Middle Grade: Historical Events

Historical events marked by colonization have profoundly shaped Native tribes and people. Our collective history serves as a springboard to reclaim our rights, safeguard sacred lands, and revitalize Indigenous traditions and language. By embracing history, we forge a future of our making that honors our cultural richness and empowers our communities.

Book cover of Indian No More


Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua, enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) and Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation)


When the federal government enacts a law that declares that the Umpqua tribe no longer exists, Regina Petit becomes “Indian no more.” Even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations—her family is forced to leave their homeland on the Grand Ronde Tribe’s reservation. In their new home in Los Angeles, Regina finds solace in the stories of her grandmother and the continued togetherness of her family, even as she comes face-to-face with the viciousness of racism and endures the pain of separation from her tribal land and community. In this moving story inspired by Umpqua author Charlene Willing McManis’s own history, Regina must ask herself: is she Indian, American, or both? And will she and her family ever be okay?

In the 1950s the U.S. government launched an attack on Indian Country—first with the creation of the Urban Relocation Program, which encouraged Native people to move to urban cities; quickly followed by dissolving treaties, dismantling tribal governments, and eliminating reservations. This book is a beautiful and heartfelt reminder that the Grand Ronde Tribe persevered and survived despite the U.S. government’s repeated efforts otherwise.

Book cover of Mary and the Trail of Tears

Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story


Andrea L. Rogers (Cherokee Nation)


Twelve-year-old Mary and her Cherokee family are forced out of their home in Georgia by U.S. soldiers in May 1838. From the beginning of the forced move, Mary and her family are separated from her father. Facing horrors such as internment, violence, disease, and harsh weather, Mary perseveres and helps keep her family and friends together until they can reach the new Cherokee nation in Indian Territory. Featuring nonfiction support material, a glossary, and reader response questions, this Girls Survive story explores the tragedy of forced removals following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 began the forced relocation of several Native tribes, including the Cherokee. This is a tender story of a removal that will resonate with young readers.

Book cover of In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse


Joseph Marshall III (Sicangu Lakota)


You wouldn’t guess it by his name, but Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy: his mother is Lakota, and his father is half Lakota and half white. Seeking to connect with his heritage, Jimmy embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, who tells him the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota—and American—history. In this narrative intertwining of fiction and nonfiction, Brulé Lakota author Joseph Marshall III chronicles the many heroic deeds of Crazy Horse, who fiercely fought against the encroachments of the U.S. government on the lands and way of life of the Lakota people. Through his grandfather’s tales about this famous warrior, Jimmy learns about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.

This is a modern-day story steeped in the history of Crazy Horse, who took up arms against the U.S. government in several battles, most notably in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Through his grandfather, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage.

Book cover of The Birchbark House

The Birchbark House


Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians)


She was named Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop. Omakayas and her family live on an island in Lake Superior. Though there are growing numbers of white people encroaching on their land, life continues much as it always has. But the satisfying rhythms of their life are shattered when a visitor comes to their lodge one winter night, bringing with him an invisible enemy that will change things forever—but that will eventually lead Omakayas to discover her calling.

This story offers a Native perspective on Westward Expansion. It takes place 1847 and follows an Ojibwa family through the seasons for one year, as more and more white people encroach on their land.


These titles provide a range of avenues for exploring the impacts of colonization on Native communities and people, for both old and young Native readers. But these books also pave the way for a future crafted by our own hands—one that not only pays homage to our abundant cultural heritage but also strengthens and uplifts our communities.

Headshot of author Stacy Wells

About the Author

Stacy Wells

Stacy Wells, an enrolled member of Choctaw Nation, is a youth librarian serving families and their children from birth to teens. She is the Executive Assistant for the American Indian Library Association, on the steering committee for the North Texas Teen Book Festival, and is a community advocate for kids with dyslexia. Stacy’s debut picture book, STRONGER THAN co-written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is forthcoming in 2025 (HarperCollins/Heartdrum). She lives in Texas with her family.