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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History, #3)
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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

(ReVisioning American History)

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  3,444 ratings  ·  595 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
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Hardcover, 296 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by Beacon Press
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Start your review of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History, #3)
Amy Sturgis
I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

First, I should say that I recognize what a herculean proposition it would be to create a history of the United States as experienced by its Indigenous inhabitants; I greatly respect both Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for accepting the challenge and Beacon Press for its foresight in publishing its ReVisioning American History series; and I think this book is an extremely important one. I hope it will have far-reaching ripple effects in
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Brad
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.
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
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George
"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
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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
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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
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Alice
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 ...more
laurel [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
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David
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,
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Laurie
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.
Malcolm
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
Cory
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
The case that the dispossession of Native Americans and the seizure of their lands constituted a genocide and a form of colonialism/imperialism in the modern-day United States is an easy and powerful one to make. It's frustrating, then, that Dunbar-Ortiz decides to overstate it, bringing in another set of (in my view) unnecessary political positions to the storytelling. This is what turns the book from a work of history to a work of activism.

D-O comments on the activism/academic distinction,
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Donna
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
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tout
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
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Elizabeth Hall
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
Leftbanker
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!

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 extremely generous with that word as it is mostly her opinions or opinions of other people she happens to agree with. To take only one example, she completely discounts the role that
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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
Alma
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Using the premise that the United States’ history is one of “settler colonialism,” (wherein the settler participates in genocide and land theft), Dunbar-Ortiz discusses the reasons behind colonization of the land and the many atrocities committed to the indigenous people going back to pre-Revolutionary War days. Read the rest of the review on my blog: http://shouldireaditornot.wordpress.c...
sylas
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fict, race-racism
This book is so important for all descendants of colonizers and current settlers of indigenous land to read. I learned so much. It was very difficult to look face-on at the genocide wrought by white settlers (my own history) which is explored in great detail in this book. Such a necessary read.
Victoria
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To shamelessly steal from the Homeland opening credits, which have been sticking in my thoughts since reading this book, "the first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown." (Gil Scott-Heron) This is a serious eye-opener and a view of American history that I have not been shown until now.

This is an uncomfortable book that won't make you feel great about American history, but the importance
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Kathleen
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It definitely took me a while to read this book--mostly because I read before I sleep at night and it is very hard to read about genocide and be able to fall asleep. This is one of the best books I have ever read for understanding the United States. Everyone in the US should read it. Everyone.
Evelyn Woagh
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a really important book, despite its problems. I learned a lot, I see things more clearly, and I'm more conscious of the nature and ongoing effects of imperialism and colonialism. But I'm not about to hold this as perfect as others might, who would also seek out alternative histories. I feel similar about this book as I do with Howard Zinn's. Namely, that it was written by an academic, and that the cisgender author has no understanding or willingness to study and talk about, the various ...more
Marc
Apr 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
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
Li Sian
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
What an absolutely amazing book - Dunbar-Ortiz reframes US history as irrevocably a history of settler-colonialism, arguing as others have done before, that white settlers' policy of massacre against Native peoples, constant renegement of diplomatic treaties with indigenous nations, forced re-education of Native children, and more atrocities beside constitutes nothing less than genocide.

What she does, which perhaps few or no one else has done before, is draw a direct line between the genocide
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Frances
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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Rachel Mans Mckenny
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic, litsy-fem-bc
Let's be honest: most K-12 education in the US does a poor job of exploring the US History beyond the traditional colonialist narrative, and many people (including myself) barely looked for more on the topic when and if we get to college. This book is an excellent primer to build on the entire history of the US through the lens of the colonized (both on the continent and, interestingly, abroad, as well).

This book is a sucker-punch full of testimony and research, and native voices prevail in the
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Elena
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read this book! As the author puts it, the “history of the U.S. 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." I think it's impossible to understand or talk about politics, current events, or our lives without a basic grounding in the true history of this settler colonial state and this book is a GREAT place to start. I wish I had learned even a small ...more
Sofia
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading for every person living in the United States. An incredibly important work and eye-opening reexamination of history.
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Justice and Spiri...: Introduction to An Indigenous Peoples' History 1 13 Oct 06, 2016 10:27AM  
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the US 1 17 Jan 28, 2015 02:08PM  

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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 ...more

Other books in the series

ReVisioning American History (5 books)
  • A Queer History of the United States
  • A Disability History of the United States
  • A Black Woman's History of the United States
  • An African American and Latinx History of the United States
“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.” 23 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.” 13 likes
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