Learn the Alphabet with Northwest Coast Native Art by Ryan Cranmer, Beau Dick, Terry Starr, and more

Updated: Mar 22




This is a reading guide designed to accompany Ryan Cranmer, Beau Dick, Terry Starr, Darrel Amos, Hazel Simeon, Maynard Johnny Jr., LessLIE, Corey Bulpitt, Marcus Alfred, Phil Gray, Eric Parnell and Eugene Isaac’s picture book Learn the Alphabet with Northwest Coast Native Art. We recommend that grownups read the focus book and the reading guide content BEFORE reading with young readers. This guide will help you prepare your own questions for your young readers and choose vocabulary, history, and other related topics to integrate into your learning and discussion.

Lesson content, written by Lauren Smythe, a student in the UNST 421 Social Justice and Anti-Bias in K12 Education course, and was designed to start or deepen anti-bias conversations in families and other learning communities. Our editing team included Daniel Omi, Cindy Shepard, and Anaiz Martinez. Gratitudes to all of our volunteer writers and editors.


Email us at and include the book title of the reading guide you are requesting. We are often able to send you the PDF within 24 hours.


  • Cultural Traditions

  • Identity

  • Diversity



In Learn the Alphabet with Northwest Coast Native Art, authors Ryan Cranmer, Beau Dick, Terry Starr, Darrel Amos, Hazel Simeon, Maynard Johnny Jr., LessLIE, Corey Bulpitt, Marcus Alfred, Phil Gray, Eric Parnell, and Eugene Isaac educate young readers on the letters of the alphabet while shining a spotlight on Northwest Coast traditional art done by a variety of Pacific Northwest Native artists from tribes such as Namgis, Kwakwaka'wakw, Tsimshian, Haida, Salish, and Coast Salish.

Authors have chosen animals from the Pacific Northwest commonly found in traditional stories of the Native people along the Northwest Coast. Key concepts in the work of local tribes, like unity and peace, are used to demonstrate letter sounds.

Books like this allow children to see their culture represented. As a child, I rarely saw representation of Native Americans and their culture in the classroom. As an Alaska Native woman, I often found it difficult to relate to material in school and remember spending just a week studying the history of Native American people. During this week, few tribes were discussed, and all cultures were grouped together. In addition, within this timeframe, students saw little to no artwork from Native American tribes. Books like this one, then, allow students to be exposed to Native American culture at a young age and demonstrate different tribes’ artistic styles within one region.


This guided reading lesson is designed to be part of a larger life-long commitment to anti-racist reading and learning for the student and the facilitator. Reading Is Resistance sees reading as an opportunity to seed deeper conversations and opportunities for action around racial equity in our communities. We hold the belief that being anti-racist is a process of learning (and unlearning) over time.

The Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards (focused on Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action) serve as guides for our work.


The Learning for Justice Domains and Standards referenced in this lesson are for Grades K-2. This book, however, can be used with a wide range of ages. Domains and Standards featured in this lesson are as follows:

  • IDENTITY.K-2.1: I know and like who I am and can talk about my family and myself and the name of my group identities.

  • DIVERSITY.K-2.6: I like being around people who are like me and different from me, and I can be friendly to everyone.

  • DIVERSITY.K-2.8: I want to know about other people and how our lives and experiences are the same and different.

  • RADICAL IMAGINATION: “Radical: forming the root; Imagination: the force that creates seeds of emergence”



  • What are some cultural traditions you and your family practice? IDENTITY.K-2.1: & DIVERSITY.K-2.6

  • Example: this VIDEO shows some children presenting a cultural tradition of their family:

  • What are cultural traditions you see outside of your home? How and why are these traditions different from you and your family’s? DIVERSITY.K-2.8

  • How do you show your culture in and outside of your home? DIVERSITY.K-2.6


  • How are selected terms, such as “Unity,” “Journey,” “Frog,” or “Moose,” significant to the Northwest Coast tribes? Think about how animals such as salmon, moose, and frogs are significant to Northwest Coast Native tribes. RADICAL IMAGINATION & REFLECTION

  • Why do you think the creators of the book chose to use 12 different illustrators? RADICAL IMAGINATION & DIVERSITY.K-2.6


These are optional resources that can extend your learning started in the focus book. Take some time to peruse, enjoy, imagine, and learn.

  • Choose your favorite artwork from this book and look into where this tribe's traditional land is and take a more in depth look as to why this animal or term was chosen for this book. Below is a list of the the artwork from the book with the illustrator’s name and the artist’s tribal affiliation:

  • Frog 1: Ryan Cranmer, Namgis

  • Beaver: Beau Dick, Kwakwaka'wakw

  • Crab: Terry Starr, Tsimshian

  • Duck: Beau Dick, Kwakwaka'wakw

  • Eagle: Darrel Amos, Haida

  • Frog 2: Hazel Simeon, Haida

  • Grizzly Bear: Maynard Johnny Jr., Salish & Kwakwaka'wakw

  • Hummingbird: lessLIE, Coast Salish

  • Insect: Corey Bulpitt, Haida

  • Journey: Darrell Amos, Haida

  • Kolus (Thunderbird): Beau Dick, Kwakwaka'wakw

  • Ladybug: Terry Starr, Tsimshian

  • Moose: Terry Starr, Tsimshian

  • New moon: Darrel Amos, Haida

  • Octopus: Terry Starr, Tsimshian

  • Peace: Terry Starr, Tsimshian

  • Queen bee: Marcus Alfred, Kwakwaka'wakw

  • Raven: Phil Gray, Tsimshian

  • Salmon: Eric Parnell, Haida

  • Totem: Ryan Cranmer, Namgis

  • Unity: Maynard Johnny Jr., Salish & Kwakwaka'wakw

  • Violets: Terry Starr,Tsimshian

  • Whale: Eugen Isaac, Kwakwaka'wakw

  • Four clans: Terry Starr, Tsimshian

  • Create your own alphabet book with animals, values, and items important to you.

  • This website has templates and ideas for kids, parents, and teachers to create their own alphabet books.

  • Take a moment to learn about the Indigenous people in your area. This can be done for Indigenous folx around the world using this link.

  • Visit a museum along the Pacific Northwest. They will likely have an exhibit with Northwest Coast traditional Native art. The Portland Art Museum and Burke Museum have exhibits mentioned in their websites.


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