Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Indian History of the American West (Arena Books)

by Dee Brown

Paperback, 1987



Call number




Vintage (1987), Paperback


History. Nonfiction. HTML:The "fascinating" #1 New York Times bestseller that awakened the world to the destruction of American Indians in the nineteenth-century West (The Wall Street Journal). First published in 1970, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee generated shockwaves with its frank and heartbreaking depiction of the systematic annihilation of American Indian tribes across the western frontier. In this nonfiction account, Dee Brown focuses on the betrayals, battles, and massacres suffered by American Indians between 1860 and 1890. He tells of the many tribes and their renowned chiefs�??from Geronimo to Red Cloud, Sitting Bull to Crazy Horse�??who struggled to combat the destruction of their people and culture. Forcefully written and meticulously researched, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee inspired a generation to take a second look at how the West was won. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Dee Brown including rare photos from the author's personal colle… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member anterastilis
I mentioned at some point in the last month that i wanted to take a break from the fantasy-romance-fantasy-romance pattern I'd fallen into. I wanted to read something more non-fictionish, something that made me think.

Despite the depressing nature of the book and stopping mid-way to read Harry
Show More
Potter, I was able to finish it. I'm glad I did, but I didn't enjoy it.

How can you enjoy a book like this? Sure, I like History as much as the next guy (probably more), and I have always known that what the white settlers and the US Government have done to the Indians* was horrible and reprehensible. I know that what I've learned until now is one-sided: it's the same old story - "History is written by the victors". So going into this, I thought I'd be disturbed and saddened, but probably not surprised.

This book made me realize a few things about myself and prejudices and skepticism. So, my ugly middle-class-white-privilege shows through. And I hate that. I feel ill typing that. But there's nothing I can do: if I ignore it, it remains and I remain a product of my freaking aristocratic roots. If I try to work past it, I have to deal with it and its ugliness. It's no-win.

I found myself being skeptical of what I was reading as I read it. Cold hard facts are hard to deny. e.g.: These people and those people fought, those people lost 30% of their warriors and these people imprisoned the rest. Those are the kinds of things that I can relate to on a purely logical level. But when dialogue and characterization is introduced, I start to lose my even perception a bit. I thought that Dee Brown was slanting it the other direction, going on and on about the white people's trickery, theivery, and murder; and portraying the Indians as simple pacifists who never retaliated, or even provoked a little trickery, theivery, and murder themselves. Reading something that I know is slanted usually bothers me. Reading somthing that I know is slanted against what I have been taught bothers me a lot, and that made me approach this book with a stand-offish attitute. As the book went on I like to think that I started to lose that attitude...or maybe I just became desensitized to the atrocities Dee Brown was describing. They never use the word "genocide" in the book, but the word "extermination" was tossed around a few times. I guess "genocide" was too human a term for the white settlers and Government to apply to the Indians.

I did a bit of research as I went along. I went to the internet and some image databases to see if any images existed of Red Cloud, Kicking Bird, Sitting Bull, whomever I was reading about. It was hard for me to realize that this didn't happen that long ago. This might be something obvious to most people, but I'm a student of Classical History. When I hear "long ago", we're talking 2,000 years. This is within just a handful of generations. The book covers just 30 years: 1860-1890. That's all it took and the continent was drastically changed. Entire nations were wiped out. People were herded and scattered. They never saw their homes again. Their children died. Not just their people, but their way of life was attacked. This all happened within the last 150 years.

"California Indians were gentle as the climate in which they lived. The Spaniards gave them names, established missions for them, converted and debauched them. Tribal organizations were undeveloped among the California indians; each village had its leaders, but there were no great war chiefs among these unwarlike people. After the discovery of gold in 1848, white men from all over the world poured into California by the thousands, taking what they wanted from the submissive Indians, debasing those whome the Spaniards had not already debased, and then systematically exterminating whole populations now long forgotten. No one remembers the Chilulas, Chimarikos, Urebures, Nipewais, Alonas, or a hundred other bands whose bones have been sealed under a million miles of freeways, parking lots, and slabs of tract housing." Brown, pg.214

One day I was reading this on the bus and a Native American woman sat down next to me. I instantly felt uncomfortable and put the book away. I don't know why. I havent' sat and thought about that.

So, here I am, not sure what to think. I am glad that I read this book, even though it revealed things about my country's recent history and about myself that I was relatively blissfully unaware of.

