American Indian Memoirist Dies

The author, Mary Ellen Moore-Richard, died on Febuary 14th at the age of 58. She wrote the memoir Lakota Woman, which was published in 1990. Her life began on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. The reservation was, and still is, where the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota nation, live.

When Mary Ellen was young, in the 1950s and 60s, life on the reservation was not easy. There was much poverty. Even today the same dire living conditions she had to endure remain unchanged, as reported in a CNN article:

“Nearly half of the people in Todd County live under the federal poverty line, making it the second-poorest county in the nation. The Department of Interior produces another gut-punching statistic: unemployment among the Rosebud Sioux tribe is over 80%.”

Mary Ellen was only one of several names she was known by; two others being Mary Brave Bird and Mary Crow Dog. The various identities represent the complex heritage she grew up in with both American Indian and white ancestry. Kids were cruel sometimes calling her iyeska, meaning half-breed, when she was a child.

In her memoir she wrote, ““The little settlements we lived in — He Dog, Upper Cut Meat, Parmelee, St. Francis, Belvidere — were places without hope where bodies and souls were being destroyed bit by bit.”

During the later teen years, she joined the American Indian Movement and married one of the leaders,Leonard Crow Dog, giving birth to their child during the infamous occupation of Wounded Knee. Read more about the American Indian Movement and the historic event at Wounded Knee in 1973.

Her funeral service was held at Rooks Funeral Chapel in Mission, S.D.