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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Analysis
Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a fully documented
account of the annihilation of the American Indian in the late
1800s ending at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Brown brings to light
a story of torture and atrocity not well known in American
history. The fashion in which the American Indian was exterminated
is best summed up in the words of Standing Bear of the Poncas,
"When people want to slaughter cattle they drive them along until
they get them to a corral, and then they slaughter them. So it was
with us_. "
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a work of non-fiction, attempts to
tell the story of the American West from the perspective of the
indigenous population, The American Indian. That in itself makes
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee an important work of literature as
it is one of the few books supporting the Indian cause. This is
done through the use of council records, autobiographies, and
Each of the book's nineteen chapters deals with a certain tribe,
battle, or historical event. Brown goes into deep and explicit
detail throughout, as evidenced by the book's nearly 500 pages.
However, while some may complain Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is
boring or text-book-like, I believe the opposite is actually true.
Generally, very little is known about this terrible genocide and
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a wonderful and interesting
learning tool. Brown has written many books about the life of the
American Indian, including Creek Mary's Blood and Killdeer
Mountain, but Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is clearly his
Brown made sure to include songs, quotes, and portraits sprinkled
throughout the book. These are very important as they break the
monotony of page after page of text. The portraits are well
selected and placed, as are the quotes, and help present a wider
picture of the point in history.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee helps to open a door into our past.
It forces us to look at the dark side of our American history and
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the lengths white men went to fulfill our Christian manifest
destiny. With the exception of a few soldiers and civilians, the
white man is portrayed as an indiscriminate murderer and sadist.
They killed Native Americans regardless of age or sex often
scalping and mutilating the bodies, and even going as far as
cutting their genitalia from their bodies. These bizarre and
shocking revelations give the reader a horrifying view of the
birth of our great nation.
As with any book of this nature, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee has
a few shortcomings. One of the greatest, I believe, is the
language Brown used. In some places, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
is difficult to understand and could lose potential readers. This
is a book every American should read, but the writing techniques
and vocabulary used prove to be a challenge. However, the events
this book reveals make reading it worthwhile.
Another complaint is that each chapter tells the same story, just
with different tribes. But, I believe Brown had a purpose for
writing this way. It shows that no matter where the Indians
turned, they were slaughtered. This is a powerful point and I
believed it was clearly conveyed.
The merits of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee far outweigh its few
faults. It tells a story that is not well known or understood, but
is a crucial and horrible part of our American heritage. The book
is comprehensive, but only tells the beginning of what was done in
the name of manifest destiny and war profiteering.
Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a wonderfully written
and insightful piece of American literature. The author asks us to
confront our past, which may make us uncomfortable. But there are
two sides to every story, and Brown shows us the side that we
rarely see. By forcing us to think about these issues, Dee Brown
accomplished the goal he set out to achieve when he began writing
this eye opening account of the American West.