Thursday, October 21, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 40

One Thousand White Women ~ The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus is a fictional story based on a historical event. In 1854 there was a peace conference at Fort Laramie where a prominent Cheyenne chief requested that the U.S. Army authorities provide a gift of one thousand white women as brides for his young warriors. Looking back at history, we know that this did not occur. However, the book takes the premise that President Grant decided this was a valid idea and his administration went about getting "volunteers" for the task. The first set of women dispatched were a motley crew – volunteers, prisoners and patients from mental institutes that were allowed to gain their freedom by volunteering for the program.

The book follows the {fictional} journals of May Dodd {a woman who had been sent to an insane asylum by her prominent family for being promiscuous}. The journals tell her story of being in the asylum, her trip out west to the plains, how she and the other women {numbering about 40} are given to a tribe of Cheyenne Indians and their subsequent time with the tribe.

It was a very interesting book with a glimpse into what might have happened had there been an opportunity for assimilation of the Indians with the white man. It follows the rest of U.S. history in that the tribe {with many of its white women} end up being destroyed by the U.S. Army because the Indians would not leave their land to go to the reservations {all because a gold rush in the Black Hills was creating a clash of cultures}. It has a sad ending, but was an excellent read.

Passages that stuck with me from the book:
"It has been my unfortunate experience, Miss Dodd, that in spite of three hundred years of contact with civilization, the American Indian has never learned anything from us but our vices." – Captain James Bourke

It is clear to me that if I am to keep any hold at all of my sanity, I must not dwell on what might have been... to do so would be to go truly mad. It is the one lesson I learned well at the asylum – to live each day as it comes, day by day, and to dwell neither on regrets of the past nor worries about the futures – both of which are beyond my power to influence. – May Dodd

"It is the white man way to kill all the animals, to drive them away. It is not the way of the People, for we and all the other animals have lived here together, we have always shared, and until the white man came here there has always been enough for everyone." – Chief Little Wolf

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