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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - discussion
After the winter meeting at Fort Fauntleroy, there were several months of friendship between the soldiers and the Navahos.... In this time of friendship, the Navahos went often to Fort Fauntleroy (Wingate) to trade and draw rations from their agent. Most of the soldiers made them welcome, and a custom grew up of having horse races between the Navahos and the soldiers. All the Navahos looked forward to these contests, and on racing days hundreds of men, women, and children would dress in their brightest costumes and ride their finest ponies to Fort Wingate. On a crisp sunny morning in September several races were run, but the special race of the day was scheduled at noon. It was to be between Pistol Bullet (a name given Manuelito by the soldiers) on a Navaho pony, and a lieutenant on a quarter horse. Many bets were made on this race-money, blankets, livestock, beads, whatever a man had to use for a bet. The horses jumped off together, but in a few seconds everyone could see that Pistol Bullet's bridle rein had been slashed with a knife. The Navahos went to the judges-who were all soldiers-and demanded that the race be run again. The judges refused; they declared the lieutenant's quarter horse was the winner. Immediately the soldiers formed a victory parade for a march into the fort to collect their bets.
Infuriated by this trickery, the Navahos stormed after them, but the fort's gates were slammed shut in the their faces. When a Navaho attempted to force an entrance, a sentinel shot him dead.
What happened next was written down by a white soldier chief, Captain Nicholas Hodt:
The Navahos, squaws, and children ran in all directions and were shot and bayoneted. I succeeded in forming about twenty men....I then marched out to the east side of the post; there I saw a soldier murdering two little children and a woman. I hallooed immediately to the soldier to stop. He looked up, but did not obey my order. I ran up as quick as I could, but could not get there soon enough to prevent him from killing the two innocent children and wounding severely the squaw. I ordered his belts to be taken off and taken prisoner to the post.... -pages 17,18.Holy smokes. I watched Dances With Wolves last night. That's an awesome movie.
That is a horrifying scene, Cheryl. It never fails to amaze me how much destruction and death can be unleashed by a single act of bigotry, hubris, or neglegence.
One thing that I feel I have to point out about Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is its sometimes-skewed point of view. The book is self-admitedly "eastward-looking" (written from the perspective of the Native Americans) and as such needs to be taken with a grain of salt - the same grain of salt which must be taken when reading works written from the settlers ("westward-looking") perspective. I have come across passages in Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee that are unmistakably intended to portray the Native Americans in the best possible light and the American settlers and soldiers in the worst. I am sure there are similar passages in most westward-looking literature of which the reverse is true. Is it true that the Native Americans were badly mistreated by whites? Certainly - but it is also true that whites were sometimes badly mistreated by the Native Americans. Is it also true that some of the Native tribes were peaceful, noble, and courageous? Again, yes - but the same could certainly be said for many of the whites who went west.
Basically, I'm saying that Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is colored by its sources' personal involvement and its author's deep respect for the people he's writing about. There is a lot of great information in the book, and I'm enjoying it very much. But I sense some bias (more in certain passages than in others) in the work.
And no one needs to point out the futility of trying to find an unbiased historical account. I know it's almost impossible. That, however, doesn't mean that bias shouldn't be pointed out when it's discovered.
That's true Greg. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is most certainly an account skewed towards sympathy for the American Indians. However, most of us have been fed accounts from the settler's and the U.S. government's perspective throughout most of our lives. While it's true that you shouldn't take this book's accounts for undisputed fact, they do enlighten us as to the perspective of the other side.
In the classic style that all clashes of culture play out in, both sides felt that the others were people of less value in some way. In a very real sense a similar scenario is playing out in the news today. Two cultures that don't understand each other clash. The root issue is the same: land. Two sides lay claim and the disagreement's tone is dictated by the more unreasonable individuals in both sides. One side "started it" but no one can agree as to which side that was.
Vengence is claimed, back and forth, to no end. Ultimately, one side will be victorious. Future generations will recieve a skewed view of the history.
Yeah, I started drawing the Palestinian / Native American parallel almost immediately. Interesting in a grim and disturbing sort of way.
And of course I understand that Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is no more skewed - is very likely less so, in fact - than most of the "official" history that we all learned in grade school. I did think it was worth mentioning that I sensed some bias, though, because it's sometimes so easy to have sympathy for the underdog that we forget to think critically.
