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The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  929 ratings  ·  201 reviews
A sweeping history--and counter-narrative--of Native American life from the Wounded Knee massacre to the present.

Dee Brown's 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was the first truly popular book of Indian history ever published. But it promulgated the impression that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee--that not only did one
Kindle Edition, 526 pages
Published January 22nd 2019 by Riverhead Books
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Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uni, germany, 2019-read
Now a Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction 2019
"If you want to know America - if you want to see it for what it is - you need to look at Indian history and the Indian present."

In a mixture of history book, reportage, and mémoir, Ojibwe author David Treuer tells the story of Native America after the massacre at Wounded Knee, and by doing so, he is resisting the toxic narrative of the "vanishing Indian" and the tendency to view all Native history as a history of pain. This does not
Lisa Vegan
This book was incredibly hard for me to rate. I think it deserves a 5. Most of the time the reading experience for me was only a 3 and sometimes a 4, and only occasionally a 5, and sometimes even a 2. I can’t in good conscience give it less than a 4 and it pains for not to give it 5 full stars.

This should be a history book (and class) in every high school, preferably mandatory – so different from the false histories I was taught when in K-12. Ideally it would be supplemented with other
Angie Reisetter
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Treuer characterizes this book as 3 journeys in his introduction: a journey into history, a journey across America, and a journey into himself and his identity. He describes all three of theses journeys with great skill, although the historical journey does get a little dry here and there, and his inward journey makes the narrative a little more Minnesota-oriented than it would be coming from someone else (that's a plus for me). After his introduction, which by the end made me want to stand up ...more
Emily Goenner
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-harder-2019
How can I not know the things written here? As Anglo-Americans, we've been taught such lies and shaded stories. This book gives a different side, another heart-breaking view of all the evil done by Europeans when they arrived in America. I was fascinated to learn so much and horrified that I didn't know it.

While I would like to hand this book to everyone and say, "read this," it isn't an easy read. More like a history book than a personal narrative (of which I would have liked more), its long
Randall Wallace
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum wrote of Native Americans, “Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect civilization, follow it up with one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.” Charming. By the 1600’s the colonial powers had shifted their focus from “exploitative colonization” to “exploitive settlement”. Thomas Jefferson writes in secret memos to William Henry Harrison in 1803, a plan to disappear the tribes of the ...more
Matt Fitz
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Last year I read "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America" by Professor Ibram Kendi, which helped reshape a brain and attitude that had been acculturated to accept a version of race that left out the black voice and story. THIS book does the same thing with respect to Native Americans.

As with Kendi's scholarly look at why we aren't "post-racial" for lack of understanding our historical roots, David Treuer (Ojibwe) has written the "post-mortem" look at our
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book if you want to learn about Native Americans and their history since Wounded Knee in 1890. Much of it is first person, when the author speaks with a variety of fellow Native Americans on a variety of subjects. The author also does a great job of laying out the history of Native American tribes after Wounded Knee, including ever-changing government policies, including one called "termination," and how various tribes responded. He is also honest about problems besetting Native ...more
Loring Wirbel
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
David Treuer, an Ojibwe from Leech Lake Reservation, says he doesn't want a new history of North American indigenous tribes to follow the trajectory of Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee or Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Rather than emphasize tragedy and the repression of Indians through colonial and U.S. history, Treuer wants to focus on the survival and victory of North American tribes, even if victories can seem rather small at times. In any event, Treur's book is ...more
In his The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, David Treuer artfully combines history, memoir, personal accounts, current affairs, and ethnography. While The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee resists easy summary and slotting into a single genre, it works well as a non-fiction literature. Treuer puts to excellent use his background as an Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota, an anthropologist, and a novelist. While Part 1 — Narrating the Apocalypse: ...more
James Murphy
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Always interested in American Indians through my background of anthropology and history, I was drawn to The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by that but also by its claim to be a counter narrative to Dee Brown's famous 1970 work Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee which was considered the Indian side of the history of the west but which I thought too sentimentally told. Treuer's book is more balanced. He sees the sentimentality, too, but he also criticizes Brown for his portrayal of Indian life as ultimately ...more
Sam toer
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the 1970 work "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee", Dee Brown declared that "the culture and civilization of the American Indian was destroyed". In "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee David Treuer revise that image of the Indian which has long been prevalent in American literature and historiography. The Indians are seen as the "Vanishing American", a race so compromised by disease, war and intermarriage that it is destined to disappear. " David Treuer's book is a moving portrait of “Indian survival, ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before I share my thoughts, a few caveats: This is my reading experience and reactions to the book. I am not academically qualified to comment on the historical accuracy of the contents. I am also not culturally qualified to comment on how it represents Native experiences and cultures. I picked up this book to (re)educate myself about Native American history and present-day realities, though it has affected me much more profoundly than I anticipated.
There are a few books that have completely
Peter Beck
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee" is a path-breaking work on the Native American experience. It is actually much more than the title suggests because the first 100 pages explore Indian life before 1890. It is also far more than just a dry history book. Treuer takes us foraging for pine cones and hunting for clams while interviewing colorful family members and acquaintances.

