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Friday, February 11, 2011

Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog

Title: Lakota Woman
Author: Mary Crow Dog
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating:: 5 Crowns

Synopsis from Amazon.com:
Mary Brave Bird gave birth to a son during the 71-day siege of Wounded Knee in 1973, which ended with a bloody assault by U.S. marshalls and police. Seventeen years old at the time, she married fellow activist Leonard Crow Dog, medicine man and spiritual leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Written with Erdoes ( Lame Deer ; Seeker of Visions ), her searing autobiography is courageous, impassioned, poetic and inspirational. Her girlhood, a vicious circle of drinking and fighting, was marked by poverty, racism and a rape at 14. She ran away from a coldly impersonal boarding school run by nuns where, she reports, Indian students were beaten to induce them to give up native customs and speech. The authors write of AIM's infiltration by FBI agents, of Mary Crow Dog helping her husband endure prison, of Indian males' macho attitudes. The book also describes AIM's renewal of spirituality as manifested in sweat lodges, peyote ceremonies, sacred songs and the Ghost Dance ritual.

My thoughts:
I first read Lakota Woman at the age of 15 after a vacation in South Dakota. We had studied the original Wounded Knee in high school history, and the book appealed to me as something I knew nothing about. To say that this book influenced roughtly the next ten years of my life would be nothing short of an understatement. In college, I ended up majoring in history, focusing the bulk of my research on Native American women's issues, as well as heading into my graduate work.
To be honest, I'm not sure what exactly about this book changed so much about my view of things. Perhaps it was the idea that Native American civil rights came so much later than other groups. Or perhaps the idea that there could be major historical events that I had no idea had happened caught my attention. Or maybe it was simply that I had been to Wounded Knee and I felt a connection to the place. Regardless I have returned to this book time and again.
Mary Crow Dog gives voice to so many things about the American Indian Movement that aren't available in other books, and I think a large part of her perspective is because she is a woman. Not to mention she gave birth to her son while bullets flew through the air. I think the American Indian Movement is a part of American history that often gets overlooked in high school and college. We learn all about the Civil Rights movement, but often stop before the continued civil rights movements of the 70s, instead getting lost in the anti-war movement. This book is an excellent view of the American Indian Movement from someone who lived it.

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1 comment:

Sharon said...

I don't know much about this. It sounds like a book I would like to read. Thanks for the info.