Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1422
Mary Brave Bird, a Sioux woman, was named Ohitika Win, or Brave Woman, after she had her baby during a firefight at the Siege of Wounded Knee in 1973. After this, she was jailed and her baby was taken away. Her best friend, Annie Mae, was found dead in the snow following police malpractice, while her sister-in-law, Delphine, was beaten by a drunk and left in a blizzard to die. Mary’s sister, Barbara, was sterilized in hospital against her will. Mary Brave Bird was sent to a Catholic school where she was beaten; at the age of fifteen, she was raped.
Brave Bird cites these examples to show the difficulties of being an Indian woman. It was also difficult to be a woman among an Indian tribe in which the men looked down on the women. Moreover, the men had had their way of life as warriors stripped away from them. Many of the men, frustrated, beat their wives and became alcoholics.
Mary Brave Bird was raised on the Rosebud Reservation among the Brule Tribe. The Brules are one of the seven Western Sioux tribes known as Lakota. Once a horse people, the Sioux were driven into reservations between 1870 and 1880 and forced to give up their horses, hunting, and arms. Mary’s family settled in He-Dog, a place named after a famous chief.
Mary’s grandfather, Fool Bull, was the last man to make Indian-style flutes and play them. He remembered the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, where soldiers had stopped a group of Indians participating in a Ghost Dance and butchered over three hundred people. The Rosebud people did not participate in the fights against Custer or Crook, because one chief, Spotted Tail, felt that resisting the white men would only lead to destruction.
When Mary was born, it was late at night and raining hard. He-Dog had no electricity and only one phone. Mary’s birth was difficult, and her mother had to be driven ninety miles to a hospital to be assisted. With some white ancestry, Mary often struggled with her identity and was teased for having lighter skin.
Her husband’s family, the Crow Dogs, were "full-bloods" and thus darker-skinned. Crow Dogs continued to practise their own beliefs for much longer. For all Indians, however, the connection to the land has been partially lost. It is a difficult life.
Sioux society once centered around the “tiyospaye,” or extended family group, in which the whole family looked after the children and hunted together. This was destroyed by white governments, who forced the Sioux into “nuclear family” units. The result of this change has been an absence of fathers.
Mary’s father, Bill Moore, was partly Indian but primarily white. He left shortly after Mary was born; she saw him only twice in her life. Her stepfather, who married her mother when Mary was nine or ten, was a terrible alcoholic whose presence Mary avoided. Mary began to drink herself. To make matters worse, the children were taught no skills, and there were no jobs for the men.
Mary was one of six children: Kathie, Robert, Barbara, Sandra, and herself. Later her mother adopted a little boy, whom she spoiled, because his parents neglected him. Mary’s mother trained as a nurse and had to leave the reservation for work. As a result, the children were raised by their grandparents.
Mary’s grandmother, Louise Flood, was a Sioux. She was married first to a man named Brave Bird, but he was killed in a thunderstorm when his team of horses, spooked, ran off the trail. Louise then remarried a widower, Noble Moore, who was Bill Moore’s father. When Bill abandoned the family, Noble Moore stepped in as a father, working as a janitor and raising all the children in a one-roomed shack. Louise spoke the Sioux language, although she tried to raise the children as Catholics. She advised the children never to go into white...
(The entire section contains 1422 words.)
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