group. This anthology profiles young urban Natives and how they connect with Native culture and values in their contemporary lives.

Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School

Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Age Level: 9-12

This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students growing up in such distinctive circumstances and straddling cultures.

Where Did You Get Your Moccasins?

Illustrated by: Herman Bekkering
Age Level: 3-6

It's circle time, and in answer to his classmates' questions about his moccasins, a child describes in detail how his grandmother made them: "By washing and scraping and pulling and smoking a deer hide, my Kookum made the leather. And from the leather she made my moccasins for me." A related lesson plan is featured on the American Indians in Children's Literature blog. — Oyate

Which Way Should I Go?

Illustrated by: Kasia Charko
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Based on the memories of Martin, this story introduces us to Joey, a happy Nuu-chah-nulth boy, eager to help and see the bright side of things. When he loses his beloved grandmother, though, the sun goes out in his world. Slowly, he realizes she has left something of herself behind in an important song, and he chooses to remember her with joy. Teachers Guide available.

Yetsa's Sweater

Age Level: 6-9

On a fresh spring day, young Yetsa, her mother and her grandmother gather to prepare the sheep fleeces piled in Grandma's yard. As they clean, wash and dry the fleece, laughter and hard work connect the three generations. Through Yetsa's experience of each task, the reader joins this family in an old but vibrant tradition: the creation of Cowichan sweaters by Coast Salish knitters.