Nine Native American Graphic Novels | Stellar Panels

A booklist, resources, and an interview with Sasha Bouché, editor at HighWater Press.


The border guard steps over to the car and asks the woman inside to declare her citizenship.

“Blackfoot,” she responds.

Thus begins the impasse that defines Borders, a graphic novel adapted by Natasha Donovan from the short story by Thomas King. The narrator and his mother are traveling from Canada to the United States. When the mother refuses to declare any citizenship other than Blackfoot, the Americans turn her away, and when she returns to the Canadian border post, the same thing happens. She and her young son are trapped in the gray area between borders.

The story is a meditation on citizenship and nationality, as well as a testament to the fact that before any European set foot in North America, hundreds of sovereign nations stretched from coast to coast—sovereign nations that still exist.

Borders is one of a growing number of graphic novels by and about Native people depicting a wide range of experiences and cultures.

Sasha Bouché is an editor at HighWater Press, which publishes books by Indigenous writers. Before starting at HighWater, Bouché, who is Métis, took a comics studies course that included A Girl Called Echo, a HighWater title by Katherena Vermette, in which a Métis girl travels into the past and meets her ancestors.

“That was major for me. Seeing my people represented in comics form was super cool,” says Bouché. “It was also really groundbreaking to understand that I wasn’t alone in the issues that I was dealing with in terms of my own Indigenous identity. That’s why it’s so important to portray Indigenous people in a modern context—because first and foremost, we are still here.”

Bouché also believes that books about Native Americans should be by Native Americans, and that a library collection should include books from many different peoples.

“We have really differing cultures.” adds Bouché. “You don’t want to lump Indigenous people together.”

In addition, Bouché suggests that teachers and librarians find books for students by Indigenous people in their local area. That way, “students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, get a sense of these lands that are now North America, who was really here and who is still here, what is the culture and what are the languages, what are the stories that belong to these people.”

Bouché also encourages librarians to look for books that depict the joy and creativity of Indigenous people, rather than focusing entirely on trauma and the damage done by colonialism. “Indigenous people are funny, full of joy, and the stories we have to tell are fun,” they say. “There is this ongoing idea that colonialism is over, but it’s still a continuing process, and it’s important for Indigenous people, especially young Indigenous kids, to see themselves represented in stories where they are joyful or stories where they are portrayed as heroes. Stories where they are portrayed as being real people.”

Enjoy these suggested graphic novels and resources centering the Native American experience.


Akulukjuk, Roselynn, and Danny Christopher. Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupalik. illus. by Astrid Arijanto. Inhabit Media. 2018. ISBN 9781772272284

Gr 1-3—A brother and sister walk along the shoreline to meet a friend, quarreling all the way, and evoking a warning from their grandfather about the Qalupalik, a legendary creature who captures children who get too close to the water. The story is set in an Arctic First Nations village in the present day. It is the second graphic novel in the series “Putuguq and Kublu”; a third one, Putuguq and Kublu and the Attack of the Amautalik, is scheduled for April 2022.

Ashwin, Kate, Kel McDonald, and Alina Pete, eds. The Woman in the Woods and Other Native American Stories. Iron Circus Comics. Apr. 2022. ISBN 9781945820977

Gr 5 Up—This collection of stories by Native American writers and artists includes traditional tales of monsters and shapeshifters but often incorporates a modern setting as well. Part of the “Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales” series.

Audibert, Tara, ed. This Place: 150 Years Retold. HighWater. 2019. ISBN 9781553797586.

Gr 9 Up—This anthology of history stories by Indigenous Canadian creators was named one of the Best Graphic Novels of 2019 by SLJ. While the details of Canadian history may be new to U.S. readers, the book includes timelines of historical events as well as a bibliography.

Barajas, Henry. Helm Greycastle. Illus. by Rahmat Handoko and Bryan Valenza. Image Comics. Oct. 2021. ISBN 9781534319622.

Gr 10 Up—A Dungeons & Dragons–style fantasy set in the Aztec kingdom. Helm Greycastle and his group of adventurers set out to rescue the last dragon prince, who is being held prisoner by Montezuma; meanwhile, within the kingdom, rebels plan to overthrow him. Originally funded on Kickstarter, the book also includes a role-playing game. Barajas is also the author of the historical graphic novel La Voz De M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo.

Francis, Lee, IV, et al. Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers. Reycraft Books. 2019. ISBN 9781478868088.

Gr 3-5—This anthology of war stories by creators from different nations depicts the Code Talkers, who foiled enemy interception of radio communications by speaking their native tongue—something they were punished for as children. An earlier edition of this book was chosen as the Best Middle School Book by the American Indian Library Association in 2018.

King, Thomas. Borders. illus. by Natasha Donovan. Little, Brown. Sept. 2021. ISBN 9780316593069.

Gr 6 Up—A young boy and his mother set out to visit the boy’s sister in Utah but end up in a grey zone between the U.S. and Canadian borders when the mother insists on declaring her citizenship as Blackfoot. An adaptation of the short story of the same name, which appeared in King’s book One Good Story, That One (HarperCollins, 1993).

Mitchell, Brandon. Giju's Gift (Adventures of the Pugulatmu’j), Vol. 1. illus. by Veronika Barinova and Britt Wilson. HighWater. Feb. 2022. ISBN 9781553799474.

Gr 1-3—Mali, a Mi’kmaw girl, loses her hair clip, and when she finds it, it’s being worn by a Little Person, a figure from Indigenous tradition. Together, Mali and the Little Person, whose name is Puug, go on adventures and learn about the traditions of their people.

Robertson, David A. Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story. illus. by Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk. HighWater. May 2021. ISBN 9781553799757

Gr 9-12—In this account of a true story, Betty Ross, an elder from Cross Lake First Nation, tells of her experiences at a residential school where the staff abused the children and forced them to give up their language and customs. Ross, who had been abandoned as a child and adopted by strangers, survived by remembering her father’s admonition to stay strong and connected to her people. A new 10th anniversary edition of this story was published in May 2021.

White Dog Press. Chickasaw Adventures. illus. by Tom Lyle. White Dog. 2019. ISBN 9781935684794.

Gr 8 Up—Told in a very traditional comic-book style with art by a former Marvel and DC artist, these stories follow the adventures of a modern Chickasaw boy who travels back in time and witnesses the events of his nation’s history firsthand. The comics were first published as seven individual issues. The collected edition includes those plus five that were not released before.



Chickasaw Press publishes nonfiction books by and about Chickasaw people. Its imprint White Dog Press publishes fiction.

Highwater Press, an imprint of Portage & Main Press, publishes books by Indigenous writers. Its catalog includes A Girl Called Echo by Katherena Vermette, Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story by David A. Robinson, and This Place: 150 Years Retold, including 10 stories by Indigenous authors.

Inhabit Media, based in the Canadian Arctic, specializes in books about Inuit culture.

Strong Nations is a publisher and gift shop whose online catalog includes graphic novels and other books with annotations to indicate Native creators.

Other Resources:

American Indians in Children’s Literature, the website of Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo, is an invaluable source of book reviews and recommendations.

Comics by Indigenous Creators – A Reading List (Comics Bookcase)

Haskell Indian Nations University Library Guide to Graphic Novels

Red Planet Books & Comics is a Native American-owned comic shop and the headquarters for the Indigenous Comic Con.

University of Alberta Library: Indigenous History Month – Graphic Novels

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