American Indian Youth Literature Awards

The American Indian Youth Literature Awards are presented every two years. The awards were established as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Books selected to receive the award will present American Indians in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts. The First American Indian Library Association American Indian Youth Literature Awards were presented during the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color in 2006.

Year: 2016

Little You

Author: Richard Van Camp Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Guiding Question:

Howard’s Format from You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know (73-85)::





Sociology Concepts:

Year: 2015

Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People

Author: S. D. Nelson Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers

Guiding Question:

In what ways did the American people treat Sitting Bull and the Lakota nation unfairly? Is this point of view different from what you have been taught in the interactions between Americans and Native Americans? 

Howard’s Format from You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know (73-85)::

Honesty- The land that we live in, this land of the free and home of the brave, did not belong to us. The native people lived their own way of life undisturbed for thousands of years. The Europeans and European-Americans that pushed the native people off their lands were deceitful and brutal. While no current-day United States citizens were responsible for those actions and would probably condemn them, the fact remains that our ancestors stole these lands. What is life like on the land that was given to Native Americans to replace their homelands?  

Empathy- Imagine that you have lived in your home your entire life. Your parents were raised there as were their parents. One day, a group of people come to your home, threaten you, and tell you that you and your family must leave. This is what the Europeans and Americans did to the native people of America. 

Advocacy- The actions of our ancestors have had dire consequences for present-day Native American people. Lands like the ones talked about in this book that were set aside for Native Americans were not sought after lands. Often the lands were infertile and lacking in resources. The effects of this unfair treatment are still felt today. The unemployment rate on Native American reservations is well above the national average. Schools are often inadequate, rates of alcohol abuse are high, and the people are exploited by businesses such as casinos that want to work around government regulations. Keep these injustices in mind while doing the research suggested in the "Action" section. 

Action- Spend some time researching. What groups are fighting today for Native American rights? One concern of many Native Americans is the issue of sports teams that use Native Americans references in their names or as their mascots (Redskins, Indians, etc.). How do you feel about sports teams and schools doing this? Is the use of names or pictorial representations respectful to Native Americans? Write a letter to one of these organizations to ask them to show more respect for Native American culture. Are there other ways to support the well-being of Native Americans, or to show them respect? 

Book reivewed by Dean McNeil, Ohio Northern University teacher candidate.

Sociology Concepts:

Year: 2014

Caribou Song

Author: Atihko Nikamon Publisher: Picture Book

Guiding Question:

In this story, it seems as if the boys don’t attend a traditional school since they follow the caribou all year long. Many people believe that parents, not schools, are responsible to teach their children important things. What are the positive and negative things about each way of life (parents or schools as being primarily responsible to educate children?

Howard’s Format from You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know (73-85)::

  • Honesty- How does Joe and Cody’s lifestyle compare to yours? Which would you prefer if you had a choice?

  • Empathy- At the end of the story when the caribou herd rushes through the family’s camp, Mama is very sad. She probably thought that the boys had been crushed by caribou. If the family lived in a city or town, they probably wouldn’t have faced this danger. What are some dangers that children living in towns and cities face that these boys do not?

  • Advocacy and Action- The history of the interactions between the Cree people and the Canadian government is similar to the interactions between the native people in the U.S. and the U.S. government. Often the European people who came to inhabit both the U.S. and Canada well after the native people did, destroyed much of the native people’s lifestyles. One such custom that the Cree were not allowed to participate in was the potlatch. Read about it at this website:

Do you think it was fair that the Crees were not allowed to hold potlatches? You’re your teacher’s help, decide how you can voice your opinion, and then do it.

Sociology Concepts:

Year: 2012

My Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood

Author: Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve Publisher: Holiday House

Guiding Question:

Poverty is a complex issue. The family in this story is not well off financially though they have the necessities of life. How have past governmental policies affected Sioux people today?

