Books by Native American authors intended for use by teachers in K-12 classrooms are now available at the WSU Vancouver Library.

The books in the Native American Teaching Library were acquired through a grant to help implement the State of Washington’s Time Immemorial curriculum on Native American history and culture. The books in the Vancouver library were selected to reflect the experiences of young Native American people both past and present.

Shameem Rakha, assistant professor of education at WSU Vancouver, coordinated the selection and purchase of the books. She worked with Roben White of the Native American Elders Council and Karen Diller, library director, to choose a range of books appropriate for primary, middle and high school students. They settled on 17 titles, purchasing multiple copies of each for potential use as class sets. Powell’s Books in Portland, which supplied much of the library, helped locate obscure books and books from small publishers, and provided a discount that enabled Rakha to purchase additional titles.

One example of a book in the Native American Teaching Library is “I Am Not a Number,” a picture book about the boarding school system in the United States and Canada in the late 19thto mid-20thcenturies. Rakha considers it relevant to a wide range of experiences in human history. “It’s the story of children taken away from their homes, culture and ways of being, and the horrors this created for them and their parents,” she said.

“Black Elk’s Vision” tells the life story of an Oglala-Lakota medicine man, who lived through the battles of Wounded Knee and Little Big Horn. “House of Purple Cedar” is about a Choctaw girl’s growing up in Indian Territory in pre-statehood Oklahoma.

“It is our goal to support the important work of teaching our children that American Indian people have had a significant impact on American history, and that despite an ongoing genocide, they are still managing to do amazing things today,” Rakha said.

There is no charge for teachers to check out books from the Native American Teaching Library (library cards are free for residents of Southwest Washington). Over the coming year, students in Rakha’s social studies methods classes will add summaries and questions to the books to enhance their utility as teaching materials.

If you have questions, contact Rakha at shameem.rakha@wsu.edu.

Media contact:

  • Brenda Alling, WSU Vancouver Office of Marketing and Communications, 360-546-9601, brenda_alling@wsu.edu