The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

Native America From 1890 to the Present

Book - 2019
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"The received idea of Native American history has been that it essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee: Not only did more than 150 Sioux die at the hands of the U.S. Cavalry, but Native civilization did as well. Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist, and researching Native life for his nonfiction and his novels, David Treuer began to uncover a different narrative. Not despite but rather because of American Indians' intense struggles to preserve their tribes, their cultures, and their very existence, the true story has been one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention. In [this book], Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir to explore how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering. The forced assimilation of children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and at the same time steered the emerging shape of self-rule and inspired a new generation of resistance. [This] is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative epoch."--Dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, [2019]
ISBN: 9781594633157 (hardcover)
1594633150 (hardcover)
Branch Call Number: 970.00497 TRE
Characteristics: 512 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Shortlisted for the National Book Award

Ojibwe author and anthropologist David Treuer explores Native American life since the massacre at Wounded Knee. A highly readable and vivid history of American Indigenous life from 1890 to the present.

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Feb 19, 2021

I remember, vividly, reading that passage while in college in 1991, and I was doubly dismayed by Brown’s telling. I was far from home, on a distant coast. I was homesick - for the northwoods, for the reservation, for the only place on earth I truly loved. I was only beginning to understand what it was I was missing, and it wasn’t squalor and hopelessness and poverty. This book is, in part, an attempt to communicate what it was that I loved.

Feb 19, 2021

The meaning of America and the myths that informed it had been firmly established. Perhaps this is why the massacre at Wounded Knee became so emblematic. It neatly symbolized the accepted version of reality - of an Indian past and an American present, begun in barbarism but realized as a state of democratic idealism.

This version of history remained largely unquestioned through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the 1950s. But in the 1960s - because of Vietnam and the fight for civil rights; because of an increased focus on the environment and the effects of industrialization and consumerism; because of the newly current idea that “the culture” wasn’t the only culture, and a counterculture could exist - the story of “the Indian” surfaced with new intensity in the American consciousness. This new awareness focused on Wounded Knee and the challenge “the Indian” posed to the very idea of America, was epitomized by a highly influential book.


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PimaLib_NormS Apr 18, 2019

A member of Minnesota’s Ojibwe tribe, David Treuer, has written “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to the Present”, a richly detailed, latter-day history of American Indians. (By the way, the author uses the term “Indians” and explains his reasoning on page one of the Prologue.) Part 1 of the book summarizes four hundred years of interactions between the native people of North America and the Europeans who “discovered” them. Parts 2-7 focus on the time after the massacre of at least 150 Lakota Sioux men, women, and children by the US 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1890. This horrible event marked the end of the “Indian Wars” that had gone on for centuries. Certainly, this was a low point in the narrative of North America’s indigenous population. They had been wronged throughout the years in ways too numerous to count, however, the point of “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” is not to rehash the victimization of Indians. This book acknowledges the wrongs in order shine a spotlight on the fact that, through it all, Indians survived. They could have given up and been wiped off the face of the earth, their cultures and customs confined to the closets of the past. But, that is not what happened. They learned to adapt and persevere. Indians still have many problems in need of solutions, as do all other cultures on the planet. Still, though, credit to Native Americans for being able to retain characteristics that make them “Indian”.


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