Native American Children’s Books Featuring Elders

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache Tribe

The cultural roles of an elder for American Indians include passing down knowledge through intergenerational teaching and learning. Elders, through their empowered words of wisdom and existence, transfer their insight from one generation to the next. In the Apache culture, “elder” endures as a highly-regarded status. Native American elders possess experiential understanding and knowledge, the stories of the world, and especially compassion for their grandchildren. Elders, also known to others as oral historians, teach respect and demonstrate how to respect one another. Joseph Bruchac says that elders and children are meant to be close. By no accident, in every part of the world children and grandparents often share a special understanding and bond. Native American elders connect with their traditional heritage and culture, more so than many other cultures.

Native American elders, children's book

The following stories include Native American elders:

Author: Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Anishinaabe)
Title: Morning on the Lake
Mishomis encourages his young grandson to respect nature and build self-confidence.

Author: Cheryl Savageau (Abenaki)
Title: Muskrat Will Be Swimming
The kids at school call Jeannie and her grandfather “lake rats.” Grampa’s stories, however, gently guide Jeannie to find her own native identity.

Author: Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)
Title: Solar Storms
This young adult fiction novel is for readers young and old. Linda Hogan tells the story of a 17-year-old girl coming home to a land, a people, a family, and herself. When she reaches her destination, a town at the border of Minnesota and Canada, she finds that sacred land could be flooded and ruined if a developer’s plans for a hydroelectric dam go through. While there, she finds ties between women through love and grief and anger and generations.

Author: Iris Loewen
Title: My Kokum Called Today
A 12-year-old girl who lives in the city receives a phone call from her Kokum (grandmother) from the Cree reserve. This young girl looks forward to visiting the reserve and experiencing all things that tie her to the land. This book shows how women (grandmothers in particular) keep families connected.

Author: Carolyn Niethammer
Title: Keeping the Rope Straight: Annie Dodge Wauneka’s Life of Service to the Navajo
This non-fiction book looks at how Annie Wauneka, as a Tribal Council delegate and community leader, improved the healthcare and education available to her people. Confronting any obstacle in her way, she improved countless lives and motivated individuals around her.

Native American elders, children's book
Produced by: Kootenai Culture Committee, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
Title: Ktunaxa Legends
This collection of stories, told by Ktunaxa elders, teach children to never waste their food and to respect all of creation. Illustrations appear on every page.

Author: Basil H. Johnston
Illustrator: Shirley Cheechoo
Title: Tales the Elders Told: Ojibway Legends
This book, composed of nine traditional tales from Native American elders, accompanied by contemporary Native art, teaches important values to young readers.

Author: Amanda J. Cobb
Title: Listening to Our Grandmothers’ Stories: The Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females, 1852-1949
Amanda J. Cobb’s grandmother, Ida Mae Pratt Cobb, was an alumna of the Bloomfield Academy from the 1920s. Cobb draws on letters, reports, and interviews with students, to compose this academic book. The academy’s success story is paired with the stories of the Chickasaw women who attended.

Author: Joseph Bruchac
Title: Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
This young adult novel explores the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II. Throughout WWII, the Navajo Code Talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. effort, sending communications in an unbreakable code that used their native language. However, when they came back home from the war, the code talkers were not treated to warm welcomes.

Native American elders, children's books
Author: Ruby Slipperjack (Ojibwe)
Title: Little Voice
Ray, a 14-year-old girl, doesn’t feel like she belongs, at school, in her community, in her family. With the help of her grandmother and a summer in the bush, Ray overcomes several personal challenges and finds her own voice.

Author: Allen J. Sockabasin
Title: An Upriver Passamaquoddy
In this biography/memoir, Allen J. Sockabasin draws on memories of growing up in his Passamaquoddy village. He remembers the rich and rewarding oral tradition of the Native American elders that are still his heroes. This memoir features rare photographs and personal stories of storytellers, tribal leaders, craftsmen, basketmakers, hunters, and musicians.

Author: Karin Clark
Title: Grandma’s Special Feeling
Whenever Grandma gets a “special feeling,” her grandchildren know they will hear a story about how First Nations peoples lived in the old days.

Author: Ellen White / Kwulasulwut (Coast Salish)
Title: Kwulasulwut II: More Stories from the Coast Salish
The second volume of traditional stories by Ellen White, a Salish elder and storyteller, is introspective and highlights the idea of peer teaching. The four stories, written with clarity and humanity, explore cosmic themes.

Native American elders, children's literature
Authors: Kathy and Michael Lacapa
Title: Less than Half, More than Whole
This beautiful story and luminous illustrations highlight children of mixed parentage who are called “half-” or “part-” something and struggle with the question, “Where do I belong?” The Indian beliefs and terms are explained at the end of the book, allowing all ages to read, comprehend, and reflect on Native heritage.

Author: Velma Wallis
Title: Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival
Velma Wallis bases this story on an Athabaskan legend, passed along from mother to daughter for many generations. Unusually harsh weather in the Arctic threatens an Alaskan tribe with starvation because of a shortage of fish and game. During migration, two elderly women in this tribe are abandoned, leading to a tragic and shocking story.

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check out our two online journals, WOW Review and WOW Stories, and keep up with WOW’s news and events.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *