Mary's childhood, which was also spent at the Rosebud Reservation, was filled with poverty, brutality, and racism. The social status of women had drastically changed since colonization, and the introduction of the 1876 Indian Act, which instigated the eroding of native women's rights in various domains. Part of this had been the introduction of mandatory education in residential schools for all children, and Mary, like her mother, was forced to attend. Her years there were desperately hard, with nuns that beat the children if observed practicing cultural customs or speaking their native tongue, and the young teenager ran away. Aggressive, angry, and confused, within a short space of time, Mary Crow Dog had, like so many other Indian women before her, entered the world of alcohol and drugs (Lakota Woman, 1990).
It was while she was still a teenager that Mary Crow Dog became involved in the protest activities of the American Indian Movement (AIM), where she began to discover her true Indian identity. This enabled personal development and individual growth that helped her come to terms with being a 'half breed' - something which had deeply affected her. Then, in 1972, Mary participated in the Trail of Broken Treaties demonstration in Washington D.C., where she met her future husband. She was only sixteen years old (Lakota Woman, 1990).
Leonard, a medicine man, was fourteen years Mary's senior when she married him in 1973, and she was seventeen. The age gap, however, was less of a problem than the couple's cultural differences. Mary's role as the wife of a medicine man held various important responsibilities that often left her exhausted. She learnt the difference between the various ceremonies, she studied about recognizing and using different healing plants, and she learnt how to cook and serve the multitudes of uninvited guests that somehow found themselves at the feast that followed each ceremony (Lakota Woman, 1990).
Mary originated from an ethnic group that once considered women to be equal to men, but which now considered women in quite a different light. Her husband, who was an active member of AIM, and the movement itself, helped Mary to discover and understand her true ethnical roots and to be proud of them. A woman who raised seven children, who has constantly and steadfastly stood for the rights of individual freedom, showing that the strength of Indian women has not died, Mary Crow Dog's work and life testifies that
"Despite the changes endured by indigenous peoples, many aspects of the traditional Native women's roles have remained constant. Women are still responsible for maintaining culture, stabilizing the community, and caring for future generations. They still play an influential, yet unrecognized and unappreciated role in the community" (Jacqui Popick, Online Article, 2007).
Jacqui Popick, Online Article, Native American Women, Past, Present and Future.
Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal, 2006. Volume 1 Number 1. Information retrieved 06/04/2007. < http://www.lurj.org/article.php/vol1n1/running.xml>
Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman, 1990. New York: Grove Weidenfeld,