Mary Crow Dog, and Religion
Katy Teasdale Mrs. MacDonald World Religions; Per 3 9/20/09 A Search for Belonging The story of Mary Crow Dog can be interpreted two ways, as an autobiography about her struggle to gain racial equality and religious freedom, or as an autobiography where we can learn where Mary finds herself in her place. Mary first introduces herself as an ignorant child, content only because she didn’t know how bad things were. As a child, she wasn’t very religious; the only true religious figures in her life were her uncle Bill and her grandparents, who still lived in the Sioux way.
She was still very young when the “do-good” white people took her away from her family to the Catholic school. Catholicism was forced upon her often in abusive ways. Abusive priests and nuns distorted the meaning Catholicism, an impression like that is very hard to reverse. Conditions not much better than the reservation and racial prejudice everywhere caused young Mary to realize that Catholicism is not where she belonged. She knew she had to leave the school, and one day, after a particularly bad incident, she simply dropped out.
From here, Mary returned to the reservation, as a troubled teen, not unlike most other adolescents on the reservation. Drinking excessively, smoking cigarettes and marijuana, speeding around the reservation in unsafe vehicles; their lifestyle said, “I don’t care if I die; I have no reason to live anyway. ” Mary feels aimlessness, a roaming sensation that then turns into restlessness. She had to do something – go somewhere – but she didn’t know what or where. She didn’t share her mother’s values, and she certainly was not returning to the Catholic school.
I think it was the internal confliction that caused her to go in the criminal direction that she did for a while. She shoplifted and attempted to justify it by stating it reenacted her people’s history. She found her moral slipping, and that she didn’t feel guilty. Her eyes were opened the second time she was caught shoplifting, when the store manager released her for fear of her friends. She realized “it’s no wonder these white hate Indians so much if this is how they perceive us. ” her aimlessness ended, when she encountered AIM, (American Indian Movement. )
She first saw Leonard Crow dog with his novelty long hair at an AIM meeting. She felt AIM working inside of her, changing her from the inside out. She found a sense of belonging in the old ways. When she went on the tour with AIM, which included protesting on the lawn of the White House, she first tried Peyote. Mary experienced many peyote-induced visions. She was seeing meaning in life that hadn’t been there before. She looked upon different ancient Indian religions as different aspects of one great overall power. She saw that all Indians prayed for visions or “crying for a dream. Most Indians used peyote; also she saw it as a “hot-line” to the Great Spirit. Even as a small girl she took a lot of peyote, not considering it a drug, but a key to dreaming, or visions. Mary had her first Peyote experience at Wounded Knee; also her son was born there. Mary sort of saw having the baby the Indian way within the perimeters of Wounded Knee as a type of religious pilgrimage. After Wounded Knee when Mary Crow dog became Leonard’s wife she became first woman, meaning a medicine’s man wife. She has a peyote experience where she watched her formal self die, and finally she felt release from the rough past she has suffered.
She could escape from the unbearable memories she had dealt with, from the catholic school, the suffering and poverty she’d trudged through at the reservation and the horrible unfair treatment of Leonard in his different trials at jail. “Look at reality beneath the sham realities of things and gadgets,” Leonard always said to Mary. “Look through the eye in your heart, that’s the meaning of an Indian religion. ” Even after marrying Leonard, Mary still felt like the eye of her heart was blind, probably because she was not very knowledgeable in the traditional way.
To Mary it seemed that Leonard was a little uncomfortable to tea his own wife the old ways, but they became most religiously strong through the issue of Leonard’s arrest. It was shocking to learn that at the start of Mary and Leonard’s marriage, Mary did want part of that. She said yes, she was in awe of him, but he was twelve years older, an entire generation. It was her parent’s objection to their marriage that drove Mary closer to her husband. Her grandparents had been significantly aged apart, and they lived in the traditional way.
If the old ways approved of it, so did she. It was the closeness to Leonard that made the separation so hard for Mary. “I watched the marshals dragging him off in handcuffs and leg irons. We just kept looking at each other until the iron bars snapped shut, and he disappeared from my view. ” Leonard Crow dog was sentenced to twenty-three years for breaking the jaw of a member of the swat team. Mary found comfort in prayer. “I’ll go on praying for with the pipes, making tobacco ties. Mary turned to tradition appealing to the Great Spirit to help Leonard.
Although he was released eventually, the time separate from Leonard, made her lonely, leaving her to survive through her spiritual power. Mary mentions she knows she couldn’t have made it through the trials, and prejudice, without her knowledge of the old ways. Lakota Woman is a journey, not so much about fighting racial prejudice, more of a personal story about a young woman finding herself, finding her place in life, after a childhood of confusion and being lost. Following Mary Crow dog through the first twenty years of her life, it was interesting to see how much she changed.
Watching her relief in learning the traditional ways, and the way she yearned for a place in society. Learning about a woman’s role in Lakota, which was actually important. Her joy at her young son’s early interest already with learning traditional ways. Mary never would’ve reconciled the unfairness and poor treatment that she dealt with were it not for her Lakota religion. Works Cited Brodd, Jeffrey. World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery. Second Edition. United States: St. Mary’s Press, 2002. Print. Crow Dog, Mary. Lakota Woman. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990. Print.