New Indigenous books available now

Vincent Schilling

A handful of children’s books by Sealaska Heritage Institute, Louise Erdrich and the National Geographic

Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

There are a few new books that literary lovers can now add to their Native collections.

Among them are a series of trilingual children’s books, a beautiful young reader book titled “The Range Eternal” written by Louise Erdrich, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and an immersive encyclopedia of American Indian history and culture by National Geographic.

Baby Raven Reads books by the Sealaska Heritage Institute

In December of 2019, the Sealaska Heritage Institute released three children’s books as part of its award-winning Baby Raven Reads program titled.

“Like parents throughout the world, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian sang lullabies to their infants,” said Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl in a release. “These lullabies and the graphic designs introduce children to their culture, land and rich environment in which we live.”

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The first is “Cradle Songs of Southeast Alaska,” which was illustrated by Crystal Kaakeeyáa Worl, Tlingit and Athabascan and illustrated by David Lang. The second book is “Wilgyigyet: Learn the Colors in Sm'algya̱x” and “X̱angga̱ay: Learn the Colors in X̱aad Kíl.” The last book is “Cradle Songs,” the institute’s first fully trilingual release and it comes with a companion CD.

“Most songs in Southeast Alaska Native cultures are restricted from general public use because of clan or family membership. We are able to offer these beautiful songs because they are in the public domain or original works,” Rosita Worl said.

The “Cradle Songs of Southeast Alaska” CD features songs and spoken word performances by Ed Littlefield, Skíl Jáadei, Nancy Barnes, Nancy Evelyn Barnes, Katie Price, and David R. Boxley.

The Sealaska Heritage Institute also released Xaad Kíl and Sm'algyax versions of its 2016 release “Colors: Learn the colors in Lingít,” illustrated by Huk Yuunsk whose English name is David Lang. “Wilgyigyet: Learn the colors in Sm’algyax” was compiled by The Haayk Foundation. “Xanggáay: Learn the Colors in Xaad Kíl” was compiled by Skíl Jáadei and K’uyáang whose English name is Benjamin Young.

The books are available in the Sealaska Heritage Institute store here.

“The Range Eternal” by Louise Erdrich, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

The University of Minnesota Press has just released a children’s reader book by Erdrich that tells the story of a family living in the Turtle Mountains. In the book, there is a beloved family woodstove.

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The book’s webpage, where it can be purchased, cites the following description:

“At the heart of a home in the Turtle Mountains sits a woodstove. It is where Mama makes her good soup, where she cooks a potato for warming hands on icy mornings, where she heats a stone for warming cold toes at night. It warms the winter nights and keeps Windigo, the ice monster, at bay. On the stove’s blue enamel door are raised letters, The Range Eternal, and in the dancing flames through the window below, a child can see pictures: the range of the buffalo, the wolf and the bear, the eagles and herons and cranes: truly, the Range Eternal.”

Erdrich has written such books as “The Night Watchman,” “Love Medicine,” “The Plague of Doves,” “The Round House” and “LaRose.” In addition to her career as an author, Erdrich also operates Birchbark Books in Minneapolis.

Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher have illustrated many books to include “My Many Colored Days” by Dr. Suess.

National Geographic’s ‘Kids Encyclopedia of American Indian History and Culture’

National Geographic and its author Cynthia O’Brien has released a beautiful comprehensive book on American Indian history, cultural practices, historical timelines, maps regalia and more in a 304-page encyclopedia.

Though it does not include all of the United States 570-plus federally-recognized tribes, it is still a beautifully-illustrated and photo-filled book that features more than 160 tribes.

As described on its Amazon page, the book “presents a comprehensive overview of the history of North America’s Native peoples … From the Apache to the Zuni, readers will learn about each tribe's history, traditions, and culture, including the impact of European expansion across the land and how tribes live today.

To help give kids the lay of the land, this reference is arranged by region, and all federally recognized tribes are included. With nothing comparable available, it is sure to be a valuable resource for kids, students, librarians, and families.

The book is available on Amazon here and Nat Geo kids has a website of information supplementing its book.

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