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Native American Heritage Month-Check out these great reads

November is Native American Heritage Month. Celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of indigenous peoples by reading books from our recommended reading list. Check out our recommended reading list below mixed with wide variety of genres —drama, memoirs, young adult fiction.

Visit these sites below to learn more about native American Heritage Month:

Native American Heritage Month

National Archives Museum

National Congress of American Indians

Bureau of Indian Affairs Photographs Finding Aid & Explorer

Celebrating Native American Veterans

Recommended Reading

Adult Nonfiction

With an artist’s sense of wonder and a historian’s respect for accuracy, the 58 rich and colorful images in this book present a fascinating and thoroughly researched glimpse into the lifestyles and cultures of Florida’s ancient Indians.
            Theodore Morris’s sensitive rendering of Florida’s vanished heritage reflects his passion to create a pictorial record of the state’s pre-Columbian peoples, the tribes who have been forgotten through the centuries. The artist’s detailed paintings and drawings are based on historical evidence and his own careful research, conducted side-by-side with archaeologists and anthropologists at excavation sites throughout the state. Morris re-creates the appearance of the ancient peoples, portraying them at work and at play, and discusses the archaeological significance of each work and the creative muse that inspired it.

Old postcards featuring Seminole Indians (Florida), with related contemporary interviews and photographs serve as visual reference points to depict the Seminole people and some of their culture. Much of the information was provided by members of the Seminole Tribe through the author’s photographs and extensive taped interviews over a period of ten years. Chapters: Historical Background, Wars and Warriors, Historical Figures, Black Seminoles Housing, Traditional Food, Clothing and Style, Transportation, The Everglades, Medicine, Religious Customs, Legends, Tourism, Crafts, Children, Education and the Cattle Business. 

Given its pivotal location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, its numerous islands, its abundant flora and fauna, and its subtropical climate, Florida has long been ideal for human habitation. Yet Florida traditionally has been considered peripheral in the study of ancient cultures in North America, despite what it can reveal about social and climate change. The essays in this book resoundingly argue that Florida is in fact a crucial hub of archaeological inquiry.

Have your readers ever wondered how the world was made? American Indian Mythology discusses this mystery, along with other myths and legends from different culture areas throughout North America. Each chapter is followed by a Question and Answer section which covers characters, themes, and symbols. An Expert Commentary section enhances the myths with opinions by noted scholars. Wonderful original illustrations accompany the text. 

Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction

Firekeeper's Daughter

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation. Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

The Marrow Thieves

In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the “recruiters” who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing “factories.”

Journeys with Florida’s Indians launches readers on an adventure into Florida’s past. Readers will meet the Paleoindians and learn about their arrival in the Americas, then join a boy on his first mammoth hunt as he escapes stampedes and the flames of a fire drive. Next, readers move forward in time to meet Spanish explorers, the Timucua, the Calusa, and the Apalachee Indians–first through fact, then through fiction. They’ll attend the first meeting between French explorers and the Timucua and learn how Europeans impacted Florida’s Indians. Alternating factual chapters are filled with maps, historical engravings, and modern illustrations. Fictional chapters are narrated by Tenerife, a fictional Timucua Indian kidnapped by the Spanish as a child, whose tales about Florida’s native cultures reflect his own escape and adventures on his journey home.

Hearts Unbroken

New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and first love.

Hunting by Stars

Years ago, when plagues and natural disasters killed millions of people, much of the world stopped dreaming. Without dreams, people are haunted, sick, mad, unable to rebuild. The government soon finds that the Indigenous people of North America have retained their dreams, an ability rumored to be housed in the very marrow of their bones. Soon, residential schools pop up—or are re-opened—across the land to bring in the dreamers and harvest their dreams. Seventeen-year-old French lost his family to these schools and has spent the years since heading north with his new found family: a group of other dreamers, who, like him, are trying to build and thrive as a community. But then French wakes up in a pitch-black room, locked in and alone for the first time in years, and he knows immediately where he is—and what it will take to escape.

Apple: Skin to the Core

Apple: Skin to the Core, is a YA memoir-in-verse. Eric Gansworth tells the story of his life, of an Onondaga family living among Tuscaroras, and of Native people in America, including the damaging legacy of government boarding schools—and in doing so grapples with the slur common in Native communities, for someone “red on the outside, white on the inside,” and reclaims it.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition

From the acclaimed Ojibwe author and professor Anton Treuer comes an essential book of questions and answers for Native and non-Native young readers alike. Ranging from “Why is there such a fuss about nonnative people wearing Indian costumes for Halloween?” to “Why is it called a ‘traditional Indian fry bread taco’?” to “What’s it like for natives who don’t look native?” to “Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?”, and beyond, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers Edition) does exactly what its title says for young readers, in a style consistently thoughtful, personal, and engaging.

#Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women

Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian#NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.

Edited by award-winning and bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith, this collection of intersecting stories by both new and veteran Native writers bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog).

They are the heroes of their own stories.

Juvenile Fiction & Nonfiction

Pueblo Fireside Tales
Seven interconnected stories about making and keeping friends, jewel-like tales originally told to the youngest listeners at Native American firesides in the Hopi country of northern Arizona. In John Bierhorst’s authentic re-creation of a Pueblo storytelling session, readers and listeners will find out how Coyote got his short ears, why Mouse walks softly, and how Bee learned to fly.
Snake, Mole, Badger, Beetle, and Dove also have roles clever and foolish, friendly and not so friendly, and all are depicted with humor and finesse by illustrator Wendy Watson.

“A thoughtful collection that eloquently bears out the theme of unity of all creatures.” —School Library Journal

Native American elders will tell you there is as much to see in the night as in the familiar light of day, and here Abenaki storyteller and American Book Award recipient Joseph Bruchac offers twelve unforgettable stories of the living earth seen from the sky.

Elatsoe

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family. 

The Seminoles

When Europeans arrived in North America, new diseases and wars led to the deaths of many Native Americans. One group escaped to the swamplands of Florida. Spanish colonists called them cimarrones, which means runaway. These Native Americans adopted the Spanish word into their language as siminoli. To them, it meant free people. This independent spirit helped the Seminoles survive wars with white settlers, life in the Everglades, the forced march to Oklahoma, and the preservation of their traditions. Read more about their gripping past and their enterprising present-day lives in Florida and Oklahoma.

Legends of the Seminoles

Late at night around the campfires, Seminole children safely tucked into mosquito nets used to listen to the elders retelling the old stories and legends. The priceless tales of mischievous Rabbit, the Corn Lady, the Deer Girl, and the creatures of the Everglades are all written down and collected here for readers of all ages. This is a portrait of the beliefs and lifeways of the Seminoles of Florida as well as a delightful read for anyone interested in the first peoples of Florida.

Keepers of the Night: Native American Stories and Nocturnal Activities for Children

Native lore, stories, and activities encourage children to explore the fascinating night world. By studying astronomy, Native beliefs, nighttime weather, and North American nocturnal plants and animals, children learn to appreciate
the importance of night in the natural cycle and overcome common fears about the nighttime
world. Filled with interdisciplinary activities, legends, and illustrations to inspire children and educators alike.

Biography

Celebrate the lives, stories, and contributions of Indigenous artists, activists, scientists, athletes, and other changemakers in this illustrated collection. From luminaries of the past, like nineteenth-century sculptor Edmonia Lewis–the first Black and Native American female artist to achieve international fame–to contemporary figures like linguist jessie little doe baird, who revived the Wampanoag language, Notable Native People highlights the vital impact Indigenous dreamers and leaders have made on the world.

This collection also offers primers on important Indigenous issues, from the legacy of colonialism and cultural appropriation to food sovereignty, land and water rights, and more.

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.

This easy biography profiles Geronimo, the great Apache leader who led resistance to U.S. government efforts to force Indians onto reservations. Illustrations on every two-page spread and accessible vocabulary make this a good choice for early independent readers. Useful for young report writers.

“I remember the day I lost my spirit.” So begins the story of Gertrude Simmons, also known as Zitkala-Sa, which means Red Bird. Born in 1876 on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota, Zitkala-Sa willingly left her home at age eight to go to a boarding school in Indiana. But she soon found herself caught between two worlds–white and Native American.

At school she missed her mother and her traditional life, but Zitkala-Sa found joy in music classes. “My wounded spirit soared like a bird as I practiced the piano and violin,” she wrote. Her talent grew, and when she graduated, she became a music teacher, composer, and performer.

Born into the Northern Paiute tribe of Nevada in 1844, Sarah Winnemucca straddled two cultures: the traditional life of her people, and the modern ways of her grandfather’s white friends. Sarah was smart and good at languages, so she was able to link the worlds. As she became older, this made her a great leader. Sarah used condemning letters, fiery speeches, and her autobiography, Life Among the Piutes, to provide detailed accounts of her people’s turmoil through years of starvation, unjust relocations, and violent attacks. With sweeping illustrations and extensive backmatter, including hand-drawn maps, a chronology, archival photographs, an author’s notes, and additional resource information, Deborah Kogan Ray offers a remarkable look at an underrepresented historical figure.

