Lakota Woman

by Mary Brave Bird, Richard Erdoes

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Chapters 10–14

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Chapter 10 

Leonard Crow Dog was AIM’s spiritual leader during Wounded Knee, where he revived the Ghost Dance. Each evening, a quiet ceremony was held and the warriors took sweat baths to purify themselves. Leonard performed a Sun Dance ceremony. He was also the chief doctor, teaching white medics how to use his remedies and pray over patients. He also took over as chief engineer. However, he did not fight. 

The Ghost Dance was a tradition in the Crow Dog family. They danced, in upside-down American flags, at Sitting Bull’s camp and at Big Foot’s place. The whites were afraid of the dance, and called in the army to suppress it. Leonard surrendered to avoid bloodshed but later declared that as long as the Ghost Dance went on, prohibited or not, the sacred tradition of the Indians would not be dead. He gathered forty dancers, and they danced for four days, unperturbed by the falling snow.

Chapter 11 

Mary wanted to have her baby at Wounded Knee, not in the hospital, in part because she remembered how her sister had been forcibly sterilized in a hospital. Mary planned to give birth with an Indian prayer and with the help of women friends. Several men told her she should not be here, pregnant as she was, but Mary paid them no heed. There was another woman, Cheryl Petite, who was also pregnant; the men placed bets on who would give birth first. Unfortunately, Cheryl’s birth was difficult, and she left to have her baby at the hospital. 

A week before Mary’s labor began, she took part in a Peyote meeting. After her water broke, she felt a spiritual connection to the Indian women and children who had been massacred at Wounded Knee years before. A firefight began as her labor pains became intense. By the time her baby, Pedro, was born, many had gathered outside the tent. Everybody began to cheer and sing, and the Sioux men declared that Pedro was “a warrior.” 

The marshals misunderstood the cheering, thinking that a charge was on the way. A few days after this, one of the airdrops came, and Mary was delighted to see a fresh onion among the supplies. Then another firefight began and she and her baby had to run through gunfire. She lay on top of the baby to shield him, and they made it safely to a basement. 

Leonard returned to Wounded Knee a few days later, held another peyote meeting, and gave Pedro an Indian name. The day Buddy Lamont was shot, Mary and her baby left Wounded Knee to help Lamont’s family with the funeral. 

On her way out of Wounded Knee, Mary was arrested and the police tried to take her baby, but luckily Cheyenne, Buddy’s sister, arrived and said she would take the baby while Mary was held for questioning. After twenty-four hours, they let Mary go. Mary’s mother had come to meet her and demanded to know why Mary could not leave AIM and live a peaceful life. But she was furious with the police as well, and the pair were able to understand each other in their shared anger.

Mary and the baby, after another brief imprisonment, had to hitchhike home. A truck driver attempted to force himself on Mary, and she had to leave his truck. Eventually a “nice old skin” drove her the rest of the way home.

About a week later, the siege itself ended, with Leonard being the last to leave. He was taken to Rapid City jail. 

Chapter 12 

After Wounded Knee, Mary married Leonard Crow Dog. He...

(This entire section contains 1305 words.)

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proposed to her during a Sun Dance, and initially she said no. Then AIM leader Clyde Bellecourt was shot, and after a ceremony given to help him recover, Leonard proposed again. This time, Mary accepted. She moved in with him in 1973. They lived at “Crow Dog’s Paradise,” a settlement which had two main buildings for the whole tiyospaye. Their house had a kitchen–living room and two bedrooms. Mary was unprepared to immediately be a wife and mother. Crow Dog had three children from his previous marriage, and because Crow Dog was a medicine man, there were often guests in the house. She also struggled with her inability to speak Sioux, which meant she was often not accepted. Mary’s own family, meanwhile, disapproved of her marriage to a full-blood man. 

The original Crow Dog fought with Sitting Bull and was wounded many times in battle. He was also friends with Crazy Horse and prevented a huge Sioux massacre. He was sentenced to death for killing a rival Indian chief, but the execution was not carried out, because it was illegal for an Indian to kill another Indian. His descendants felt both guilt and pride over Crow Dog’s deeds. 

Mary struggled with entering the Crow Dog clan and became very thin, “sickening for want of love.” Mary had a peyote vision of herself dead in her bed, and yet through the experience she came to feel a sense of peace, a sense that she would be all right.

Chapter 13 

Annie Mae, a Micmac Indian, looked after the group and taught other women traditional ways of mothering. She had joined AIM in 1970, then met—and and soon left—an abusive Canadian Indian man, ending up at Crow Dog’s place. She lived in a tipi and learned songs at the peyote meetings. 

From 1973-75, Dicky Wilson at Pine Ridge had established a “reign of terror” in which many Indians were killed, as well as at least two federal agents. Annie Mae was later taken for questioning by agents, who suspected she knew the whereabouts of a man who had shot at the FBI, but she refused to give up any information. Later, she was found dead in the snow. Although she was said to have died of exposure, there was a bullet in her skull. 

Chapter 14 

The “eye in [Mary’s] heart” was still “blind” when she married Leonard. She knew little of Indian spirituality, but was now married to a medicine man. He set out to teach her about medicine women, Indian religion, and how to listen to the universe. Mary also learned about sweat baths, in which participants strip and walk into a lodge filled with heated rocks to “sweat” ceremonially. During the ceremony, the Indians pray and thank the spirits for their suffering. The full-blood Indians held very hot sweat-bath ceremonies, which half-blood Indians often found difficult to tolerate.

Another important ceremony was the “yuwipi,” in which a person in search of something would ask for the assistance of the yuwipi man, who serves as a bridge between people and the spirits. Dog meat was eaten as part of this ceremony. A buffalo skull served as an altar, and other elements, such as a deer tail and an eagle feather, were used to represent other spirits of nature. A twig of sage was worn behind the ear to help the spirits be heard. 

During one ceremony, Leonard, in the role of the yuwipi man, was tied up like a mummy in the middle of the circle, awaiting the entrance of the spirits. However, when the lamp was lit after the ceremony, he was unwrapped and untied and found to be weeping. The spirits had come to him. This was one of the ceremonies the white man frequently tried, without success, to stamp out.

In May 1974, Leonard and a man called Old Henry held the very rare Ghost Dance, as they had done at Wounded Knee. People came from far and wide to dance, and numerous eagles circled overhead as if blessing the group. However, good things were not to follow.


Chapters 6–9


Chapters 15–16 and Epilogue