The following is a chapter by chapter summary of Lakota Woman, a memoir of Mary Brave Bird. The underlying theme of the book is the American Indian Movement that depicts Sioux wavering between embracing the ways of the white men and clinging to their ancestral traditions.
The underlying theme of chapter one is the strength of women recognized as the root that holds a community together. Women procreate and ensure continuity of generations, and they care for their families, but they still face many plights such as domestic violence, and gender discrimination. Furthermore, they are too weak to air their plight in a patriarchal society. Chapter two explores the importance of family ties to the Native American Indians. Families are mostly recognized from an extended point of view as opposed to a nuclear perspective. Chapter three focuses on the care of children and shows how they are never left alone but always under someone’s attendance. However, during the colonialism, Mary, a half-caste child is taken to a school by the white people. She finds it difficult to be accepted when she returns to her home ten years later. Chapter five explores the hopeless behavior of the Indian men that resort to drinking and fighting in cases where they are unable to protect their families. Chapter six brings out the issues of acceptance and sense of belonging. Mary’s mother, who is an Indian married to a white man, struggles to be accepted among the white folk. On the other hand, Mary is always lonely as she is neither accepted by her full blood mother’s relatives, nor fits she well among the white. Mary, thus, chooses her own path of loneliness. Chapter seven reveals the spiritual orientation of the Indian rights movement. The Indians had been forbidden to practice their religion until the rule of Franklin Roosevelt, who lifted the ban. Chapter eight explores the struggle in which Indians are urged to leave the missionaries and seek the traditional medicine. In chapter nine and ten, Mary struggles for her acceptance in her native land by her full-blood relatives. On the other hand, other half breeds take money offered by the whites and sell the Indian land. Chapter eleven and twelve vividly reveal Mary’s experiences in struggling for love and acceptance from her native people. Mary insists in giving birth in the traditional Indian way and also takes traditional medicine offered by Peyote – the traditional medicine man. Chapter thirteen and fourteen reveal the activities of the Indian movements in the hope of restoring their culture through the story of Mary’s friend. Chapter fifteen tells about consequences of adhering to the traditions in which some of the natives are arrested. Finally, chapter sixteen is the turning point for Mary as she becomes more accepted, and insults against her are reduced. The community also adopts new ideas such as feminism and lesbianism despite the fact that some members of the community are displeased with the new ideas.
In conclusion, the Lakota woman is about the plight of a culture that struggles to hold onto its roots in the midst of external cultural influence. The Lakota woman experiences plight but struggles to retain her roots in the tradition.