Native American Storytime

Native American children grow up in two worlds, the dominant society and their Native culture. They dress just like everyone else most of the time and wear their Native clothing (Regalia) as part of their Native identity.


Title: Jingle Dancer
Author/Illustrator: Cynthia Leitich Smith; Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Publisher/Date: HarpersCollins, 2000.
Comments: “Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family, and she hopes to dance at the next powwow. But she has a problem—how will her dress sing if it has no jingles?”
With this book use a few jingle cones, 4-6, tied to ribbon to pass around to the participants so that they can see the cones up close and clink them together to make the sound that a Jingle Dress makes. Since this is a “girl’s” item, I like to also bring ankle bells for the boys to see. The participants will hear the differences in the sounds made by the different styles.
Title:Two Pairs of Shoes
Author/Illustrator: Esther Sanderson; David Beyer
Publisher/Date: Pemmican Press, 1990
Comments: A little girl gets two pairs of shoes for her birthday. One shoe is patent leather, the other one is a moccasin and she must learn how and when to wear each pair.
Props for this book are two baby-size shoes, one patent leather and one moccasin. These can usually be found in very good condition in resale shops at a reasonable price; plus you get two sets of shoes.
Title:Where Did You Get Your Moccasins?
Author: Bernelda Wheeler
Publisher/Date: Peguis Publishers, 1992
Comments: A little boy goes to school wearing a new pair of moccasins and his classmates ask where he got them. He explains the steps in making the moccasins with a delightful twist at the end of the story.
Props for this book include: a piece of leather made of deer hide, sinew for sewing the moccasin together, a tube of seed beads, a small beaded rosette and a small finished moccasin. These items can be passed among the participants so that they can feel how the items are different from the shoes they are wearing on their own feet.

Storytelling/Oral History:

“When I was a small girl, I was born sickly. I was always ill as a child, than when I was eight years old I was given this dress. This dress, I was told was special and it was made for me. I was given this dress by my grandfather, after this dress was given to me I began to feel better, I wasn’t sickly anymore. This dress I was told was my “odih iziwin”.”

Her Grandfather, Pinasse, had told her he made this dress for her. When he was a small boy he would have this vision that would be the same, but never did quiteunderstood what it meant until his old age, by this time Maggie was around 7 or 8, when he knew what this Vision was.

The story of his vision is something he shared with his family, What is known about his vision is this: That he had seen this dress that made a certain distinctive sound, where shiny conical shapes hung from the dress. There were certain songs that came with the dress, certain dances and a ceremony.

Maggie’s “odih iziwin” was made of colours that were representative of the world around her. What also came with the dress was what we call a “staff” that had a certain shape and colour. This staff was given to those that had recieved her “odih iziwin” through the proper ceremony. There are woman in the Lake of the Woods area that carry this staff, along with their “odih iziwin” or as their “odih iziwin”. It’s something uniquely given, especially for them.

Maggie shared her “odih iziwin” with the people she had met all over North America.

What is also interesting to point out is that this is her story, our peoples story from the Anishinabeg of Lake of the Woods.

She also shared her ( a repilca ) “odih iziwin” with the rest of the people when she made a dress that resembled the first dress she was given when she was 8 years old.

The story of the Jingle Dress

Maggie White (Ojibway – Whitefish Bay, Ontario, Canada)

-translated by Rhonda White


Link to Whitefish Bay Singers on YouTube

You can find many Native songs on YouTube or you can find CDs for sale at Canyon Records.
You may listen to Native American music or if you are familiar with powwow dancing, you may lead the children in a round dance (a social style, friendship dance).


For children ages 3-5:
Five large beads (pony size, size 8 or larger) strung on a stiff cord to make a bracelet.

Older children:

Pendant necklace

Key chain


Choker style necklace


If you provide snacks for a program, you might want to include Native snacks. These include: potato chips (were created by a Native man who worked as a chef); pumpkin seeds; cranberries; strawberries; blueberries; anything made with maple sugar.
For more ideas, see: Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations (Checkmark Books, 2003) by Emory Dean Keoke (Lakota) and Kay Marie Porterfield.

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