Saturday, November 24, 2012

Last Standing Woman by Winona LaDuke

Last Standing Woman by Winona LaDuke

With a memorable cast of characters, Last Standing Woman chronicles the history of the people from the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.  The story begins at the borderlands of the Dakota and Anishanaabe with a woman,  a woman who was drawn to the border, the Last Standing Woman. The event that occurs is the Dakota Conflict of 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota and it results in the largest mass execution in the U.S. and the removal of the Dakota Indian tribe from Minnesota lands.

Last Standing Woman follows the White Earth Anishinaabe (also known as the Ojibwe or Chippewa) tribe from the 1860’s to present day.  Last Standing Woman follows seven generations and is a powerful first novel.You learn how white settlers tricked and teased the Native Americans out of their land and systemically set out to destroy their culture.  LaDuke takes you on a journey from suffering to independence as the White Earth nation fights for their tribal rights, land and culture.  The Anishinaabe culture leaps off the page and you can practically smell the fry bread cooking on the stove and hear the drums beating in the distance.

Even though Last Standing Woman is a work of fiction LaDuke states in her author’s note that the history, traditional stories and even some of the characters are true, written to the best of her ability.  LaDuke has written a powerful narrative of her people’s heritage and it shows the strength of the Native people to overcome, adapt and survive.

The White Earth Indian Reservation is still the poorest and largest reservation in Minnesota.  The characters in Last Standing Woman are strong, especially the women, as they overcome adversity, abuse, starvation, diabetes, death of loved ones, alcoholism and more.  This is not a novel that dwells on sadness and loss but a novel that highlights the history and strength of the Anishinaabe people and the adversity they face.

Educate yourself by reading Last Standing Woman.