Book cover of Ancestor Approved

Ancestor Approved



Publisher & Publication Year

Heartdrum, 2021

Publisher's Book Page


Cynthia Leitich Smith, Editor (Muscogee Nation)

Author's Website 


Nicole Neidhardt (Diné)



Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Here, in a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. The young protagonists of this anthology meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another—plus one scrappy rez dog. Ultimately, all find that they are the heroes of their own stories.

Notable Achievements

Winner, Reading the West Young Readers Book Award, 2022; ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2023; Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book


Publishers Weekly: "A wonderful introduction to the included authors' work and a persuasive encouragement to seek out more Indigenous stories."

Kirkus Reviews: "Senses of goodwill and humor pervade the book as well as the spirit of community, intersection, resilience, and a desire to remember the past... A joyful invitation to celebrate the circle of ancestors together."

Booklist: "An appealing choice for those just learning about contemporary Indigenous life as well as readers well versed in the powwow circuit."

Educator Guide

This guide to Indigenous literature, created by Lakota educator Andrea Page in association with Heartdrum, includes discussion questions for Ancestor Approved as well as a general introduction to the importance of Indigenous books.

Link to Guide

Check Out More Books