*PC? Not PC? That's what they refer to themselves as throughout the book, so I'm using it here, within context.
Show Less
LibraryThing member dougwood57
Dee Brown's book evocatively relates the sad tale of the final displacement of the American Indian from the West. The book covers the period from about 1860 to the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890.

By 1860 the die was cast for the native peoples of the Plains. The railroad was coming, the buffalo on
Show More
its way to extermination, their way of life destroyed. And yet, none of it had quite happened yet. The denouement was startlingly swift. Still there were heroic episodes - Red Cloud's War (which wasn't really Red Cloud's, but that's another story), Little Bighorn, Chief Joseph's rebellion, Geronimo's resistance, and the Cheyenne exodus. With the exception of Red Cloud's War and the forced retreat of the US Army from three forts on the Bozeman Trail, these efforts were of the tragic heroic variety with very short-lived success. For example, Crazy Horse surrendered within a year of Little Bighorn. In just a few decades the reader witnesses the fall of the tribes from a state of nomadic freedom to utter subjugation.

Highest recommendation. Very well-written and essential.
Show Less
LibraryThing member gbill
It's been a long time since I read it, but I was reminded of it recently by watching the movie of the same name. It's a great book, and a powerful history that will move you. Scholarly but simply told, and heartbreaking. It can be difficult to read because of the cruelty and treachery of the white
Show More
settlers, but I think it's important for people to know this part of American history. It will likely stir up many emotions - sadness, shock, outrage, guilt - and I've known some who simply could not finish it because of that. See it through.
Show Less
LibraryThing member crazy4reading
I have to first start off by saying that I have never trusted anyone who was or is a politician. I have always said that politicians lie, cheat and steal from their so called friends. So now on that happy note I have to say that I am some what surprised at what I read in Bury My Heart at Wounded
Show More
Knee. Mainly because of the way The White men swindled the Indians out of their land. As I read the book I would gasp at the things that I read. I hate to even think that I am possibly related to any of those white men. I do remember reading about the Trail of Tears, when I worked in the fourth grade. I just remember not really understanding why that happened. You are made to think that the Indians did some thing wrong and are savages.

This is a book that everyone should take the time to read. There is so much more information in this book then in any American History book you will ever read. We owe those Indians a lot. As I was reading the book I was talking to my husband's one uncle and he said that I would be shocked by the truth. He was right. And to think that all these years I never knew what I know now. I am glad to say that my kids are part Indian/Native American on their father's side. My son has been told that he looks like a Native American even with is red hair and blue eyes.

I loved this book and I am going to be looking for more books about Indians/Native American.
Show Less
LibraryThing member TerriBooks
This is probably the most depressing and tragic book I've ever read. It just goes on and on, injustice after injustice, murder after murder. If it were fiction, you'd have to ding the author for giving no relief. But it's not. Getting through this description of genocide, which happened right here
Show More
through our own government, is traumatic. So why would I rate it so highly? I loved the respect the author gives to the native Americans, especially with the careful use of quotes directly from them, and I love the way each chapter is begun with a list of the more familiar history of what was happening at that time. It makes the events of the battles with the Indians connect with me -- they aren't so very long ago. It's a worthwhile book, and I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone.
Show Less
LibraryThing member setnahkt
I grew up in the 1950s, when cowboys and Indians, or cavalry and Indians, or settlers and Indians were all staple media fare. Now and then there was a nod in the direction that perhaps the Indians weren’t all that bad; the Lone Ranger had Tonto, after all.

Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded
Show More
Knee clears away any lingering hangovers from that era. One tribe after anther (and Brown only considers the Native Americans west of the Mississippi) gets lied to, cheated, and massacred: the Navajo, the Sioux, the Cheyenne, the Nez Perce, the Poncas, the Utes, and the Apache all find out what Manifest Destiny meant in practice.

In narrating one tragedy after another, Brown adopts a native voice. Whites are described by their native titles and names. Thus, a colonel is an “Eagle Chief” and a general is a “Star Chief”; Nelson Miles is “Bear Coat”, William Sherman is “Great Warrior”, and Oliver Howard is “Old Man of the Thunder”; the President is The Great Father, and Congress is The Great Council. Similarly, time gets native terms – “Corn Planting Time”, “Moon When Leaves Fall Off”, “Geese Going Moon”. This might seem an affectation, but it worked for me – made me think in a different way.

