Reading for the Future: Honoring Native American Heritage Month

John Cox Thumbnail

RICHLAND, Wash. — In honor of Native American Heritage Month during November, Reading for the Future, in partnership with the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia, highlights a local Native American Storyteller, John Cox.

Cox is a member of the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians and has made it his mission to continue to pass along the stories of his people and explore the true history of his brave ancestors. Cox said Native American communities are here today because they are believers, scrappers, and warriors that will keep trying and never give up. 

GET INVOLVED: Reading for the Future: Books and Beans

One of the most remarkable ways these tribes across Northern America have been able to keep their traditions and stories alive for thousands of years is through oral stories. “Before television before radio and before books, they talked about the oral traditions. So what knowledge there was it was passed on orally and remembered in that way. It wasn’t written down; you couldn’t go and just look it up again,” said Cox. 

“There were many stories passed on from generation to generation.” – John Cox

Stories were shared with the tribe and each generation during ceremonies, Pow Wows, and during the wintertime when the tribe members were gathered in one place. “Story telling would be going on continuously because the hunting and gathering season had already passed, and it was time to work on events inside and within shelters,” Cox said. 

“These stories were not only entertainment but also taught important lessons on how to survive, hunt, be a great warrior, and how to dance—stories were shared about everything within our local environment, this rock here, that tree there, that mountain there.” – John Cox

Cox said the Native American Nations always have the utmost respect for Mother Earth and her creations. He said, “if we look around us animated and inanimate objects, they would not be here without mother earth providing them.”

RELEVANT: Reading for the Future: The importance of reading 20 minutes a day

When asked what makes a good storyteller, Cox said, “I believe it’s through the work ethic, practicing and practicing and wanting to do it.”

STORY TIME WITH JOHN COX: How the Rainbow Came To Be

Recommended Children’s Books Celebrating Native American Heritage

Screen Shot 2021 11 02 At 63136 PmRed, White, and Whole 

Author: Rajani LaRocca

About: “Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again.”


Screen Shot 2021 11 02 At 65244 Pm

Indian No More

Authors: Charlene Willing Mcmanis  and Traci Sorell

About: “Regina Petit’s family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest. But when the federal government signs a bill into law that says Regina’s tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes “Indian no more” overnight–even though she was given a number by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that counted her as Indian, even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations.”

Rez DogsScreen Shot 2021 11 02 At 65833 Pm

Author: Joseph Bruchac

About: “From the US’ foremost Indigenous children’s author comes a middle-grade verse novel set during the COVID-19 pandemic, about a Wabanaki girl’s quarantine on her grandparents’ reservation and the local dog that becomes her best friend.”



51scdqjpkol Sx390 Bo1204203200Living Ghost & Mischievous Monsters

Author: Dan SaSuWeh Jones

About: “Some of the creatures in these pages might only have a message for you, but some are the stuff of nightmares. These thirty-two short stories — from tales passed down for generations to accounts that could have happened yesterday — are collected from the thriving tradition of ghost stories in American Indian cultures across North America. Prepare for stories of witches and walking dolls, hungry skeletons, and other supernatural beings ready to chill you to the bone.”

Race To The SunRace to the Sun

Author: Rebecca Roanhorse

About: “Indigenous fantasy about a Navajo girl who discovers she’s a monster-slayer. Timeless themes such as the importance of family and respect for the land resonate in this funny, fast-paced, and exciting quest adventure set in the American Southwest.”




The Rough Faced GirlThe Rough-Face Girl

Author: Rafe Martin

About: “From Algonquin Indian folklore comes a powerful, haunting rendition of Cinderella. In a village by the shores of Lake Ontario lived an invisible being. All the young women wanted to marry him because he was rich, powerful, and supposedly very handsome. But to marry the invisible being the women had to prove to his sister that they had seen him. And none had been able to get past the sister’s stern, all-knowing gaze. Then came the Rough-Face girl, scarred from working by the fire. Could she succeed where her beautiful, cruel sisters had failed?”

13 MoonsThirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons

Author: Joseph Bruchac and  Jonathan London

About: “In Native American legend, the thirteen scales on Old Turtle’s back hold the key to the thirteen cycles of the moon and the changing seasons. These lyrical poems and striking paintings celebrate the wonder of the seasons, from the Northern Cheyenne’s Moon of the Popping Trees to the Big Moon of the Abenaki.”

Ancestor ApprovedAncestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

About: “Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog). They are the heroes of their own stories.”


HealerHealer Water Monster

Author: Brian Young

About: One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds someone extraordinary: a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story—a Water Monster—in need of help. Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to support Uncle Jet in healing from his own pain.”