Book Review of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
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From Amazon (fully agree with reviewer - they just express it better):

What can one say? This work, first printed in 1971, is still in print and still widely read, and it very much deserves to be. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is probably one of the most eloquent, intense and moving works of exposition I've ever read.

For the most part the author, Dee Brown, lets the records and the personal reports of the various participants in the events of the American Indian wars of the 19th Century speak for themselves. He creates thereby a narrative that is more riveting than any modern adventure novel and more poignant than even the finest of the Greek tragedies. The work is very well researched, with an excellent bibliography of the author's sources. It is also well illustrated, with photos or paintings of the various leaders of the native American tribes of the time. It is a veritable who's who of the native west. There are short biographies of many of the more important individuals. Names like Black Kettle of the Cheyennes, Little Crow of the Santee Sioux, Red Cloud and Crazy Horse of the Oglala Sioux, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces ("I will fight no more forever,") Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Sioux, and Cochise and Geronimo of the Chiricahua Apaches are among those most likely to be recognized by non-native Americans.

What I found most interesting was the extent to which the various tribes were able to hold out against the odds, even resoundingly defeating the US military that hounded them nearly to extinction. It is evident from even a quick reading that it was less military superiority than the policy of starving out the people by destruction of land, animals, and other property that brought about defeat of the tribes. The US military of the time made a war on women, children and the elderly, slaughtering even infants in surprise raids made in undeclared wars or in provoked confrontations. Starvation, freezing weather, and disease brought these proud people to their knees, not military might.

In these times of international conflict the tragic treatment of the native American population should be a cautionary tale of what can happen when the self righteous, the culturally narrow, the ambitious, and the greedy use the military to achieve their own agenda. The types of people responsible for the near eradication of a race of people in the 19th Century are still common enough today. In my opinion this book should be required reading for any American history course from junior high school level and beyond it. Only by raising the consciousness of the average citizen from youth onward can the specter of racism on this scale be avoided.