Indie Groundbreaking Book

Lily Good Path

Children's Book Series Shines a Light on American Indian Culture

Teaching children how to respect the Earth; putting a twist on American Indian folklore; keeping traditions alive for a new generation. These are just three of the goals that the team behind indie publisher Bakaate and its flagship children’s book series, called Lily Good Path, are seeking to accomplish. The series currently consists of three books—Lily Good Path Becomes the Buffalo, Lily Good Path Becomes the Bear, and Lily Good Path Becomes the Eagle—and more are to come in the near future.

The masterminds behind the project are all young women just embarking upon their first endeavors in the publishing world. The authors—Violet Birdinground, Sabrena Half, and Bessie Crooked Arm—are all in their early 20s. They dreamed up the idea for their Lily Good Path books while working together in an American Indian Business Leaders program. The AIBL has chapters nationwide and seeks “to increase the representation of American Indians and Alaska Natives in business and entrepreneurial ventures through education and leadership development opportunities.

Violet, Sabrena, and Bessie were project partners for an AIBL assignment that required them to create a business plan for a small entrepreneurial venture. The goal was to create a business that would not only be marketable and lucrative, but that would also have distinct and measurable benefits for American Indian cultures and communities. Violet, Sabrena, and Bessie decided to launch a children’s book series grounded in American Indian folklore. AJ Otjen, the advisor for the AIBL program in which the women were participating, lent a hand by agreeing to illustrate the books for their business.

So far, the project has been a great success—not just for Violet, Sabrena, Bessie, and AJ, but also for the cultures that their books are meant to benefit. The first book, Lily Good Path Becomes the Buffalo, published in March of 2015. The second and third books both arrived this past summer, with Lily Good Path Becomes the Bear publishing on July 12th and Lily Good Path Becomes the Eagle dropping a month later. Furthermore, the business plan behind Bakaate won the annual AIBL competition this past spring, an honor worth $1,000. Bakaate also won the Athena Award, a new prize at the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge worth $3,000.

In addition, Otjen—who has continued to advise and illustrate for the Bakaate project—says that the Lily Good Path books are starting to make their way into school curriculums throughout Montana. Otjen said that the Billings School District is currently using the books and developing original lesson plans based around their stories and messages. In addition, the Wyola Elementary School on the Crow Reservation—the tribe to which Violet, Sabrena, and Bessie belong—recently mounted an original play based on the books. Other schools on the Crow Reservation have embraced the titles as well.

The books themselves are cute and accessible while still conveying valuable lessons. Though the Bakaate team based each book on folklore, the stories are not direct interpolations of classic American Indian myths and legends. Instead, Violet, Sabrena, and Bessie used a few twists and tweaks to make each story their own. The Lily Good Path character, meanwhile, serves as readers’ guide to the folkloric stories that each book explores. Add simplistic but beautiful illustrations and important lessons about protecting Mother Earth and respecting American Indian cultures and traditions, and the books feel just about perfect for school curriculums.

There are other factors that make the Lily Good Path books unique, too. In addition to the books, Bakaate is also now selling character dolls of Lily and her faithful horse, Little Storm. The books are available in both eBook and paperback formats, with the physical copies all printed on recycled paper. And Violet, Sabrena, and Bessie are completely committed to taking the project to the stars. Not only are they working hard to market their books and get the word out, but they also have big goals for the future—like employing other tribal members at their business or starting an American Indian scholarship fund. So far, virtually all of the profits from the Lily Good Path books have gone into printing more books.

Are you interested in learning more about the Lily Good Path books, or in helping this inspiring independent publishing venture get to the next level? You can purchase books from the series on the Bakaate website or on

Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at