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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

(ReVisioning American History #3)

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  13,244 ratings  ·  2,035 reviews
The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regi
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by Beacon Press
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Mariah Clark I would definitely recommend this book as a good starting place. I would also suggest that you find and read books written by Native authors and schol…moreI would definitely recommend this book as a good starting place. I would also suggest that you find and read books written by Native authors and scholars rather than white authors/scholars. (less)
Akemi G. No, but the young people version has many pictures, maps, etc.

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Miranda Reads
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Warning: Only read this is you are prepared for just about your entire elementary-middle-high school education shattered.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has taken the history of the United States and told it through its very first residents - the Indigenous nations.

She begins by establishing what life was like pre-colonization: Irrigation, farming, healthy trade routes and fifteen million Native people who lived in relative harmony.

And she chronicles what happened to them.

Death. Destruction. And the sy
I'll keep this simple: if you read this exceptionally researched and beautifully written book and still think the United States is great or has ever been great, you need to take a long hard look in your mirror, then ask your god for forgiveness. ...more
Always Pouting
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book as a gift from a friend and I feel really grateful. I don't want to say I enjoyed the book per se because I didn't really. It was quite hard reading about all the ugly things we've done as a country to the indigenous people here and everywhere honestly. Most of these things I hadn't even heard of before so in that sense I'm really glad I read it and I know about all of it now. The thread traced between our initial colonization of this land and our ongoing militarism and imperial ...more
J.M. Hushour
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not so much a history of the Indigenous Peoples of North America as much as a re-telling of American history that actually includes their unfortunate role within it, which is way more prominent in ways you haven't imagined.
This is a succinct, powerful read whose basic premise, the US is a settler-colonial power, screams at you throughout.
The sections on the plight and horrific fate of the IPs are worth it alone, but the author does a helluva job revisioning America's history by showing the roots
Cherisa B
Feb 27, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How to explode self-justifying mythologies with evidence. Wow, Dunbar-Ortiz gives an eye-opening narrative of the creation of the United States from the perspective of the peoples displaced by Europeans and their white descendants. In many ways, it's a "Trail of Broken Treaties," but more than that it's a deep dive into one side of what could be the two "original sins" of the founding of the nation - slavery and genocide. When Frederick Douglass asked, "what to a slave is the 4th of July?," and ...more
Johnny Cordova
Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
While I am in passionate agreement with the thrust of this book — that the United States is a “crime scene” founded on a systematic strategy of genocide — I found Dunbar-Ortiz to be an infuriatingly unreliable narrator. It’s unfortunate because I was excited to pick up this book and really, really wanted to like it.

Early in the first chapter she describes indigenous diets as “mostly vegetarian” and persists throughout the book to refer to various tribes as “indigenous farmers.” While it’s true t
Danika at The Lesbrary
This was a difficult read. The events covered are—of course--brutal, and there is so much to take in about the unimaginable cruelty of the white colonists of the Americas. Every time I read about colonization (which is ongoing), I learn it is somehow is even worse than I previously thought.

This was also difficult in the sense that it is a ton of information to fit into one book, including a lot of numbers, names, dates, etc. There is so much covered, but here are some of things I took away from
"An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States" by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a good overview of U.S. history from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples of North America.

This is an important book. This is not a pleasant book to read.

Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrates that the United States, since its founding, has been a colonial-settler empire. She discusses several popular, big concept myths that obscure the reality of the United States: The founding myth of the Thirteen Colonies breaking fr
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not since David Stannard's "American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World" have I read such a clear history of the United States. In no way do I want to diminish from the great work of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" but that text did not stay with me or speak to me in the same way that Dunbar-Ortiz's book has. It is readable enough to assign to a high school audience, so if you are a parent trying to supplement the nonsense that generally passes for US history consid ...more
One of the (many) things that unsettles me in my regular engagements with US history is the near total absence of any discussion, or seeming awareness, of the country as a colony of settlement. The country’s indigenous peoples are barely considered in the national story or for that matter in most of the historical texts. We see it in the subtle (and not so subtle) language of US history – in the ‘settlement’ of the frontier; in the ‘opening up’ of the west, in the ‘last’ of the Mohicans, of the ...more
Jun 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
Yet another example of how we have made calling everyone else racist the new goal of scholarship. Congratulations!

Spare yourself this tiresome pseudo-history and read something, anything by a true scholar on this subject. I recommend anything by this guy:

This book should be called "White People Are the Root of All Evil in the World" because it has little to do with the history of America's indigenous peoples. To even call this book a "history" is being ext
Raul Bimenyimana
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful historical book which demystifies a lot in American history. It goes without saying that victors and conquerors dictate how history remembers events, and the vanquished and colonized's version of events is hardly considered. So just as the title of the book suggests, this history is centered and told dominantly through the Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

The writer states:

"To say that the United States is a colonialist settler-state is not an accusation but rather to face hi
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Engaged history writing has the advantage of clarity, provided that the author indicates what he or she stands for. That is certainly the case with Dunbar-Ortiz. She is of Native American origin and was active in the Pan-Native American movement. From the beginning of the book she outlines what its theme is: that the fight against the indigenous nations in North America was driven by an imperialism and racism that is ingrained in Western culture since Roman times; and specifically that the wars ...more
So when my roommate, who says he doesn’t know everyone, saw I was reading this book, said, “I love her. She is such a wonderful person.” See, he does know everyone. I don’t know if she is a lovely person, but you should read this book.

