We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know written by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Frané Lessac
Out Now from Charlesbridge Publishing; 32 pages
Content Warnings: Brief mentions of colonization, residential schooling, and racism and unfair treatment against Native Americans
About the Author: “Cherokee Nation citizen and award-winning author Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction books, short stories and poems for children. A former federal Indigenous law attorney and advocate, Traci lives with her family on her tribe’s reservation in northeastern Oklahoma.” (Bio taken from author’s website)
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About the Illustrator: “Frané Lessac is an author and illustrator, having created beautiful illustrations for more than fifty books. She was born in New Jersey and lived on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat and later London before moving to Australia. Travelling is a major source of inspiration for her work as she renders her impressions of a country in her illustrations. Her greatest ambition is to instill pride and self-esteem in children about their own unique heritage and their ability to capture it in pictures and words. Frané visits schools, libraries and festivals around the world sharing the process of writing and illustrating books.” (Bio taken from illustrator’s website)
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We Are Still Here! follows the educational yet powerful presentations of twelve Native children about Native American issues and how they have risen to these challenges. Going as far back as the 1700s, these topics cover the basics of issues both historical and modern, as well as how Native activists have pushed against them. Forced assimilation, treaties made and broken by the U.S. government, and residential schools are among the many gut-wrenching topics discussed in this book. Additionally, Native languages, cultural revivals, and successes in activism for religious and economic freedoms are presented in equal measure.
Though this is an educational picture book, the highly lyrical prose and strong literary rhythm make it a warm, artistic piece of literature to read. Indigenous peoples everywhere are faced with the notion that they exist in the past tense— and sadly, this is no accident. Brilliant books like We Are Still Here! do the brave, necessary work of reminding all readers that Native Americans are just as much a part of the present and future as they were in the past. Frané Lessac’s colorful illustrations beautifully convey this intensity of life that Traci Sorell’s words display. Native resistance and endurance is a vibrant, enduring thing, as made evident by this eye-opening book. Find yourself a copy of We Are Still Here! for a bright, lasting testament to the strength of Native peoples wrapped in an accurate educational text.
PRR Assistant Director, Grace Kennedy