Completing the Circle

Nov 15th, 1995 | By | Category: 7-3: Investing, Media Reviews

by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
Lincoln:  University of Nebraska, 1995

Review by Faith Hagenhofer

This is part autobiography, part tribal history (Santee, Ponca, and other Sioux), part family storytelling.  It is a journey of discovery and affirmation of the women who are Ms. Sneve’s ancestors.  Told with incredible style and attention to detail, these stories counteract previous Western white expansion accounts and accounts of the lives of Plains tribes’ women.  By following the generations of women, Ms. Sneve tell of the changes contact with white culture brought: disease, intermarriage, conversion to Christianity, boarding schools, loss of traditions, reservation life.

Of her great-great-great-great grandmother, Hazzodowin, she writes:

“In the spring of 1660, Pierre Espirit Radisson, the French explorer and fur trader, was visited on Lac Court Oreille¼by eight Santee men each with two wives¼Hazzodowin and her mother could have been among the women accompanying the Dakota men¼However they would have been thought of as slaves and pawns in male economic transactions by the male white historians who described Indian women of the period.  Their daily tasks would have been viewed as drudgery-as being second class as compared with the warrior-hunter role.  Women were reported to attend to all the essential chores while the men ‘played’ at hunting and fishing.  Those judgments emerged from the European tradition in which women were idealized and protected from hard physical work, and where hunting and fishing were recreational rather than subsistence activities.

Hazzodowin would have been appalled had she been exempted from hard work; it was essential to the tribe’s survival, as were all Dakota customs.”

Telling of her great-grandmother on her father’s side, Lucy High Bear Clairmont, Ms. Sneve writes:

“Lucy’s family had adopted white-style clothing, not because they wanted to, but because they no longer had access to the game that had fed and clothed them in the past¼Although no Indian ceremonials were incorporated into (the gatherings of Indian Episcopalians or the Presbyterian Church) such meetings served the same social function as the old Sun Dance, when friends and relatives from all directions came together in the summer¼.”

This short book (113 pages) is filled with such stories of strength, adaptation, great sorrow and loss, grace, and ultimately, survival.

Faith Hagenhofer is the librarian at the Nisqually Tribal Library in Olympia, Wash.

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