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

Dee Brown - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

A review by Randall Bouza

This book brings to light, and places front and center, possibly the most significant event in American history. That is, the genocide and displacement of the native inhabitants of what was, or would become, the United States of America, thus enabling the formation of the worlds most powerful republic. It is difficult to imagine how most readers, particularly those who are American citizens, would not have their personal perspective or opinion altered, in some small measure at least, by the historical events described within.

Dee Brown makes prodigious use of footnotes and bibliography, from Congressional Records to U.S. Army treaties. The author documents the scope and breadth of racism held by most whites at the time toward the brown skinned natives, by people such as President Abraham Lincoln, to General Phillip "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" Sheridan. You will learn how Congress gives the movement a politically expedient and identifiable name, calling it Manifest Destiny. Vestiges of this philosophy continue today. For example, what percentage of American's give little or no second thought when considering the idea that the nation most certainly should extend from "sea to shining sea". The reader learns of various significant Indian battles, and defeat, which took place across the land. Such as the Black Hills, Paha Sapa, an island of conifer forest amongst the vast grasslands of the high plains, and held sacred by the Sioux. How ironic it is that this desperately defended Indian ground once lost, is later to be even further "desecrated" when it among all places is chosen as the site for which the massive likeness of 4 white leaders shall be carved into the very heart of the revered mountains. (Mt. Rushmore) To the reader, the words Sand Creek, Red Cloud, and Ghost Dance will acquire a new lifelong meaning, which is probably as it should be. This captivating and heart wrenching book concludes with a final scene taking place shortly after the massacre at Wounded Knee. It is a cold December day in South Dakota. Dead and injured Indians are being laid to rest along the straw covered floor of an Episcopalian church. A banner over the pulpit reads, PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN.