A bit like The Grapes Of Wrath, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is another book I re-read this year for the first time since I was a kid. And a bit like The Grapes Of Wrath, Dee Brown made me sob and rage and want to right some wrongs and… and… and…
Brown avoids the kind of Dancing With Wolves revisionism that makes the native Americans into universally peaceful, pastoral, Glastonbury Green Fields types. There were collaborators and bastards there, as anywhere. But his laborious (but never laboured), detailed, humane, heartbreaking book really does make it clear quite how comprehensively the settlers robbed, lied, cheated and slaughtered in the name of greed and evangelism (or ‘Manifest Destiny’) and all this only a handful of generations ago. By halfway through, I wanted to stop reading, couldn’t face another account of an Indian chief accepting the white man’s word, only to see his people starved, imprisoned and slaughtered. But I finished it because I felt like I had to. And you should too.
“The exodus of this whole people from the land of their fathers is not only an interesting but a touching sight. They have fought us gallantly for years on years; they have defended their mountains and their stupendous canyons with a heroism which any people might be proud to emulate; but when, at length, they found it was was their destiny too, as it had been that of their brethren, tribe after tribe, away back toward the rising of the sun, to give way to the insatiable progress of our race, they threw down their arms and as brave men entitled to our admiration and respect, have come to us with confidence in our magnanimity, and feeling that we are too powerful and too just a people to repay that confidence with meanness or neglect – feeling that having sacrificed to us their beautiful country, their homes, the associations of their lives, the scenes rendered classic in their traditions, we will not dole out to them a miser’s pittance in return for what they know to be and what we know to be a princely realm”
General ‘Star Chief’ Carleton. The shit.
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