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Arts & Culture

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with books

Books recommended to read during Native American Heritage Month are displayed on Thursday, 09, 2023.
Marielena Castellanos
Books recommended to read during Native American Heritage Month are displayed on Thursday, 09, 2023.

November is Native American Heritage Month and a good time to highlight books written by and about Indigenous people.

The San Diego Public Library and the San Diego County Library offer collections of recommended books, available at local library branches, and the books can be checked out for free. The books listed also include recommendations from the Native Ways of Knowing Book List: Decolonizing and Indigenizing Classrooms and Libraries, which was said, were vetted by Native American scholars, the San Diego County Office of Education and the California Indian Education For All.

Two months ago, Sen. Brian Schatz and Congressman Jamie Raskin reintroduced a resolution expressing concerns about continued efforts to ban books and threats to freedom of expression and included “Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story,” one of the books recommended here. Also included in this list of recommended books, is one about “crimes against American Indians during the 19th century." Another is a children’s book inspired by efforts led by Indigenous communities to protect water, and a true story of a lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder who overcame abuse, and whose story is symbolic of experiences Native Americans are still going through today.


Additionally, the public libraries prioritize programming to enhance the reading experience. Ady Huertas, manager of youth, family and equity services with the City of San Diego Public Library, shared more about the programming.

"Every year during Native American Heritage Month, the San Diego Public Library creates programs to celebrate the rich cultures of Indigenous people," Huertas said. "These author talks, storytimes, crafts and book lists not only recognize the history of Indigenous people, they also educate our communities about their experiences and traditions."

Book Recommendations

Children's Book Recommendations (ages 0-11)

We Are Water Protectors
By Carole Lindstrom, Anishinaabe/Métis and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe; illustrated by Michaela Goade, an enrolled member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska

“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.”


-Macmillan Publishers

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
By Traci Sorell, a Cherokee Nation citizen and illustrated by Frané Lessac, in 2010, she received the Muriel Barwell Award for Distinguished Service to Children’s Literature.

The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.”


•  Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
By Kevin Noble Maillard, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, named to the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) honor list in 2014

“Told in powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, 'Fry Bread' is an evocative story about family, history, culture, and traditions, new and old, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Juana Martinez-Neal.”
-Roaring Book Press/Macmillan Publishers

Teen Book Recommendations (ages 12-17)

•  Warrior Girl Unearthed
By Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

“#1 New York Times bestselling author of 'Firekeeper's Daughter' Angeline Boulley takes us back to Sugar Island in this high-stakes thriller about the power of discovering your stolen history.”

-Henry Holt and Co./Macmillan Publishers

The Marrow Thieves
By Cherie Dimaline, a registered and claimed member of the Métis Nation of Ontario

“Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream.” 

-DCB, an imprint of Cormorant Books Inc.

My Good Man
By Eric Gansworth, is a member of Eel clan, enrolled Onondaga, born and raised at the Tuscarora Nation

“Brian, a 20-something reporter on the Niagara Cascade’s City Desk, is navigating life as the only Indigenous writer in the newsroom, being lumped into reporting on stereotypical stories that homogenize his community, the nearby Tuscarora reservation. But when a mysterious roadside assault lands Tim, the brother of Brian’s mother’s late boyfriend in the hospital, Brian must pick up the threads of a life that he’s abandoned.”

-Levine Querido

Adult Recommendations

My Heart at Wounded Knee
By Dee Brown, according to the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), a librarian and expert in how to find primary sources, such as treaties written in Native American words

“Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown introduces readers to great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes, revealing in heart-wrenching detail the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that methodically stripped them of freedom. A forceful narrative still discussed today as revelatory and controversial, 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' permanently altered our understanding of how the American West came to be defined.”

-Holt Paperbacks/Macmillan Publishers

We Are the Land: a History of Native California 
By Damon B. Akins, professor of history at Guilford College & William J. Bauer Jr., enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes

“Before there was such a thing as ‘California,’ there were the People and the Land. Manifest Destiny, the Gold Rush, and settler colonial society drew maps, displaced Indigenous People, and reshaped the land, but they did not make California. 'We Are the Land' is the first and most comprehensive text of its kind, centering the long history of California around the lives and legacies of the Indigenous people who shaped it.”

-University of California Press

A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder 
By Ma-Nee Chacaby, an Ojibwe-Cree writer, artist and activist from Canada

“'A Two-Spirit Journey' is Ma-Nee Chacaby’s extraordinary account of her life as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From her early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in a remote Ojibwa community riven by poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism.”

-University of Manitoba Press

Producer picks

By Barbara A. Gray-Kanatiiosh, an Akwesasne Mohawk and illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden, a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Wolf Clan

“Easy-to-read text and colorful illustrations and photos teach readers about Kumeyaay history, traditions, and modern life. This book describes society and family structure, hunting, fishing, and gathering methods, and ceremonies and rituals. This book is written and illustrated by Native Americans, providing authentic perspectives of the Kumeyaay.”

-ABDO Publishing Company

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