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Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1741 words Published: 14th Apr 2017

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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown is a fully documented version of the obliteration of the Indian Americans in the late 1800s culminating at the Wounded Knee Battle. Brown brings to light torture and atrocity story not well known in the American history. The way in which American Indians was decimatedis best understoodby the authorarguments that”The Whites told only one side. Only his own best deeds – the only worst deeds of the Indians, has the white man told” (Brown 316).

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When I commenced reading this book I assumed I had a good handle on what happen to the Native American Indians. The Indians roams their ancestral lands peacefully and basically, with great admiration for the nation and its citizens. Then the white man approaches, stumbling all over himself with the aim of reaching the gold fields in California or the rich the high plains farmland. The Indians are no more than an annoyance, a bothersome barrier that should be relocated to one side if patent destiny is to be attained. Lands are and reservations stolen, the land that white man has already plundered or passed up, are assigned. ‘Those who do not go to the set reservation are hunted down cruelly. Sometimes even those who agree to come in are pounced on (Sand Creek for instance) and massacres happens with cover-ups that make many people not believe the story (Silvestro and Silvestro 144).

Once on the reservation Indiana are often forced to move once again, farther away from their ancient homeland, after some gold is discovered or convenient highway to West Coast under plans. On the reservation they are fed leftovers of the white man by corrupt, unscrupulous supervisors, and discouraging words depict death. ‘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’ (Brown 108).This history book is striking to look at, yet sorrowing to read. The photographsand illustrations are excellent, and were printed on good quality paper. It has a feeland look of a coffee table volume, while having the rich content of history text.

The Indian are massacred at Washita, Sand Creek, and Wounded Knee with petite or no public tumult, but when he reacts by killing a couple of settlers, imitating the white Americans through mutilation, the public atrocity is deep and the military is ordered a blank “kill” plaid (Hobson 34). With every chapter the shocking treatment is recurrent, leaving the reader with only two alternatives of responses – vomiting or weeping. It is exceedingly hard to read the Brown’s book, not for the reason that the sentences long or the language is awkward, (which is not the incident) but for the reason that each sentence, page, and chapter will surely leave every but the most cold-hearted with a reflective sense of woe, shame, and disgust. Brown deals with the entire major and the minor actions that entailed almost all Native American communities and the scenario remains always the same.

The work of non-fiction, tries to tell the story about American West from the viewpoint of the indigenous populace, The American Indian. This in itself sorts Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee a significant literature work as it is one of limited books supportive of the Indian foundation. This is done by the use of council first-hand, autobiographies, and records accounts.

Each of the novels19th chapters deals with oneparticular tribe, battle, or historical occurrence. Brown goes into explicit and deepdetail throughout, as demonstrated by the book’s almost 500 pages. However, as some may complain the book is text-book-like or boring, I think the opposite is really true. In general, very little is acknowledged about this terrible massacre and the book is a wonderful and fascinating learning tool. Brown has transcribed many books about the lives of the American Indian, comprisingof Killdeer Mountain and Creek Mary’s Blood (Sharp 96). The Indians did not bother or cause uproar, as Crow Feather articulates: “We never go to the Great Father’s country and bother him about anything. It is his people who come to our country and bother us, do many bad things and teach our people to be bad” (Brown 275). Here Brown strongly captures attention to the point that the Native Americans endured a lot, and did not request for anything more than being let live in peace in their own land as they were before egotistical white settlers came.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee opens a door into the past. It forces individuals to understand the dark side of the American history and the extents white men went to achievethe Christian attaindestiny. With the exemption of a few civilians and soldiers, the white man is depicted as an indiscriminate sadist and murderer. They slayed Native Americans irrespective of age or sex,frequentlyscalping and mutilating their bodies, and even getting as far as chopping off their genitalia. These bizarre and shocking exposures give the reader a terrifyingvision of the birth of a great nation.

This is perhaps the most extensively influential book about American history published in the twentieth century. Dee Brown used to be a University of Illinois Librarian, and had written fifteen books about American history before he wrote “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. His characteristic professionalism is very apparent in the excellent research and documentation which went into this multifaceted history of American West realized from an Indian viewpoint.

The most captivating thing, however, is the plight of the central character, Dr. Eastman. He is sent to a school of white population, and forced to leave his tribe, traditions, and beliefs, he became the essence of what an ideal “Indian” could developto – at least in the perspective of white man (Hobson 271). He also intrigues by his stern struggle, not only ethnically, but personally too. Walking a line between different cultures, and never accepted well in either of them; Dr. Eastman became a spokesperson for the Native Americans, while still attempting to maintain his personality as a tribe person. The whole situation where the tribe viewed him as a collaborator, an Indian, turned to white man – that would not fit within his culture. His story is strongly portrayed in this book – and provides a great vision into some of the extreme crimes ever committed on the Native Americans.

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Dee Brown, in this colossal undertaking, relates the closing ages of an ignoble period of American history. Straddling the period between 1850 and 1890, this book relates the doom of the many native communities who were massacred for the sake of the greed white Americans for land and other resources. Brown says (pg. 211) that ‘”only men who utilized the land were entitled to it,” a statement that clearly identifies America at that time from the beginning of the book unfolding the ejection of the Navajos community from their own homes to reserved places, and then later permitted to go back to less fertile spots, Wounded Knee, the occasion that marked the final battle of the Native Americans.

Throughout the book, the expressions of the past can apparently be heard. Wherever possible, Brown uses contemporary versions to tell the story, only filling in the holes as a storyteller on a documentary. The feeling of intimacy accompanied by the numerous maps and photos brings society that has disappeared to life, and I would argue, left the domain a poorer place. Although this was perhaps never the purpose, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” is more of an indictment of white Americans and an attitude that continues to this day, since it is past events history. The attitudes that permitted the U.S government and army to annihilate a whole nation can still be seen in the American approach towards international affairs and may aid to explain why many outside the United Sates are so opposed to the American policy in nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

I would envisage that this book may be extremely uncomfortable for Americans, telling, since it does of the massacre carried out just for settlers could have bigger land and everything within it. However itchy though, I deliberate that reading this book should be obligatory for everyone who wants to gain an understanding on the America of only over one century ago. Reading it may also provide some understanding into why there are problems. There are plenty reservations where once proud societies who believed that land belonged to no body but was merely borrowed, are forced to live.

Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a brilliantly written and intuitive piece of American literature. Dee Brown asks us to confront their past, which may make us uncomfortable. But there remain two sides to every tale, and Brown shows the reader the side that they rarely see. By forcing the reader to think about these concerns, Dee Brown accomplished the objective he set out to attain when he began writing his eye opening account on the American West (Sharp 411).

Further, the book offers the history that ultimately leads to the Wounded Knee slaughter tragedy. The pain, misunderstanding, suffering, fight for personal starvation, and, as well as cultural self all lead to an astonishing story of not just the saga of the establishing of American West, with the downfall of Native American nations – however, it is also an close look into the nations’failure in inter-relations – and sacrifices of culture that fallouts when nations divide. Brown does an excellent job to point out the hypocrisy of the settlers many times throughout his book, stating that “the white men of the United States… talked so much of peace but rarely seemed to practice it” (Brown 8). This is a persuasive history, and one that have to be not only forgotten, but it ought to be studied, and eventually understood. I believe its power, and worth still carries importance nowadays – and the history value presented applies to not only nations at large, but to individuals that forms the nations – particularly when these nations find themselves in conflicts with each other.


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