Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mountain Wolf Woman

March is Women's History Month.
The book I chose to read to observe the month is
Mountain Wolf Woman, Sister of Crashing Thunder:
The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian.

I started to write that Mountain Wolf Woman was "ordinary," but I'm not so sure about that.

Much of her life was about staying with relatives, and some weren't even blood relatives. After a period of time living among the Sioux (I think in South Dakota), Mountain Wolf Woman became active in the Peyote religion (aka the Native American Church). As I understand it, this is essentially Christianity with the added sacrament of consuming the Peyote cactus which leads to visions. For Mountain Wolf Woman, the cactus resulted in a vision of Jesus, for instance. She was instrumental in bringing the Peyote religion back to the Wisconsin Winnebago/Ho-Chunk people and tells of being ostracized by the more traditional or "conservative" people.

An earlier photo.

As far as "Women's History" per se, it is remarkable that Mountain Wolf Woman was made to quit school (where she was happy) to marry a man who did her brother a favor while the brother was drunk. Despite what some have tried to tell me, I'm still not convinced that Indian men always treated women better than white men treated their women.

Here's two more anecdotes I thought were remarkable:

A member of the tribe came back from World War II with a German scalp. The tribe held a scalp dance and the blond German soldier (whose scalp it was) appeared to the middle-aged Mountain Wolf Woman in a vision.

When Mountain Wolf Woman was still a girl she took pity on an old man who was dying. According to the book, some of the last things he said were:

But nothing can be done to help me, so I am going away. At one time there was a certain food of which I was fond, skunk meat. If you should kill a skunk, cook it and think of me as you do so (pages 16-17).

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