Friday, January 08, 2010

Book review - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

Wow! Been awhile since I wrote. Sorry about that. Holiday traveling and all. Have finished two books in the past few weeks. The first is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. This interesting 446 page book is subtitled "An Indian History of the American West." I had long heard of Mr. Brown's work and looked forward to reading it. While it did not totally live up to expectations it was still a very good read. The book was well-written and moved along quite smoothly. The documentation seems to have been as good as the circumstances allowed.

Mr. Brown begins his narrative in 1860 and follows white expansion across the plains of the United States until 1890. The story is told from the perspective of the American Indians rather than the settlers and soldiers. This aspect alone makes the book worth reading. As tribe by tribe fight and fall it is clear to see the divisions and gut wrenching decisions that they underwent. Treaties were broken and atrocities committed by the United States military. Whole peoples were forcibly removed from their homes. Hearing about these events from the view of the people who underwent them is enlightening and somewhat sorrowful.

In spite of all the good points to the book, Mr. Brown did stub his toe several times. He accused the whites of magnifying Indian atrocities while minimizing their own. He then proceeded to do just the same thing in reverse. In like manner he (and the tribesmen of which he wrote) holds the United States accountable for the actions of rouge officers and free-lancers even while complaining that the whites all too often held the Indians accountable for the unsanctioned actions of hot-blooded young braves. Mr. Brown also condemns Philip Sheridan's statement that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. However, I was unable to ever find a good white man in the book.

Overall Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is an interesting and well-written read. If one keeps in mind the obvious double-standard frequently displayed there is much knowledge to be gleaned from the pages. I give the book one and a half thumbs up.

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