Middle Grade: Native Characters Going On Adventures and Quests

Why do middle grade readers enjoy stories about characters who go on adventures and quests? Because these stories can transport them to a different world filled with all sorts of possibilities. Young Native readers, however, don’t often see themselves represented in stories like these. But oral traditions are an integral part of Indigenous culture, and since oral traditions often center on adventures and quests, it’s important for educators to seek out books featuring Native characters and their culture.

This book list contains a wide range of genres, including fantasy, mystery, magical realism, and graphic novels. Many of these titles center around quests related to oral traditions, and this representation is vital to the celebration and perseverance of Indigenous culture. Meanwhile, other titles highlight the need to advocate for Indigenous land protection. These books ultimately show readers that, yes, Native characters can go on quests, solve mysteries, and do extraordinary things!

Book cover of Eagle Drums

Eagle Drums


Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson (Alaskan Native Iñupiaq)


This book centers around the origin story of a Native Alaskan tradition called the Iñupiaq Messenger Feast. In preparation for winter, a young hunter travels up the mountain to obtain obsidian, where he meets an eagle god called Savik. The boy is given a choice: follow Savik to the home of the eagles or die like his two older brothers. He bravely chooses the unknown and follows Savik. On this journey, the boy is taught by Eagle Mother about spirituality and nature. Then, he shares this knowledge, leading to the Iñupiaq people receiving the gift of song, dance, community, and the traditions of the Messenger Feast.

Book cover of Rabbit Chase

Rabbit Chase


Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinaabe/Métis)


K.C. Oster (Ojibwe/Anishinaabe)


Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, this graphic novel explores Indigenous culture and gender identity. As a nonbinary Anishinaabe middle-schooler, Aimée goes on a field trip to offer gifts to Paayehnsag, the water spirits who can protect the land from developers. But Aimée wanders off and is transported to a place populated by Anishinaabe figures. In an effort to get back home, Aimée must help Trickster hunt down dark water spirits. During this quest, Aimée is guided by Paayehnsag as they fight the dark water spirits and the land-grabbing Queen.

Book cover of The Barren Grounds

The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga, Vol. 1


David A. Robertson (Norway House Cree)


This Narnia-inspired Indigenous story follows Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children living in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Taken away from their communities and cultures, they struggle to fit in at school. But everything changes when they find a portal that opens to a new—and icy—reality called Askí. There they meet Ochek, a hunter who is struggling to provide food for his community called Misewa. It’s a race against imminent starvation as Morgan and Eli team up with a sassy squirrel to help Ochek and his beloved Misewa community. But can they help before winter freezes them all?

Book cover of The Case of Windy Lake

The Case of Windy Lake: The Mighty Muskrats Mystery Series


Michael Hutchinson (Misipawistik Cree Nation)


Sam, Otter, Atim, and Chickadee are four cousins who live on the Windy Lake First Nation. They are inseparable, and their love for exploring gives them the nickname, Mighty Muskrats. Drawing upon the guidance of an Elder, the Mighty Muskrats are determined to solve their first mystery—the disappearance of an archaeologist. They set up their headquarters in a fort made from the scraps of an old school bus. Ultimately, their investigation leads to local protests for Indigenous land protection, and the Mighty Muskrats are confronted with the harmful environmental and cultural impact of a mining company.

Book cover of Thunderous



M.L. Smoker (Assiniboine and Sioux/Fort Peck) and Natalie Peeterse

Interior Illustrations by

Dale Ray Deforest (Navajo)


Aiyana is a Lakota girl who would rather spend her time garnering a social media presence than listening to her grandmother’s traditional Lakota stories. On a school trip, Aiyana is desperate to fit in with a group of popular girls, which leads to her climbing a bluff to take a selfie. She falls from the bluff, only to find herself transported to the Spirit World.

When she meets the trickster Raven, Aiyana learns that she can get back home—but only if she completes four tasks. Aiyana quickly accepts the terms of this quest. Now, with the help of talking animals in the Spirit World, she must recall her grandmother’s Lakota stories and, most importantly, not be tricked by the Raven.


Across multiple genres, these books follow young characters who embark on quests related to their Indigenous culture and oral traditions. Educators will find these titles helpful if they are looking to address Indigenous land protection or show the various oral traditions of tribes, such as the Iñupiaq’s Messenger Feast. Not only do these books highlight Indigenous culture, but they also show middle grade readers that Native characters can do adventurous things and be the heroes of their own stories.

A headshot of writer Tehya Foussat

About the Author

Tehya Foussat

Tehya Foussat is an Indigenous writer living with a physical disability, and she is the Marketing Coordinator for the upcoming documentary Books Across America. Her unpublished manuscript, Paintakers, earned a semifinalist spot for the 2022 pilot episode of America’s Next Great Author. Tehya is an enrolled member of the Pechanga Band of Indians, and she currently resides in Southern California. Her website is www.icreatefiction.com.