27 February 2009

15. One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women, The Journals of May Dodd - Jim Fergus

I took a while to read this book because life happened. It had nothing to do with the book. I really enjoyed reading it.

The story is formed mostly through a series of journal entries. The protagonist is a white woman from Chicago. She has volunteered to take part in a two year government program where white women are to become brides to Cheyenne Indians, live with the Cheyennes, and to have mixed race babies. Does that sound far fetched and stupid? It sounded pretty darned stupid to me.

Then I found that the way it was all stitched together made the story believable. Not probable, but believable anyway.

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but the author's note at the beginning of the book says the inspiration for the novel was from an actual historical event. He says that "in 1854 at a peace conference at Fort Laramie, a prominent Northern Cheyenne chief requested of the US Army authorities the gift of one thousand white women as brides for his young warriors. Because theirs is a matrilineal society in which all children born belong to the mother's tribe, this seemed to the Cheyennes to be the perfect means of assimilation into the white man's world."

The author took liberties with and greatly expanded upon that incident. I can imagine the laughter from the Army at the time. No way in hell would that be allowed to happen.

Well...it does happen in the book. May Dodd is one of the brides. Her story is fascinating. The descriptions of the "savage" way of life is quite revealing. Yes, they repeatedly call the Indians savages. It is not a politically correct book. That is on purpose.

I found this book to be very interesting. The interactions between the different brides, the brides and the warriors, the brides and the squaws, the Army and the Cheyenne people, all very interesting. The relationships between Catholics, Protestants and others were interesting.

Some of the characters were a real pisser. The Kelly twins and their Irish accent and street wise ways. Gretchen, a large and very strong Swiss woman with another heavy accent who marries a lazy and fearful guy who she "controls" in some humorous ways. Euphemia, a black "white" woman who is an escaped slave and is an amazing story in her progression to becoming a warrior herself. There were more than a dozen different characters that were well developed and I got a sense of who they really were.

I very much enjoyed this book. Some of the subject matter, the events of the book, are pretty unsettling (war, raids, racism, sexism, etc) but the book was a lot of fun to read.

I think the thing I liked the most about the book were the descriptions of the land, the wildlife, the places. I could see it. I could smell it. I could imagine it. It made me long for it...and made me wonder if that was the place Chris McCandless was seeking. I imagine it was.


  1. This one sounds good. I hadn't heard of it.

  2. I forgot something else interesting about this book. The main charachter is May Dodd. She is the one who writes the diary. She is female. The author is male. I am not familiar with much work written by a man from a woman's perspective. It was interesting. I have seen mixed reviews on this though. Some say he nailed it. Some say he has no idea what a woman thinks and feels. I thought he did a pretty good job.