July 25, 2009

Take Me Away Saturday: The Sioux Nation

Take Me Away Saturday

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:

This week we are visiting the Native American tribe of the Sioux. The Sioux (pronounced /suː/) are a Native American and First Nations people. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many dialects. The Sioux comprise three major divisions based on dialect and subculture: Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota. Please click here or here for more information. Click on the titles of the books to go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Where do the Sioux people live?
The original Lakota/Dakota homelands were in what is now Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. The Sioux traveled freely, however, and there was also significant Sioux presence in the modern states of Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, and northern Illinois, and in south-central Canada. Today, most Sioux people live in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Saskatchewan.

Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog
Mary Brave Bird gave birth to a son during the 71-day siege of Wounded Knee in 1973, which ended with a bloody assault by U.S. marshalls and police. Seventeen years old at the time, she married fellow activist Leonard Crow Dog, medicine man and spiritual leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Written with Erdoes ( Lame Deer ; Seeker of Visions ), her searing autobiography is courageous, impassioned, poetic and inspirational. Her girlhood, a vicious circle of drinking and fighting, was marked by poverty, racism and a rape at 14. She ran away from a coldly impersonal boarding school run by nuns where, she reports, Indian students were beaten to induce them to give up native customs and speech. The authors write of AIM's infiltration by FBI agents, of Mary Crow Dog helping her husband endure prison, of Indian males' macho attitudes. The book also describes AIM's renewal of spirituality as manifested in sweat lodges, peyote ceremonies, sacred songs and the Ghost Dance ritual. Warning: This book may contain graphic descriptions at times.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

The never-out-of-print best-seller that documents the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living by Joseph M. Marshall III

Rich with storytelling, history, and folklore, The Lakota Way expresses the heart of Native American philosophy and imparts the path to a fulfilling and meaningful life. Joseph Marshall is a member of the Sicunga Lakota Sioux and has dedicated his entire life to the wisdom he learned from his elders. Here he focuses on the twelve core qualities that are crucial to the Lakota way of living-bravery, fortitude, generosity, wisdom, respect, honor, perseverance, love, humility, sacrifice, truth, and compassion. Whether teaching a lesson on respect imparted by the mythical Deer Woman or the humility embodied by the legendary Lakota leader Crazy Horse, The Lakota Way offers a fresh outlook on spirituality and ethical living. Publisher: Penguin Genre: Nonfiction; Native American Studies; Earth-Based Religions

Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac
Joseph Bruchac tells the compelling story of how a young boy named Curly seeks a vision in the hope of saving his people - and grows into the brave and fierce warrior Crazy Horse. Sioux artist S. D. Nelson's paintings, in the traditional ledger style of the Plains Indians, evokes the drama and the tragedy of this important American figure. Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc. Genre: Children's Books

The Contract Surgeon by Dan O'Brien
Humanizing heroes on both sides of the conflict, O'Brien reimagines the capture and tragically suspicious death of Crazy Horse, the great Sioux war chief, while in the custody of the U.S. Army in 1877. O'Brien's (Equinox) eighth book is a sensitive drama based on the true story of the unusual friendship between Crazy Horse and Dr. Valentine McGillicuddy, a civilian surgeon contracted to serve with the army during the Indian wars on the Great Plains. McGillicuddy relates the tale as an old man, recalling the heady days on the frontier when he was still idealistic and naive enough to believe that his fellow Americans meant no harm to the Indians. His years as a contract surgeon, however, take him on the great campaigns to eradicate the Sioux, and McGillicuddy soon learns that not all men are noble, honorable or even trustworthy. No shrinking violet or hand-wringing moralist, he faces his greatest moral test when Crazy Horse is bayoneted in the back by a soldier, and McGillicuddy is pressured by the army to keep the famous warrior alive, because his death would spur on the Indians to renewed battle. McGillicuddy and Crazy Horse had met briefly four years earlier, in a friendly, chance encounter at a waterhole, but during the chief's final hours, the doctor and his dying patient cement their instinctive connection, with far-reaching consequences. The treachery of the army and the complicity of Crazy Horse's own allies finally convince McGillicuddy to make a startling decision. This powerful story is a thinking man's western, in which action is secondary to O'Brien's nuanced exploration of character and the tragic dimensions of a morally fraught conflict. Publisher: Mariner Books Genre: Historical Fiction

