Celebrating Native American Artists in Children’s Literature

The month of November is Native American Heritage month. This month is designated as a way to recognize the important contributions and celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions and histories of indigenous peoples, both past and present. The job of an illustrator is to interpret a story through pictures. The creativity of Native American artists is evident and vitally important in the history and stories by and about Native American people. Check out some of the works of art highlighted in children’s books that are available at the O’Fallon Public Library.

Spotted Tail by David Heska Wanbli Weiden, illustrated by Jim Yellowhawk and Pat Kinsella

Spotted Tail is nonfiction account of an important leader of the Sicangu Lakota people. He was known as a great warrior, a powerful believer in education, and he was one of the first leaders of that time to argue for peace between the United States and Native Americans. Jim Yellowhawk, one of the illustrators of the book and a member of the Itazipco Band of the Lakota and the Onondaga Iroquois Nation, uses a traditional American Indian art form called “ledger art” in his illustrations of the book. Historically, American Indians would draw pictures of meaningful events, such as battles or hunting, on animal hides. Ledger art is the practice of drawing these pictographs on the ledgers that were kept by settlers and soldiers. This dynamic artform can be seen throughout the pages of Spotted Tail.

Michaela Goade is a member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. She is an artist and illustrator of several books including I Can Make This Promise and We Are Water Protectors. She had this to say about her collaboration with Carole Lindstrom, “We Are Water Protectors honors Water Protectors around the world who are courageously fighting for Indigenous rights and environmental justice in the face of greed, corruption and oppression. They are fighting for all of us. This book is an invitation to join and a call to action because we are all connected. As Carole says, “water affects and connects us all.” The beautiful words and the flowing illustrations stress the importance of keeping our water sources safe.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Illustrated by Michaela Goade.

Award winning author, illustrator and artist, Julie Flett, has a distinctive style that reflects her heritage in culturally relevant ways. She is a member of the Cree-Metis tribe in Canada and draws from traditional styles such as painting and textiles to create her works of art. She likes to use a variety of techniques in her illustrations to create collages that are simple yet have beautiful depth. In her latest book, Birdsong, Julie Flett tells a story of change, loss, and connection through moving words and compelling art.

At Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell gently tells the story of a family patiently waiting the return of a beloved family member serving in the military, weaving prayers of safety until she is home. Artist Weshoyot Alvitre of the Tonga people, uses graphic art illustrations to lead the reader through the story with multi-colored strands of thread and detailed depictions of several generations of brave women. From the author, “This is a story that reveals the roots that ground us, the dreams that help us soar, and the people and traditions that hold us up.”

Explore more books with Native American art and interest in the Children’ Special Selections this month at the O’Fallon Public Library.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s