NAHM Book Title Spotlight


CLI’s 2023 Native American History Month book list highlights the ancestry, achievements, and intersecting identities of Native groups and individuals.

Did you know that there are over 500 Native tribes in the US, whose members speak over 150 different languages? Let’s celebrate that! One book that beautifully portrays a diverse intertribal community is What Your Ribbon Skirt Means to Me by Alexis Bunten and Nicole Neidhardt.

The setting for this story is the day of Deb Haaland’s inauguration as the first Native Secretary of the Department of the Interior in 2021. Pia, a fictional character, heads to the Native American Center after school and joins the other children eagerly gathered around the television. There on the screen is “Auntie Deb” at the White House for her swearing-in ceremony. Pia might not fully understand Secretary Haaland’s new job, but she understands the meaning of “ceremony.” And she notices that Secretary Haaland is wearing a ribbon skirt.

Community members gather to burn a bundle of sage, share food, and craft regalia. When asked “why it was so special for Auntie Deb to wear her regalia at the White House,” the children don’t hesitate. “Native pride! Healing. Ancestors.” As they choose fabrics, cut, and sew, Pia compares a ribbon skirt to armor. “That’s right,” her grandmother says. “You don’t need a ribbon skirt to be powerful. But when you wear your regalia, you shine with all the strength of our mothers and grandmothers since time immemorial.” This is why Auntie Deb wore her skirt - “for all the mothers, aunties, daughters, and grandmothers.” Pia is proud to be Native, like Auntie Deb.

Take special note of the backmatter in this book, which includes a photograph from secretary Haaland’s inauguration, information about ribbon skirts, suggested actions children can take “to protect the future of our planet,” and a glossary of terms in three Native languages. 

Extend children’s learning and your own by reading Sharice’s Big Voice by Sharice Davids and Wilma’s Way Home by Doreen Rappaport for other stories about Native leaders. Explore intertribal histories in Fry Bread, The People Shall Continue, and We Are Still Here. We want all children to feel proud of who they are. When you include Native voices in your book collection, you promote Native pride.

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