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Lakota Woman

Lakota Woman

3.9 14
by Mary Crow Dog, Richard Erdoes (With)

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Mary Brave Bird grew up fatherless in a one-room cabin, without running water or electricity, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rebelling against the aimless drinking, punishing missionary school, narrow strictures for women, and violence and hopeless of reservation life, she joined the new movement of tribal pride sweeping Native American


Mary Brave Bird grew up fatherless in a one-room cabin, without running water or electricity, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rebelling against the aimless drinking, punishing missionary school, narrow strictures for women, and violence and hopeless of reservation life, she joined the new movement of tribal pride sweeping Native American communities in the sixties and seventies. Mary eventually married Leonard Crow Dog, the American Indian Movement's chief medicine man, who revived the sacred but outlawed Ghost Dance.

Originally published in 1990, Lakota Woman was a national best seller and winner of the American Book Award. It is a unique document, unparalleled in American Indian literature, a story of death, of determination against all odds, of the cruelties perpetuated against American Indians, and of the Native American struggle for rights. Working with Richard Erdoes, one of the twentieth century's leading writers on Native American affairs, Brave Bird recounts her difficult upbringing and the path of her fascinating life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Lakota Woman

“Inspirational.”—The Midwest Book Review

“A gritty, convincing document of one woman’s struggle to overcome poverty and oppression in order to live in dignity as an American Indian.”—Kirkus Reviews

Lakota Woman is a view from the inside.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A powerful autobiography … feisty and determined, warm and even funny, sometimes given to outbursts of rage or sorrow or enthusiasm, always unpretentious and straightforward.” —Chicago Tribune

“Stunningly honest …. The courage, nobility, morality, and humor that fill the pages of this book should be required reading.” —David Amram

“The moving story of a Native American woman who fought her way out of despair and bitterness to find the righteous ways of her ancestors.”—William M. Kunstler

“A piercing look into the ancient yet modern mind of a Sioux woman.” —Oliver Stone

“Her searing autobiography is courageous, impassioned, poetic, and inspirational.” —Publishers Weekly

New York Times Book Review
Simply told—and at times simply horrifying.
Chicago Tribune
A powerful autobiography...feisty and determined, warm and even funny.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Born in 1955 and raised in poverty on the Rosebud Reservation, Mary Crow Dog escaped an oppressive Catholic boarding school but fell into a marginal life of urban shoplifting and barhopping. A 1971 encounter with AIM (the American Indian Movement), participation in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, and giving birth to her first child while under fire at the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee radicalized her. Anglo-Indian confrontations are characterized by extreme prejudice and violence, but some whites (the Erdoes family, William Kunstler, Marlon Brando, and others) offer genuine support. Caustic humor sparks the matter-of-fact narrative. Wife of a Sioux medicine man, Mary Crow Dog exemplifies the contemporary movement back to Native land, religion, and values. Highly recommended for American history, Native American, and women's history collections.-- Rhoda Carroll, Vermont Coll., Montpelier
School Library Journal
Mary Crow Dog narrates the story of her youth in this anguished account of growing up Indian in America. After participating in AIM (the new American Indian Movement), she joined the stand-off at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where she gave birth to a daughter. Her marriage to Leonard Crow Dog, a medicine man who revived the sacred Ghost Dance, was a learning experience for her; she was assimilated into his family. Short, choppy sentences impart a sense that Mary Crow Dog is speaking directly to readers, and her story is startling in its intensity of feeling and its directness about the Indians' reliance on their heritage and religion. A unique account of a way of life unknown to most Americans, this pulls readers in and hold them. By no means a pretty account--the author is graphic in her accounts of drunkenness, lawlessness, killings, and drug use--the book is an important bridge to cultural understanding, and a volume that should be in every library. --Dorothy L. Addison, Woodlawn School, Fairfax County, VA

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Read an Excerpt

Lakota Woman

By Mary Crow Dog

Rebound by Sagebrush

Copyright ©1991 Mary Crow Dog
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0833569228

Chapter 1

A Woman from He-Dog

A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.

Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors nor how strong their weapons.

