This important book, first published in 1970, tells the deeply disturbing story of how white European settlers wiped out the majority of the Native Americans living in America through murder, transmission of diseases, such as smallpox, and starvation. Native Americans of many tribes had their hunting lands taken away in the second half of the 1800s and were forced to live in small reservations, mostly around the western half of the country. If they resisted, they were often killed. Not just men either. Women and children were also slaughtered, typically by the US Army. Indeed, US Army General Philip Henry Sheridan was quoted as saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
One of the battles mentioned in the book occurred at Sand Creek in the Colorado Territory on November 29, 1864. About 650 Colorado volunteer forces attacked a Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment along Sand Creek. Although these tribes had already begun peace negotiations with the U.S. government, more than 140 Native Americans were killed and mutilated, most of whom were women and children. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_Creek_massacre for details.
Another massacre occured at Wounded Knee. Almost three hundred members of the Lakota tribe were killed by soldiers of the US Army on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota following a botched attempt to disarm the Lakota camp. For more details about what happened there, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wounded_Knee_Massacre.
Almost every chapter was the same story. White settlers wanted the land the Native Americans lived and hunted buffalo on. So the US government would get some of the leaders to sign “treaties” that in many cases the Native Americans didn’t understand. If they resisted signing, they were often killed or taken by force to far off reservations where they didn’t want to go. Later on, the US government would always break the treaties signed by the Native Americans when it no longer served their interests. No wonder they sometimes responded with violence. They just wanted to live in peace on their tribal lands and they were never allowed to do that.
Reading this book was so upsetting. It took me months to get through it because I was so disgusted and appalled by the behavior of the US government and aggressive white settlers. No wonder we are still such a violent country. It’s been that way ever since the European settlers started massacring native Americans rather than finding a way to live together with them in peace.
4 thoughts on “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Book Review”
Civilizing natives by mass death. A horrible chapter in US history. Shocking that the dark side isn’t taught in highschool US history classes.
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I read this when it first came out, or shortly after anyway, and it made a great impression on me. I believe they made a film of it later but I never saw that. I should look for it among the classics on some of the stations. Thanks for jogging my memory.
Thanks for reading my posts and commenting on what you read. It’s much appreciated!
A good review. Thanks.
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