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Growing Up Indian and Rediscovering Her People
am 24. Januar 2000
In this 1990 autobiography Mary Crow Dog relates her life growing up on a Sioux reservation and her involvement with the American Indian Movement during the 1970s. There is another writer's name, Richard Erdoes, next to hers on the cover which makes me assume that she did not write this herself. Perhaps that accounts for the style, which is overly simplistic as the book seems to be targeted towards young adults.
However, I have very scant knowledge of American Indians even though they
have always fascinated me. And that is why I enjoyed this book completely. It's feels true and real and its starkness only underlines the story which, in reality, is not only Mary Crow Dog's personal story, but that of all American Indians in our country.
We are right there with her in the one room shack she was raised in with 8 other people in North Dakota, a house without electricity, plumbing or a single modern convenience. As there were no television or any connection with the outside world, she thought that everyone lived like this and had a happy childhood, warm and secure in the bosom a loving family.
And then she was sent off to boarding school run by the Jesuits. Here, the children were beaten, humiliated, punished by being sent into isolation, and forced into a mold that was foreign to them. It was the 60's then, and she rebelled, leaving school and joining forces with other Native American teenagers who drank and shoplifted and lived on the fringe of society.
Then the American Indian Movement came along and she joined, identifying with her people's struggles and learning the history. She was at the siege of the National Indian Affairs building in Washington, DC and then again at the 71-day takeover of Wounded Knee in the 1970s. It was here that she gave birth to her son while gunfire was going on around her.
Later, she married Leonard Crow Dog, the leader and medicine man. He had been brought up totally as an Indian and had never ever learned to read. She stood by him though his unlawful imprisonment, learned to make speeches at rallies, visited other tribes and totally absorbed her heritage. She bore him four children and is a spokesperson for her people. Hence this book, which I understand had been made into a TNT movie and is used as a textbook in schools.
By telling her own personal story, Mary Crow Dog gives the reader an insider's view of the racism around her, the hardships, the religious
rituals and the pride of her people. For anyone with an interest in this special area of American History, this book is extremely helpful.