-- Cheyenne proverb

I am Mary Brave Bird. After I had my baby during the siege of Wounded Knee they gave me a special name - Ohitika Win, Brave Woman, and fastened an eagle plume in my hair, singing brave-heart songs for me. I am a woman of the Red Nation, a Sioux woman. That is not easy.

I had my first baby during a firefight, with the bullets crashing through one wall and coming out through the other. When my newborn son was only a day old and the marshals really opened up upon us, I wrapped him up in a blanket and ran for it. We had to hit the dirt a couple of times, I shielding the baby with my body, praying, "It's all right if I die, but please let him live."

When I came out of Wounded Knee I was not even healed up, but they put me in jail at Pine Ridge and took my baby away. I could not nurse. My breasts swelled up and grew hard as rocks, hurting badly. In 1975 the feds put the muzzles of their M-16s against my head, threatening to blow me away. It's hard being an Indianwoman.

My best friend was Annie Mae Aquash, a young, stronghearted woman from the Micmac Tribe with beautiful children. It is not always wise for an Indian woman to come on too strong. Annie Mae was found dead in the snow at the bottom of a ravine on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The police said that she had died of exposure, but there was a .38 caliber slug in her head. The FBI cut off her hands and sent them to Washington for fingerprint identification, hands that had helped my baby come into the world.

My sister-in-law, Delphine, a good woman who had lived a hard life, was also found dead in the snow, the tears frozen on her face. A drunken man had beaten her, breaking one of her arms and legs, leaving her helpless in a blizzard to die.

My sister Barbara went to the government hospital in Rosebud to have her baby and when she came out of anesthesia found that she had been sterilized against her will. The baby lived only for two hours, and she had wanted so much to have children. No, it isn't easy.

When I was a small girl at the St. Francis Boarding School, the Catholic sisters would take a buggy whip to us for what they called "disobedience." At age ten I could drink and hold a pint of whiskey. At age twelve the nuns beat me for "being too free with my body." All I had been doing was holding hands with a boy. At age fifteen I was raped. If you plan to be born, make sure you are born white and male.

It is not the big, dramatic things so much that get us down, but just being Indian, trying to hang on to our way of life, language, and values while being surrounded by an alien, more powerful culture. It is being an iyeska, a halfblood, being looked down upon by whites and full-bloods alike. It is being a backwoods girl living in a city, having to rip off stores in order to survive. Most of all it is being a woman. Among Plains tribes, some men think that all a woman is good for is to crawl into the sack with them and mind the children. It compensates for what white society has done to them. They were famous warriors and hunters once, but the buffalo is gone and there is not much rep in putting a can of spam or an occasional rabbit on the table.

As for being warriors, the only way some men can count coup nowadays is knocking out another skin's teeth during a barroom fight. In the old days a man made a name for himself by being generous and wise, but now he has nothing to be generous with, no jobs, no money; and as far as our traditional wisdom is concerned, our men are being told by the white missionaries, teachers, and employers that it is merely savage superstition they should get rid of if they want to make it in this world. Men are forced to live away from their children, so that the family can get ADC-Aid to Dependent Children. So some warriors come home drunk and beat up their old ladies in order to work off their frustration. I know where they are coming from. I feel sorry for them, but I feel even sorrier for their women.

To start from the beginning, I am a Sioux from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. I belong to the "Burned Thigh," the Brule Tribe, the Sicangu in our language. Long ago, so the legend goes, a small band of Sioux was surrounded by enemies who set fire to their tipis and the grass around them. They fought their way out of the trap but got their legs burned and in this way acquired their name. The Brules are part of the Seven Sacred Campfires, the seven tribes of the Western Sioux known collectively as Lakota.

The Eastern Sioux are called Dakota. The difference between them is their language. It is the same except that where we Lakota pronounce an L, the Dakota pronounce a D. They cannot pronounce an L at all. In our tribe we have this joke: "What is a flat tire in Dakota?" Answer: "A bdowout. "

The Brule, like all Sioux, were a horse people, fierce riders and raiders, great warriors. Between 1870 and 1880 all Sioux were driven into reservations, fenced in and forced to give up everything that had given meaning to their life - their horses, their hunting, their arms, everything. But under the long snows of despair the little spark of our ancient beliefs and pride kept glowing, just barely sometimes, waiting for a warm wind to blow that spark into a flame again.


