What is the author’s main purpose in Lakota Woman?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly, a reader should never discount the significance of a title:  Lakota Woman is essentially an existential novel, whose narrative reveals a woman, Mary Crow Dog, seeking her cultural identity that emerges from the ancient values of the Lakota Indians in modern society. The format of this work is that of a memoir, and the historical struggles of Mary Crow Dog and others in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties and the 1973 Indian Occupation at Wounded Knee are chronicled in this inspiring memoir. 

Born on the Rosebud Reservation of an Indian woman and an white father, Mary's memoir chronicles her emerging self:

I should make clear that being a full-blood or breed is not a matter of bloodline, or how Indian you look, or how black your hair is. The general rule is that whoever thinks, sings, acts, and speaks Indian is a skin, a full-blood, and whoever acts and thinks like a white man is a half-blood or breed, no matter how Indian he looks.

Mary Ellen Brave Bird-Richard, as she came to be known, joined the rebellion of reservation life and participated in the American Indian Movement, inspiring many as she gave birth during the occupation of Wounded Knee. Her brave actions helped to provide identity and pride to many Native Americans, among them herself as she emerged from her degraded beginnings of drinking and shoplifting to medicine woman with great purpose. For, she has learned that “Moral power is always more dangerous to an oppressor than political force.” Mary died at 58, yet an inspiration to many. Her first husband, Crow Dog said,

She respected the waters of life—of the generations. Mary protected the Indian generations of our national tribes. She read a lot of history. What brought her to that was that there is no freedom here in America for Native Americans.”

Lakota Woman is a memoir that is, indeed, inspiring.

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Lakota Woman

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