Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (Dee Brown)

This was a remarkably depressing book. It is the sort of book that shows over and over again that there was literally nothing the Native Americans could have done to protect themselves from the all consuming and endlessly veracious greed of the European settlers. Just about every ‘tactic’ imaginable was used by the Native Americans – from treaties to war to abject capitulation – and nothing made any difference. The final result was always the same.

This is a tale of genocide. It is a tale in which some of the greatest American heroes – including Abraham Lincoln and General Custer, are shown as being responsible by their action or inaction for this genocide. This book has been much criticised, often on the basis of not being ‘balanced’, particularly in not acknowledging what else was going on in the country at the time that made certain actions of the government more or less inevitable. And, to be honest, I don’t know nearly enough about American history to give an informed opinion on that question, but what is virtually impossible to ignore is the effect of US government actions and inactions throughout this period and that effect was invariably the same – the genocide of the local indigenous populations. I struggle to see how this could be excused by other ‘pressing matters of state’.

The process was virtually always the same. The government would make a treaty with the local population guaranteeing land to them if they agreed to give up certain other lands. These treaties would then be broken by white settlers or miners. The government would do nothing to remove white settlers from Native American lands, despite their treaty obligations – but tell Indians to either move further west or south and to forsake their lands. There would be a conflict – generally involving atrocities almost too disgusting to restate by European settlers on the native populations – which would then force the native population to retaliate. This would then bring self-righteous slaughter on these ‘savages’. The Native Americans would be moved to land incapable of sustaining them, often with local diseases they had no immunity to, where they would be effectively starved to death by the government, a government which had promised to protect them and supply them with provisions. When it became clear that those directly responsible for them were (almost invariably) exploiting them, the government would effectively say, “Oh yes, we have given him a rather firm slap on the wrist and a very stern talking to. Sorry to hear about your children dying, but things should get better now.”

When this book was written these ‘wars’ were not a hundred years old. We probably like to think of these times as distant and regrettable – but they are terribly recent and their effects are ever-present. The last massacre of Australian Aboriginals, for example, occurred in 1928.

There were things that annoyed me about this book. One was the constant use of ‘in the moon when the deer loose their horns’ and other similar phrases, which really started to grate pretty quickly. The author is also much criticised for not quoting his sources – and this is unforgivable. However, that said, none of this leaves much room for celebration over how the Native American population was treated. This is a story of infinite shame.
  

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Wrap Up

  • 9/10
    Devastating
  • 6.5/10
    Relentless
  • 10/10
    Depressing
  • 10/10
    History
  • 8/10
    Interesting

PROS

  • Instances of Compassion and Respect

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Skinner
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Skinner

This book is really sad, and depressing,
it must be read by every U.S citizens. It has lots of history which I was not aware of before.
the author told the stories with different council
records, first-hand descriptions, and autobiographies.
I promise this book will not disappoint you.
A must read.

Clair B Cruz
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Clair B Cruz

Yes I agree… It a great book full of historical things

Anthony P. Bush
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As a U.S citizen should read the the book to know about history of war.

William Davis
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William Davis

Yes Skinner this book is emotional i like to read historical books like this that shows how brave men fight for their lives and for the lives of many.

Michael Simmons
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Michael Simmons

I agree this book is really touching. I would love to read more on the history of the americans. I wasn’t disappointed reading but i didn’t expect american to struggled so much in olden days.

rasik shilpakar
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rasik shilpakar

Great book. It shows over and over again that there was literally nothing the Native Americans could have done to protect themselves from the all consuming and endlessly veracious greed of the European settlers.

Alex M. Hahn
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Alex M. Hahn

yes rasik

roman shilpakar
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roman shilpakar

I love this book. It is a tale in which some of the greatest American heroes – including Abraham Lincoln and General Custer, are shown as being responsible by their action or inaction for this genocide.

Clair B Cruz
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Clair B Cruz

Great historical book… Has a lot of struggle and emotions… I prefer reading it many tyms

Frank Huffman
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Frank Huffman

Interesting book with full of emotions… One must read it

Anthony P. Bush
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It is very curiosity that what action was of American hero’s in the war and this book helps to know about that.

theresa underwood
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Excellent book! There is mot much literature explaining the savage conquest of Native Americans by European descendants (sometimes assisted by rival tribes). This is a factual account from their point of view detailing the shameful lies and horrific acts of murder, deceit, torture, betrayal, etc. of many populations of people who in most cases just wanted to live a peaceful existence.

William Davis
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William Davis

hmmm … i guess you are right. In almost all the historical book i have read there is always a betrayal and murder. Killing one another like animals. Even today i think history has repeated.

nabilatta
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nabilatta

I love this book. It is a tale in which some of the greatest American heroes – including Abraham Lincoln and General Custer, are shown as being responsible by their action or inaction for this genocide.

Alex M. Hahn
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Alex M. Hahn

This one of the books which tells the truth about native Americans when they lost everything from
their homes to the love ones. This book is a tragedy.
It will touch your heart if you read it deeply. A masterpiece.

Brice Lin
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Brice Lin

There are dreams that felt so real and sometimes i wonder if dreams are infact a spirit real which is real. I am not sure but sometimes dreams do come true.

Brice Lin
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Brice Lin

In school days i hated history because i was so hard for me to remember the dates and names of the brave men and the battle they fought. But reading this book it was like reading a story book that i enjoy so much knowing the history of the americans and how they fought for their freedom.