Books for Younger Teens About Native Americans

Today is Thursday, November 28, 2013.

The following books are recommended for especially for middle school students.

birchbark house

Yesterday I included The Birchbark House (Hyperion Press, 1999) by Louise Erdrich.  This book is suitable for teens as well as fifth and sixth graders.  The story is told by a young girl in the late 1800s, and the New York Times commented that it was similar to the classic books about white settlers written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It’s the first book in a series of five books, four of which have been published.


I also recommended Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002) by Cynthia Leitich yesterday.  It’s important to note that in the past few decades, there has been a mass migration of Native Americans from the reservations to the cities.  In 1940, only 8% lived in cities.  In 1970, 45% lived in cities.  Now…. over 70% live in urban areas!  I think that would surprise a lot of folks.  In many ways this migration parallels the migration of Blacks from the rural South to other areas of the country after the civil war.  It’s important to stop thinking of Native Americans as always wearing buckskins and moccasins and living in tipis.


In Hidden Roots (Scholastic 2004), by Joseph Bruchac, a boy learns that he is Abenaki and that his family’s heritage was hidden to avoid a forced sterilization program in the 1930s.


Who Will Tell My Brother? (Hyperion 2004), by Marlene Carvell, deals with the issue of Native American school mascots, an ongoing issue at many high schools.

sees behind trees

Sees Behind Trees (Hyperion 1996) by Michael Dorris, is a pre-Western-contact story that features Native teachings about using all the senses to experience life, and about communal responsibility.

as long as rivers flow

As Long as the Rivers Flow: A Last Summer before Residential School (Groundwood 2002), by Larry Loyie, tells the story of parents who sent their son to a residential school for Indian children to avoid having to go to jail.  This is a good opportunity to talk to older kids about the harsh conditions at Indian schools, and about the fact that a person’s culture should never be taken away from him.

rain is not

Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins 2001),by Cynthia Leitich Smith, is the story of a mixed-blood teenager whose life contains a complex mixture of traditional Native culture with modern elements such as the Internet, science-fiction, and anime.


High Elk’s Treasure (Holiday House 1972), by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, tells the story of a 14-year-old who finds a traditional Lakota winter-count historical calendar.

9780888991652_to print.pdf

My Name is Seepeetza (Groundwood 1988), by Shirley Sterling, is a memoir of the author’s brutal experiences in a Canadian boarding school for Indians.  Like the United States, Canada is also very slowly coming to grips with the fact that its policies did irreparable harm to their First Nations populations.

name not easy

My Name is Not Easy (Skyscape 2011), by Debby Dawl Edwardson, is a 2011 National Book Award Finalist.  Although the author is not Native, she lives with her husband in his Inupiaq village in Alaska.  This is another boarding school story about a boy who leaves his traditional name behind when he goes to school hundreds of miles away from his home.

Tomorrow I will complete my series of posts on book recommendations with some titles for high school students. 🙂


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