Celebrate Native American Heritage

Posted on November 1, 2017

by April S

November is National Native American Heritage Month. Learn more about the diverse culture and history of Native Americans by exploring the resources your local library has to offer.

Library Resources

Books for Adults

Native nations : cultures and histories of native North America / Nancy Bonvillain

Native Nations : Cultures and Histories of Native North America by Nancy Bonvillain


Organized around regional groupings within which similar, although not identical, cultural practices developed, this comprehensive text introduces students to the many peoples indigenous to North America.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher : the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher : the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan Print | Audiobook | eBook | eAudio

Edward Curtis was dashing, charismatic, a passionate mountaineer, a famous photographer–the Annie Liebowitz of his time. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his great idea: He would try to capture on film the Native American nation before it disappeared. At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, Egan’s book tells the remarkable untold story behind Curtis’s iconic photographs, following him throughout Indian country from desert to rainforest as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, it took tremendous perseverance–six years alone to convince the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. The undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. He would die penniless and unknown in Hollywood just a few years after publishing the last of his twenty volumes. But the charming rogue with the grade-school education had fulfilled his promise–his great adventure succeeded in creating one of America’s most stunning cultural achievements.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me : a Memoir by Sherman Alexie Print | Audiobook | eBook | eAudio

Presents a literary memoir of poems and essays that reflect on the author’s complicated feelings about his disadvantaged childhood on a Native American reservation with his siblings and alcoholic mother. A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, loss, and forgiveness from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award-winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Good Friday on the rez : a Pine Ridge odyssey / David Hugh Bunnell Good Friday on the Rez : a Pine Ridge Odyssey By David Hugh Bunnell Print

A magnificent mix of memoir and recent Native American history is told through a 280-mile car trip around the Pine Ridge Reservation where the author lived during and after the siege at Wounded Knee, tracking the torment and miraculous resurrection of Native American pride, spirituality and culture.

Crazy Brave : a Memoir by Joy Harjo Crazy Brave : a Memoir by Joy Harjo Print

In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo, one of our leading Native American voices, details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. She attended an Indian arts boarding school, where she nourished an appreciation for painting, music, and poetry; gave birth while still a teenager; and struggled on her own as a single mother, eventually finding her poetic voice. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice. Harjo’s tale of a hardscrabble youth, young adulthood, and transformation into an award-winning poet and musician is haunting, unique, and visionary.

Encyclopedia of native tribes of North America / Michael G. Johnson ; color plates by Richard Hook Encyclopedia of native tribes of North America by Michael G. Johnson Print

This superb, fully illustrated reference offers the most up-to-date and essential facts on the identity, kinships, locations, populations and cultural characteristics of some 400 separately identifiable peoples native to the North American continent, both living and extinct, from the Canadian Arctic to the Rio Grande. The abundance of illustrations and photographs form an especially rich store of material describing the vast range of Native American material culture. The maps are valuable pictorial representations of major historical events. Population and settlement trends based on the most recent US Census paint detailed portraits of all officially recognized tribe.

Books for Children and Teen

Sweetest Kulu / by Celina Kalluk ; illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk ; illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis Ages 0-5 Print

This beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. Lyrically and tenderly told by a mother speaking to her own little “Kulu,” an Inuktitut term of endearment often bestowed upon babies and young children, this visually stunning book is infused with the traditional Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants.

Buffalo Bird Girl : A Hidatsa Story retold by S. D. Nelson Buffalo Bird Girl : A Hidatsa Story retold by S. D. Nelson Ages 6-9 Print

This fascinating picture book biography tells the childhood story of Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa Indian born around 1839. Through her true story, readers will learn what it was like to be part of this Native American community that lived along the Missouri River in the Dakotas, a society that depended more on agriculture for food and survival than on hunting. Children will relate to Buffalo Bird Girl’s routine of chores and playing with friends, and they will also be captivated by her lifestyle and the dangers that came with it. Using as a resource the works of Gilbert L. Wilson, who met Buffalo Bird Woman and transcribed her life’s story in the early 20th century, award-winning author-illustrator S. D. Nelson has captured the spirit of Buffalo Bird Girl and her lost way of life. The book includes a historical timeline.

