Mary Black Bonnet has taken tragedy and turned it into triumph. Her trauma started early when she was taken from her birth mother as a baby and placed into a severely abusive adoptive home. But even as a child she knew she had to survive so she could succeed despite her circumstances.
“At first, I lived for my birth mother. I knew she was out there waiting for me, and I had to get back to her, alive. Then, when things got rough as a teenager, I knew I wanted to BE a mother, and if I gave up, I may never have that chance.”
I survived. I grew up and went back to my Tribe and my family and even though things were different, my main purpose was the same. To be a better me today than I was yesterday, and to enjoy every moment of life because I was alive, I had made it through horrible things. When you don’t know if you will make it to the next day, you are grateful to wake up and just breathe.”
Mary enrolled in college and began studying Zoology, even though her first love was writing. But during her Freshman year, she had a poem and an essay published and she changed her major to English/Creative Writing.
In publishing her stories, she was immediately aware of how many lives she touched as other survivors came up to her and told their stories and thanked her for sharing and lessening the feeling of being alone.
“I felt alone far too much during all of my trauma. I began writing to feel less alone, but the blessing was in doing so, I helped and continue to help, so many others. Having a survivor come up to me and say, ‘I don’t feel alone anymore,’ is one of the greatest things I could ever hear, and it shows that I’m doing exactly what I am meant to do.
I do believe we go through things for a reason. I know now, that I lived through my horrific experiences so that I can turn around and help others on their journey.
I was born Lakota, I come from a place, from a people and from a strong history. A Lakota Winyan (woman) never gives up. There is a saying, ‘Don’t get mad, get even. I don’t believe in that, I believe in, “Success is the best revenge.” There is no success to be found in giving up, in believing the lies you’ve been told about your value as a person; in curling up and hiding in your victimhood.”
She has published several essays in various anthologies, written for the Canadian Magazine “Life As a Human” as well as been a guest writer on topics involving the Indian Child Welfare Act. As an undergraduate, she was awarded a research grant from the National Council on Undergraduate Research, named a Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities, and traveled as a working writer while she was a full-time undergraduate student.
After graduation, she was named an Outstanding Young South Dakotan, awarded spots at Artists residencies, at various schools and Universities. attended the National Book Foundations Writing Camp, collaborated on the mixed media art show Indian 3.0,Indian 3.0 from Billings MT. She had several photography/art shows of her work and won awards for her photography. She continues to publish her work and travels to schools and universities to give readings of her work and work with survivors and cross-cultural adoptees. Her art continues to be in group shows and she has three pieces of work that are currently on Tour, in South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa. In October she will have her fourth solo show at the Beede Art Gallery on the Mount Marty Campus.
Mary lives in South Dakota with her family, where she home schools her daughter with a culture and language based curriculum she designed and wrote herself. Mary is proudly an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Mary’s work can be read and purchased by request.