Excerpted from Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog Copyright ©1991 by Mary Crow Dog. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Oliver Stone
"A piercing look into the ancient yet modern mind of a Sioux woman."

Meet the Author

Mary Brave Bird grew up fatherless in a one-room cabin, without running water or electricity on a South Dakota reservation. Rebelling against the aimless drinking, punishing missionary school, narrow strictures for women, and violence and hopelessness of reservation life, she joined the new movement of tribal pride sweeping Native American communities in the sixties and seventies and eventually married Leonard Crow Dog, the movement's chief medicine man, who revived the sacred but outlawed Ghost Dance.

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Lakota Woman 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
MRCROCCO More than 1 year ago
Re-read 18 years later I met, Mary Crow Dog, in 1994, at her book signing, in Phoenix, Arizona. I was impressed that Mary took the time to not only sign my book, but she wrote a note and drew a picture. Richard Erdoes accompanied Mary, and he also signed his name under Mary’s. When I read Lakota Woman in 1994, I enjoyed what I learned about the Lakota Sioux Nation’s people, customs, and history. Re-reading the book in 2012, I read for a different purpose. I’m writing a historical novel, and need to validate any facts I might include in my book. Lakota Woman is just as fascinating a read in 1994 as it was today. Mary grew up as a Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Much like today, Pine Ridge was poverty stricken. Mary described her life, but she included other American Indians in her book. She was raised in a one room shack, filled with many family members, with no amenities, much like camping. She described the daily life of Sioux women, and Sioux men, differentiating their roles. Ignorance was bliss for Mary, as she thought this was how everyone lived. She viewed her childhood as happy because she basically had love in her family. Domestic abuse was rampant in reservations, and there were dysfunctional families, as we call them today. Indian children were sent to boarding school to ‘become white’, to shed their Indian ways and customs. The students were beaten and punished if they didn’t succeed in the daily attempts to change their traditional values. Mary left and became a street smart Sioux, she drank and shoplifted to survive. As every teenager looked for something to be a part of, Mary joined the AIM (American Indian Movement). She was empathetic to her people and other Indian’s struggles and was hungry for knowledge. Mary shared the AIM events with her readers. Not all of it is pretty, by any means, but that is what is so fascinating. It’s a first-hand account of what American Indians suffered in the 1970’s. Mary had a baby during the siege at Wounded Knee. Here she met her husband, Leonard Crow Dog; he was a medicine man and a leader, and also had children of his own. She was a naïve wife and mother, but she learned how to do both well and stood by her husband during his imprisonment and adversities during these tumultuous times. The book includes sixteen photos that illustrate traditional customs, and put faces to names and places. Whether you read Lakota Woman to learn about the Lakota Sioux in general, or to obtain precise facts for your own research, it is the perfect book. It is written on a young adult level, so it’s an easy read that any age would enjoy. It’s always fun to learn history through reading a story such as Lakota Woman vs. a textbook.
BarbaraB3922 More than 1 year ago
Mary Crow Dog tells her story of a life enmeshed with the problems that American Indians have faced for years: poverty, alcoholism, mistreatment by the U. S. government. She was there at the siege of Wounded Knee in the 1970a and fought and struggled to help her people. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The true story is a personal account of young native Indian girl, Mary, growing up in the 1960¿s and 1970¿s struggling to find her identity and the identity of her people. Rape, murder, and oppression were weaved in with her young life. It seemed to feed the bitterness of white people as a whole. Mary seemed so matter of fact about the deaths like it was tying a shoe, but then who cared. After time she gained pride through her participation in AIM, the 71 day seige at '1973 Wounded Knee', and regaining some of her own spirit. Written as a novice writer but it's Mary Crow Dog's memories. I liked it and feel people need to open there eyes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The plight of the South Dacota Sioux was a reminder of my own (white) middle class upbringing in the southern US, about 10 years earlier than this story takes place. Outhouses.....ours was once reached via a path through a turkey pen. I remember my mother wringing a chicken's neck before preparing it for our evening meal. She made my sister's and my grade school clothing, and worked many low paying jobes along with my dad who eventually found a good job with the Bureau of Reclamation and over the years we ended up in a nice home with all the aminities including the opportunity for higher education which in turn provided better pay and standard of living. There were many similarities in my upbringing the main difference being my chances for upward mobility were not hampered by prejudice by the white Christian majority as it still is today to a lesser degree. But times, they are changing. Although the majority of our nation now have the opportunity for a better life, there is still much work to be done to stamp out injustice done to the non-whites, poor, uneducated, handicaped, etc. I believe most Americans want those changes but real change takes time and sacrefice on everyone's part. Of particular interest to me was the American Indians varied and extremely different religious beliefs and lifestyles. I plan to look for more innformation to understand the the Sioux & other tribal beliefs. The goood news is that they finally started exploiting their own culture by the institution of gambling casinos throughout the US which has raised many tribe's standard of living significantly. Continuing to seek ways to better their own lives has helped them more than any government intervention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the clear view.