The Grass Dancer Study Guide

The Grass Dancer

The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

Prologue: Crowns of Glass- Harley dreams of his father and his brother often. He remembers the accident they died in before Harley was born. Henry Burger was drinking and angry about his wife's (Jeannette Mcvay) infidelity. Burger caused a head-on collision with Calvin Wind Soldier and Duane while trying to send the imaginary eyes he saw into hell.

Chapter 1 : Grass Dancers - Set in 1981 at the Dakota Days Contest Powwow. In this chapter the reader is introduced to all of the main characters. At the powwow Pumpkin does a Grass Dance, which is untraditional for a women to do. After the powwow Pumpkin spend the night with Harley Wind Soldier. The next night Pumpkin and her friends die in a car crash.

Chapter 2: Christianity Comes to the Sioux - this chapter focuses on Harley Wind Soldier as an eighth grader in 1977. Harley internalizes his thoughts about his teacher, Jeanette McVeigh. He watches her behavior toward the students in his class, and observes she is trying too hard. Jeanette studies the culture in books, then applies it to the students, even when it may be out of context. Harley also sees Star Wars for the first time. It was so good, he sees it twice and identifies with the story and characters. This chapter also discusses how Christianity came to the reservation. The Missouri River runs through the reservation, and the river brought boats. On one of the boats came a piano, and gospel music was played. The piano allowed Christianity to take hold, as the tribe appreciated the music from the instrument.

Chapter 3: The Medicine Hole - This chapter takes place in 1976 and is told from the point of view of Herod Small War. Archie Iron Necklace has a dream about Native soldiers escaping from marksmen through the opening of a medicine hole in the ground. Upon revealing this dream to Herod in a Yuwipi ceremony, Archie, Herod, Frank, and Harley set out to find the medicine hole. While looking for it, they stumble upon the abandoned and haunted house of a white woman named Clara Miller. Herod Small War once worked for her in 1921 and engaged in an affair with her, as his wife refused to have sex with him because of certain Sioux traditions related to their newly born children. Archie Iron Necklace was the one who discovered this affair, and beat up Herod for doing so, since Archie is also in love with Alberta, Herod’s wife. Because a storm rolled in that night, the boys took shelter in Clara’s home, where her spirit then helped to reveal that Herod Small War was himself, the medicine hole.

Chapter 4: Moonwalk - This chapter takes place in the year 1969 during the Apollo 11 moon landing. Margaret Many Wounds was diagnosed with diabetes three years prior and her health has dwindled drastically. Evie and Lydia are by their mother’s side in her final moments making sure she is comfortable for passing. Margaret Many Wounds requests waštunkala , Sioux corn soup, which the daughters are more than willing to make even though it is a lengthy process to make. While coping with her mortality, Margaret Many Wounds commands her daughters to not let Father Zimmer near her, because she believed that he just wanted“to have the last word of my body and go fishing for my soul.” Even though Margaret Many Wounds was previously a devout follower of Father Zimmer, she became reluctant when she recovered her old faith. Evie agreed to her mother’s command, and then switched thoughts to her husband, Philbert’swhereabouts. Following Evie’s thought, Philbert walked into Margaret Many Wounds house and began conversation with the three women about the moon landing. Evie thinks to herself that she really does not love Philbert, but, because he was a champion bull rider like her father, she married him. Itis also revealed that Evie is jealous of Lydia’s beauty. Evie and Philbert decided to stay at Margaret Many Wounds cabin for the night. Margaret Many Wounds could not sleep because she noticed ‘dark figures’ at the foot of her bed. She began to recall the story of her two lovers, Charles Bad Holy Macleod and Dr. Sei-ichi Sakuma. Margaret Many Wounds was with Charles Bad Holy Macleod for two years before his death and did not get pregnant with him. After his death, Margaret Many Wounds began working at the Bismarck camp, a prisoner of war camp, which Dr. Sakuma volunteered to work at as well. Margaret Many Wounds became pregnant with Evie and Lydia by Dr. Sakuma, and decided to lie about the father to her tribe because she did not want to be known for sleeping with the enemy. This story was never told to Evie and she became infuriated, because her mother lied to her about her fatherand she looked up to this fictional father of hers. Margaret Many Wounds passed before the waštunkala was finished, and was reunited with her first love Charles Bad Holy Macleod. Margaret Many Wounds funeral service followed suit and her casket was surrounded by her loved ones. The chapter ends with Margaret Many Wounds’ spirit dancing on the moon past Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into space where she stopped dancing and proceeded to step off “beyond the edge of the universe.”

