The story of a bold, strong Dakhóta woman named Rosalie Iron Wing unfolds in captivating ways in Diane Wilson’s The Seed Keeper. As much as this is Rosalie’s story—of her past, her separation from her family and her marriage to a white man—it is also the story of seeds, land and connection to a place.
Told in a range of women’s voices, The Seed Keeper spans from the recent death of Rosalie’s spouse back to her childhood in the foster care system, then goes even further back to reveal the stories of her ancestors and the land they called home. The women in Rosalie’s family and family-by-choice are fascinating, and each offers her own perspective on both the story and the setting in which it unfolds, adding depth to our understanding of Rosalie and the complexities of her character. It’s a rich tale of trauma and choice, history and meaning-making.
But while this story is about the legacy of Dakhóta women, it’s also about white settlers and the ways that Western ideas and farming tactics have impacted rivers, soil and the lives of people and animals. The contrast between how white colonizers use the land and Native Americans care for it viscerally demonstrates the inextricable connection between the earth and the people who love it. When the Dakhóta people were forced to cede their land, the women took seeds with them, and those seeds now form a connective thread of memory and ancestry between generations.
Wilson’s memoir about her life as a Dakhóta woman, Spirit Car, won a Minnesota Book Award. In her first novel, the writing sings in compact, careful sentences, lending a timelessness to the narrative and making it clear that this compelling story is not just about these characters but also about culture, landscape and how we can—and often cannot—understand each other. Haunting and beautiful, the seeds and words of this novel will find their way into your world, however far from the Dakhóta lands that might be.