Bilingual Books: American Indian Heritage

These bilingual books present stories told in English and American Indian languages such as Diné (Navajo), Hopi, and Lakota. Whether you are looking for books to supplement a heritage language program or a social studies unit, the stories and vocabulary included will be a valuable addition to the classroom and school library.

Arctic Memories

Age Level: 6-9

Normee Ekoomiak is an Inuk artist from Northern Quebec. Michael J. Mazza writes, "This book contains full-color reproductions of Ekoomiak's paintings and stitched fabric creations. Each piece of visual art is accompanied by an explanatory mini-essay by the artist. Ekoomiak's vivid art depicts the Inuit people, the natural environment, and the animal life of the Arctic." Bilingual Inuktitut/English.

Byron Through the Seasons: A Dene-English Story Book

Product Description: This Dene-English story book was produced by the students and teachers of Ducharme Elementary School in La Loche, Saskatchewan, with assistance from local advisors and elders. Together, they wrote the story, translated it, and worked on the pictures. Their goal was to highlight some aspects of Dene culture that were vital in the past and are still important today. They wanted to show the continuity of a genuine and successful way of life, and emphasize culturally-significant events and attitudes.

Dragonfly Kites

Illustrated by: Julie Flett

Dragonfly Kites is the third book in Tomson Highway's magical Songs of the North Wind trilogy. Like Fox on the Ice and Caribou Song, it has a bilingual text, written in English and Cree. Joe and Cody, two young Cree brothers, along with their parents and their little dog Ootsie, are spending the summer by one of the hundreds of lakes in northern Manitoba. Summer means a chance to explore the world and make friends with an array of creatures. But what Joe and Cody like doing best of all is flying dragonfly kites.

Field Mouse Goes to War

Illustrated by: Fred Kabotie
Age Level: 6-9

This traditional Hopi tale recounts the courage and cleverness of a tiny field mouse striving to protect the village from a mighty hawk who is stealing the chickens. It was originally published in 1944 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the drawings are by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. The book is in English and phonetic Hopi with a pronunciation guide.

I Help / Niwechihaw

Product Description: Written and illustrated by members of the Tahltan and Cree nations, this sweet, simple story looks at a very special relationship. A young boy goes for a walk with his kohkom, or grandmother, listening, picking, praying, eating, just as she does. In doing so, he begins to learn the rich cultural traditions and values of his Cree heritage. Bilingual English/Cree.

Itse Selu: Cherokee Harvest Festival

Illustrated by: Joel Stewart
Age Level: 6-9

The elements of the long-ago Cherokee harvest festival (Itse Selu) are presented in a fictionalized format as readers follow a young boy's experiences on the last day…Several Cherokee words are introduced, with pronunciations, within the warm, simple story. — School Library Journal

Kohala Kuamo'o: Nae'ole's Race to Save a King

Illustrated by: Aaron Kawai'ae'a
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: When a prophecy proclaims that the unborn Kamehameha would grow to overshadow the ruling chiefs, his life from birth is in danger. Nae'ole races with the helpless infant across the Kohala district of Hawai'i Island to bring Kamehameha to safety. Three generations of the Kawai'ae'a family join together to give us this unique look at place names of the Kohala area and the important events that shaped Hawaiian history. Bilingual edition.

Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk

Age Level: 9-12

Dzanibaa' is alone when U.S. troops swoop down on her family's hogan. Before she can run to safety, a soldier grabs her and puts her on his horse. She is taken to Fort Canby, and from there is forced to walk to Bosque Redondo. For four long years, Dzanibaa' and her family endure incredible hardship and sacrifice. Nevertheless, this time of trial gives Dzanibaa' a profound sense of herself as a Navajo and of the importance of her culture. Bilingual Diné (Navajo)/English.

Me Too

Age Level: 3-6

As he helps his grandfather haul firewood, seven-year-old Jared Martell says, "I want to be like my grandpa." In a photo-essay emphasizing the relationship between grandfather and grandson, Jared shows how his activities (getting ice cubes from the fridge, hunting for something under the bed) parallel the traditional activities Grandpa does in the bush. Bilingual Chipewyan-English. — Oyate

Nokum Is My Teacher

Illustrated by: Allen Sapp
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Nokum Is My Teacher is the poetic story of a young aboriginal boy, posing questions to his grandmother, his "Nokum", about the wider world beyond the familiarity of their home and community. Through a series of questions, Nokum guides her grandson towards an understanding of his need to fit into and learn more about this large world beyond the reserve.

Pepere Played the Fiddle

Age Level: 6-9

Youngest readers and listeners are invited to this 1940s-era house party of fiddling, spoon-playing, feet-tapping and dancing. In English with Michif words sprinkled throughout, Pepere Played the Fiddle is a celebration of Métis life and culture. — Oyate

Prairie Dog Goes to School / Pispiza Wan Wayawa Iyaye

Illustrated by: Frantisek Valer
Age Level: 3-6

Product Description: Prairie Dog Goes to School/Pispiza wan Wayawa Iyaye is a fun bilingual picture book designed for early elementary and preschool children published by the Lakota Language Consortium. On Prairie Dog's way to school, he meets different animals and they join him on this journey. The story is modeled along the lines of the classic Lakota tale, "Turtle Goes on the Warpath." Children learn basic elements of the Lakota language, including verbs of travel, sentence structure, animals, and numbers.

Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Curiosity leads a young warrior to track a new animal that leads him far from home, but at last he finds a herd of strange new creatures: horses that shimmer with color and run swift as the wind. The Lakota capture and tame them, and the people grow rich and powerful as they rule the Plain with their newfound strength. Then the Great Spirit, who gave the gift of the horse, takes it away. Written in both English and Lakota, Donald F. Montileaux retells the legend of Tasunka from the traditional stories of the Lakota people.

The Apple Tree

Illustrated by: Marlena Campbell Hodson
Age Level: 3-6

A Cherokee boy plants an apple seed, and as soon as a seedling appears he can see the apple tree it is meant to be. But the little apple tree isn’t so sure. Young and impatient, it begins to doubt its calling, especially after apples fail to appear that first fall. How can the boy convince the tree to give the seasons the time to work their magic? Story in English with Cherokee translation.

The Buffalo and the Boat / Thathanka na Wata

Illustrated by: Frantisek Valer
Age Level: 3-6

This picture book published by the Lakota Language Consortium is designed for early elementary and preschool children. It tells the entertaining story of a buffalo in his bull boat traveling down the river and meeting friends. Each different animal joins buffalo and they continue down the river until the surprise ending. Bilingual Lakota/English.

The Drum Calls Softly

Illustrated by: Jim Poitras
Age Level: 0-3

An elegant addition to any personal, academic, or community library Native American Studies collection, The Drum Calls Softly is an impressively presented picturebook co-authored by David Bouchard and Shelley Willier and superbly illustrated with beautiful paintings by Jim Poitras. The theme drawn from the drumming ceremonies of the Northern Cree and enhanced with the inclusion of an audio CD featuring singing and drumming by Cree performers. The lyrical text is bilingual and features both the original Cree and an English language translation.

The Legend Of Caribou Boy

Illustrated by: Ray McSwain
Age Level: 6-9

When a little boy, traveling with his parents and grandparents, has trouble sleeping at night, he realizes that the caribou spirit is so strong in him that he can no longer remain a human. But his connection to his human family is strong also, and so he gives them the gift of the caribou when they are hungry. John Blondin shares the story as told by his father, elder George Blondin (Dene). Bilingual English/Dogrib. — Oyate