By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
November is Native American Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than to read a book! Here are 20 great titles by Native American authors available here at WCPL:
My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith (J E SMITH)
What brings you happiness? This warm, joyful board book celebrates family and heritage, and serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to cherish the moments in life that brings us happiness.
Little You by Richard Van Camp (J E VAN CAMP)
With gentle rhymes and simple illustrations, this board book is a tender celebration of the potential of all children, sure to resonate with readers of all ages.
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie (J E ALEXIE)
Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. Just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name…a name sure to light up the sky.
Wild Berries by Julie Flett (J E FLETT)
Spend the day picking wild blueberries with Clarence and his grandmother in this quiet, rhythmic story written in both English and Swampy Cree dialect.
The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo (J E HAR)
Some cats are good luck. You pet them and good things happen. Woogie is one of those cats. But as Woogie gets into one mishap after another, everyone starts to worry. Can a good luck cat’s good luck run out?
Sky Dancers by Connie Ann Kirk (J E KIRK)
John Cloud’s father is in New York City, far away from their Mohawk Reservation, building sky scrapers. One day, Mama takes John to New York City and he sees his Papa high on a beam, building the Empire State Building.
When We Were Alone by David Robertson (J E ROBERTSON)
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away.
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (J E SMITH)
Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family, and she hopes to dance at the next powwow. But she has a problem: how will her dress sing if it has no jingles?
SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (J E WAB)
Two Ojibway sisters set off into the winter night to see the SkySpirits’ midnight dance. After an exhilarating walk and patient waiting, the girls are rewarded by the arrival of the SkySpirits—the Northern Lights—dancing and shimmering in the night sky.
Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac (J F BRU)
Ever since the morning Molly woke up to find that her parents had vanished, her life has become filled with terrible questions. Where have her parents gone? Who is this spooky old man who’s taken her to live with him, claiming to be her great-uncle? Why does he never eat, and why does he lock her in her room at night? There’s one thing Molly does know: she needs to find some answers before it’s too late.
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (J F ERD)
Nineteenth-century American pioneer life was introduced to thousands of young readers by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. With The Birchbark House, this same slice of history is seen through the eyes of the spirited, seven-year-old Ojibwa girl Omakayas, or Little Frog, so named because her first step was a hop.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by James Marshall III (J F MARSHALL)
When Jimmy McClean embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history. Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson (J F ROBERTSON)
Hiawatha, a Mohawk, is plotting revenge for the murder of his wife and daughters by the evil Onondaga Chief when he meets the Great Peacemaker, who enlists his help in bringing the nations together to share his vision of a new way of life marked by peace, love, and unity rather than war, hate, and fear.
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith (J F SMI)
What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins or hightops with bright orange shoelaces? Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa. After all, it’s Grampa Halfmoon who’s always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes, like the time they are forced to get creative after a homemade haircut makes Ray’s head look like a lawn-mowing accident.
How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle (J F TINGLE)
A Choctaw boy tells the story of his tribe’s removal from the only land his people had ever known, and how their journey to Oklahoma led him to become a ghost with the ability to help those he left behind.
Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache by Greg Rodgers (J 398.20897 ROD)
Deep in Choctaw Country, Chukfi Rabbit is always figuring out some way to avoid work at all costs. When Bear, Turtle, Fox, and Beaver agree on an everybody-work-together day to build Ms. Possum a new house, Chukfi Rabbit says he’s too busy to help, but this greedy trickster will soon learn that being this lazy is hard work.
Trickster: Native American Tales by Matt Dembicki (J 741.5973 TRI)
In the first graphic anthology of Native American trickster tales, twenty four Native storytellers were paired with twenty four comic artists, telling cultural tales from across America. Ranging from serious and dramatic to funny and sometimes downright fiendish, these tales bring tricksters back into popular culture.
Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac (J 796 BRU)
In 1999 the U.S. Congress recognized Jim Thorpe as “Athlete of the Century,” a marvelous achievement for anyone, let alone a Native American kid born in a log cabin. In this picture-book biography, readers learn about how his boyhood education set the stage for his athletic achievements.
Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness to Light by Tim Tingle (J 973.0497 TIN)
Spanning fifty years, Saltypie describes the problems encountered by the author’s Choctaw grandmother—from her orphan days at an Indian boarding school to hardships encountered in her new home on the Gulf Coast.
Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story by S.D. Nelson (J 92 HAYES)
This biography tells the story of Ira Hayes, a shy, humble Pima Indian who fought in World War II as a Marine and was one of six soldiers to raise the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima, an event immortalized in Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Fall comes around each year, and the air becomes chilled and the leaves change colors, and it’s time to remember November as Native American Heritage Month. We remember how Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, assisted the settlers of Plymouth and how Pocahontas and her father, from the Algonquin tribe, assisted in helping the settlers in Jamestown. Both were kindnesses of friendship and food that unfortunately later came back to bite them.
