Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Kay Koppedrayer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Lakota Woman (1991) and Ohitika Woman (1994) are the consecutive life stories of Mary Brave Woman Olguin (also known as Mary Crow Dog and Mary Brave Bird). The books portray Mary's telling of her life and its connection with Lakota history and tradition. Non-Native artist and writer, Richard Erdoes, was involved in the co-authorship of both books and recent criticism often focuses upon Erdoes' involvement in the writing process. I suggest that a reading which emphasizes Erdoes' contribution only isolates the reader from the actual subject of Lakota Woman and Ohitika Woman: Mary Brave Woman Olguin's life and the traditional and contemporary Lakota elements which are evident in the books.

I uncover a number of patterns in Lakota Woman and Ohitika Woman which relate to naming and, through the use of ancillary material, I illustrate the ways in which the patterns call up Lakota naming practices. The honoring of names is integral to traditional Lakota culture and finds expression in Lakota Woman and Ohitika Woman through Mary's possibly intentional engagement of naming practices in the contemporary context of her life. Invoking a name is a way of honoring a person and their deeds. I illustrate some of the ways of honoring, such as the repeated invocation of names, the recognition of heroic deeds, and the specific practice of non-naming. I also investigate name-giving ceremonies through a discussion of Mary's personal names.

While naming refers to the Lakota naming practices which will be explored, I also use naming in the sense of identifying or indicating one's position or beliefs. Mary Brave Woman Olguin's understanding of who she is revealed through overt declarations as well as through the associations she draws to specific people who are connected with Native culture. Mary’s naming of her gender, her cultural affiliations, and her relationships with others contribute to her self-identification within Lakota culture. I will explore the way in which Mary Brave Woman Olguin indicates, or names, her identity as a Lakota, specifically as a Lakota woman. I offer an exploration of Lakota naming practices and Mary’s presentations of her identity. My investigation is informed by an understanding of the interpretation of traditional and contemporary Lakota culture and is achieved through a critical reading of Lakota Woman and Ohitika Woman as well as through information derived from extratextual sources by and about the Lakota people.

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