Posted by: Matt | October 31, 2007

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded KneeBury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Dee Brown
1970
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.”

-Chief Joseph

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.

Rating: 4.5

(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.)

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Responses

  1. I’m so glad you’ve read this although I’m sure that, for you as for me, it wasn’t an easy read. I reviewed it HERE. Like you, I also wish it was required reading. Perhaps it should be on the booklist for those studying for the citizenship test 😉

  2. Matt, it doesn’t sound like easy reading, but I have added it to my TBR list and will try and get to it sooner rather than later. I am curious to know why you didn’t give it a full 5 though?

  3. Arukiyomi – I know that those taking the citizenship test already have a lot to study, they know more about the U.S. than citizens do. 🙂

    Stefanie – Good question, I should probably ask myself why a book is not a 5 when I approach writing a review. That might help direct my thoughts. I actually originally gave the book a 4 but decided on a 4.5 after writing the review. I would say the reason I did not give it a 5 is because it was at times hard to keep all of the Native American names straight and I struggled to recall all of the different events in the stories of the tribes. That could have been my fault however. I have actually only given two books a full 5 this year. I guess it takes for me to give a 5 though I’m usually more willing to give out a 4. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the explanation. Now I know when you give a 5 I should run out and read the book immediately 🙂

  5. It is a 5 – this is a fundamental book about the destruction of the native american people.

  6. I first read this book many years ago, my dad had a big hard back copy and since I have always been interested in the native tribes I read this book. The barbaric treatment of the tribes by the soldiers and by the settlers who felt they had a right to this beautiful land already occupied, because they wanted to rape the land and ensure those already living here were left with no power, not even the power to vote, is heart rending.
    It was the Spanish that taught the natives how to scalp, by doing it to them, it was the army that cut the breasts from the women and left them in mass graves with the children and those they had caught. The savagery and brutality with which these native tribes were treated is shaming to all of the settling nations, the French, the Dutch (who were particularly barbaric), the Spanish (barbaric beyond belief), the English and those who followed.
    Even today some of the native tribes are the victims of a government that wants them to speak English and to wipe out their native languages, there has never, ever been an apology to them because that would mean the government would have to accept their land was stolen from them illegally and they were wronged. If our government ever owes anyone an apology the native tribes should be first on the list, they survive and evolve, their legends, their stories and their history cannot be wiped out – our government still fears the native tribes, silly isn’t it hm?!
    This book rates as a 10/10 and it should be mandatory reading in schools across the country. History should contain the facts, no matter how barbaric, failing to teach the past leaves us to repeat those mistakes.
    I would PAY to watch as a native tribal member was voted into the Presidency, that’s the only time the US can say true equality exists in this country! It won’t happen because government and the property and land owners would fear the repercussions, but I would love to sit there and watch and what would make me even happier is if after being elected President the native’s speech was “Right, thank you for voting me into power, now Get off of our land”! lol!!
    This book came to mind again last year and I re-read it, the power of this book is still there and truly is heart rending because you know (well I did) that these people never had a chance, their civil liberties were taken from them, ignorance and fear on the part of the white invaders left a path of destruction and bloodshed that can never be justified. The blood spilt so very long ago stains the land wrenched from the native tribes to this day, it is a stain that will never go away, it marks the places of battle and massive genocide by the army, because that is what it was genocide!

  7. […] Bookwanderer Rating: Four and a half out of five stars Bookwanderer Tagline: “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.” Other Reviews:  At Home with Books, A Variety of Words, […]

  8. Wonderful blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so
    many options out there that I’m totally confused ..

    Any recommendations? Kudos!


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