Johnny Cordova's Reviews > An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
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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 that some of America’s native tribes possessed sophisticated systems of agriculture, it’s widely known that hunting was an integral part of life — animal protein was a prized and indispensable food source. Not only that, but many tribes were nomadic hunter-gatherers, something that the author scarcely acknowledges.

Is Dunbar-Ortiz trying to portray indigenous populations as more politically correct, thus sympathetic, for a liberal readership? Or trying to legitimize them as “civilized?” Whatever the case, one gets the feeling that the author is willing to play games with the truth in order to propagate her agenda.

Another eyebrow-raising moment comes later when she claims that Crazy Horse was killed trying to escape his reservation. On the contrary, it’s well-established that Crazy Horse was set up to be murdered by one of his own people — the culmination of a long-standing, petty, intratribal rivalry. He wasn't trying to escape.

If one were to do a thorough fact checking, I suspect one would uncover similar distortions, omissions, and revisions of the true history. It’s a real shame because this should have been an important book.

Criticisms aside, I found myself cheering Dunbar-Ortiz throughout for her unflinching, scathing condemnation of the lies that made, and continue to make, America.
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Reading Progress

August 11, 2016 – Shelved
August 11, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
August 22, 2016 – Started Reading
August 22, 2016 – Shelved as: history
September 16, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Thomas (new) - added it

Thomas O'Connor Not sure where you got your facts about Crazy Horse's murder. It is not "well established" that he was killed by his people.

Johnny Cordova Daniele Bolelli did a four-part series on Crazy Horse for his History on Fire podcast. In the fourth part he does an excellent job breaking down the conflicting reports of Crazy Horse's death. As I recall (it's been a while since I listened to it), Crazy Horse was set up by a member of his own tribe. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the the phrase "well-established." I'll go back and listen to the podcast and update my review if I got my facts mixed up.

message 3: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Reynolds-Ward She does get the fate of the Wallowa Nimiipuu incorrect--the Wallowa band did not return to the Lapwai reservation in Idaho except for a handful. Most of the Wallowa Band was exiled to the Colville Reservation in Washington. A nit given the scope of this book, and certainly comparable to other broad histories that cover such a wide scope...but still bothersome.

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