Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Brave Woman's Saga of Survival Continues

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Brave Woman's Saga of Survival Continues

Article excerpt

MARY BRAVE BIRD is Ohitika Win, or Brave Woman, the name she earned as a result of her commitment to her people and her community. The badge was not won easily, as this account of a hard life shows.

Brave Bird's story up to 1977 was recounted in "Lakota Woman" (1990), and "Ohitika Woman" continues her history. She tells of her experiences through the artist and writer Richard Erdoes, who along with his wife, Jean, befriended Brave Bird and supported efforts of the American Indian Movement and tribes to gain redress for the grievances of 500 years.

That two books telling the life of one Lakota woman should be published in such a brief period, and that the first should have already received the American Book Award, is testimony to the public interest in the lives of women at the margins of mainstream society, women who are immersed in their own societies in spite of the hardships and deprivations.

In her Lakota society, Brave Bird has found strength and support as well as a shared history. In spite of the poverty, alcoholism, and routine beating of women that she has witnessed and been a victim of, Brave Bird is a survivor who understands the context of her life. She is communicating her pain as well as her joys to people who see only curio shops on their trips through South Dakota.

"Ohitika Woman" begins in 1991. Brave Bird has survived a near-fatal automobile accident and credits her will to live to a vision of her grandmother telling her she had to survive to care for her children. Brave Bird places herself within family and tribe, tracing her lineage and remembering past events in her life, and then comes back to the present.

As she writes this book, her life is stable: She has remarried, she has stopped drinking, she has reached a level of understanding with her mother, and she is committed to caring for her children. By the end of the book, the reader wants her to succeed and to bring other women with her.

It won't be easy, however. …

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