Look, at least since Howard Zinn’s work and more recently with the 1619 project, people have taken issue with the presentation of the facts of American history. In other words, you change the narrative of a melting pot where everyone gets along and everyone is gre
May 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gift, indigeneity
Such a disappointment. Did the people who gave this book five stars actually read it? Do they like reading? Have they actually read a well-written book before? Or do they just give the book five stars because they like its thesis? I like its thesis too. But this book is miserable. I finished it only because I felt I needed to read the whole thing in order to earn the right to pan it.

The beginning and end are occasionally entertaining, even thought-provoking, though deeply flawed. The middle is j
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The epigraph and concluding quote in the final chapter of this book sum up why it's such an important read:

"That the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands provides the United States the economic and material resources needed to cast its imperialist gaze globally is a fact that is simultaneously obvious within - and yet continuously obscured by - what is essentially a settler colony's national construction of itself as an ever more perfect multicultural, multiracia
laurel [the suspected bibliophile]
A brief history of the United States, as seen through the lens of the American Indians who were thoroughly slaughtered, removed and erased from their own lands.

This is a must-read, and should be mandatory reading for all high school students and general readers of American (US) history. It unravels the layers of propaganda, misinformation and erasing American Indians faced, and debunks many common myths about the lands and peoples of the United States before European colonization.

The first myth
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was a life changing experience. So much history of which I was ignorant explained and documented. My mind was blown on every page. For instance: "Scalping" was a practice brought to the colonies by the Ulster Scots who had practiced it first on the Irish, and then on the Indigenous peoples occupying the colonies. ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Ahhh...I'm sad. This is nonfiction and because this was incredibly sad...it hurt my heart. I struggle with this topic, even when it is brushed over in fictional stories. I'm half native american and half European. So this book was about my people....both the massacred and the ones with guns. Every book has a slant and that is what I struggle with the most. I want this part of history in whatever story I'm reading the way I want cheesecake.....I want the whole thing and not just a piece.

I'm glad
Kate Savage
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've been having this feeling lately about anti-immigrant xenophobia: that if you were to dig past the hate and into the fear, and then even past the fear -- you'd find shame. A rotting, festering shame of what white settlers did and do to native people. An unacknowledged knowing: our ancestors were murderers, rapists, terrorists, thieves. Instead of speaking the words, we lash out violently against others who immigrate to this land, fearing they'll do what we've done and keep doing. We use the ...more
Elizabeth Magill
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
The United States understands genocide to be a terrible thing that other countries have done, or are doing. The eradication of an entire population—civilian women, men, and children—along with their culture and national sovereignty—is something we condemn in our media. When we see genocide happening elsewhere, we debate if and when we should step in with economic sanctions or military action—when it is time to put a stop to a crime against humanity. Rarely, if ever, do we examine our own history ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: indigenous
The NODAPL struggle in North Dakota over the last year has encouraged me to revisit and deepen my understanding of what it means to be indigenous in the US. Reading this book, wading through a history of genocide, offered a number of important reorientations for me. As far as I know, there aren't other comprehensive histories of the US from the perspective of indigenous people's, however this could have been much better. If anyone has any recommendations I'd be excited to look into them.

A few si
This book is an overview that spans centuries with detail while still remaining a relatively short book. I learned a lot. I knew about certain events described in the book, but to have them laid out, one after the other, was an emotional experience that I value very much.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz shows how the foundation upon which the United States was built is one of nightmares, of lies and massacres. She has brought the massacres and lies that culminated in ethnic cleansing to the forefront of US
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book paints a picture of US genocide and colonialism with broad strokes, but has almost no details on daily life, developments in culture and philosophy, or indigenous history in Alaska, Hawaii and US territories. Unfortunately indigenous history is presented as a tool to understand modern US militarism, rather than an exploration of indigenous agency and resistance.
ポニョ! ポニョ!
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Couple of interesting facts, very bad writting. The theme of the book certainly deserved better.
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Required reading. My only criticism is that it was a bit redundant at times but I think that's because horrible things were in fact done to indigenous peoples over and over and over again. ...more
Jun 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Had to return to the library before I finished. Strong research and important history. I do wish there was more about individual nations. The first half didn’t really go into depth.
Aug 23, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is based on an important big idea. That is, that we need another way of segmenting our understanding of US history that reflects the history of indigenous people in the United States rather than accepting a narrative of denial that has been reinforced through centuries of US history through different variations (outright denial of the survival of indigenous people today, the manifest destiny narrative that poses that atrocities against indigenous people were indeed atrocious and yet in ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
This is a very difficult book to read - for two reasons.

First, of course, is the content. I pretty much knew before I started that the history we are fed in school in America about the "discovery" of our country and the subsequent colonization is totally whitewashed. I was looking for a more detailed understanding and hoped this book would give me that. It does - somewhat - but I really wanted almost a side-by-side comparison of the legend with the truth. That, it does not do. Still, it is diffi
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I learned a lot from this book and am glad I read it. It made me think, which is the only thing I really want from a book. Even though I was under no illusions regarding the United States and its treatment of Indigenous peoples, there were many times I had to put the book down to take a few minutes to process what I had just read before continuing.

I think Dunbar-Ortiz does an admirable job in condensing such a complex and long history into a short, very readable 240 pages. She does an excellent
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Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a tenant farmer and part-Indian mother. She has been active in the international Indigenous movement for more than four decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. After receiving her PhD in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, she taught in the newly establi ...more

Other books in the series

ReVisioning American History (6 books)
  • A Queer History of the United States
  • A Disability History of the United States
  • An African American and Latinx History of the United States
  • A Black Women's History of the United States
  • An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States

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“The history of the United States is a history of settler colonialism—the founding of a state based on the ideology of white supremacy, the widespread practice of African slavery, and a policy of genocide and land theft.” 39 likes
“Our nation was born in genocide.… We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. —Martin Luther King Jr.” 23 likes
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