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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970)

by Dee Brown

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,97293937 (4.27)285
Dee Brown's eloquent, meticulously documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century uses council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions. Brown allows great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated ...… (more)
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» See also 285 mentions

English (90)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (92)
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Not a page turner, nor an easy read (fortunately I listened to the audiobook). A truthful telling of how we won the west that fills in all the holes left out of the narrative we were all taught in school. The book is unabashedly from the perspective of the Native Americans who we cheated, harassed, slaughtered, and destroyed as a people. This should be required reading by every high school student in America and especially by every congressman. ( )
  JohnKaess | Jul 23, 2020 |
Heartbreaking, mindset-shattering, eviscerating.

To get the positives out of the way first: Dee Brown's immense wealth of knowledge and research contributes to make Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee a detailed-yet-well-paced experience. Each chapter chronicles a particular battle, people, or plight, in rough chronological order. Without resorting to extensive flashbacks or appendices, Brown manages to create a sense of the West's treatment of Native Americans from colonisation to the particularly brutal 1800s, when genocide was effectively carried out.

Using transcripts, interviews and evidence from the time, Brown creates a moving portrait that shatters many myths which still resonate, and reminds us of the sins of such ground-level intolerance.

Admittedly, the book would've held more sway when first released, for a generation raised on WWII and '50s-era patriotism. Nowadays, we're more aware of the graphic nature of the treatment of the Native Americans, and so the book's heavy-handedness is particularly evident. Yet, it's easy to forget how marginalised this culture remains - in social understanding, in cultural portrayals, etc. With a pointedness approaching black humour, Brown opens each chapter with a detail of the more commonly-known 'great' events that occurred around the world concurrently with that particular act of one-sided warfare. The development of the telephone. The publication of all the great works of Romantic literature and art. The freaking Emancipation Proclamation! Yet here, in the very same country, an entire race - nay, many dozens of races - were being wiped out. It seems gauche to qualify levels of genocide, but this remains a particularly insidious one. Unlike the oligarchic genocide of the Nazis (where one feels as if removal of a few key figures would destabilise the structure), or the hereditary problems that plague, say, Israel and Palestine, this crime seems one of brutal, individual hatred. The most chilling massacres that Brown describes often occur simply because a few individuals decided - in a moment - they didn't care to be civil with these fellow human beings.

Bury My Heart is perhaps the pinnacle of pop history. In telling his tale exclusively from the other side, Brown weaves a manipulative, overly literary tale. Most of his characters are pure heroes, they speak entirely in riddles, and he pours on emotion like it was a John Williams soundtrack. At times, the academic and the writer in me cry out for some editing, perhaps some levity between the darkest moments, definitely the occasional examination of social and historical contexts that doesn't rely entirely on pandering to our heartstrings. Even when he does describe those white men who were sympathetic, or - as is always the case - seemed to find greater strength in "crossing over" to the Native side completely, Brown could give us more. It's fascinating to read of these men who married into tribes and basically lived with them, or of the young Native Americans who went to university and obtained degrees in the white man's world. But they only enter the narrative at the point when they become part of the bloodshed. What were their daily social patterns like? How did their friends and family respond to the change, and how did it affect the way they interacted in their respective new worlds? This would have been eminently more fascinating, but perhaps it's just outside the scope of Brown's aims.

Yet, this seems a cheap allegation to hurl at such a noble work. After all, where were the moments of levity during what was effectively a decades-long trench war? Where were the moments of tolerance? With each passing chapter, and each passing massacre, the book beats down any resistance you may have to the idea that there is goodness in the minds of men. It's not happy news, but if there's one area of history where that worldview needs to be accepted, it may just be here. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
A tragic but powerful retelling of everything you learned in American history...from a different point of view. The writing was very straightforward and engaging; it did not read like a textbook at all. The non-fiction narrative was interspersed with quotes and real testimonies from people who were there. Experience the slow loss of culture, religion, and land that American Indians underwent throughout the westward expansion, and the truth about broken treaties, mismatched massacres, and bold leaders. Without bias or padding, this book is a fascinating overview of a time in history that many people are too ashamed to think much about. ( )
  booksong | Mar 18, 2020 |
Heartbreaking in its authenticity, this book tells the true story of the encounter of the native peoples of North America with European and later American settlers. Much of the story will be unknown to non native people, as we have been sold a series of myths that hide the actual and documented butchery. Dee Brown presents this painful story in a clear prose style that aids in understanding not only of events he had documented, but also some insights into how the participants experienced the events. Highly recommended. ( )
  jordanjones | Feb 21, 2020 |
This is a classic book and clearly demonstrates how the Native American peoples suffered a genocide at the hands of successive US Government Administrations. This policy was directed towards those Indians who both physically resisted Westward expansion and peaceful Indians who had previously assisted people like Lewis & Clark, such as the Nez Perce and the Ponca, and the Utes who were friends of Kit Carson. Each indiscriminate tragedy and massacre is articulately decribed in each chapter. The economic structure of each tribe is also described whether agrarian or plains Indian in nature together with the unique tribal Treaty arrangements that were made with the US Government and subsequently dishonoured and broken. ( )
  thegeneral | Dec 30, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (54 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dee Brownprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gardner, GroverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knipscheer, JosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sides, HamptonForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

- (Stephen Vincent Benét)
Ik zal daar niet zijn. Ik zal mij oprichten en heengaan. Begraaf mijn hart bij de bocht van de rivier. (Stephen Vincent Benet)
For Nicolas Brave Wolf
First words
It began with Christopher Columbus, who gave the people the name Indios.
Americans who have always looked westward when reading about this period should read this book facing eastward.
Now they were all good Indians.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
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Dee Brown's eloquent, meticulously documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century uses council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions. Brown allows great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated ...

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