Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown (Published 1970)
Interesting that this book made it onto both my list and Peppino’s and that we probably read the book at about the same time. He says he was in high school and I know that I was in 8th and since we’re just a year apart in age it could be that we encountered the book in the same year even though it would be thirty years before we would meet.
I read the book because it was part of an assignment for my American History class. The teacher started on the unit about American Indians and the settling of the west and rather than teach the concept of Manifest Destiny as a prevalent belief among the white settlers of the time that they used as their justification for moving the native peoples off of their land, he was teaching that the white settlers were destined by God to have that land. Being an inquisitive person, and knowing that I am an American Indian whose parents (I’m adopted and my father is Irish and my mother German) had always taught me what little they knew about my heritage, I challenged what the teacher was teaching. He didn’t like it and told me that I should spend the rest of the days he’d be teaching that subject in the library and that I should find whatever support I thought I could find and write a paper on what I thought about the subject. Somewhere in my house, I still have that paper.
Anyway, I began to do some research and that’s how I came to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It took me beyond what little I had known of American Indians and opened my eyes and my mind to a whole new way of looking at the world. It’s title is taken from the Wounded Knee Massacre, December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where 250-300 men, women and children, mostly women and children, were killed by soldiers of the United States Army. Wounded Knee is still a touchstone to Native American people and became the site of a major protest in 1973, just a few years after this book was written.I’ll leave you with this quote from the book:
“The country was made without lines of demarcation, and it is no man’s business to divide it … Say to us if you can say it, that you were sent by the Creative Power to talk to us. Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit. If I thought you were sent by the Creator I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me, but understand me fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with it as I chose. The one who has the right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim a right to live on my land, and accord you the privilege to live on yours.”Chief Joseph of the Nez Percés
… and this song, “Wounded Knee” by Walela (Rita Coolidge, her sister Priscilla Coolidge, and Priscilla’s daughter Laura Satterfield)