Photo Gallery: Native Writers & Illustrators

Editor's note. Most recent update: Jan 28, 2024.

Just about every book a kid picks up has white people in it. And, just about every book is written and illustrated by a white author or illustrator. For literally hundreds of years, white kids have seen themselves reflected in the books they read, and they've had the chance to see people who look like them as writers and illustrators of those books. By default, they've been able to see a reflection of themselves, or, a possible self (someone they could be). By default, they could imagine themselves as the writer or illustrator of that book. They may not have been aware of any of that, but it was there. It is the norm. The default. Seeing themselves in books is like the air they breathe. It is there. Every day.

I want that for Native kids. I want them to see books written and illustrated by people who look like them. I want them to be able to think "Hmmm... I could be a writer, too, just like Cynthia Leitich Smith!" or "Hey! I could be an illustrator, too, just like Shonto Begay!"

I understand that white authors and illustrators 
may feel threatened by my advocacy 
of Native writers and illustrators, 
but that advocacy is for Native children who 
deserve the same affirmations white kids get all the time. 

It is also important that kids who aren't Native see books written and illustrated by Native people. Why? Because there are far too many people who think we no longer exist. There are far too many people that think we were primitive people who grunted and ran around half naked. We were--and are--much more than that!

When reading or booktalking a book written by or illustrated by a Native person, the parent/teacher/librarian can say "Eric Gansworth is Onondaga." That two-letter word, IS, is a powerful one and communicates a great deal to kids. That parent/teacher/librarian can then say "The office for the Onondaga Nation is in New York." And that parent or teacher or librarian can say, "let's talk about sovereignty of tribal nations!"

This photo gallery is a tribute to Native writers and illustrators of books I've recommended on AICL. They are in no particular order. Over time, I'll keep adding to this gallery. I welcome you to write to me to let me know to add someone I've missed. Each person's tribal nation is beneath their name. If there are errors, I apologize, and please let me know. Update on Sep 30, 2023: I am removing Joseph Bruchac from the gallery because I am no longer confident of his claim to Native identity. 

Update: Feb 24, 2018--I am removing Sherman Alexie's photo from this gallery, in light of reports that he has harassed and undermined Native writers.

American Indians in Children's Literature
is pleased to present 
A Gallery of Native Writers and Illustrators

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Muscogee Creek
Image source: Cynsations

Michael Lacapa
Apache, Hopi
Image source: Northern Arizona Book Festival

Louise Erdrich
Turtle Mountain Chippewa
Image source:

Eric Gansworth
Image source: Milkweed

Nicola I. Campbell
Nlel7kepmx, Nsilx and Metis
Image source: The Word on the Street

Tim Tingle
Image source: My Very Own Book

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
Lakota Sioux
Image source: Native Daughters

Richard Van Camp
Image Source: Zimbio

Arigon Starr
Image source: Starrwatcher Online

S.D. Nelson
Standing Rock Sioux

Beverly Blacksheep

Lee DeCora Francis, and her boys

Simon Ortiz

Dovie Thomason
Kiowa Apache
Image Source: University of Missouri St. Louis

Cheryl Savageau

Donald Uluadluak

Jan Bourdeau Waboose
Nishnawbe Ojibwe

Daniel Wilson

Joy Harjo

Shonto Begay

Cheryl Minnema
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

Wesley Ballinger
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe

Luci Tapahonso

Greg Rodgers

Marcie Rendon
White Earth Anishinabe

Ofelia Zepeda
Tohono O'Odham

N. Scott Momaday

Laura Tohe

Allan Sockabasin

Julie Flett

Richard Wagamese
Wabasseemoong Ojibway

Leslie Marmon Silko

Heid E. Erdrich
Turtle Mountain Chippewa

Deborah Miranda

John Rombough
Chipewyan Dene

James Welch
Blackfeet/Gros Ventre

Tomson Highway

George Littlechild
Plains Cree

Roy Boney
Image source: 

Lisa Charleyboy
Tsilhqot'in - Raven Clan
Image source:

Jim Yellowhawk
Cheyenne River Sioux
Image source:

Carole Lindstrom
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
Image source: personal email

Jennifer Denetdale
Image source:

Theo Tso
Image source:

Jeannie Barbour
Chickasaw Nation
Image source:

Glenda Galvan
Chickasaw Nation
 Image source:

Daniel Heath Justice
Cherokee Nation
Image source:

David Alexander Robertson
Irish, Scottish, English, Cree
Image source:

Monique Gray Smith
Cree, Lakota, Scottish
Image source: author

Daniel Vandever
Image source: author

Amanda Strong
Photo from Highwater Press

Sharol Graves
Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
Photographer: J. Gross, 2005 (photo provided by Graves)

Brenda J. Child
Red Lake Ojibwe
Photographer: Lisa Miller

Gordon Jourdain
Lac La Crois First Nation
Photographer: Brady Willette

Jonathan Thunder
Red Lake Ojibwe
Photographer: Dana Mattice of Artspace

Christine Day
Upper Skagit
Photo provided by Day

Dallas Hunt
Wapisewsipi (Swan River First Nation)
Photo from Highwater Press

Dawn Quigley
Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe
Photo: author's Twitter account
Traci Sorell
Cherokee Nation
Photo: author's website

Cherie Dimaline
Photo: author's Facebook page

Darcie Little Badger
Lipan Apache
Photo provided by author

Layli Long Soldier
Oglala Lakota
Photo from U Iowa Writers Workshop

Kevin Maillard
Seminole Nation of Oklahoma,
Mekusukey Band
Photo provided by Maillard

Weshoyot Alvitre
Tongva, Cahuilla, Chumash, Spanish & Scottish
Photo from Alvitre

Michaela Goade
Enrolled member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and of the Kiks.ådi Clan
Photo from Goade

Jenny Kay Dupuis
Anishinaabe, Nipissing First Nation
Photo provided by Dupuis

Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton 
Inuvialuk of the Inuvialuit
Photo provided by Christy Jordan-Fenton

Andrea L. Rogers
Citizen of the Cherokee Nation
Photo provided by Rogers

Angela Gonzalez, Łot'oydaatlno
Łot'oydaatlno is Gonzales's Denaakk'e name
Koyukon Athabascan
Photo by Janessa Howard of Zen Lion Photography

Joni Spiess
Bering Straits Native Corporation shareholder
Inupiaq from Nome, Alaska
Photo by esther pederson photography

Nasugraq Rainey Hopson

Patricia J. Cutright
Tribally enrolled: Lakota, Cheyenne River Sioux
Image Source: Kenneth Girrard

Sharice Davids
Ho-Chunk Nation
Image Source: Davids

Angeline Boulley
Enrolled, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Photo credit: Amber Boulley

Anthony Perry
Citizen of the Chickasaw Nation
Photo credit: Anthony Perry

Alexis Bunten
Unangan and Yup'ik
Photo Credit: Alexis Bunten

Kim Rogers
Enrolled member of Wichita and Affiliated Tribes
Photo Credit: Author's website

Laurel Goodluck
Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara
Photo Credit: Author's website

Byron Graves
Enrolled member, Red Lake Band of  Ojibwe
Photo Credit: Byron Graves

Lorinda Martinez
Photo Credit: Navajo-Hopi Observer

Tara Audibert
Photo Credit: Harper Collins website

Denise Lajimodiere
Photo Credit: North Dakota Council on the Arts website

Brittany Gene
Photo Credit: Artist's website

Madelyn Goodnight
Photo Credit: Artist's website

Kelsey Mata
Photo Credit: Artist's website

Jonathan Nelson
Photo Credit: Haper Collins website

Brian Young
Photo Credit: Author's website

Emily Bowen Cohen
Muscogee, Jewish
Photo Credit: Harper Collins website

Betsy Albert Peacock
Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe
Photo Credit: Black Bears and Blueberries website

Thomas Peacock
Fond du Lack Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe
Photo Credit: Black Bears and Blueberries website


Unknown said...

Writers and illustrators for children definitely don't feel threatened by advocacy for Native readers. It's wonderful! Writers, illustrators, librarians, everyone wants more diverse voices in children's literature. But no matter who writes them, a very, very small percentage of books written and illustrated actually get published by traditional publishers (although traditional publishers have been asking for more diverse submissions recently).

Beverly Slapin said...

Wonderful to see all of these talented Native writers and artists in one place, Debbie!

BAJ said...

Hello. I am a Gitxsan/Canadian Educator, living and working on the traditional territory of the Gitxsan nation. I am currently taking a librarian course. I appreciate this blog. Particularly that you included pictures so that people can see themselves reflected in these authors. Our public school is 90% plus Indigenous. We are finally starting to have our library of books and resources reflect our population. It is boosting our young peoples confidence to strive to be and do what they want to do. We have a growing number of Gitxsan authors too. Like many nations, we have had a great many artists.
Do you know of any Indigenous bloggers that blog about literature or libraries in the north here in Canada?
Thank you. Hamiiya!
Barb Janze