Night Train by Lise Erdrich
What does it mean to be a "fully processed" Indian in America today? In Night Train, Lise Erdrich offers a sharp-humored and powerful primer. Largely set in the small towns and reservations of northwestern Minnesota and western North Dakota, her literary snapshots capture the characters' lives playing out against a backdrop of emergency rooms, supermarket aisles, backwoods parties, family breakfast tables, booze-soaked taverns, and sterile, but emotionally fraught offices. Taken at the very moment when the pressures of daily life collide with the insidiousness of history, these stories reveal the personal struggle and small triumphs of people facing the absurdities of bureaucracy, cycles of poverty and addiction, and out-sized notions of Indian legends and culture. It takes love, fortitude, and no small amount of humor to survive the sun-starved winters of the Great Plains, where finding reasons to keep going (and keep growing) can be the most profound accomplishment. Erdrich's flashbulb-quick stories provide it all in cathartic doses and within the many voices of her tales, all the crazy starts to make sense. Publisher: Coffee House Press Genre: YA; Short Stories

A Road We Do Not Know: A Novel of Custer at Little Bighorn by Frederick J. Chiaventone
Everybody knows how this story ends, but in his first novel Chiaventone still provides a thrilling and scalp-raising ride with Custer and the 7th Cavalry down into the valley of the Little Bighorn River in 1876. Despite the emphatic warnings of his experienced Indian and civilian scouts, Custer never believed that his 600 cavalrymen would ride head-on into 5000 Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe waiting eagerly to fight Yellow Hair and his soldiers. Custer expected to face no more than 800 warriors, and was sure that the Indians would scatter when attacked by the 7th Cavalry. He couldn't have been more wrong. Lieutenant Charles Varnum opens the story here, in the early morning hours of June 25th as he and his scouts come across the first signs of a huge Indian village laying somewhere ahead in the darkness. As events develop that morning, Custer, who is depicted by Chiaventone as never hesitant, makes fateful decisions that will be immortalized for 120 years. After dividing his force with the hapless Major Reno and the embittered Captain Benteen, Custer foolishly leads five companies of cavalrymen into a maelstrom of blood, bullets, arrows and war clubs?a horrific battle that can have only one outcome. Through the eyes of troopers, sergeants, officers and Indian warriors, Chiaventone takes the reader on to the battlefield, dismounted, choking on dust and gunsmoke, frantically shooting and dodging tomahawks, desperate to survive. Publisher: Simon & Schuster Genre: Historical Fiction

Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria
Deloria was a Sioux Indian and an ethnologist who worked with anthropologist Franz Boas. Written in the early 1940s and now published for the first time, this culturally detailed novel of 19th century Sioux life focuses on a young girl named Waterlily. When her mother Blue Bird is deserted by her husband, she and her daughter are welcomed by relatives at their tiyospaye (encampment of related households) on the western plains. Deloria portrays Waterlily's maturation, daily tribal life and the crucial "kinship rules." As the author wrote elsewhere, the Sioux concept of kinship meant "achieving civility, good manners, and a sense of responsibility toward every individual dealt with." Waterlily learns she must show altruism and generosity, be courteous, demure and truthful, and highly value each family member. While this novel's plot is slight, Deloria clearly accomplished what was probably her true goalpresenting an authoritative, expertly researched account of Sioux beliefs, social conventions and ceremonies. Publisher: Bison Books Genre: Fiction

Sitting Bull by Bill Yenne
As a celebrated warrior, shaman, and leader of the Lakota tribe, Sitting Bull was both a fascinating and frightening icon to the expanding United States, a 19th-century cross-cultural superstar who was at once a friend to Buffalo Bill and the emblem of Native American resistance in the face of the westward settlement. In Sitting Bull, Bill Yenne has produced a fascinating and exhaustively researched biography, drawing from contemporary sources as well as the iconic leader's own "Hieroglyphic Autobiography" (a series of pictographs depicting pivotal events in his life) to create an informal and relaxed account that still packs an amazing amount of detail. Recounting the exploits of the budding warrior known as Jumping Badger, his misunderstood role in the Battle of Little Big Horn, and his death on the eve of the massacre at Wounded Knee, Sitting Bull cuts through legend to place the Lakota leader square into his own cultural context, spurning the usual wasichu filters or biases. Publisher: Westholme Publishing Genre: Biography

I don't know about you, but I have several books I want to add to my TBR list beside Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee!

