Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lakota Woman - Mary Crow Dog

Mary Crow Dog is a half-Native America woman who grew up in the poverty of a South Dakota reservation, near Pine Ridge. Without a father, and uncertain of her identity, Mary Crow Dog tells the story of being a woman in a fiercely macho society intent on raising warriors. She tells of the historical struggle of her people - the Oglala Sioux - against the United States government, and the abuse she suffered in Catholic schools. Mary Crow Dog provides insight into the hopelessness and helplessness of Native Americans in the United States, and how those feelings translate into such high rates of alcoholism and suicide, and what such an identity among a people does to its women. Mary Crow Dog becomes part of the militant American Indian Movement (AIM), immersed in political action. She speaks with pride about the Ghost Dance and her experiences in sweat lodges and the power of her people. Her story is simply told, and while she explains her experiences with some insight - in terms of individual and group psychology - at times it seems a bit too simplistic. What is clear is that Mary Crow Dog has witnessed and survived unspeakable trauma - and she has told a version of her story. While she is a strong woman who wants to speak out against the abuse suffered by Native American women, she is also clearly loyal to her husband and to her tribal way of life. She feels different because of her half-breed status, but other than stating that she is at all times at outsider, she did not adequately articulate the treatment she received because of this. Lakota Woman is an important window into the lives of Native Americas - into their culture and all the traditions that merit so much pride - but also into the destruction and terror caused by the United States government. The book left me with many questions about the Pine Ridge reservation and the Sioux people, and I hope to find other books that will help me to better understand these myriad issues.

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