Howard’s Format from You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know (73-85)::

  • Honesty- The history of the European-Americans in the U.S. can be difficult to accept. Several factors made for conflict between European-Americans and the Sioux: Europeans wanted the land the Sioux had traditionally hunted on, the U.S. government wanted the same land to build railroads on, and gold was found on the Sioux’s land. Many battles were fought with and treaties signed that caused the Sioux to lose the rights to land they once freely used. One website that explains these events is:

  • Empathy- With the help of your teacher, read the following article to get a clearer idea of some of the challenges for modern day Sioux children:

  • Advocacy- Due to poverty and many other challenges, Sioux people rarely attend or finish college. Go to the American Indian College Fund website to find out how some people are trying to help:

  • Action- With your class, decide if you would like to make a contribution to the American Indian College Fund. If you would, develop a fund-raising activity and learn how to make a donation at:

Sociology Concepts:

Year: 2010

A Coyote Solstice

Author: Thomas King Publisher: Groundwood Books

Guiding Question:

Coyote is often featured in Native American trickster tales where he plots and schemes to trick other animals.  Often his plans backfire and these tales demonstrate that selfishness does not help one get ahead.  How does this story portray Coyote?  Is he the trickster in the story?  


Howard’s Format from You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know (73-85)::

  • Honesty - What does Coyote learn from his trip to the mall?

  • Empathy - Do you celebrate a holiday where you give gifts to others?  Do you prefer to give gifts or receive them?  Why?

  • Advocacy - Many people do not have enough money to give gifts at holiday times.  What are some agencies or organizations that assist people at holiday times?

  • Action - What are gifts that you might give that are no or low cost?

Book reviewed by Kathleen Barril, ONU.

Sociology Concepts:

Year: 2010

Meet Christopher: An Osage Indian Boy form Oklahoma

Author: Genevieve Simermeyer Publisher: Council Oak Books

Guiding Question:

Ask students what they know about Native people noting misconceptions that this book can help address. Read Meet Christopher to look at how some Osage people live today. Question to guide reading: How might the Osage people live today if European settlers had not come to the land they lived in?  Answers: The Osage people would have had much more territory to in which to live. (5) They might still hunt the large game they used to. (5) There might be many more Osage people with no danger of their language and customs dying. (14, 15, 22, 24, 25, 34) The Osage people would most likely not practice Christianity. (22) They would probably continue to live more communally. (24)

Howard’s Format from You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know (73-85)::

  • Honesty- Use this book and other resources to determine why the Osage no longer live where they originally did. (6)
  • Empathy- Were the Osage and other Native people treated fairly by the U.S. government? What things did the Osage people have to give up because the land they lived on became part of the United States? (See answers to the guiding question.)
  • Advocacy- How can you learn more about the Osage (or other American Indians) ways so that their culture will be honored? See pages 35 and 39 for examples of things that might dishonor the Osage people by those who don’t understand Osage traditions.
  • Action- Go to the National Congress of American Indians website: Find the section “Get Involved” on the top right of the page to find ways to put your understanding of American Indian rights into action. The NCAI site states, “Protecting and enhancing tribal sovereignty depends on a joint effort between tribal nations and non-tribal allies and advocates. NCAI envisions an America where tribal leaders stand alongside non-Native college students, and where Native youth stand with civil rights leaders to take large and small steps to advocate for a brighter future for Indian Country and our entire nation. Whether it is contacting U.S. government leadership to raise awareness on key issues, educating yourself or others on Native histories, traditions or cultures, working within Indian Country, or lending your support to an organization that represents tribes at the local, state or national level, Indian Country values every effort and action. Even seemingly small efforts can have a tremendous impact.”
Sociology Concepts:
  • Colonization
  • Ethnocentrism- viewing and evaluating other cultures by the standards of your own (which assures the other culture loses and appears “less than”)
  • Culture
  • Subculture
  • Knowledge
  • Wisdom
  • Cultural relativism (the opposite of ethnocentrism—attempting to view a culture through its own lens and understand why they have the rules, norms, and values that they do)