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you know of books about the Sioux that you want to share? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back next week for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up for the next three Take Me Away Saturday posts:
August 1: A visit to the African country of Sierra Leone.
August 8: A visit to the Asian country of India.
August 15: A visit to the South American country of Brazil.

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:


  1. Some fabulous finds again. I do like this weekly post. It gives me lots to add to my TBR list.

  2. I love my old copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and have read it more than once. I can also recommend two facinating books of non fiction:

    1.Lame Deer Seeker of Visions by John (Fire) Lame Deer.

    "Storyteller, rebel, medicine man, Lame Deer was born almost a century ago on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. A full-blooded Sioux, he was many things in the white man's world -- rodeo clown, painter, prisioner. But, above all, he was a holy man of the Lakota tribe.

    The story he tells is one of harsh youth and reckless manhood, shotgun marriage and divorce, history and folklore as rich today as ever -- and of his fierce struggle to keep pride alive, though living as a stranger in his own ancestral land."

    2.Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, a Sioux perspective of the relations between American Indian tribes and the United States from Wounded Knee to the 1960's.

    Great choice, as always Rebecca, and interesting reading choices.

  3. These are just great! Thanks so much for all the work on this post!

  4. Wow, another fabulous week, Rebecca. I know nothing of this subject and have never read any books about the Sioux but I see several on your post that look compelling and will be added to my list.

    Thanks for all the work you put into this. Have a great week.

  5. I'm impressed at the amount of work you put into these.

    I live in South Dakota and have never taken the time to read any of these books. I would really love to see something written on how modern living has affected the reservations and how many of the Sioux choose to leave the res. I've driven through and they are fairly miserably places. I'm sure that unfair treatment of them is part to blame. I'd like to see a fair history of it- unfortunately I think it would be hard to find something unbiased.

  6. I seriously love these posts of yours. Thank you!

  7. Fabulous selections, Rebecca! You really do an incredible job...I appreciate the time and love you put into choosing your selections for us.
    Have a Beautiful Weekend!

  8. Scrap Girl- Thank you! It is a lot of fun to make this list, too.

    Sandra- Thank you for the recommendations! They sound interesting. I try to list a variety of genres so that most can find something they would pick up.

    rhapsody- Thank you and you're welcome!

    Kaye- Thanks, Kaye! It does take time to do this post every week and it is encouraging to know it is appreciated!

    Lisa- Yes, it is so easy to find very biased books on Native Americans. You have to be careful and search out for the good ones.

    Nymeth- Thanks for the feedback! You are most welcome.

    ChicGeek- Thank you, Kelly! I enjoy putting these posts together for you all and I am glad you enjoy them when I finish!

  9. OK, I don't mean to be critical but: what were the Erdrichs thinking when they named one daughter Louise and another daughter Lise??? I can just imagine poor Lise introducing herself as an author and people saying, "Oh, don't you mean Louise?" Makes me want to read her book for that reason alone. Also because it looks good.

  10. I read a really great book about the Lakota Sioux once that had these incredible photographs of one of the reservations in South Dakota. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name. :( I think it might have been Bury Me Standing, but it probably isn't.

    Have you seen Thunderheart? Not that that's a terribly accurate movie or anything, but almost all the main characters are Oglala Sioux.

    Ali~I think they were naming them from the Sound of Music (?).

  11. Brilliant post. I've been interested in Native American history and culture since I visited the States almost 10 years ago. There is such cultural diversity and wealth that most people outside the States don't really know much about (including myself), so it's great to see a list of books from which to start.


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