In a collection of three novellas spanning several decades, "Aurelia" tells of the invasion of Indian lands, the destruction of a river the Missouri or Mni Sosa in the 20th century. It speaks to the continued failure of the people of the Northern Plains, Indian and non-Indian, to refute historical fraud and the grief and joy of an American Indian family.
The first novella, "From the River's Edge," takes place in the 1960s as John Tatekeya seeks reparation in a non-tribal court for 45 head of stolen cattle. The trial is but one of the hardships facing the Dakota Sioux. "River's Edge," first published as a single volume in 1991, introduces Aurelia Blue, Tatekaya's young lover.
The second novella, "Circle of Dancers," shifts the focus to Aurelia, pregnant with the child of Jason Big Pipe, and grappling with her relatives, Big Pipe and the political and social empowerment of the '60s and '70s.
In the final volume, "In the Presence of River Gods," Aurelia having witnessed events from 1930 to 1990, carries the history of her people into an uncertain future.
Throughout, Cook-Lynn, a Dakota-Santee/Yankton and a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe of Fort Thompson, S.D., emphasizes the power of oral history among the Dakota people. She is a literary critic and professor emerita of Eastern Washington University.