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Picture Books Celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month. Celebrating tradition and family, acknowledging history, and looking forward to a better future. #PictureBooks ChildrensBooks #NationalAmericanIndianHeritageMonth

With representation from tribes from all across North America, Cardinal Rule Press is excited to share our top picks to read this National American Indian Heritage Month

While most of our book recommendation lists only have five or six of our favorites, this month, we just couldn’t narrow it down. There were simply too many gems! Celebrating tradition and family, acknowledging history, and looking forward to a better future, we’ve instead split these books into three categories. While one will be highlighted more in-depth, don’t forget to check out our honorable mentions as well!

Books Celebrating Tradition

GREET THE DAWN: THE LAKOTA WAY BY S.D. NELSON (AUTHOR ILLUSTRATOR)

Pickup trucks and eagles, yellow school buses and painted horses, Mother Earth and Sister Meadowlark all join together to greet the dawn. They marvel at the colours and sounds, smells and memories that dawn creates. Animals and humans alike turn their faces upwards and gaze as the sun makes its daily journey from horizon to horizon. 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. S. D. Nelson offers young readers wonder and happiness as a better way of appreciating their culture and surroundings. He draws inspiration from traditional stories to create Greet the Dawn. His artwork fuses elements of modern with traditional. Above all, he urges each of us to seize the opportunity that dawn offers each day.

Honorable Mention: THE HUNTER’S PROMISE BY JOSEPH BRUCHAC (AUTHOR), BILL FARNSWORTH (ILLUSTRATOR)
Honorable Mention: CRAZY HORSE’S VISION BY JOSEPH BRUCHAC (AUTHOR), S.D. NELSON (ILLUSTRATOR)
Honorable Mention: THE DRUMS CALLS SOFTLY BY DAVID BOUCHARD  (AUTHOR), SHELLEY WILLIER (AUTHOR), JIM POITRAS (ILLUSTRATOR)
Honorable Mention: THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE BY SIMON J. ORTIZ (AUTHOR), SHAROL GRAVES (ILLUSTRATOR)

Books About Family

AWÂSIS AND THE WORLD-FAMOUS BANNOCK (DEBWE) BY DALLAS HUNT (AUTHOR), AMANDA STRONG (ILLUSTRATOR)

During an unfortunate mishap, young Awâsis loses Kôhkum’s freshly baked world-famous bannock. Not knowing what to do, Awâsis seeks out a variety of other-than-human relatives willing to help. What adventures are in store for Awâsis?

Honorable Mention: SKY SISTERS BY JAN BOURDEAU WABOOSE (AUTHOR), BRIAN DEINES (ILLUSTRATOR) 
Honorable Mention: BIRDSONG BY JULIE FLETT (AUTHOR ILLUSTRATOR)
Honorable Mention: SALTYPIE: A CHOCTAW JOURNEY FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT BY TIM TINGLE (AUTHOR), KAREN CLARKSON (ILLUSTRATOR)

Books About Residential Schools

I AM NOT A NUMBER BY DR. JENNY KAY DUPUIS (AUTHOR), KATHY KACER (AUTHOR), GILLIAN NEWLAND (ILLUSTRATOR)*

When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene’s parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law? Based on the life of co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother, I Am Not a Number is a hugely necessary book that brings a terrible part of Canada’s history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to.

Dual language edition in Nishnaabemwin (Ojibwe) Nbisiing dialect and English available!

Honorable Mention: STOLEN WORDS BY MELANIE FLORENCE (AUTHOR), GABRIELLE GRIMARD (ILLUSTRATOR)
Honorable Mention: SHI SHI ETKO BY NICOLA I.CAMPBELL (AUTHOR), KIM LAFAVE (ILLUSTRATOR)
Honorable Mention: SHIN-CHI’S CANOE BY NICOLA I. CAMPBELL (AUTHOR), KIM LAFAVE (ILLUSTRATOR)

*Note: This book in particular does not shy away from its depiction of the cruel and gruesome reality of the residential schools. It may be an emotional read, no matter the age of the reader, and it is recommended parents review this book beforehand to determine suitability for their child. 

For more book lists and suggestions, be sure to join our monthly newsletter!

Martina Rethman is an editorial intern with Cardinal Rule Press. She is currently a senior at Carnegie Mellon University.

Cardinal Rule Press

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