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Books for Bringing Indigenous Perspectives and Knowledge into the Classroom

By Kirsten Phillips | Date: September 01, 2021

As you enter another school year, we know you’re looking for thoughtful, high-quality Indigenous content to include in your lessons. Written by Indigenous authors, these books give teachers the language and tools to introduce students from kindergarten to grade 6 to Indigenous perspectives.

Stories help young children understand the world around them. These books use storytelling to teach elementary school students about both traditional and contemporary ways of life in Indigenous communities


Siha Tooskin Knows series
for ages 9–11
by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead | illustrated by Chloe Bluebird Mustooch

Paul Wahasaypa (aka Siha Tooskin) is a young Nakota boy living in a modern, urban community guided by the age-old knowledge and traditions of his family, his people, and his ancestors. This 11-year-old boy demonstrates the spirit of love and community among his Indigenous relations. 

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Gifts of His People, Paul learns about the origins of many modern conveniences and inventions. There’s so much to learn about the earliest forms of technology, travel, medicine, and food from right here on Turtle Island! 

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Sacred Eagle Feather, Paul’s Mitoshin explains the teachings about where eagle feathers come from and why they are so sacred.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of His Hair, Paul is nervous about starting at a new school. Mitoshin reminds him how strength of character can be found in the strength of his hair.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Catcher of Dreams, Paul imagines the future of a new baby sister and listens to Mugoshin’s teachings about dream catchers.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Nature of Life, Paul learns how strength, generosity, kindness, and humility are all shown to us by grandfather rocks, towering trees, four-legged ones, and winged ones.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine, Paul isn’t feeling well, and he learns that there are answers for him from both the healing practices of his people and from Western medicine.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Offering of Tobacco, Paul knows it is important to show honour and appreciation when taking plants from the earth or knowledge from a learned person. Join Paul and his teacher Mrs. Baxter as they learn about the protocol of offering tobacco. 

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Love of the Dance, Paul has invited his friend, Jeff, to his first-ever powwow! Follow along as Jeff learns all about the dances and their beautiful traditions.

Get the education guide to support learning and discussion.

Mothers of Xsan series
for ages 9–11
by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) | illustrated by Natasha Donovan

The Gitxsan Nation are Indigenous peoples whose homeland surrounds the Xsan, or “River of Mist,” which is also known as the Skeena River. In the Mothers of Xsan series, author Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) and illustrator Natasha Donovan guide young readers through the life cycles that nourish the land and people. 

The Sockeye Mother follows a sockeye salmon fry from its nursing waters, to the Pacific ocean, and back.

The Grizzly Mother has readers joining a mother grizzly and her cubs as they journey through the Gitxsan territories.

The Eagle Mother shows how bald eagles can enrich their entire ecosystem in this perfect mix of story and science.

The Frog Mother explores frog life cycles in an engaging look at how an ecosystem’s animals, people, and seasons are intertwined.


The Wolf Mothers follows a pack of grey wolves and a striking black female who’s instinct pulls her to explore beyond her home territory.


When We Were Alone
for ages 6–8
by David Alexander Robertson | illustrated by Julie Flett

An empowering story of resistance that gently introduces children to the history of residential schools in Canada. 

In When We Were Alone, a young girl notices things about her grandmother that make her curious. As she asks questions, her grandmother tells her about her experiences in a residential school.

Order the Governor General’s Award-winning book that captivated readers across the country. 

A bilingual edition featuring Swampy Cree syllabics and Roman orthography alongside the original English is also available! 

The Parent/Teacher guide provides ideas for sharing and discussing themes that are presented in When We Were Alone.


Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock
for ages 3–5
by Dallas Hunt | illustrated by Amanda Strong

When Awâsis’s kôhkum (grandmother) asks Awâsis to deliver a batch of her world-famous bannock to a relative, a mishap takes her on a detour through her community. As young readers follow Awâsis on her journey, they’ll encounter words in Cree that describe her world.

Using traditional Indigenous methods of storytelling to help kids practise common Cree words, this charming book includes a recipe for kôhkum’s world-famous bannock!

Add it to your library.


We Dream Medicine Dreams
for ages for ages 6–8
written and illustrated by Lisa Boivin

From Dene artist and bioethicist Lisa Boivin comes this healing story of hope, dreams, and the special bond between grandfather and granddaughter. The little girl leans on her grandfather’s teachings to help her live a good life while she learns to say goodbye.

We Dream Medicine Dreams is a gentle story about life and death complemented by stunning collage that will touch the hearts of children and adults alike.

Stand Like a Cedar

Stand Like a Cedar
for ages 3-5
by Nicola I. Campbell | illustrated by Carrielynn Victor

From the award-winning author of Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe comes this all-new celebration of Indigenous languages, the West Coast landscape, and deep connection to the land.

Learn what it means to “stand like a cedar” on this beautiful journey of discovery through the wilderness in this celebration of sustainability.

Get your copy here.

Sk'ad'a Series_Jig_Carve

Sk'ad'a Stories Series
for ages for ages 6–8
by Sara Florence Davidson and Robert Davidson | illustrated by Janine Gibbons

Written by the creators of Potlatch as Pedagogy, this four-book series for children brings the Haida Sk’ad’a Principles of learning to life through the art of Janine Gibbons. Follow along as youngsters learn important life lessons from their Elders through real-life situations, cultural expressions, and experiences out on the land.

Jigging for Halibut with Tsinii follows a young boy and his grandfather as they watch the weather, jig for halibut, and row with the tides, discovering there’s more to learn from Tsinii than how to catch a fish.

Learning to Carve Argillite teaches about the importance of looking back to help us find our way as a boy on Haida Gwaii practises to become a skillful carver.

Pre-order both of these books on our website.

If you’re looking for even more suggestions, we also recommend older favourites including: Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw written by William Dumas and illustrated by Leonard Paul and Nimoshom and His Bus written by Penny M. Thomas and illustrated by Karen Hibbard.

Young readers are filled with curiosity about their world and the people in it. With colourful artwork and kid-friendly language, these books can help foster healthy dialogue about Indigenous peoples in your elementary classroom.

What are your favourite books to use in your classroom? Tell us @PortageMainPres