Kids Books: A Kid’s Guide to Native American History


Every year, at the beginning of summer, your best friend’s mom buys her a special charm for her bracelet, to celebrate another successful school year. It’s a tradition, she says, and you completely understand. Your family has lots of those.

Some people celebrate Hanukkah, while others have Christmas. Your family might have a special vacation spot you visit each year or a celebration to mark a significant day. Or maybe your traditions are stories about Corn Husk Dolls, coyotes or salmon.

In the new book, A Kid’s Guide to Native American History, by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder, you’ll read about customs, history-making people and the truth about the many nations who live in this nation.

Wait, you’re saying, “What? America is just one nation, right?”

Yes and no. There are many nations in this country. The word “nation” signifies a group of people who share a culture and are united under one government, which perfectly describes American Indians. In each of our fifty states, you’ll find many people of the First Nations, as they sometimes prefer to be called. Even New York City has a large population of Native people.

Don’t think for a minute, though, that you can lump all Native Americans together! Each nation has different cultural traditions. The Oneida, for instance, tell stories of a protector who lost her face because she became selfish and Native Hawaiian tales explain why naupaka look like they’re broken.

Were your kids completely wowed by the dancing and clothing worn at the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremonies? Give them this book and take the learning a few steps further.

Authors Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder start with the basics by pointing out what are disrespectful actions and by smashing old stereotypes. From there, they divide the US by region (including Alaska and Hawaii), relating history, cultural highlights and ceremonies, crafts and oral traditions from some of the major Nations along the way.

While the projects in this book are appropriate for kids of all abilities and there are games that even younger siblings can enjoy, A Kid’s Guide to Native American History will be best-enjoyed by children ages 8 to 12. Giving them a book like this could be the start of a beautiful new tradition.