Get to know the life and legacy of Sacagawea. Vivid photographs and easy-to-read text give early readers an engaging and age-appropriate look at her vital role during Lewis and Clark’s Expedition west. Features include sidebars, a table of contents, two infographics, Making Connections questions, a glossary, and an index. QR Codes in the book give readers access to book-specific resources to further their learning.

Easy Readers

Winner of the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal A 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner
Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal.

Fry bread is food
.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

Winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal #1 New York Times Bestseller
Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption
a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.
Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

The Blue Roses

Every spring Rosalie and her grandfather (Papa) sow tiny seeds that blossom into bright vistas of flowers and vegetables. A red rosebush that is planted under Rosalie’s bedroom window when she is born, is later joined by pink and yellow ones “to make a sunset.” When Rosalie asks for a blue bush to represent the sky, Papa explains that roses do not come in blue. The winter after Papa dies, Rosalie’s blue roses come to her in a dream, symbolizing love, memory, and transcendence.

With gentle words and magical images, this contemporary Native American story tenderly embraces the natural cycle of life. Winner of LEE & LOW’s first New Voices Award, The Blue Roses is sure to touch all who read it

The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale

How did the Milky Way come to be? This traditional Cherokee legend tells of the time when the world was new and there were not many stars in the sky. In those days there lived an elderly couple who discovered one morning that a thief was stealing their cornmeal. And the culprit was no ordinary thief, but a giant spirit dog!

It took the courage of the couple’s young grandson, the wisdom of the people’s Beloved Woman, and the help of their entire village to drive the spirit dog into the night sky. And ever after the great band of stars formed in its wake has reminded us of the people’s brave deed.

A lyrical text by two renowned Native American storytellers and exquisite paintings by Cherokee-Creek artist Virginia A. Stroud illuminate this lovely story’s timeless message: that great things can be accomplished when a community works together.

D Is for Drum: A Native American Alphabet

Did you know that natives of the Northwest used dried sharkskin to sand totem poles? Or that horses were called medicine dogs, because dogs had been used to aid in hunting before horses were introduced by Europeans? In “D is for Drum: A Native America Alphabet,” readers will get an A-Z introduction to the many customs and cultures of the first people of this beautiful land. Bison, teepees, Kachinas and dugout canoes will all help to paint a fascinating picture of the more than 500 indigenous tribes inhabiting the Americas.

Jingle Dancer

Tink, tink, tink, tink, sang cone-shaped jingles sewn to Grandma Wolfe’s dress. Jenna’s heart beats to the brum, brum, brum, brum of the powwow drum as she daydreams about the clinking song of her grandma’s jingle dancing. Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family, and she hopes to dance at the next powwow. But she has a problem—how will her dress sing if it has no jingles? The warm, evocative watercolors of Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu complement author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s lyrical text as she tells the affirming story of how a contemporary Native American girl turns to her family and community to help her dance find a voice.

The Star Maiden: An Ojibway Tale

 An Ojibway tale adapted in this lovely children’s book. Star Maiden is tired of wandering in the sky and searches for the perfect home on earth. fish swam in clear streams, and wigwams and birchbark canoes lined lake shores and “the earth was rich with everything the people needed.” One night, a bright star falls from the sky and comes to earth. When a party of braves finds the star, its light makes them afraid, but a vision of a lovely maiden appears and asks to live among the tribal people in a form chosen by their wisest council. They decide that the star should choose any form it likes, and soon the lake is full of water lilies as the star maiden and her sisters find a new home. Finely detailed panel drawings bordered with Native American designs and wildlife imagery enrich this haunting tale.

The Rough-Face Girl

This moving adaptation of the classic children’s story Cinderella tells how a disfigured Algonquin girl wins the heart of a mysterious being who lives by the lake near her village. The powerful Invisible Being is looking for a wife, and all the girls in the village vie for his affections. But only the girl who proves she can see him will be his bride. The two beautiful but spoiled daughters of a poor village man try their best to be chosen, but it is their Rough-Face-Girl sister, scarred on her face and arms from tending fires, who sees the Invisible Being in the wonder of the natural world. The dramatic illustrations reflect the vibrant earth colors of the native landscape and the wisdom and sensitivity of the protagonist.

Watch this reading of the Rough Face Girl Read by Ms. Tricia in our Youth Services department.

For more books take a look in our catalog and in Libby for eBooks and eAudio books

Here’s a reading of Native American poetry from The Earth Under Sky Bear’s Feet read by Ms. Tricia in our Youth Services department.

Categories:

All Ages Easy Reader Fiction Key West Library Kids NonfictionScience Fiction and FantasyYoung Adult