Arctic peoples by Robin S. Doak - First nations of North America Arctic Peoples by Robin S. Doak Ages 8-10 Print

An introduction to the Native Americans of the Arctic, examining their cultures, customs, and traditions, and describing how the early people survived in the Arctic, their interactions with other settlers, and their lives in the twenty-first century.

Native Americans : discover the history & cultures of the first Americans : with 15 projects / Kim Kavin ; illustrated by Beth Hetland Native Americans : Discover the History & Cultures of the First Americans : with 15 Projects by Kim Kavin ; illustrated by Beth Hetland Ages 9-12 Print

Explore how the first Americans, faced with varying climates in a vast land hundreds and thousands of years ago, developed everything we take for granted today: food supplies, shelter, clothing, religion, games, jewelry, transportation, communication, and more.

Native Americans: Discover the History and Cultures of the First Americans uses hands-on activities to illuminate how the Native Americans survived and thrived by creating tools, culture, and a society based on their immediate environment. Entertaining illustrations and fascinating sidebars bring the topic to life, while Words to Know highlighted and defined within the text reinforce new vocabulary. Projects include building an archaic toolkit, creating Algonquin art, experimenting with irrigation systems, inventing hieroglyphics, making a “quinzy,” and playing the Inuit game of nugluktaq. In addition to a glossary and an index, an extensive appendix of sites and museums all over the country offers ideas where families can learn more about the various Native American cultures.

Kids ages 9–12 will gain an appreciation for the diversity of people and culture native to America, and learn to problem solve in a way that respects the environment.

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III ; illustrated by Jim Yellowhawk Ages 10-14 Print | eBook

Teased for his fair coloring, eleven-year-old Jimmy McClean travels with his maternal grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, to learn about his Lakota heritage while visiting places significant in the life of Crazy Horse, the nineteenth-century Lakota leader and warrior, in a tale that weaves the past with the present. Includes historical note and glossary.

Undefeated : Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football team / Steve Sheinkin Undefeated : Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football team by Steve Sheinkin Ages 10-16 Print | Audiobook | eBook

A great American sport and Native American history come together in this true story of how Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner created the legendary Carlisle Indians football team.

The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian / by Sherman Alexie ; art by Ellen Forney The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie ; art by Ellen Forney Ages 12 & up Print | Large Print | Audiobook eBook | eAudio

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Dreaming in Indian : contemporary Native American voices / edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale Dreaming in Indian : Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale Ages 12 & up Print

Whether discussing the transformative power of art or music, the lasting trauma of residential schools, growing up poor, or achieving success, the contributors to this remarkable anthology all have something in common: a rich Native heritage that has informed who they are.

If I ever get out of here : a novel with paintings / by Eric Gansworth If I Ever Get Out of Here : a Novel with Paintings by Eric Gansworth Ages 12 & up Print | Audiobook | eBook | eAudio

Seventh-grader Lewis “Shoe” Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and whites–and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.

Stone mirrors : the sculpture and silence of Edmonia Lewis / Jeannine Atkins Stone Mirrors : the Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins Ages 12 & up Print

A historical portrait in verse by the author of Borrowed Names traces the life of half Native American, half African-American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, who in the years after the Civil War was denied an education because of false accusations before embarking on a successful career as a sculptor in Italy.

Trickster : Native American Tales : a Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki Trickster : Native American Tales : a Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki Ages 12-18 Print

All cultures have tales of the trickster–a crafty creature who uses cunning to get food, steal valuables, or simply cause mischief. With vivid, diverse narratives and artwork,Trickster adapts more than twenty popular Native American trickster tales into comic form.

The First Peoples of North America series by Raymond Bial

The people and culture of the Delaware / Raymond Bial
The People and Culture of the Huron by Raymond Bial
The people and culture of the Menominee / Raymond Bial
The people and culture of the Shawnee / Cassie M. Lawton and Raymond Bial

Online Resources

National Native American Heritage Month – National Endowment for the Humanities

Native American Heritage – National Park Service

Native American Heritage Month – PBS

American Indian Heritage Teaching Resources – Smithsonian

Catalog Tips

Looking for more on the topics above? Search the catalog using the following terms:

  • Indians of North America
  • Indians of North America — Folklore
  • Indians of North America — Social life and customs
  • Indian Art — North America
  • Indian Mythology — North America
  • Inuit — Social life and customs
  • Native Americans

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