Countless books have recounted the tragedies experienced by Native Americans at the hands of Europeans and Americans, but few
Liz Mc2
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, audiobook
I listened to the audiobook, read by actress Tanis Parenteau, who is Métis.

The motto of this book could be “not dead yet.” Treuer writes partly in response to Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which depicts Indians primarily as victims, and as people of the past. Treuer takes Wounded Knee more or less as the starting point of his book, though he does do a broad history of earlier periods, including pre-contact and first-contact periods.

Nor does he deny the wrongs done to Native
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I honestly don't remember any of this from my high school history books.

Incredibly tragic, isn't that?

Patrice Jones
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2019
Fantastic for what the author was trying to accomplish. There was so much more that could have been said, however. I hope the author continues to write about Native Americans. Looking forward to more.
Craig Werner
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: native-american
A huge disappointment to me, and I expect I'll be the outlier in my response. I've liked and learned from Treuer's previous work and I'm sympathetic to his project of rewriting Dee Brown's The Heart of Wounded Knee in a way that puts the center of the story in Native American survival.

Having said hat, the book just flat didn't work for me. Part of it is that, although the subtitle indicates the book will pick up in 1890, roughly when Brown's ends, something close to a quarter of it provides an
Jon Glazer
Mar 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This frequently frustrating book was largely redeemed by the last chapter. For most of the book the author couldn't seem to settle on a narrative approach and I was often distracted by the rapid shifts between broad historical descriptions, close-up character studies, and straightforward reportage.

Frequent stylistic shifts can often be very effective, but it just didn't work for me here. Perhaps that explains why for most of the book I remained unconvinced of the author's contention that Indians
Katie/Doing Dewey
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Summary: An informative, relevant, and enjoyable blend of memoir, first-hand reporting, and history.

This book begins with the observation that Native American history is often presented as though it ended in 1890, with the massacre at Wounded Knee. This book challenges that perspective. The author shows that the view of history as "made by white people and done to Indians" (direct quote) is outdated. Although much of Native American history from 1890 through at least the 1960s was shaped by
Bonnie G.
This is an imperfect book, and yet it is absolutely extraordinary. Truer has given us the history of America's indigenous people, attempting with admirable success to tell the stories of many different nations, as impacted by European imperialism. The majority of what is here is history I never learned, and I am someone who has actively tried to gain this knowledge. Of course its a series of terrible tales, more shameful than I could have imagined. As far as I know the material in this book has ...more
Nov 18, 2019 added it
Shelves: non-fic
There is so much information and history in this book that I was unfamiliar with. I'm so glad I read it, though it was dense at times and I struggled my way through. He clearly illustrates intergenerational trauma, as well as resistance and survival, through looking at allotment, enrollment,and more, all the way to digital Indians and the protests at Standing Rock. The personal anecdotes and in-depth features of individuals today were the best moments of this book, and really illustrated the ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Review: This was a really well thought out and well done book. We don’t tend to talk about Native American history after Wounded Knee, instead focusing on how white people progressed on the American continent. I couldn’t give it a full 5 of 5 stars due to the breakdown of chapters being a tiny bit confusing.
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-group
Everyone should read this. Like yesterday. Treuer writes the last 120+ years of Native American history with heart and courage and deep knowledge.
Frustrating but interesting. This is theoretically a history of American Indian life in the United States since 1890, but Treuer really seems much more engaged with people he interviewed than with any sustained history. It's characteristic that after the long introductory chapter of background—mostly region-by-region potted summaries—the first chapter of what he claims is his text proper, "1891–1934," begins with several pages about an Obama-administration official lacking any real connection to ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Had read 'Rez Life' and 'Prudence' by the same author and was very excited to read this book. I did not care for 'Prudence' but was totally absorbed by 'Rez'. I was curious to see what this was about, especially when I realized it was about Native people in the US after 1890 instead of just Wounded Knee.

