Red Dove: Listen to the Wind
By Sonia Antaki
Red Dove is a Lakota girl living in the year 1890. She lives with her family – mother, grandfather, and brother. They don’t live on a reservation, but are visited by traders and other people. One day, a man and woman visit, and the woman insists that Red Dove must go to school. Red Dove is given a choice, which is more than many other Lakota children in that era got.
During this time period, many children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools, some never to see their families again. At the boarding schools, their culture was taken, they were forbidden to speak their language, and were punished if they did. It was a traumatic experience for those children and has had consequences that are still being felt by their descendants today.
In Red Dove’s case, she decides to go, along with her brother. The next time the woman comes by, Red Dove and her brother ride with her to the school, where they are left with the nuns. Before she leaves her family, Red Dove is given a special pouch by her grandfather. She keeps it with her throughout the boarding school experience and it helps her understand people, even when they speak to her in English, which she is just learning. The pouch gives her a special way to understand other people and she uses it to help other kids at the school. Some of the nuns are not kind to the children, and one is downright cruel. This one especially seems to have it in for Red Dove. One of the nuns is very nice to the kids, but the cruel one ends up sending her away.
Red Dove knows that she is half white and half Lakota, but she does not know her white father. This proves to be a big problem for her.
If you know your history, you know what happened at the Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. That horrific event is told in this book. Red Dove is there at the school when wounded people are brought in for help. She learns that some members of her family were there. What will she decide to do?
This book is a great historical novel that tells of an event that is often ignored by modern history books. The story is written from the perspective of a Lakota child who is growing up during this most turbulent time. The voice of Red Dove is that of a strong female lead character. She is scared, but she is also brave enough to face the challenge of leaving home and going into the entirely new and unknown situation at the boarding school. She faces every challenge set before her and she keeps her dignity. As a role model, Red Dove is wonderful.
The book also gives a good history lesson and describes an extremely painful time in history. Many people were massacred at Wounded Knee Creek and this event has far-reaching consequences for everyone. Women, children, and elders were all killed in the massacre. To this day, their descendants still live with the memories and the losses suffered that day. Having a story set in that time period offers a chance for modern readers to learn about this pivotal event and to understand how it affected so many.
The ending of the story was well-done and all loose ends are taken care of. But, the reader also has things to think about. The story will open many points for classroom discussion. As such, this would make a great novel to use as a class reading assignment. There is a lot of potential for some meaningful discussions based on this story and the events it portrays.
As a stand-alone novel, it is also just a great read. It’s a powerful story with a good message and plenty of historical facts. I highly recommend this novel.