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Merle

Merle

Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog

Lakota Woman - Richard Erdoes, Mary Crow Dog

This is a raw and eye-opening book, though it’s as much manifesto as it is memoir; it’s partly about the author’s life, with a focus on various injustices she’s experienced or witnessed, and partly about the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970s. The author grew up poor on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, was forced to attend one of those boarding schools meant to eradicate Native American culture, and wound up joining AIM as a teenager and having a baby during the siege at Wounded Knee.

I don’t necessarily know a lot about the author after reading this book, though that doesn’t seem to be her goal. Instead I know a lot about various people getting beaten up, imprisoned or killed and about political protests and religious ceremonies she participated in. The book was worthwhile to me not so much on literary grounds but because it’s a topic I know little about; I grew up in a part of the U.S. without a prominent Native American community and realized through this book that being native in the Dakotas in the 1960s and 70s was a lot like being black in South at the same time. But most Americans know at least a little about the Civil Rights Movement, while I knew nothing about AIM at all.

Overall, interesting book, the writing is fine and accessible (I might have expected more flourishes from a ghostwriter but perhaps he was just being careful to keep it in her voice), and it’s a hard-hitting introduction for those who don’t know much about this slice of history.