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Book review: Lenni-Lenape tribal elder paints a picture of a hidden people

“When my husband and I were coming up, our tribe was in hiding. We were a hidden people," says Marion "Strong Medicine" Gould.

Hidden no longer. In "Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say, the 84-year-old elder of the Lenni-Lenape tribe finally tells her story of what it was like to grow up as an American Indian.

She shares that story through Amy Hill Hearth, the same writer who penned the bestselling Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years. But where Having Our Say relied heavily on the narrative of two 100-year-plus sisters, Strong Medicine Speaks is a picture of the Lenni-Lenape tribe over the past century, because Hill Hearth contrasts

Gould's oral history with how the tribe operates today.

The Lenni-Lenape (formerly called the Delaware) had a lot of reasons to hide. Not only could their heritage send them to a reservation in a different part of the country, but it could catch the attention of the Ku Klux Klan, who counted Indians as regular targets. Gould never gave up her heritage, though, even if she didn't shout about it from the rooftops — she's called Strong Medicine because of her extensive knowledge of using plants and herbs for healing.

She also raised the current chief of the tribe, Mark Gould, and she was a key player in deciding whether the Lenni-Lenape should open themselves up to the public through powwows, and, eventually, this book.

It's a fascinating and, at times, funny read, even more engaging than Having Our Say because of the color and texture Hill Hearth adds through scenes of modern day tribal life. Together, the oral history and the narrative create a clearer picture of how Indians in America live today through the story of one very strong woman.

"Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder

Has Her Say

By Amy Hill Hearth

Aria Books, 224 pages, $22.95

Book review: Lenni-Lenape tribal elder paints a picture of a hidden people 05/31/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 2:59pm]
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