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Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: a Critical Analysis

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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. By Dee Brown. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970. Pp. xv+447).

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is a boring title for such an extraordinary book. This is my second time reading this book. I began reading this book again just to refresh my memory, but once I started the first page I could not put it down. I was a freshman in high school the first time I read it, and the only reason that I read it was because it was required. Now, I am six years older and I realize what a tragic story this is. Especially after learning about the Native American community in Native American history class. This book is a comprehensive history of the endless Indian wars throughout the American west that began around 1860 with the relocation of the Navajos and ended in 1890 with the surrender of the remaining Sioux at Wounded Knee Creek.

The Author, Dee Brown, based this book largely upon the records of treaty councils and the words of Indian leaders such as Chief Joseph, Geronimo, and Crazy Horse. This book is not merely an Indian History as someone may think. Dee Brown’s careful documentation and design is what sets it apart from an ordinary history book. The book covers only 30 years, 1860 to 1890, but they are the years that the West was won, as they say, and the Indians’ culture and civilization were lost.

The book is written from the viewpoint of the Indians and it really makes you feel bad for the Indians. Sisseton Chief, Paul Mazakootemane, said “No one, who fights with the white people, ever becomes rich, or remains two days in one place, but is always fleeing and starving.” Unfortunately this is not fiction, and your feelings can in no way alter what has happened in our past. The most sickening thought, and what make me ashamed to be linked to this, is a quote from an anonymous Indian. “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.” This quote is what really stood out in my mind when I finished the book. The only good that can come from tragic stories such as this, is the old clich that “we can learn from our mistakes”. Hind-sight is always 20/20.

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