Since the history of Native Americans is so broad and diverse, during this month of holiday feasting and heritage, we’ve decided to focus on a brief survey of Native American food and cuisine. Today, few of the Native American tribes eat the same diets that their ancestors ate, but much of the indigenous foods are now incorporated into the cuisines of almost the entire world.
Starting in the northeast, where contact first began with the English, we’ll work our way across the nation. While there were some common staples and practices, such as corn being a very important dietary staple across most of the nation, the first thing we should realize is that all tribes did not eat the same things or cook the same way. (Keep in mind though that I am a Caucasian woman, and may get some things wrong.)
The Northeastern tribes staple foods were corn, beans and squash. These foods were often called the “three sisters” because they were planted together: the beans grew up the tall stalks of the maize, while the squash spread out at the base of the corn and beans which provided protection and support for the roots. They also enjoyed the bounty of wildlife, including deer and turkey, along with other birds.
The Southern tribes were serious farmers, using irrigation and crop rotations. They ate corn, cornmeal and also hominy— interestingly, you can make hominy by adding ashes to the corn, which helps the corn cook faster, and brings out more nutrients. And of course, with hominy you can make grits. Other foods that we are still eating today were introduced to us by the tribes in the Southeast: potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash and beans. Their dies was also supplements by wild berries and grapes as well as peppers and sassafras; making teas and ginger like drinks. They were also manily small game hunters (rabbits and turkeys).
On the Great Plains midwestern Native American tribes were mainly hunters and gatherers. These tribes were big game hunters for bison and caribou, and many tribes would work together to capture these large animals. There was limited farming, and many tribes could only grow a couple of crops so they relied on a trade system.
In the Southwest deserts, animals were more scarce. For meat, they often ate wild turkey, but they mainly relied on their farming. Of course, one of the most important foods they grew was maize (corn), they even had 24 different types. They also grew beans, squash, melons, pumpkins and fruit.
On the Pacific Coast, Native Americans used salmon and other fish, seafood, mushrooms, berries, and meats such as deer, duck, and rabbit. These tribes were mostly hunter-gatherers. Since the weather as mostly good all year round, they could rely year-round on the abundant foods in the region. In some areas, acorns were ground into flour. These groups, along with almost all tribes, prepared dried or salted meat to last through the winter season.
Most of the foods we eat during the holidays came from Native Americans. In 1621, the first Thanksgiving recorded that the feast included deer, water fowl, turkeys, shellfish, eels, squash, corn, and beans, and according to one legend, a native American named Quadequina brought a bowl of popcorn. The traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas foods, including turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, baked beans, and mashed potatoes were adopted by us white people.
Grits, cornmeal mush, cornbread, succotash, and fried green tomatoes are all uniquely southern foods that we learned about from Native Americans. Some people in the South still hunt raccoons, opossums, and squirrels, as did the Native Americans; venison is still eaten throughout North America. And what would life be like maple syrup. Southwestern and Mexican foods were also heavily influenced by Native Americans. The food sharing was so important that there is a term, the Columbian Exchange, which explains the sharing of Native American foods with the while settlers, as well as around the world. They, on the other hand, got many of our diseases as well as some of our foods and weapons.
Over 4 million people have tried Native American food for the first time. It’s entertaining and you can also see what a few dishes look like. The consensus is that the food is good, and people want more.
And now for some recipes, because we can’t talk about native American foods without showing some basic recipes… Read the rest of this entry
By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department
Native American Heritage Month (also known as “National American Indian Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) hasn’t been around for very long. Although Native Americans have resided on the continent for approximately 12,000 years, it wasn’t until November 1990 that President George H. W. Bush declared November to be “National American Indian Heritage Month”.
Honoring the month
Many of us are not exposed to Native American culture and do not know much about Native people, their way of life, and the issues they face. In order to honor this month, I’ve compiled some facts and figures, as well as answers to questions some of us may have about Native Americans and their culture. This list is far from complete, and I encourage you to discover what you’ve always wanted to learn about Native people and their history.
Below you will also find ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month for yourself, plus Fiction and Non-Fiction books from Native American authors – and a few movies, too. All titles are available at our library, so get to celebrating!
Census information as of 2014
Population: American Indians and Alaska Natives made up 2% of the US population (5.4 million people), including those that are more than one race.
Race: Of the 5.4 million, only 48% are fully American Indian or Alaska Natives. The other 52% are American Indian or Alaska Natives in combination with at least one other race.
Reservations and Tribes: As of 2015 there were 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations and 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes.
Income: The median income for single-race Native American and Alaska Native households was $37,227 (compared to $53,657 for the United States as a whole).
