Traditional Ways of Life: American Indian Heritage

These books and stories share the traditional ways of life of a variety of American Indian tribes. Many are set in the pre-colonial era, offering a unique glimpse at Native societies, gender roles, and family life.

Birchbark House

Opening in the summer of 1847, this story follows an Ojibwe family through four seasons; it focuses on young Omakayas, who turns "eight winters old" during the course of the novel. In fascinating, nearly step-by-step details, the author describes how they build a summer home out of birchbark, gather with extended family to harvest rice in the autumn, treat an attack of smallpox during the winter and make maple syrup in the spring to stock their own larder and to sell to others. — Publishers Weekly

Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: 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. 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.

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.

C is for Chickasaw

Illustratoin of Chickasaw individuals
Illustrated by: Aaron K. Long
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Chickasaw

C is for Chickasaw walks children through the letters of the alphabet, sharing elements of Chickasaw history, language, and culture along the way. Writing with multiple age groups in mind, Wiley Barnes has skillfully crafted rhyming verse that will capture and engage a younger child's imagination, while also including in-depth explanations of each object or concept that will resonate with older children. The colorful illustrations by Aaron Long reflect elements of Southeastern Native American art and serve to familiarize children with aspects of this distinctive artistic style.

Celebrate My Hopi Corn

Illustrated by: Emmett Navakuku
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Hopi

"I am a kernel of Hopi corn. I have many sister kernels on my ear of corn. We grow under the warm sun." Celebrate my Hopi Corn written in Hopi and English by Hopi language teacher Anita Poleahla is the story of how corn is planted, cultivated, harvested and prepared for use in the Hopi home. The colorful illustrations by Hopi artist Emmett Navakuku describe the changing seasons and daily activities in a Hopi village.


Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Twin brothers Chickadee and Makoons have spent every day side by side and have done everything together since they were born — until the day the unthinkable happens and the brothers are separated. Desperate to reunite, Chickadee and his family must travel across new territories, forge unlikely friendships, and experience both unexpected moments of unbearable heartache as well as pure happiness. And through it all, Chickadee has the strength of his namesake, the chickadee, to carry him on.

Children of the Longhouse

In this coming-of-age story, the children of the longhouse are 11-year-old Ohkwa'ri and Itsi:tsia. Twin brother and sister, they live in a Mohawk town in the traditional homelands of what is now eastern New York State in 1491. Reflecting the balance between male and female roles in Iroquois society, the book's chapters alternate between the events and perspectives of Ohkwa'ri and Itsi:tsia, who very definitely see things differently. Bruchac seamlessly incorporates an impressive amount of information about pre-contact Mohawk culture, society, and beliefs, and tells a good story as well.

Dog People: Native Dog Stories

In Dog People: Native Dog Stories, the voice of an Abenaki storyteller takes children back 10,000 years to the days when children and dogs had especially close relationships. In these Native American adventure stories, children and dogs together must use their wits to survive the dangers of the natural world. — Midwest Book Review

Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector

Illustration of Ella Cara Deloria
Illustrated by: Tashia Hart
Age Level: 6-9

Ella Cara Deloria loved to listen to her family tell stories in the Dakota language. She recorded many American Indian peoples' stories and languages and shared them with everyone. She helped protect her people's language for future generations. She also wrote many stories of her own. Her story is a Minnesota Native American life. Minnesota Native American Lives Series.

Green Snake Ceremony (Greyfeather Series)

Illustrated by: Kim Doner
Age Level: 6-9

"An excellent, well-illustrated look at a contemporary Shawnee custom. As four-year-old Mary Greyfeather gets ready to go fishing, her grandfather suggests that it is time to prepare for her green snake ceremony. Afraid of snakes, the girl is not at all sure that she wants to hold one in her mouth in order to gain strength and good luck. When the green snake living under the porch overhears this conversation, he is equally reluctant to end up in a human's mouth…The soft tones of the cartoonlike illustrations enhance the gentle humor of the story." — School Library Journal

Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way

Lakota riders on horses
Age Level: 6-9

Dawn is a time to celebrate with a smiling heart, to start a new day in the right way, excited for what might come. Birds sing and dance, children rush to learn, dewdrops glisten from leaves, and gradually the sun warms us. Each time the sun starts a new circle, we can start again as well. All these things are part of the Lakota way, a means of living in balance. Through his artwork and verse, interspersed with the Lakota language, S. D. Nelson offers young readers a joyous way of appreciating their culture and surroundings.

Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples' Day
Age Level: 6-9

The second Monday in October is a day to honor Native communities, their histories, and cultures. Readers will discover how a shared holiday can have multiple traditions and be celebrated in all sorts of ways.

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

Jingle Dancer

Illustration of a young girl jingle dancing
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

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? As Jenna finds a way to collect the jingles she needs, she learns more about her family and the traditions they have upheld across generations. 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.

Related VideoCynthia Leitich Smith talks about "Jingle Dancer"

Kiki's Journey

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.


In the sequel to Chickadee, acclaimed author Louise Erdrich continues her award-winning Birchbark House series with the story of an Ojibwe family in nineteenth-century America. Named for the Ojibwe word for little bear, Makoons and his twin, Chickadee, have traveled with their family to the Great Plains of Dakota Territory. There they must learn to become buffalo hunters and once again help their people make a home in a new land. But Makoons has had a vision that foretells great challenges—challenges that his family may not be able to overcome.

Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa

With these heartfelt paintings, poems and memoirs, the noted Diné (Navajo) artist fulfills his stated goal of taking the reader 'into the corners of my world, the Navajo world.' Similar in conception to George Littlechild's This Land Is My Land, this book places more emphasis on the traditional and spiritual, its contemporary setting notwithstanding. The sacred intertwines with the everyday; topics here range from storytelling, a solar eclipse and a healing ritual to riding in a truck and attending a tribal fair. — Publishers Weekly

Neekna and Chemai

Illustrated by: Barb Marchand
Age Level: 6-9

Neekna and Chemai are two little girls who are best friends and are growing up in the pre-colonial Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Through their mothers and grandmothers, they learn the Okanagan ways of life, stories, and traditions in this book from award-winning Okanagan author Jeannette Armstrong.

Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life

Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life

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.

Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery

Illustrated by: Beverly Bringle
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

"Based on actual events in 1833, Rising Fawn tells the poignant and triumphant story of a young Choctaw girl swept up in the chaos of the Indian Removal to the West. When she is rescued by a soldier and left with a white family in Memphis, Rising Fawn is thrust into a new world away from her people and old way of life. Through the mystery of ceremonial fire, she discovers how to survive without abandoning her heritage.

Sees Behind Trees

Product Description: No matter how hard he tries, nearsighted Walnut just can't earn his adult name the way other boys do, by hitting a target with a bow and arrow. With his highly developed other senses, however, he shows he can "see what can't be seen" and earns a new name: Sees Behind Trees. But his special skill proves to be more important than he'd ever imagined when he is invited to go on a journey to a mysterious land, a journey filled with unforeseen challenges and dangers.

Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend

Age Level: 6-9
Language: English, Lakota

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

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 Story of Manoomin

This is the first book of its kind to bring forward the rich tradition of wild rice in Michigan and its importance to the Anishinaabek people who live there. Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan focuses on the history, culture, biology, economics, and spirituality surrounding this sacred plant. The story travels through time from the days before European colonization and winds its way forward in and out of the logging and industrialization eras.

Weaving a California Tradition: A Native American Basketmaker

Illustrated by: Dugan Aguilar
Age Level: 6-9

"Text and photographs combine to explain the tradition of basket weaving as carried on among the Native American tribes of California. Readers follow Carly Tex, an 11-year-old Western Mono, to school, to lessons in traditional basket weaving, and to many stops along the way. Carly and her relatives are shown to be very much a part of modern America, as well as a continuing bridge between their own cultural past and the future." — School Library Journal

White Bead Ceremony (The Greyfeather Series)

Illustrated by: Kim Doner
Age Level: 3-6

"Four-year-old Mary's grandmother decides it's high time that the child receives her Shawnee name, and the task of selecting just the right one is entrusted to the elder women of the family…The book provides a welcome glimpse at how tribal traditions are woven into the fabric of modern-day life." — Publishers Weekly