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Re: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - discussion
It is hard to read this book and not feel biased. I was stunned as I read in chapter 4 about the attack at Sand Creek. Reading of the soldiers attacking the Indian camp during the night while they were asleep and murdering and dismembering 105 innocent women and children struck me with awe. This isn't fiction. It isn't a horror novel. These are real events that happened to real people.
There seemed to be indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children. There were some thirty or forty squaws collected in a hole for protection; they sent out a little girl about six years old with a white flag on a stick; she had not proceeded but a few steps when she was shot and killed. All the squaws in that hole were afterwards killed, and four or five bucks outside. The squaws offered no resistance. Every one I saw dead was scalped. I saw one squaw cut open with an unborn child, as I thought, lying by her side. Captain Soule afterwards told me that such was the fact.-page 90
Wow. No matter how hard I try to understand this I can't. I know that humans will compete for land, food and other resources and battles will be fought. But what drives a person to such savagery? I can't even comprehend the amount of prejudice and hatred that an individual must feel toward a group of people to cause them to act with such brutality. Can you see ever walking up to any defenseless pregnant woman and killing her and then cutting her open and ripping an unborn child from her belly? How can humans be so cruel to fellow humans? What could possibly justify these actions? Even if the Indians had provoked the soldiers, nothing could have made this excusable.
As I read further, the chapter went on to describe how some of the Indians from the tribe that was attacked moved north. There they went out and attacked and killed some soldiers near the fort in an act of revenge. At first I found myself feeling happy for them, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that their acts weren't that unlike those of the soldiers that killed their families. These soldiers were in no way connected to those that had attacked their tribe. They were near their fort, not seeking battle. I can understand why the Indians would be angry and distrustful and even hate white soldiers, but that still doesn't justify attacking and killing innocent people. For all they know, some of the soldiers they killed may have been friendly and helpful. They likely had families of their own to care for.
Prejudice causes so many problems. Nothing positive can result from assuming what a person is like simply because of their race. Both the Indians and the whites were guilty of that. The Indians had good reason to be angry about the situation with the whites. The broken treaties, the invasion of their land, the disregard for nature
Cheryl, Very good summary, I agree with you. I can't comprehend what is going on in the mind of person who would do such a thing. Ironic that most western novels portray whites as "decent folk". How many times have we heard stories about how they cared for livestock. To treat an animal with such brutality would certainly be looked upon unfavorabley. I am aware that this book cant possibly be 100 pecent factual, no book is, but it does a great job of contradicting most "historical" accounts of the time. I cant remember the qoute exctally or the origin, but it states "conquerors write the history". Maybe its even worse than this book? Thanks. Gary Trull
Cheryl, I Have to agree with you. Being baised while reading this book isn't far from what most people are. Despite that, the Native Americans were not all perfect and although the Europeans did cause chaos and acted very barberically the native americans must have retaliated and must have taken action before an attack was put in place.
It seems to me that what the native americans did is a calendestine topic. They must have done something wrong. Even so there had to be similarities between the two
Hey do you guys happen to know where I can get some cliff notes on this book...I have to be finished with it in 2 days and im only on page 86 ...Its really hard for me to read, especially a 450 page book, so if you guys know a summary I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. -Ronnie
This isn't a Peter Pan cartoon, can't you tell fact from fic
America's Shame We hold these words to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
"To domesticate and civilize wild Indians is a noble work, the accomplishment of which should be a crown of glory to a nation. But to allow them to drag along year after year and generation after generation, in their old superstitions, laziness and filth, when we have the power to elevate them in the scale of humanity, would be a lasting disgrace to our government." Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Hiram Price, 1881
Ok, ok enough quotes. Just thought I'd say I am Lemhi-Shoshone, have read the book and actually did a summary and response to each chapter while attending school at the Inst. of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. (Thanks to Annie Ross) I also heard that b4 the author passed on, he said that people are destroying documentation of what happened to the Natives of "America" so they can't use it in court. Broken treaties, white interest, n8tv's didn't write the history books. Read about my tribes struggle to return home @ www.lemhishoshone.com Kel "
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Re: This isn't a Peter Pan cartoon, can't you tell fact from
Thanks for posting your views! I'd love to read some of what you say you've written. Please feel free to post your papers here in this forum so people can read and comment. Directing people to another site works fine if all you want is them to read...but this is a discussion community and I have a feeling most people will wish to comment after reading what you have to say. So please post some stuff!
This book really opened my eyes to the plight of the American Indians. I'd love to discuss it some more, and especially with someone such as yourself who can relate so clearly with their culture and history. Thanks for contributing!
"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"
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