And Brown acknowledges that now and then a white was honest – Star Chief Gray Wolf Crook gets some praise in his dealings with the Chiricahua. And now and then a native is acknowledged as a savage – Victorio is described as a “ruthless killer” who tortured and killed. And it’s also acknowledged that Native Americans and whites often tended to behave the same way; if a Cheyenne (for example) wanted revenge, it was often taken on the first white encountered – and similarly innocent Cheyenne were massacred for actions they didn’t commit.

Rather depressing reading; I knew some of these stories from general study of American history but having them all collected and hammered home one after another is almost overwhelming. Recommended.
Show Less
LibraryThing member EdVonBlue
This is a book that should be required reading for high school students. I was a sophomore in high school when I read it and it had an immense impact on my outlook on life. In fact, after reading it I decided that I wanted to live my life like the Indians. The Indians didn’t punch a timeclock,
Show More
they didn’t wear neckties, they didn’t have tv commercials and they didn’t pollute the environment, they didn’t produce waste. When they killed a buffalo they used every single part of that buffalo, for eating, for clothes, for making teepees, for tools, jewelry, etc. The Indians had it right. That was the right way to live. They worshipped the Earth, the moon, the sun, the sky, the universe. They didn’t have child-molesters in robes telling them how to live their lifes. They didn’t have corporate-sponsored politicians making the laws to which they had to live by. So I became convinced that I should live my life like the Indians…or at least as true to the Indian way of life as is possible in the modern world (this was 1984ish).
Two things probablly kept me from being locked away in a looney bin after that. The first was that I was only 16 years old and 16 year olds of course are able to act silly, socially awkward or whatever, without getting thrown in a looney bin. The second thing was that I would have an accomplice, a peace-loving hippy chick that thought in abstractions and spoke in poems. Together we began our quest to live the Indian Way...
Show Less
LibraryThing member SCRH
I continue to be tardy about reading books that I should have read years ago. This is such a book.

I have to admit that I thought the book would be nothing but a big “downer” or worse, a propaganda piece, crying about how badly Native Americans were treated by the awful white men who stole their
Show More

While it is true that the Indians had their lands stolen and that they were lied to, cheated, and mistreated – and much worse -- by the whites who dominated, the book is not just a continuous white man bashing. Although few and far between, it seems, there were some good whites and some who were bad, over time, changed from “bad” to “good,” General George Crook, for example. Not all Indians were “good” either.

The book consists of nineteen chapters and each one is indeed a tale of conquered Indians and conquering whites, covering roughly the years 1860 to 1890.

The author is not an Indian, but writes from the perspective of a sympathetic human as he relates one injustice after another that whites perpetrated upon the Indians.

The book has an index and is enhanced by the inclusion of 49 photos or paintings of Indians of the period. While I am late in reading this book, which has become a classic, I am glad to have finely read it and have it in my library.

I have to admit that I was surprised and disappointed that William F. M. Arny, appointed Indian Agent for the New Mexico Territory in 1862 by President Lincoln, and who succeeded Kit Carson, was not mentioned in the book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member kslade
Excellent but horrific account of the Indian wars in America, which included some awful massacres.
LibraryThing member KKovach
Read this to get extra credit in a American Minorities class and never forgot it. This should be standard reading for every school not as a Senior in High School for extra credit but a mandatory reading piece. Americans we have our heroes but nothing compares to being invaded by a group of unknowns
Show More
and still showing hospitality and love to those invaders. They did not fight until they had too and when they did it was with everything they had. Beautiful every single sentence.
Show Less
LibraryThing member benuathanasia
Stale. Very, very stale. It's almost like bullet-point list of events with the occasional flourish or quote. This happened, then this happened, then that happened, then a few primary source quotes. Not sure why people like this.
LibraryThing member DavidAPino
The most haunting book I've ever read. It shattered my belief in the nation's mythology and forced me to realize the US's legacy of plunder and destruction of Native American communities. It is a book everyone should read, just because it is a necessary antidote to every western we've ever watched
Show More
and every piece of revisionist history we were fed as children.
Show Less
LibraryThing member creynolds
I listened to this to get the big picture, because I realized that I would probably not read it diligently in print. The big picture is not pretty -- the Indians (or Native Americans) were treated horribly by the Americans. The Americans broke promises, massacred whole villages, and they basically
Show More
put on Indians on welfare in order to get them to give up rights to the land. I realize that this book is biased so the author minimized Indian misdeeds, but it also does sound like most of the Indian acts were in retribution to the American ones. This is a shameful era in our country's history.

I would love to read a book written by a really knowledgeable author that's a reimagining of history. How should the clash of the settlers and the Indians have been handled? Was there a more humane solution? Or was might makes right the only way?
Show Less
LibraryThing member kaitanya64
Essential reading in Native American history. Every American citizen should read this book.
LibraryThing member KevinNeedsGlasses
I have three primary impressions of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

The first is how little it surprised me. All crowing aside, with only a few exceptions (these mostly concerning events/personages in Arizona where I happened to live for years) I couldn't have said a particular tribe or leader was in
Show More
that specific area or recounted how this area of land was swindled away while that land mass over there was taken away through the implementation of direct force. I'm not sweating those details now either. I know they'll get mixed-up and blended in my mind in short order anyway. No, what gratifies me is that, at least according to Dee Brown, I intuitively had it right from the beginning. And by this I mean simply my prior references are in accordance with the book. The final part of this chain is that I think the book has it right.

The second impression is a reflection of how ironic a term "illegal alien" is when used in the USA.

And finally there is this quote from the introduction: "It was an incredible era of violence, greed, audacity, sentimentality, undirected exuberance, and an almost reverential attitude toward the idea of personal freedom for those who already had it."
Show Less
LibraryThing member Cecrow
The map of the United States is scattered with the names of our continent's original peoples. In many cases this is all that remains of them. By the 1860s, when this book's detailed coverage of their story begins, native populations were long accustomed to European abuses. Even so, those still
Show More
occupying western ancestral territory disbelieved anything could truly happen to remove them from land so open and spacious. Many could not conceptualize how hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned they were. Most signficantly they did not have the same sense of land ownership as those who sought to take it from them, or an understanding of the rampant desire for it that continually drove their opposition to lie, to steal and to kill.

The American government in Washington, distant from the frontiers, was sympathetic to their cause and often pleaded their case in fine speeches. Society at large may have regarded the native American cause as tragic but certainly lost. Settlers and prospectors on the frontier saw only free land and the natives occupying it as a dangerous hazard, disregarding every invisible line the government sought to hold them apart with. A great proportion of the military on the frontier were rabid racists who felt it their duty to exterminate the native 'threat' regardless of any peace overture or what any scrap of paper said. Make a treaty, callously disregard it until you've provoked a war, blame the "savage" natives for the violence, sue for peace via another treaty to please Washington - around and around.

Some of the policy reversals are liable to inflict whiplash where it is almost literally a case of shaking hands on the left and cocking a gun on the right. Individual outrages are horrific in their details, but it is their sheer volume that really begins to tell on the senses. The clichéd homily about 'worthless treaties' undergoes a transformation: it sounds flat at the start of the book, then gathers increasing power with every instance until finally it does not even begin to speak to what continues to be done on every page. If any book can make you cheer for Custer's downfall at Little Bighorn, it'll be this one.

Some maps would have been welcome. Dee Brown's writing is plainspoken and often just-the-facts, doing very little to dress up or frame events and often omitting much examination into the "why". From a scholarly point of view this feels lacking, but it does lend some of the period's popular sense of inevitability. The writing's blunt nature can add to the force of its punch. Shortly after Sheridan's infamous quote about his believing the only good Indian is a dead one, the author simply lists with little commentary a number of famous chiefs whose stories he had sympathetically told: "Now they were all good Indians."

This is not the scholarly, literary classic that the subject matter still demands and deserves, but it is moving, essential reading.
Show Less
LibraryThing member chrissie3
DEVASTATING. Very difficult reading. Dense. I am very glad it was written and that I have read it. The language used is perfect. I don't know how to properly convey to what extent this book upset me. Everyone should read it. Maybe you think you know what has happened to Native Americans, but you do
Show More
not know the half of it. In 30 years, 1860-1890, the people were destroyed, and along with them fauna, flora and a whole different way of looking at life. Progress? Yeah, sure...... Depressing, so depressing.

Excellent narration by Grover Gardner.
Show Less
LibraryThing member keylawk
Published in 1970, as the Flower Child generation was first beginning
to wilt, Dee Brown reconstructs the history of the removal of Indians
from their lands by a careful examination of contemporary documents.
Curiously, even the "white man's" own compilations of the Indian's experience -- soldiers'
Show More
journalists, and a wealth of State and US Government materials -- prove
that Indians were cheated, defrauded, and imprisoned on remote reservations by means of force. [Bibliography with Notes, and Index] We also note that this "point of view" of the Indians was gentle, prescient, and rational.

Although Brown omits many reliable source documents -- for example he does not reference the accounts by Ely Parker (Donehogawa), reform
Senator Henry Dawes, and the Sioux physician Eastman and his wife, Elaine Goodale -- his conclusions are all the more unimpeachable for
relying on "government" or even anti-Indian materials.

"Wounded Knee" of the title refers to the Massacre -- it was by no definition a "battle" -- of 350 unarmed people near the confluence of a
creek of that name. Chief Big
Foot was attempting to take his people the Pine Ridge reservation to join the last great chief, Red Cloud, in total surrender. 150 Indians
were slaughtered by almost point-blank carbine fire and the camp was raked by rifle-barreled Hotchkiss guns. 25 soldiers were killed and 39
wounded, almost all of them from shrapnel and carbine shot from their own cross-fire. This was the last military expedition against the
Sioux, and it has become the symbolic end of freedom in the West.

In Chapter 1, Brown provides a thumbnail overview of the American conquest of the Indians, starting from Columbus. The remainder of the book follows the Civil
War, in the period from 1860 through 1890. Brown provides a detailed history drawn from an abundance of primary source materials with the words of those who were vanquished in this 30 year period.

Although Brown covers many other nations -- the Navaho, Cheyenne, Modoc, Nez Perce', Apache -- the narrative emphasis is drawn to the
Sioux, who were the most numerous and formidable warriors of this period.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
1166. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, by Dee Brown (read 4 Jun 1972) I said in my post-reading note to myself: While the book is sympathetic to the Indian, there were times when some Indians were in the wrong - but they were a simple people up against a
Show More
rapacious tide. The crimes against them are inexcusable, but there is little that one can do about it now--tho their descendants still suffer--culture-less and beaten."
Show Less
LibraryThing member Wey-bey
This book is less of a history than an advocacy piece, the very definition of cherry-picking one's facts. While every story has two sides, there is no such allowance here, rendering the work more of a diatribe than a discourse. Without doubt, the history of Native Americans is both worthy and
Show More
important, but expectations should be held in check when reading this item.
Show Less
LibraryThing member drewandlori
One of the best (and saddest) history books ever written.
LibraryThing member stlaveau
The authour explains the history of the Native Peoples in North America - the tale that is not found in high school textbooks.
The life stories of the Chiefs Crazy Horse, Gall, Chief Joseph, Geronimo and Sitting Bull will be eye-openers to readers who are not familiar - with the other unfamilar
Show More
part - of the tale of how the United States America came into existence.
This book is upsetting, yet enlightening - squeamishness due to the information this book reveals must be put aside.
The author shows his appreiciaton of the subject matter with the evidence presented via careful research.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MrsLee
Well, I couldn't finish this book. I read up through the Modocs, but then my heart gave out. I already knew how we got the land from the natives who lived here and how many of our leaders and citizens treated them so scandalously, so to read it again and again was more than I could swallow. I hope
Show More
we have moved on from that savage behavior, but I suspect we have simply buried it under the veneer of "civilization". Mankind has a long track record of behaving badly toward each other. This book is important, because the myths of the west and how it was won are strong, but I would rather read about the native cultures before they were invaded at this point in my life.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Othemts
This is a moving and engaging history of the fall of the aboriginal tribes of the western United States. It's a tragic story, but an inspiring one as well. One of the best history books I've ever read. This was on my summer reading list in high school and I was so engrossed I ended up spending a
Show More
good portion of our family camping trip just devouring this book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member billiecat
A book that today seems less revolutionary than it may have when first released, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" does still have impact for a reader today. It provides a good narrative thread for the reader who (probably from the central point of this book becoming part of the mainstream of
Show More
American's thinking about history) has only a vague sense that the westward expansion of the United States was accompanied by the slaughter of the indigenous peoples. But because it self-consciously sticks to the "Indian" point of view it makes it paradoxically easier to miss the fact that the carnage described was caused by deliberate policy decisions of the U.S. government, and not just a few "bad apples." Still a heartbreaking story.
Show Less


Original publication date


Physical description

487 p.; 7.83 inches


0099526409 / 9780099526407
Page: 0.5734 seconds