Lakota Woman Themes

The main themes in Lakota Woman are the intersection of justice, identity, and politics and the formation and reclamation of identity.

  • Justice, identity, and politics: Mary Brave Bird's adolescent search for identity is connected to a broader quest for justice. It is through joining the American Indian Movement that Brave Bird is able to step into a state of maturity.
  • Formation and reclamation of identity: Because she is part-Sioux and part-white, Brave Bird's childhood is defined by rootlessness and transience. By consciously reclaiming her heritage, Brave Bird develops an authentic and grounded identity.


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Last Updated on February 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 564

The Intersection of Justice, Identity, and Politics

The American Indian Movement (AIM) sought to ensure justice under the law for all Native Americans and to promote a revival of traditional practices. Over the course of the twentieth century, indigenous Americans increasingly drew attention to legal and civil rights issues, as well as to the US government’s history of abuses. From the 1960s onward, thousands of Native Americans joined the American Indian Movement as part of a widespread initiative to see US government commitments honored. AIM called attention to the many broken treaties and other agreements that the government had ignored or violated. AIM activism included the two-month-long occupation of the Wounded Knee site on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation. Although the siege led to several deaths and arrests, it was even more important in calling international attention to indigenous issues.

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Mary Crow Dog, along with her then-husband, Leonard Crow Dog, participates in the Wounded Knee protest. By that time, she has come to reject much of the traditional Catholic education she received growing up on a reservation as a mixed-race child. Mary is frank about her rebellious adolescence, drinking problems, and brushes with the legal system throughout her teenage and early adult years. Coming of age for her means joining with others involved in the struggle for justice and putting herself at the forefront as an activist. Lakota Woman blends the personal with the political in order to emphasize the hardships of those living on the margins of society. Mary’s upbringing on the reservation, the abuses she suffers in the Catholic school, and her eventual discovery of AIM are all part of her continued quest for justice and belonging. From the moment she is born, her identity is politicized, and it is only through embracing her place within the broader movement that Mary is able to look beyond seeking justice for herself and instead seek justice for all...

(The entire section contains 564 words.)

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