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Being Lakota Identity and Tradition on Pine Ridge Reservation by Larissa Petrillo, Melda Trejo, Lupe Trejo

Being Lakota Identity and Tradition on Pine Ridge Reservation

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Being Lakota Identity and Tradition on Pine Ridge Reservation by Larissa Petrillo, Melda Trejo, Lupe Trejo

Being Lakota explores contemporary Lakota identity and tradition through the life-story narratives of Melda and Lupe Trejo. Melda Trejo, nee Red Bear (1939-), is an Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge Reservation, while Lupe Trejo (1938-99) is Mexican and a long-time resident at Pine Ridge. In their forty years together, the Trejos raised eleven children, supported themselves as migrant workers, and celebrated their lives and cultural heritage. Conversations between this Lakota/Mexican couple and scholar Larissa Petrillo convey key aspects of the couple's everyday life: what it means to be an Indian and Lakota; how they negotiate their different ethnic identities; their feelings about recent concerns with appropriating Lakota religious practices and beliefs; and the tenets of Lakota spirituality that shape their perceptions and actions. These issues are highlighted as they talk about their experiences setting up a Sundance ceremony. In the late 1980s they began holding a Sundance on the Red Bear family's land near Allen, South Dakota, and the ceremony was dedicated to Lupe after his death. Being Lakota deepens our understanding of modern Lakota life and affords a memorable glimpse of the choices and paths taken by individuals in a Native community. It also serves to explore new approaches to collaborative ethnography, with reflections on learning to work well in a Native community.


Important and interesting questions [are] posed by this articulate and reflective couple's shared biography. . . . The book's strengths are its clear and engaging writing, the compelling biographical narratives contained in the oral history material, and the unresolved but important puzzle of the Trejo's place and relationship to Lakota culture and community. These are elements that make Being Lakota worth reading and worth wondering about. -Joane Nagel, Western Historical Quarterly -- Joane Nagel * Western Historical Quarterly * Only after finishing the richly detailed episodes does one realize how skillfully Petrillo develops her purpose, convincing readers that, as Lupe insists, widespread intermarriage between Indian nations is indeed traditional, and consequently, an Indian person has several ways to live as an Indian. The Trejos's voices are vivid, the book thought-provoking. -CHOICE * CHOICE *

About the Author

Larissa Petrillo is an instructor of interdisciplinary studies at the University of British Columbia. Her articles have appeared in contributed volumes and in American Indian Quarterly.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st March 2007


Larissa Petrillo, Melda Trejo, Lupe Trejo

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University of Nebraska Press


176 pages


Regional studies
Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography



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