It’s rare to see proper representation of Native American and Indigenous cultures in popular media. Like many other cultures, Native Americans take the matter into their own hands and share their beautiful traditions, messages, and stories with the world. Whether it’s through music, performance, advocacy, writing, or, in this case, children’s books, they provide important insight.
Not only are they educating those outside of their culture, but creating great spaces for young kids to feel accepted and appreciated. Children’s books are one of the first forms of media kids are exposed to. They can impact how they view themselves and the world – a power these authors have harnessed to highlight Indigenous cultures and traditions.
Sorell lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation and writes poetry, historical and contemporary fiction, and nonfiction about people and events not usually found in classroom textbooks. As a child, she rarely saw culturally accurate books about Indigenous people. Her writing reflects the mission to add to literature and show that Native Nations and their citizens are still thriving. Through her work, she encourages other Native writers and illustrators to contribute their own. Some of her children’s books include Powwow Day, At the Mountain’s Base, and Contenders.
Of the Cree Nation, Buffy has always been vocal in her artistry, humanitarian work, and Indigenous leadership about activism. Alongside her incredible and successful music career, she is also an author with a few children’s and picture books under her belt. Her children’s books include Tâpwê and the Magic Hat, Still This Love Goes On, and Hey Little Rockabye.
From the Ho-Chunk Nation and Sandia Pueblo, Thundercloud shares her story of the power of dance in her debut book titled Finding My Dance. As a professional dancer, she captures her experience ranging from childhood powwow circles up to her professional career in this picture book. This may be an inspiring story to young kids hoping to achieve their own dreams. Thundercloud is also a choreographer and cultural ambassador.
Representative Sharice Davids is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress and the first openly lesbian person elected to Congress from Kansas. She’s from the Ho-Chunk Nation and, after making history, shared an autobiographical children’s book called Sharice’s Big Voice. This book tells the story of her journey to Congress. It’s an encouraging story for children to read and learn about as they grow into a society that would otherwise not provide such opportunities. Her story shows that it’s possible to get to their biggest goals.
Lajimodiere is a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Nation. She’s a poet and author with several published poetry books, an academic book, and one children’s book. In her free time, she’s also an artist and dancer, which may have inspired her first children’s book: Josie Dances. This book follows Josie as she prepares for her first powwow by practicing dance steps and gathering everything she needs: a dress, moccasins, and most importantly, her spirit name.
Carole Lindstrom is Anishinabe and Metis and part of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. She highlights culture and the importance of Indigenous-led movements across North America in her work. So far, she has published two children’s books: Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle (inspired by the importance of the Fiddle to Anishinabe/Metis culture), and We Are Water Protectors (inspired by Standing Rock and the fight for clean water).
Brenda J. Child
Brenda J. Child is a professor, author, and museum curator. She is Ojibwe, and her children’s book Bowwow Powwow won the American Indian Book Award and the Best Book in Midwestern History. This story expresses traditional song and dance in a joyful way. It provides representation for kids in a way that celebrates who they are.
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Leitich Smith is a bestselling author from Kansas City and a citizen of the Muscogee Nation. She is also author-curator of the Native-centered Heartdrum imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books. She got her start as a children’s writer when her mom suggested the career. When she started reading children’s books again, she realized that was what she was meant to do. Leitich Smith decided to dedicate her career to young readers full-time and now has several award-winning books. These books include Jingle Dancer, Rain is Not My Indian Name, and Indian Shoes.
For more on Native American authors from Bookstr, keep reading here!