cover image Strong Medicine Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say

Strong Medicine Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say

Amy Hill Hearth. Atria Books, $23 (267pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-9779-0

Hearth, best known for her oral history of the Delaney sisters Having Our Say, captures the voice of 83-year-old tribe matriarch Marion ""Strong Medicine"" Gould as she looks back on her life as a Lani Lenape Indian. A once- powerful tribe ranging across New Jersey and parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, the arrival of Europeans would eventually turn the Lenape into ""a hidden people"": says Gould, ""We kept quiet in order to survive."" With great care, Gould describes the challenges of 20th and 21st century Native Americans and her significant role in her southern New Jersey tribe's transforming way of life. In many ways, Native Americans' modern struggle is for a public identity, especially apparent during the civil rights movement: ""All of a sudden, we aren't dark enough.... Indian was not black. We were totally left out in the cold."" Gould locates the source of her strength and the tribe's-the Indian way-in the extended family, and suggests that many people's problems today stem from a lack of ""kinfolk to lean on."" Poignant moments of love and loss bookend the tale, and in between Hearth works almost invisibly to craft a graceful, sustained look into the quiet struggles of contemporary Native Americans.