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is filled with half truths. Today they would be referred to as urban terrorists. Anyone who has believed her story should do a quick search on the names in the book. It's a who's who on 70's terrorism.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Lakota Woman offers a historically accurate account of the American Indian Movement during the late 1900s and the culture and oppression faced by Native Americans, specifically the Sioux tribe of the Dakotas. Although bias, it offers a different and important perspective on the long history of Native American and White conflict. It allows the reader to see things through the eyes of the victim, and illuminates a just reason for the writer¿s bias. My textbook The American Pageant did not delve deeply into the affect of Whites on Native American life and culture. Although there were a few things that the book talked about that were present in my textbook, such as the massacre at Wounded Knee and the affect on Indians during Andrew Jackson¿s presidency. My book also talked about the Trail of Tears and how during the Red movement the AIM Indians retraced the trail during their march to DC called the Trail of Broken Treatises. Lakota Woman offered me an entirely new understanding of the hardships faced by the Indians of the past and even the modern Indians. This book taught me of the Whites continued mission to ¿Whitemanize¿ the Indians and how racism was still strongly present among both Whites and Indians and often left to violent conflicts between the two. I learned a lot more about the obstacles which face modern Indians on their impoverished reservations, how alcoholism is a huge problem and often leads to death and domestic violence. I learned of the cruel punishments in White boarding schools and the sexual harassment aimed at young Indian girls. But the thing that shocked me most was that the Whites were the biggest contributors to the Indians problems and how there was violent racism in my own state. The book is told through the eyes of an iyeska or half breed, she talks about her struggle to become more Indians and how she hates the white in her and what it did to her people. She may seem bias in her accounts, but the book makes it understandable that the crimes committed against her and her people would create such perspectives. Richard Erdoes does an amazing job of telling Mary Crow Dog¿s story and maintaining her voice throughout the book. I can feel the pain in her voice when she tells of the wrongs committed against her and her people. How she is frequently harassed by white males and her people¿s men often get drunk and die in car crashes. I can see her hurt when she talks about the forced sterilization of her people¿s woman and the abuse faced in the boarding schools. This book is sure to leave people with a higher understanding of the plight of Native Americans and an admiration for their resilience and unity. I would definitely recommend this book to one of my friends, we barely learn anything about how the Native American¿s felt about the invasion of their homeland and this book gives a passionate account of the problems the modern Indians face today. It is important for American¿s to understand everything about our nations past, even the bad things, so that we can work towards a more tolerant future. I¿d have to rate this book a 4! Out of 5, even without a formal education Mary Crow Dog is able to offer a clear and understandable account of her life and her people¿s history. Even though it¿s non-fiction it is extremely interesting and don¿t be surprised if you find yourself staying up late at night to read another chapter and find out more about our countries Native people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought I knew about Peltier, but I'd only heard the white media account of why he had been locked up. Lakota Woman tells the other side of the story. The book is compelling and disarmingly introspective. Mary Crow dog not only tells the story of Wounded Knee; she also examines her own behavior, belief system, cultural identity, and the consequences of her actions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Crow Dog show the readers all the things that were going on through out her life. This is a book that every one needs to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved that book! It talked about what the A.I.M. did to represent the people. Mary Crow Dog is the best and I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to know what went down in South Dakota.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the absolute worst book I've read in a long time. I couldn't even finish it. All she does is whine and feel sorry for herself throughout the whole story. Poor, poor pitiful me tone that drove me nuts.