Book review: The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee — by David Treuer

(Riverhead Books)

Much of what has been taught in schools, and propagated through popular culture about the role of Indians (the term used by the author throughout this book) in America’s early colonies and westward expansion, are myths. For instance, when Ponce de León arrived in Florida in 1513, Indians had been living there for at least 12,000 years, and when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth in 1620, almost 90 percent of the population of the New England tribes had already been wiped out by European diseases. Colonial powers used language, a “rhetoric of rightful possession,” as well as violence and strategic dependency, to help create and maintain control of their foothold in this resource-rich land. We were led to believe that Native American life essentially ended with the U.S. Cavalry’s massacre of more than 150 Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890. Not so. Treuer argues that these cultures are not dead and their civilizations have not been destroyed. He explores, with extensive research and first-hand accounts (including the entire transcript of an impassioned, historic speech by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces in Washington D.C.), the reinventions and resourcefulness of Native Americans from 1890 to the present day. This is a book about Indian life, not Indian death.

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury


Further Reading in Native American History

Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann

This Land Is Their Land, by David J. Silverman

Neither Wolf Nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the U.S., by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown

Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne,

The Last Stand, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Canyon Dreams, by Michael Powell

1491, by Charles Mann

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