Thursday, April 21, 2011

One Thousand White Women, the Journals of May Dodd

One Thousand White Women, the Journals of May Dodd
by Jim Fergus

This book is historical fiction about the life of Little Wolf, a famous chief of the Cheyenne tribe. Little Wolf traveled to Washington DC to be presented with a peace medal by Ulysses S Grant. In this tale, he suggested to the president that the United States Government give one thousand white women as brides to the Cheyenne people to help assimilate the Cheyennes into the white man's culture. The children of these unions would be raised by the Cheyennes and they believed those children would be accepted in both white & Indian worlds.

Of course the president was aghast and the tribe quickly escorted out of town. But as word of the Chief's suggestion spread, a certain faction of women made it known they were willing to become the wives of these "savage" Indians and thus an agreement was made. Women were "recruited" from insane asylums, prisons, ghettos, etc. The first 100 women were selected and set on a train to the west. Among these women was May Dodd, who's journals are the basis of the book.

I googled Chief Little Wolf to try to determine whether the proposition made to President Grant was factual. I was not able to confirm that part of the story as true, but much of the story built around him, with the exception of the white women that joined his tribe is factual. I applaud Mr. Fergus in his research and the tale he spun around it.

At the onset of the book the story is brought to us by a present day descendant of May Dodd. Very quickly into the story I lost track of what was real and what was fiction and had to revisit some of what I had already read to determine if the author was talking or if his characters were talking. I found his voice in the story to be very believable, his story well written.

Not to be nit-picky, but once the story became the writings from the journals of May Dodd, the writing was a little less believable. A journal, by necessity, has to be looking back on events that just happened and at times it seemed very unlikely that she could be writing about the events that had happened as she did. Aside from that, I found her journals to be a fascinating account of her life as she looked forward to her new freedom from the asylum she'd been locked away in, toward her new life among the savages. She was an intelligent woman and although the prospect of living with the Indians, marrying into the tribe, became more and more frightening the closer she came to that reality, her assimilation into the tribe was recounted with a great appreciation for the people she came to know intimately.

I completely enjoyed this story. The ending was sad in many ways, but in researching Chief Little Wolf, it's true to his story as chief of the Cheyenne, and the story of the American Indians. I understand more than ever the tragedy of what early Americans did to the native people of this country.

I give this book five of five shots.

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