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Here Now: Picture Books Portraying Contemporary Native Life, Part 1

One of the most persistent stereotypes about Native/First Nations people in North America is that they all lived long ago. Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), who writes the blog Native Appropriations, “a forum for discussing representations of Native peoples, including stereotypes, cultural appropriation, news, activism, and more,” posted this reminder recently on Twitter:

Recently at the Diverse BookFinder, we’ve been pleased to see more titles featuring contemporary Native children and families — and better yet, written by Indigenous authors who are citizens of the nations portrayed.

Here is a sampling of recent titles in our collection:

Salish

A day with Yayah

2018

by Nicola I. Campbell and Julie Flett

On an outing in Nicola Valley, British Columbia, a First Nations family forages for herbs and mushrooms while the grandmother passes down her language and knowledge to her young grandchildren. Includes glossary

Beautiful Life

Cree

Inuit

Fishing with grandma

2015

by Susan Avingaq, Charlene Chua and Maren Vsetula

"Adventure begins when Grandma takes her two grandchildren out for a trip on the lake. After showing the kids how to prepare of a fishing trip, Grandma and the kids enjoy a day of jigging in the ice for fish. Grandma shows them everything they need to know to complete a successful fishing trip, from what clothes to wear, to how to drill and clear holes in the ice, to how to make a traditional Inuit jigging rod. By the end of the day, the kids have a yummy meal of Arctic char, and they have also learned everything they need to know to have a successful day on the lake."--Provided by publisher

Beautiful Life

Penobscot

Ojibwe

Bowwow powwow

2018

by Brenda J. Child, Gordon Jourdain and Jonathan Thunder

When Uncle and Windy Girl attend a powwow, Windy watches the dancers and listens to the singers. She eats tasty food and joins family and friends around the campfire. Later, Windy falls asleep under the stars. Uncle's stories inspire visions in her head: a bowwow powwow, where all the dancers are dogs. In these magical scenes, Windy sees veterans in a Grand Entry, and a visiting drum group, and traditional dancers, grass dancers, and jingle-dress dancers -- all with telltale ears and paws and tails. All celebrating in song and dance. All attesting to the wonder of the powwow.--Provided by publisher

Beautiful Life

Navajo

First laugh

2018

by Rose Ann Tahe, Bo Flood and Jonathan Nelson

The First Laugh Ceremony is a celebration held to welcome a new member of the community. As everyone—from Baby's nima (mom) to nadi (big sister) to cheii (grandfather)—tries to elicit the joyous sound from Baby, readers are introduced to details about Navajo life and the Navajo names for family members. Back matter includes information about other cultural ceremonies that welcome new babies and children, including man yue celebration (China), sanskaras (Hindu) and aquiqa (Muslim).--provided by publisher

Beautiful Life Race/Culture Concepts

Cherokee

We are grateful: Otsaliheliga

2018

by Traci Sorell and Frané Lessac

Otsaliheliga is a Cherokee word that is used to express gratitude. Journey through the year with a Cherokee family and their tribal nation as they express thanks for celebrations big and small. This book presents a look at modern Native American life as told by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Beautiful Life

For more titles with Native characters, check our Search tool. (Note: Although more than 170 Native characters have been identified in the Diverse BookFinder collection, not all are in Native stories; some appear as characters in stories of people of other races.)

For a list of recommended titles featuring First Nations/Native American/Indigenous people, see Best Books at American Indians in Children’s Literature by Debbie Reese.

For guidance on how to identify problems in books about Native people, see ”How to Tell the Difference” at Oyate.org; you can also find reviews of individual titles and other resources there.

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.

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