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LIFE IN PARADISE I Mary Brave Bird In 1990, Mary Crow Dog (now Mary Brave Bird) published Lakota Woman, her autobiography from childhood through her famous participation in the siege of Wounded Knee, during which she gave birth to her first child. Lakota Woman, which covers Brave Bird's life until 1977, became a national bestseUer and won a 1991 American Book Award. This spring, Grove Press wiU publish the sequel, Ohitika Woman, which relates Brave Bird's life from 1977 to the present. Written by Brave Bird in collaboration with Richard Erdoes (who also co-authored her first book), Ohitika Woman narrates Brave Bird's life with her first husband, the weUknown Sioux medicine man and Indian activist, Leonard Crow Dog. Brave Bird also recounts her divorce from Crow Dog and her eventual remarriage. In recalling the events of the past fifteen years, she vividly illustrates the divided nature of her life as a Native American: on the one hand there is the fulfillment she has received from her religion and her activism in A.I.M. On the other, there is the misery of reservation life; Brave Bird bluntly speaks of her own experiences, in between her two marriages, as a battered woman and an alcoholic. The foUowing excerpt, from Chapter 4, tells of the fatigue and disillusionment Brave Bird felt during her marriage to Leonard Crow Dog. The first part recounts her life with the Crow Dog family on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. In later sections she recaUs her experiences on the road with Leonard, as they traveled around performing rituals. The third and fourth sections also describe the Crow Dogs' work for A.I.M., including their peripheral involvement with Leonard Peltier. This chapter has been adapted, and the order of some passages has been changed, to highUght the most significant events of this period of Brave Bird's life. I SOMETIME AFTER WOUNDED KNEE Uttle Pedro and I moved in with Leonard Crow Dog on his father's place. I married Leonard in the Indian way, with a blanket wrapped around us, holding on to the Pipe, while being "cedared" and fanned off with an eagle feather. This was not considered a legal marriage in a white priesfs sense but it was good enough for us. The Crow Dogs stiU Uved on their old place, some eighteen mUes from the tribal administrative center at Rosebud. The land is quite beautiful—a 58 · The Missouri Review large flat area, including the sacred Sundance ground, surrounded by pine-studded hiUs. A stream runs through the property and the Little White River is only a few hundred yards away. A steep path leads up to the hültop where the Crow Dogs have their vision pit when going on a hanbleceya—a vision quest. Leonard and his father had a ghost dance here in 1974. In summer the air is fiUed with the songs of many birds. Overhead you can see flights of eagles and waterbirds, sacred in our beUefs. The air is also fragrant with the sweet scent of plants we use in our ceremonies— sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and washtemna—Indian perfume. WUlows grow along the stream and serve as material to build sweatlodges. Mint grows here, too, for native tea, and chokecherries to make wojapi—a kind of berry pudding. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of poison ivy. Then, the place was very picturesque. The entrance was formed by two long, crossed poles. Fastened at the top were a buffalo skull and an oU painting by Old Henry (Leonard's father), depicting the peyote Christ, with the feather fan and gourd rattle in one hand, and the tufted staff in the other. Visible from afar was a huge truck tire, almost as taU as a man. Painted white, it had CROW DOG'S PARADISE written on it in large letters. In many ways the name did fit the place, but for me, "paradise" was sometimes heU. When I first Uved in this earthly Eden there were stiU a number of different structures standing. Henry had built the main house with his own hands around 1930. It was a funky but picturesque dwelling made...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 58-74
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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