Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd is a novel by Jim Fergus. This book was published many years ago, but appears to have been recently re-released. I was able to check out a copy from my library, though I've seen a different printing on prominent display at Target recently.
This book is a novel that attempts to tell a different possible ending to an actual historical event. Apparently, at one time during the mid 19th century, some leaders in the Cheyenne tribe suggested to the United States government that they would be willing to trade 1000 horses for 1000 white women. It sounds like the Cheyenne meant this to serve as a means of integrating their tribe members into the race of white settlers, because in Cheyenne culture, children become part of the mother's tribe (rather than the father's). In reality, the US government laughed this off and refused the compromise. In the book, the government accepted this deal and began a program of recruiting brides to live among the Cheyenne, marry men in the tribe, and bear them children who will lead the tribe into white society.

The story combines several of my favorite elements: historical fiction, the Great Plains, and the experience of a person who finds herself surrounded by a totally foreign culture. Our heroine, May Dodd, volunteers for the Brides for Indians program to escape her confinement in an insane asylum on the basis that she was "promiscuous," having engaged in a relationship with a servant in her family's household that yielded two children. May then becomes something of a leader among the first installment of brides given to fulfill the compromise. The narrative tool of the book has May writing journal entries describing the events are her feelings about the whole program. I thought the book had a compelling story which was told in an engaging manner, so I'm reluctant to go into more details for fear of spoiling the plot twists!. I thought this book was great and I highly recommend it! 

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