Mary Crow Dog, with Richard Erdoes,
Lakota Woman
(HarperCollins, 1991)

You can find many books about the Sioux Nation on the market today, but Lakota Woman is the only one to cast the spotlight from this particular angle. Here is the autobiography of Mary Crow Dog, a half-breed who fought to embrace her native heritage and lifestyle and to rise above the hopelessness and misery of her people.

If you are the faint-hearted type that cannot deal with the graphic horror of rapes, beatings, mutilations and murders, this is not a book for you. If you are the type that believes the government and good, decent white folks never did the Indians wrong, this is not a book for you. For the rest of you, this is a book to set your teeth on edge! Make every effort to get it and read every word.

Lakota Woman is the most emotional book I have found in years. Mary writes with raw emotion and makes you feel the entire range of her feelings. But she does not stop there. She reaches deep inside you, grasps every feeling that you contain and wrenches them from your body. By the time you finish this book, you will be emotionally exhausted! The power of this story cannot be overstated.

Mary was born Mary Brave Bird of the "Burned Thigh" Tribe, also known in English as the Brule Tribe and in Lakota as the Sicangu. She lived in a one-room cabin with eight other persons near He-Dog on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. They had no electricity, running water or indoor bathroom.

Mary's first child was born during the shootout at Wounded Knee and was immediately taken away while she went to jail. Later she married Leonard Crow Dog, the primary medicine man of the cultural pride renaissance -- American Indian Movement -- who revived the Ghost Dance and was the last to exit Wounded Knee. He was sent to a maximum-security prison but was released on parole after two years.

Through trials and tragedy, Mary has endured. She has been pierced during the Ghost Dances and has worked to fill the role of medicine man's wife. She ends the book on a positive note, with hope, during her 37th year.

Lakota Woman is a must-read! Mary takes you inside the "radicalism" of the 1970s and provides an eyewitness account of the horrors perpetrated against Native Americans. Every American should read this book.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

20 December 2008

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