Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
445 pgs. (not including endnotes)
“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and broken promises…. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. …I have asked some of the great white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They cannot tell me.”
This book was written using only Native American sources. This is their story.
Sometimes a book comes along about which people will say that everyone should read it. This is one of those books, at the very least if you live in the United States, but probably no matter where you live. This is one of the most heartbreaking and angering books I have ever read. It is utterly shameful how Native Americans were treated in my country, I am ashamed.
The repetition in this book is disturbing because it is factual. It is necessary that it be so because every tribe was treated the same. They were murdered by U.S. soldiers, they then retaliated which perpetuated the killing. The government would then decide to sign a peace treaty with a tribe while at the same time forcing these people on to a small reservation. The treaty would then be broken over and over again by the U.S. as they stole more and more of the tribe’s land eventually leaving the tribe starving or exterminated.
It is painful to read the same thing happen to every tribe even as they plead for peace. The above quote by Chief Joseph is representative of what every Native American wanted. They did not want the white man dead, they wanted to co-exist peacefully and be able to come and go as they wished.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is an immensely sorrowful piece of non-fiction. There is nothing hopeful about it, and that is why it had to be written. It should be required reading in every high school. And of course I highly suggest you pick up a copy.
(This being a non-fiction book I assume it to be factual. I realize that can be a dangerous assumption. I of course do not have the time or resources to check its veracity. I have read that Robert Utley has done very good work on the subject as well. Some consider his work to be more unbiased. Having not read his work I can neither confirm nor deny this.)