Chapter 5: Morse Code - This chapter takes place in 1964. Crystal Thunder and Martin Lundstrom are both outcasts in their high school. They fall in love but keep their romance a secret from their mothers as they know they wouldn’t approve. Crystal has a standoffish relationship with her mother, due to the strange magic her mother uses. Later, Martin proposes to Crystal who agrees, finding out that she is actually pregnant with his child. Crystal’s mother is not happy about her daughter’s choices but makes a deal withher. If she stays with her mother during the pregnancy, without seeing Martin at all until the child born, she may marry him. Crystal endures nine months of isolation with her mother. After the baby is born, Crystal’s mother keeps it as part of the deal. Crystal marries Martin and leaves the reservation, telling her husband the child died in birth. They move to Chicago as Martin got a job at the Chicago Tribune as an artist. Crystal becomes lonely while her husband is at work and feels remorseful about her decision to leave home. Much to her dismay, Martin’s mother Isabel moves in with them. Crystal is somewhat resentful to the woman at first, but Isabel teaches Crystal traditional wife duties and ends her feeling of loneliness.

Chapter 6: A Hole in the Sheets - Time stamped 1961, Anna Thunder is taking a bath when she is interrupted by Jeanette McVay, who is offered peaches and water while she explains the reason for her visit. Her story begins with Archeology and wanting to research the funeral and how a people deal with death on several levels. Anna’s daughter Crystal returns home from school and runs upstairs to listen to Little Richard. Jeanette spends two weeks studying Anna Thunder; at the same time, Crystal becomes withdrawn from her mother. Spring arrives as Anna sits on the porch singing a Dakota song when tribal officer Calvin Wind Soldier arrives with a naked Jeanette with a towel around her and clutching her shoes. Jeanette had traveled to Herod Small War’s place to sneak into a sweat with Archie Iron Necklace and Bill Good Voice Elk. They kicked her out and Herod’s assistant called Calvin to take her away. Anna and Jeanette attend the carnival, see Calvin with his wife and her sister before running into Chester Brush Horns. He asks for cigarettes so Anna purchases them and then buys two tickets to ride the Ferris wheel where their car becomes stuck at the top. Chester entertains Anna at her request through acrobatics in the car. When Anna awakes the next morning, Chester gathers his clothing and leaves the house smoke-filled with Jeanette making breakfast. Anna tells Jeanette that she has a plan to correct a past wrong and falls asleep on the floor. She dreams of telling Calvin that they are to be together when Herod appears and tells her of an enchanted belt, which will not let her pass. Frustrated, Anna returns to her body from her dream and wakes up to discover Crystal was holding her and had thought she died. After hearing of Albert Elk Nation’s death, Anna sabotages Calvin’s relationship with his wife by threading pieces of Calvin’s bed in Evelyn’s, Calvin’s wife’s sister, and vice versa. The relationship was destroyed when Jeannette brings news of Evelyn’s pregnancy even though her boyfriend had been kicked out. Anna becomes angry because Jeanette doesn’t believe that Anna could be responsible for this event. Jeanette leaves the next day to head into town through Herod Small War, who drove her. However, after leaving Anna places a curse upon Jeannette that she would never be able to leave the reservation even though she wants to.

Chapter 7: Honor Song – This chapter follows Lydia Wind Soldier in 1964. The early parts of the chapter detail Lydia’s relationship with her younger twin sister, Evelyn. It quickly becomes apparent that Lydia and Evelyn have contrasting personalities. On her way home during a blizzard, Lydia almost runs over a freezing Calvin Wind Soldier. After stopping, Lydia puts him into her car, drives him home, and spends the night with him, which is uncharacteristically of her. Upon returning home. Lydia’s mother thought nothing of her daughter’s night with Calvin, but it would later be revealed that they became engaged. Calvin shares his Korean War stories with Lydia, as well as his relation to Red Dress early in their marriage. While Lydia was sick, Anna Thunder visits Calvin and curses him, which leads to him having an affair with Lydia’s sister, Evelyn, which results in Evelyn giving birth to Calvin’s Child. Lydia and Calvin decide to raise the child as their own, but this takes a mental toll on Lydia, leading to her breakdown which causes Calvin and the baby, Duane, to go for a drive. During this drive Calvin and Duane are involved in an accident caused by Henry Burger, resulting in their deaths.After this incident, Lydia stops speaking.

Chapter 11: The Vision Pit - The last chapter takes place in 1982. After Charlene leaves Mercury to live with her parents in Chicago, the people of reservation still do not trust Mercury. Near the end of the book, Harley fails to recognize the important of his mother’s traditional dancing dress that she has been working on for years, finds Harley drunk at a powwow and slaps him. Herod Small War plans a vision pit experience to help Harley heal. While there, Harley is visited by his grandmother, Margaret Many Wounds, his father, Calvin Wind Soldier, and his brother, Duane Wind Soldier. Additionally, Red Dress and Ghost Horse appear and share an important message with Harley about the grass dance, tradition, and his identity. As he leaves the vision pit, he finally understands who he is.

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