This book restores a little-known advocate of Indian rights to her place in history. In June 1889, a widowed Brooklyn artist named Catherine Weldon traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation in Dakota Territory to help Sitting Bull hold onto land that the government was trying to wrest from his people. Since the Sioux chieftain could neither read nor write English, he welcomed the white womans offer to act as his secretary and lobbyist. Her efforts were counterproductive; she was ordered to leave the reservation, and the Standing Rock Sioux were bullied into signing away their land. But she returned with her teen-age son, settling at Sitting Bulls camp on the Grand River. In recognition of her unusual qualities, Sitting Bulls people called her Toka heya mani win
, Woman Walking Ahead.
Predictably, the press vilified Weldon, calling her Sitting Bulls white squaw and accusing her of inciting Sitting Bull to join the Ghost Dance religion then sweeping the West. In fact, Weldon opposed the movement, arguing that the army would use the Ghost dance as an excuse to jail or kill Sitting Bull. Unfortunately she was right.
Up to now, history has distorted and largely overlooked Weldons story. In retracing Weldons steps, Eileen Pollack recovers her life and compares her world to our own. Weldons moving struggle is a classic example of the misunderstandings that can occur when a white woman attempts to build friendships across cultural lines and assist the members of an oppressed minority fighting for their rights.
A wonderful poignance, a bittersweetness, the haunting loneliness of the plains hangs over this search . . . a fascinating project.--Peter Nabokov
A fascinating story, well told and engaging. It will be eagerly embraced in the area of womens studies and will find interested readers in history and anthropology, as well as a large general audience.-Raymond DeMallie