Poverty: Single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives had a poverty rate of 28.3%, the highest rate of any race group in America.
Higher Education: 13.9% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives, ages 25 and over, had a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
Language: 26.8% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives ages 5 and older spoke a language other than English at home.
More interesting facts here
FAQ about Native Americans
Are all Native Americans considered US citizens?
- In 1924, all Native Americans who were born in the US were granted citizenship, although not all states allowed them to vote until 1957.
Do all Native Americans live on reservations?
- According to the 2010 census, only 22% of the country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands. Many Natives have left reservations seeking jobs and higher education.
Do any Native Americans still live on their original tribal land?
- There are some reservations that are located on a tribe’s original land, while others were created by the Federal government for the tribes forced from their land.
Do tribes make their own laws, or live under the laws of the US?
- Federally recognized tribes have a sovereign, government-to-government relationship with the United States. They legally govern themselves aside from some restrictions from Congress, federal courts, and treaties with the U.S. They are able to form their own governments, make and enforce laws, tax, provide licenses and regulate activities, and more. They are unable to print their own currency, start wars, or take part in foreign relations.
What is life like on a reservation?
- Living on a reservation has been compared by some to living in a Third World country. For many there are few jobs, a lack of employment opportunity, and inadequate and substandard housing including a lack of running water, phones, and electricity.
Can anyone visit a reservation?
- All reservations have their own laws and therefore different policies on visiting. Make sure to contact the proper tribe to ask about their policy and be aware of etiquette if given permission to visit. Here is a link to the Tribal Leaders Directory that provides contact information for each tribe. Here is a link to some tips on visiting a reservation.
Do Native Americans still speak their tribe’s language?
- Before European influence, it is estimated that there were over 100,000 different Native languages. Today, over 70% of Native Americans say they only speak English at home. Navajo is the most-spoken Native language, at 150,000 people.
What is the history behind Native American names?
- This is a fascinating topic that cannot be fully represented by a short answer. The brief version is that many Native Americans have a complex naming tradition. Their names are said to speak to an individual’s personality and even change over the course of their lives.
What was the Native American population before 1492?
- No one knows for sure. Not many population records were kept at all during that time period. All scientists have to go on are historical writings, and even then they can only guess. At the low end, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber estimated 8.4 million. At the high end, anthropologist Henry Dobyn estimated 112.5 million. What almost everyone can agree on is that the Native population decreased significantly after 1492.
Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?
- In 2015, Huffington Post published an article that interviewed the ancestors of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, the first tribe to make contact with the Massachusetts Pilgrims of 1620. This is a quote from their current tribal president and chairman on how he celebrates the holiday: “We are Americans as well, and so even today, I sit down at Thanksgiving with family.” He goes on to note that Thanksgiving is equally a time to reflect on the tragedies they suffered then and ones they continue to suffer today. So while many consider it a day to give thanks, it is also seen as a national day of mourning.
What are some current issues facing Native Americans today?
- The Dakota Access Pipeline has been in the news recently. The construction of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation may potentially threaten their water supply. The Sioux also say the pipeline would disrupt sacred land.
- Click here for a Smithsonian article about the current controversy, and here to visit the Standing Rock Sioux website.
How can I find out if I have Native American ancestors?
- If you believe you may have Native American ancestry, here is a guide provided by the Office of Public Affairs – Indian Affairs on how to begin genealogical research as well as tribal enrollment information.
- Visit us at the Williamson County Public Library to get free access to Ancestry.com with your library card.
How can I participate in Native American Heritage Month?
- Click here for some creative ideas on how to celebrate.
- Read a book or watch a movie – all available @WCPL!
- The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens (978.02 COZ)
- Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (770.92 EGA)
- Empire of the Summer Moon : Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne (978.004974572 GWY)
- 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (970.011 MAN)
- With My Own Eyes: A Lakota Woman Tells Her People’s History by Susan Bordeaux Bettelyoun (973.04975 BET)
- On the REZ by Ian Frazier (978.366 FRA)
- Killing Custer by James Welch (973.82 WEL)
- Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (F ALE)
- House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (F MOM)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA F ALE)
- Smoke Signals (DVD SMOKE)
- Dances with Wolves (DVD DANCES)
- The Last of the Mohicans (DVD LAST)
- Longmire – TV series (DVD LONGMIRE)
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – (DVD BURY)
- More Suggested Reading:
Other Resources for Native American History Month
- Click here for audio and video resources from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, and more.
It is impossible to accurately represent an entire people in a single blog while retaining the real essence, beauty, and complexity of their culture. I urge everyone who is interested in any aspect of Native American life to read more, learn more, and attempt to truly understand the lives and history of America’s Native people.