Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West is the book that covers the historical events the Western Americans had to survive and describes the betrayals and conflicts of people. The peculiar feature of this book is the language and style chosen by the author, Dee Brown. The reader could easily understand the goals of the book and learn the history of the Native Americans and their attempts to prove their rights to the American soldiers. In this paper, the evaluation of three important claims of the book will be given to explain how Brown investigated the history of Native Americans and their impact on the lives of white men and proved that historical injustice should not be forgotten or neglected even nowadays.
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It is wrong to believe that Dee Brown has one message to discuss in his Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. There are a number of ideas that could become serious lessons for readers. Among the existing variety of points and suggestions mentioned in the book, it is possible to underline three key claims that will be examined in this paper. First, it is necessary to remember that any story has a number of sides, and the history of the Native Americans is not an exception. The author underlines that the lives of Native Americans were changed dramatically because of the deceptive treaties offered by white men so that the worth of white-Indian relations and even the abilities of Native Americans to prove and protect their rights could be put under a question. Then, Brown wants to explain his sympathy for the Indians on the basis of the violence and egoism demonstrated by the American soldiers and their intentions to gain as many benefits as possible even at the expense of someone’s lives. Finally, the author explains that white people could give as many promises as they want but they are not obliged to keep all of them but just those they find beneficial and valuable for them.
Each claim has its evidence and support in the text. For example, the idea of violence and egoism of white men through the evaluations given by Native Americans is impressive indeed. The Indians were trapped by the activities of the soldiers but cannot give offensive comparisons and blames. Their comparisons remain to be tolerant and strong: “We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears… We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit made them. They were not, and would change the rivers and mountains if they did not suit them” (Brown 370). As for the treaties developed by white men, Native Americans could not help but feel frustration about each promise given by the Whites they tried to believe in. They “tried to keep the promises in the treaty, but after the soldiers came and burdened… hogans” (Brown 24), they “fought battle after battle, and signed treaty after treaty” (Brown 4), they “promised to keep the treaty… promised four times to do so” (Brown 50). Besides, it is hard to count how many times the word “promise” is mentioned in the book: “promise me a home”, “promise me today” (Brown 267), or “make possible a final promise which never would be broken again” (Brown 9). Such enumeration proves Native Americans were sick and tired of promises so that they became angry with white men, their promises, empty intentions to keep their treaties, and unclear future they could never have.
The explanations of claims are powerful indeed because Brown uses dates and real life examples and explanations. 1795, 1863, 1865, 1869, etc. are the years when treaties between the white Americans and Native Americans were signed. Each time the name of the treaty was changed so that white men could prove their choices, explain their activities, and use the abilities to change the conditions of treaties. White people were not constant. They could change their decisions in a short period of time. Native Americans could not get used to such speed and the necessity to keep an eye on their invaders. Promises given by white men varied considerably because “the white men are foxes and peace cannot be brought about with them; the only thing the Indians can do is fight” (Brown 95).
Considering the claims and explanations of those claims, it is possible to say that Brown succeeded in the creation of the book about the history of the Indians, their challenges, and the importance to co-exist with white men, who did not want to give way and share the land they could conquer. The book as a whole is a powerful and logical interpretation of the events that occurred between the middle of the 1700s and the end of the 1800s. The lives of Indians were changed by American soldiers, and Brown described how the former developed their attitudes to the latter.
In general, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is not only the story of the Indians. It is the story of hope and the abilities to forgive, about the mistake and empty expectations, about promises and the unwillingness to keep them. The book is a significant contribution to the American history and the relation of people who considered the land of the United States as their home.
Brown, Dee Alexander. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, New York: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc, 2009. Print.
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