Treuer takes us through a history of Native America and the history not told in most US history classes (unless you take specific ones, I think). Covering everything from how Natives navigate the
Katie Nunes
I can’t rate this because it could be read totally differently by someone with more historical knowledge than I. It is described as “sweeping”, and it certainly is. I had NO IDEA about so many of the historical facts. The Curtis Act? The Dawes Act? Allotment? Indian boarding schools? I felt so ignorant! And so very many tribes that I was not familiar with. The author did an amazing job with the history, but not being someone who can retain a lot of historical facts, it was difficult for me. It ...more
Jeanette Lukens
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent modern history of Native Americans from the perspective of an anthropologist who is a Native American. I highly value Treuer's perspective and his approach to Native American history. This book and his book Rez Life both come across and well documented/researched histories with vivid anecdotes of Native American life from his life and those of others, and his commendable goal is to give a more realistic or honest view of Native American life and history, one that is does not ...more
I'm originally from southern MN. My hometown is infamous for its cold blooded treatment of Dakota POW who rose up against injustice. The fact that the author is from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern MN made this book all that more special for me. I loved reading about the history of the Dakota and Ojibwe and how they first reached Minnesota and how they lived before settlers came for good.

But this book isn't just about Minnesota tribes. It tells the stories of all tribes (500) in all
Raimo Wirkkala
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This mix of the scholarly, journalistic, and the personal, makes for a fascinating account of Native American history. Treuer, himself an Ojibwe from not so far from where I live, spares us nothing of the violence, deceit, hypocrisy, and tragedy that is endemic to this history but allows none of it to shade a hopefulness and optimism that is heartening and very much at odds with other accounts. This reader hopes he is right.
Lukas Sotola
This is the most important book I've read all year. It tells all the history of Native Americans that we learn in school—plus all of the history of Native Americans that you don't learn in school: the history since the Massacre of Wounded Knee. If the way the history of Native Americans was taught in American schools was to be believed, one would think that in the centuries before 1890, the Native American story was only one of loss after loss until they all finally disappeared from the face of ...more
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David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the NEH, Bush Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Minneapolis. He is the author of three novels and a book of criticism. His essays and stories have appeared in Esquire, ...more
“Watching him then, I simply couldn’t think of him doing anything other than winning. Loss wasn’t the norm, it couldn’t be. I didn’t have the words for it then, what it felt like to watch my cousin, whom I love and whose worries are our worries and whose pain is our pain, manage to be so good at something, to triumph so completely. More than a painful life, more than a culture or a society with the practice and perfection of violence as a virtue and a necessity, more than a meanness or a willingness to sacrifice oneself, what I felt—what I saw—were Indian men and boys doing precisely what we’ve always been taught not to do. I was seeing them plainly, desperately, expertly wanting to be seen for their talents and their hard work, whether they lost or won. That old feeling familiar to so many Indians—that we can’t change anything; can’t change Columbus or Custer, smallpox or massacres; can’t change the Gatling gun or the legislative act; can’t change the loss of our loved ones or the birth of new troubles; can’t change a thing about the shape and texture of our lives—fell away. I think the same could be said for Sam: he might not have been able to change his sister’s fate or his mother’s or even, for a while, his own. But when he stepped in the cage he was doing battle with a disease. The disease was the feeling of powerlessness that takes hold of even the most powerful Indian men. That disease is more potent than most people imagine: that feeling that we’ve lost, that we’ve always lost, that we’ve already lost—our land, our cultures, our communities, ourselves. This disease is the story told about us and the one we so often tell about ourselves. But it’s one we’ve managed to beat again and again—in our insistence on our own existence and our successful struggles to exist in our homelands on our own terms. For some it meant joining the U.S. Army. For others it meant accepting the responsibility to govern and lead. For others still, it meant stepping into a metal cage to beat or be beaten. For my cousin Sam, for three rounds of five minutes he gets to prove that through hard work and natural ability he can determine the outcome of a finite struggle, under the bright, artificial lights that make the firmament at the Northern Lights Casino on the Leech Lake Reservation.” 3 likes
“If you want to know America—if you want to see it for what it was and what it is—you need to look at Indian history and at the Indian present. If you do, if we all do, we will see that all the issues posed at the founding of the country have persisted. How do the rights of the many relate to the rights of the few? What is or should be the furthest extent of federal power? How has the relationship between the government and the individual evolved? What are the limits of the executive to execute policy, and to what extent does that matter to us as we go about our daily lives? How do we reconcile the stated ideals of America as a country given to violent acts against communities and individuals? To what degree do we privilege enterprise over people? To what extent does the judiciary shape our understanding of our place as citizens in this country? To what extent should it? What are the limits to the state’s power over the people living within its borders? To ignore the history of Indians in America is to miss how power itself works.” 3 likes
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