An Indian in White America

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Temple University Press, Jan 30, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 256 pages
"At time when most Americans don't realize that over 66 percent of Indians live off the reservation, this book is a powerful witness ... it will reward the reader with an illuminating look into what it means to be a member of America's Native minority." --Kirkus Reviews Narrated with intense honesty, this autobiography of Mark Monroe, a Lakota Sioux Indian, is a story of courage, faith, and determination, and a rare opportunity to witness the life of a contemporary American Indian. Despite lifelong confrontations with violence, racism, and personal hardship--alcoholism, family deaths, illness, poverty, and unemployment--Mark Monroe has worked to instill ethnic pride in his fellow Indians. After an early idyllic childhood at the Rosebud South Dakota reservation, Monroe moved with his parents off-reservation to Alliance, Nebraska. There he first felt the sting of white America's racism from signs outside local businesses that read "No Indians or dogs allowed." As a young man, Monroe enlisted in the military, for the first time experiencing outside acceptance and learning vocational skills. Upon his return to the United States, he worked as a baker. At the same time, however, he was being sucked into a life of alcoholism, begun years earlier with social drinking. Eventually he was unable to eat or to work. After rehabilitation, he ran for Police Magistrate. Monroe was the first Indian ever to have filed for public office in Alliance, and his candidacy divided the town. Though he lost the election, he gained community support and a growing sense of dignity from the campaign. From the misery and hopelessness he suffered as an alcoholic, and the pains of recovery, Monroe became aware of the cultural difference between Indian alcoholism and white alcoholism. This understanding led to his work with Indian alcoholics at the Panhandle Mental Health Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska--another first. No Indian had ever served on the Center's staff. Since his recovery, Monroe has been an active participant in his community and continues to fight for the legal rights of American Indians. In 1973 he founded the American Indian Council, which today offers a variety of health, educational, and social programs, including a nutrition program, a hospital busing program, and alcohol counseling. "[An] interesting representation of Lakota male experiences in the realities of present-day life in the Great Plains." --Wicazo Sa Review "Mark Monroe has broken out of society's cage and achieved outstanding things. We are all better off for it. His personality and stature--qualities of leadership, determination, and stamina--quickly override the poverty-stricken times and the tragic aspects that linger constantly at the edges of this Indian world, this seemingly desolate place. Compared with other Native American biographies, An Indian in White America stands near the top." --Charles Ballard, Institute of Ethnic Studies, University of Nebraska "I know of no other volume that deals so frankly with the familiar Indian problems of poverty, racism and alcoholism while offering, at the same time, the powerful example of one man's struggle out of those traps which still threaten Native people. Although Mark Monroe describes himself as 'just an ikee wicasa--a common man who's trying to provide for his family,' he provides us all with lessons for healing and survival. His autobiography is an uncommon gift." --Joseph Bruchac, Editor, Greenfield Press Review

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User Review  - Kirkus

This glimpse inside the reality of life for current Native Americans will intrigue but also appall in its depiction of their plight. Monroe, a Lakota and Cheyenne, offers his autobiography with the ... Read full review

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I knew Mark and his family when I lived in Alliance Nebraska for 15 years. Mark was a lovely man, friend, father, grandfather and leader. He shares a childhood of walking with his brother 15 miles into town to go to school through all weathers. Also the atrocity of the school "Opportunity Room" where Native kids were expected to warehouse themselves during the school day and not be a nuisance. The prohibition of anything Native: Lakota language was forbidden (it still is in many parts of America), Native food and story-telling was frowned upon. His bravery during the Korean War, Then the personal distress for his daughter Connie and son in law Gary, who served In Vietnam. Gary was dowsed with Agent Orange and forced to drink it by the Sargents to prove it was harmless, only to find out that after his return, his son was born with multiple crippling birth defects from the poison effect on DNA. Gary started a Lakota Village with authentic tepees to share Lakota heritage with local Lakota peoples that had lost their own language and culture. Gary lived an entire year in a tepee to try and rediscover his roots. Bear in mind that Nebraska winters can have a foot of snow for months and -40degF wind chill for a week but he said a small fire in the middle of the tepee made it surprisingly comfortable. A sweat lodge completed the discovery process. A very brave loyal hard working and resilient family who I admire very much, and a book well worth a read. Dave Burnett  


Wood South Dakota
Alliance Nebraska
A Trade and a Family
Losing Evetything
Fort Meade
A New Life
Vlll + An Indian Candidate for Public Office
IX + Indigenous Mental Health Worker
Programs for Indians
Speaking for Ourselves
Losses and Recoveries
Afterword by Kenneth Lincoln

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About the author (2009)

Mark Monroe is currently Director of the American Indian Council, Inc., in Alliance. He formerly served as Vice President of the Nebraska Indian Commission and as President of United Indians of Nebraska. He and Carolyn Reyer have been friends since 1982.

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