WE Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know highlights themes and events in Native American history, with an emphasis on the period from 1871 through the present. I recommend this book for teaching 4th through 7th graders about Native American history, either as a read aloud or as a source of information for research projects.
We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell and Frané Lessac
- Recommended for: teaching about Native American history, source of information for research
- Interest level: 4th grade & up
- Reading level: 8th grade & up
- lexile: 1410
- guided reading: Z
It would be easy to miss the set-up for We Are Still Here!. This book begins with families arriving at a Native Nations Community School to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. The information in the book is conveyed as a series of student presentations. Intended as a way to engage readers, I am not sure this entirely works. We do not know anything about our student presenters beyond their names, and this extra layer feels like too much on top of a book jam-packed with information.
Nevertheless, I enthusiastically recommend We Are Still Here! because it succeeds on two fronts. First, it provides important information about U.S. history not found in other children’s books. Second, it highlights that Native Americans and Native American history are alive and matter today.
Author Traci Sorell (a Cherokee Nation and U.S. dual citizen) notes that most Americans do not know what happened to Native Americans after treaty making stopped in 1871. In We Are Still Here!, Sorell does a fantastic job of highlighting the key themes we should know about Native American history from 1871 through today.
Sorell focuses on federal government policies that have impacted Native Americans both positively and negatively. For example, Sorell explains TERMINATION (the federal government refusing to honor treaty agreements) and RELOCATION (the federal government passing laws encouraging Native Americans to leave tribal lands and move to cities). On the flip side, Sorell explains TRIBAL ACTIVISM (Native citizens speaking up to strengthen tribal sovereignty and protect their culture) and SELF-DETERMINATION (the federal government passing laws reversing course and recognizing Native Nations). A detailed timeline at the end of this book provides further information about Native American history.
Sorell emphasizes that Native Americans exist today and that the historical themes she explains still impact us today. Each two-page spread ends with the refrain “We Are Still Here!” Frané Lessac’s illustrations of contemporary Native Americans at the beginning and end of the book further help convey this message.
We Are Still Here! is a credible source of information about Native American history. It includes a bibliography of authoritative sources. Sorell herself was a legal advocate for Native American tribes prior to writing children’s books. Furthermore, Sorell consulted law professor Kirsten Matoy Carlson of Wayne State University Law School when writing this book.
Nonfiction books fall along a continuum from those that predominantly entertain to those that predominantly educate. We Are Still Here! falls squarely on the educational end of this continuum. It is a valuable text for teaching 4th through 7th graders about Native American history.