My Life

I was born Mary Brave Bird in 1953, fatherless, in a one-room cabin on the Rosebud South Dakota reservation. I am a woman of the Red Nation, a Sioux Woman. More specifically I belong to the "Burned Thigh" the Brule Tribe which is Sicangu in our language. Long ago, so the legend goes, a small band of Sioux was surrounded by enemies who set fire to their tipis and the grass around them. They fought their way out of the trap but got their legs burned and in this way acquired their name. The Brules are part of the Seven Sacred Campfires, the seven tribes of the Western Sioux known collectively as Lakota.

My family was settled on the reservation in a small place called He-Dog, after a famous chief. My family was related to the Brave Birds and Fool Bulls. Old Grandpa Fool Bull was the last man to make flutes and play them, the old-style flutes in the shape of a bird's head which had the elk power, the power to lure a young girl into a man's blanket.

I have spent most of my life fighting for Native American rights; from Wounded knee (where my son Pedro was born) to protests in New York. The struggle is never over.


With the changing times my life has continued to evolve. Most people do not know that Leonard and I separated over 15 years ago and I remarried in 1992 to another man. He left, but left me with the wonderful gift of our two children. I am very proud of my first son Pedro (even though he is in prison) for getting his GED and trying to better himself. It's not where you've been, but where you're going. I take life one day at a time and never know what tomorrow holds.

Things I've said that might surprise you

"The IRS but a lien on me, so all my royalties have been going to the IRS for three years now."

"I used to fight a lot, and you get to the point, you look around and your fighting is using all of your energy."

"I don't think that I will be alive 20 years from now [1998]" Q:What about 10 years from now? "No."

"You can't put everything into an hour and a half. You can't fit everything into it and try and make a story out of it at the same time. It was romanticized here and there, some stuff that I really didn't do."

"The thing about Christians is that I don't like hypocrites. A lot of prophecy and a lot of stuff in the Bible I don't believe. And there is a lot of incest. I mean stuff that I don't agree with."

"His dad [Leonard] Henry Crow Dog was a strict crossfire man. I remember he said to all the retired and pro-movement people, 'We are all Christians, and you have to remember that.'"