One Bead at a Time is the oral memoir of Beverly Little Thunder, a two-spirit Lakota Elder from Standing Rock, who has lived most of her life in service to Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in vast areas of both the United States and Canada. Transcribed and edited by two-spirit Métis writer Sharron Proulx-Turner, Little Thunder’s narrative is told verbatim, her melodious voice and keen sense of humour almost audible overtop of the text on the page. Early in her story, Little Thunder recounts a dream from her early adulthood, “I stared at these lily pads for the longest time and I decided that there was one part of the pond that had lots of lily pads and no frogs. I said, ‘I want to go there because there’s lots of lily pads but no frogs and I like creating community.’” And create community she does. Little Thunder established the first and today, the only all-women’s Sundance in the world, securing a land base in the Green Mountains of Vermont for future generations of Indigenous women’s ceremony. She was active in the A.I.M. movement and she continues to practice and promote political and spiritual awareness for Indigenous women around the world. A truly remarkable visionary.
“We have a prophecy in our territories that states: “The tender time will come when our Indigenous women will take back their rightful leadership roles in our societies all across our nations. Until that time our Earth Mother and all beings upon her will be out of balance.” Beverly Little Thunder, our relative, sister, daughter, lives the essence of this inherent traditional role as she unapologetically has shifted the balance to its original state by resurrecting our self-determined self governed ways of Indigenous Matriarchal Clan Mothers values. Those very values that the world so desperately needs in these trying times. Solidly rooted in her Indigenous values, guided by Grandmother's Wisdom, she has shifted the balance of our Earth Mother and the thousands upon thousands of women she has graciously shared her Indigenous knowledge with.You, Beverly, have made a major contribution to all Indigenous women on this Earth Mother of ours. You have given them the desire to move forward in what we all know needs to be done in this old colonial world of ours. Praises and Congratulations to you on this important life-giving book.”
—Elder Mae Louise Campbell; Ishkote Odeima Ikwe, Daughter Jamie; Mushkeeki Ikwe Bimose Ojibwe-Saulteaux Nation, Clan Mothers Turtle Lodge Healing and Educational Village , Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
“Beverly Little Thunder’s One Bead at a Time is a timely testimonial of the indomitable character and expansive vision necessary to break deeply set patterns of intergenerational intersectional oppression in one’s personal and communal life. The capacity to transform tragedy into possibility, sadness into joy, and social exclusion into an invitation for belonging is perhaps the most powerful tool humanity has at its disposal during these critical times. Let this groundbreaking contribution inspire all of us to work together to reconstitute the circle of life.”
—Sayra Pinto, author of Vatolandia and Pinol: Poems
“Beverly Little Thunder is a dedicated visionary who holds and shares ancient wisdom for modern times. She has chosen the path of ‘earth’ teaching all those who are blessed to meet her on her path how to respect All of the Relations on our planet and beyond. All these teachings held in a womb of nonhierarchy connecting the dots to unity consciousness…as she continues to cast her seeds across this Turtle Continent, each of us treads more lightly on our Mother Earth, one step at a time … each of us a part of the eternal sacred hoop of life.”
—Rev. Ann Benedetto, Pastor, Interfaith Ministries
Beverly Little Thunder, Lakota Elder and women's activist, is a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Band from North Dakota. When she was forced to leave her Spiritual community because she was a lesbian, Beverly founded the Women's Sundance over 20 years ago to continue teaching the traditions and ceremonies of her heritage. She currently works with women and children from her Vermont home by teaching leadership skills through the Lakota Sundance ceremony, the sweat lodge ceremony, awareness of and respect for the animal and natural worlds, community talking circles, communication workshops, personal retreats, vision quests and spiritual counselling.
Sharron Proulx-Turner lives in Calgary and is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. She’s a two-spirit nokomis, mom, writer and community worker. Her previously published memoir, Where the Rivers Join: A Personal Account of Healing from Ritual Abuse (1995), written under the pseudonym Beckylane, was a finalist for the Edna Staebler award, and her second book, what the auntys say (2002), was a finalist for the League of Canadian Poets' Gerald Lampert Prize. Her 2008 poetry book, she is reading her blanket with her hands (2008), was shortlisted for the Governor General Award.
I went to my grandmother’s every summer. That’s a good way for a kid
to grow up, I think. Those were some of the happiest memories of my life
– being there at my grandmother’s. I remember going to church school,
bible school. There was a time I came home from Sunday school, got off
the bus and I was walking up the quarter mile to the house, in tears. I
walked up the steps and my grandmother asked what was wrong. I said
that the minister said I was going to burn in hell. She says, “Well, why?”
And I said, “Because he says if I’m not good, if I don’t do what my mother
tells me, then I’m going to die and burn in hell.” I didn’t know what it was
to die yet because my brother hadn’t passed, so I must have been about
three-and-a half, almost four. I didn’t know what hell was either. I just
knew it was a place you went to burn.
My grandmother says, “No, that’s not true.” She says, “No, no, no,
heaven and hell, that’s for White people. Only White people go to heaven
and hell.” So I thought about it for a minute and I thought, “Oh, well,
where do we go?” “If you’re not good,” she says, “If you don’t do what your
mother tells you, when a Lakota person dies they come back in the next
life as Navaho.” I didn’t know what a Navaho was then, but it must have
been bad. I really tried to be good because I didn’t want to be a Navaho.
And then, years and years later – my grandmother was about ninety-four
– she really didn’t recognize us. I was cutting vegetables and had all my
silver bracelets on, my turquoise, like the Navaho women wear. She says,
“Lila, chicha,” – it means, you’re so bad. I said, “What did I do, grandma?”
She says, “You can’t even wait until you’ve died. You’re already practicing
to be a Navaho.” I started laughing because I thought, she remembered
that from that long back. Who knows, maybe I have to come back as a
Navaho. I haven’t been that good.