Mentor Texts for Native American Heritage Month

Since 1992, November has been designated as National Native American Heritage Month. Its purpose is to honor the traditions and heritage of Native American and Indigenous people, which makes it the perfect time to introduce students to the traditions and heritage of Native American people.

You know I love a good mentor text, and this topic is no exception! I’ve rounded up ten of my very favorite mentor texts for teaching Native American Heritage Month. These books are the perfect introduction to

Check out the list below!

1. Bowwow Powwow

One of the reasons I love this book is because it shows a bit of Native American culture today! This book is a beautiful introduction to powwows! It not only helps readers understand what goes on at a powwow, but also describes the significance of powwows in the Native American culture.

A young girl named Windy Girl attends a powwow with her family and her dog. That night, she dreams about a very special powwow. The dream helps Windy Girl build a deeper understanding of why powwows are so meaningful.

2. Crossing Bok Chitto

In this book, a young Choctaw girl and slave boy named Little Mo form an unlikely friendship. When Little Mo finds out his mother will be sold to another plantation, he begins to plot a daring escape across the Bok Chitto River.

It is really lovely how this story mixes both African American and Choctaw cultures. Your students are sure to be captivated by this beautiful story! It’s a great book for class discussions too!

3. D is for Drum

In a classic alphabet-style book, each letter of the alphabet is used to introduce readers to a different element of Native American culture. A wide variety of different groups are represented, and lots of topics are touched on.

I also enjoyed how this book is written in pleasing rhyme, but more in-depth information is included to the side of each page, for those who want to know more.

4. Fry Bread

This sweet story introduces the reader to fry bread, a common Native American food. Through delightful rhyme and rhythm, readers learn the history and significance of fry bread.

At the end of the book, readers will find a recipe for making fry bread and more information about how fry bread became a staple food in so many Native American homes.

5. Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina

This beautifully written story shares the childhood and early career of Maria Tallchief, the first Native American woman to break into ballet in the United States.

Readers will learn how she got her start in ballet, how her incredible passion and talent were developed, and how Maria went on to become one of the most famous ballerinas in the U.S.

6.The Star People: A Lakota Story

Sister Girl and her brother, Young Wolf, are two Lakota children who wander far away from their home. On their journey, they face a wall of fire, an animal stampede, and other dangers.

When night falls and the stars come out, the spirit of their grandmother arrives to help them get home. She reminds them, “The Star People are always with you. Look up, and you will see me among the stars.”

7. Turtle Island

This is the creation story of the Iroquois People. Before time began, Sky Woman lived in Sky World. One day, something unexpected happens, and Sky World is changed forever.

This traditional Native American story has been passed down orally for many generations, and this book is a beautiful way to share it with your students.

8. Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army

This story describes part of the life of Jim Thorpe, a Native American and Olympic champion, who is considered by some to be the greatest all around athlete of all time!

The story goes back to 1912, when a football game took place between the West Point Cadets from the US Military Academy and the football team from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The Cadets team was bigger, stronger, and better equipped.  Though they were the clear underdogs, the Carlisle players were lightning-fast and determined to show they were the best football team around.

9. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

“Otsaliheliga” is a traditional Cherokee word that expresses gratitude. This book takes us through the seasons and shows what things the Cherokee people are grateful for in each.

Food, family, festivals, their community… There is so much to be grateful for in every season. 

10. We Are Water Protectors

After learning from her grandmother about the sacred nature of water, and how it nurtures all of human life, a young indigenous girl takes a stand to protect Earth’s most precious resource against the black snake that threatens it.

The illustrations in this book are absolutely beautiful and help to tell the story of this brave girl and her people. This book would be a beautiful tie-in to a conservation lesson too.

I hope this list has inspired you to share some aspects of the rich and varied Native American heritage with your students this month and any time! There is so much to learn by studying the traditions, legends, and customs of the first people to inhabit this land. 

Sharing these and other books that celebrate Native American heritage and culture is one small way to show the recognition and respect that is deserved. 


Interested in even more mentor texts? Check out the posts below!

5 Reasons to Use Mentor Texts With Big Kids

Mentor Texts for Teaching Gratitude

Mentor Texts for Teaching Kindness


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