Early in the book, Mary Crow Dog recounts some of the legends of her people, the Sicangu or Brule, and of her husband’s Crow Dog family. She then points out that reflecting on the past has many limitations.
But you can’t live forever off the deeds of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. You can’t wear their eagle feathers, freeload off their legends. You have to make your own legends now.
After the occupation of Wounded Knee ended and the Indians and government forces left the site, the protest’s impact was felt, but its lasting importance was only starting to be revealed. That one long moment in which Native American people touched their own history mattered because it began to generate a legacy.
The government tried to extinguish all signs that Indians once made their stand here. It will do them no good, because the world saw, the world heard.… [I]t will do them no good to try to hide it because it happened. Today is still not ours but tomorrow might be….
Crow Dog’s own acceptance of her native identity, and her acceptance by others—both Indian and white—was a long, challenging process. The elements of indigeneity, she came to see, were not necessarily the obvious ones that she had been led to expect.
[B]eing 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.