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Native American Heritage and Commitment to a Dream in Picture Book and Story of Ria Thundercloud

Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Commitment to a Dream and Success of a Native American Woman

A beautifully told and illustrated autobiography of Ria Thundercloud in picture book for young readers

A beautifully told and illustrated autobiography of Ria Thundercloud in picture book for young readers

Ria Thundercloud and Her Dream of Being a Dancer

The picture book and autobiography Finding My Dance is the story of Ria Thundercloud and her dream of being a professional dancer. Ria is from the Ho-Chunk Nation and is proud of the resilience of Indigenous women. She was introduced to dance at the age of 4 when she was taken to her tribe's powwow circle wearing her special jingle dress that her mother had made for her. This dress has a special meaning of healing and her mother explained to her that she brought blessings everytime she danced in it. Her brother encouraged her to dance her best when she first entered the circle. Ris learned other dances as she grew up and she wanted to try them all. She mastered tap, jazz, ballet, and modern dance. She later won a prize as an International Dance Challenge Champion.

Ria experienced discrimination as the only Indigenous girl in her high school. She used her interest in dance to help her self-image. She became a professional dancer after high school and traveled the world. A special gift that she once received is a treasure that always reminds her of her roots.

Kalila J. Fuller contributed her talents as an illustrator for Finding My Dance. The illustrations are colorful and large to fill the pages with Ria's story. Finding My Dance was published by Penguin Workshop, a division of Penguin/Random House. It is recommended for ages 4-8 and has an ISBN of 978-0-593-09389-4.



Beautiful and Colorful Illustrations Tell Ria's Story

Ria's name as an Indigenous woman means Beautiful Thunder Woman

Ria's name as an Indigenous woman means Beautiful Thunder Woman

The jingle dress

The jingle dress

Ria's brother encouraged her in her dancing

Ria's brother encouraged her in her dancing

Ria mastered many types of dance

Ria mastered many types of dance

Ria's first prize as a dancer

Ria's first prize as a dancer

Ria experienced discrimination as the only Indigenous girl in her high school

Ria experienced discrimination as the only Indigenous girl in her high school

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Ria now travels the world as a professional dancer

Ria now travels the world as a professional dancer

Ris celebrates her life as an Indigenous woman

Ris celebrates her life as an Indigenous woman

Bring Ria and Her Story Into Your Classroom for Engaging Learning Activities About Indigenous People

Teachers who teach in early childhood classrooms will want to add Ria Thundercloud's picture book and autobiography to their classroom library. Learning about Indigenous people typically takes place during November in many classrooms when teachers teach the story of Thanksgiving and the presence of Native Americans along with the Pilgrims. Now, celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, the renaming of Columbus Day in October, presents the opportunity for teachers to include engaging learning activities about Native Americans on this day. Finding My Dance is a beautifully illustrated picture book to use for a special classroom celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day.

"Read Finding My Dance in a story time session. Call attention the to the fact that Ria is a Native American. Have a globe available for children to locate the part of the United States where her nation is from.

*Call attention to the jingle dress. Why was it called the jingle dress?

"Call attention to the native dance and the drums when Ria first danced in her people's powwow circle.

*Provide tapes of Native American drumming. Provide an opportunity for children to dance to the drumming.

*Call attention to the colorful dance outfit that is illustrated on one of the pages. Provide an opportunity for children to draw pictures of colorful Native American dress.

*Call attention to the special treasure that Ria received in the form of eagle wings. Why was this special to Ria?


Get to Know Ria Thundercloud

Ria Thundercloud is proud of her heritage as an Indigenous woman and holds strong to her heritage. She began training in classical dance at the age of 13 and became a professional dancer at the age of 16. She travels internationally to share her culture and her career as a professional dancer.

Ria graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Indigenous Liberal Studies.

© 2022 Cindy Hewitt

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