Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Americans who have always looked westward when reading about this period should read this book facing eastward”. Despite the popularity of the eyewitness accounts, Brown is not an absentee narrator. In the book Brown emphasizes two main points, the language he uses and the storyline of the book. He uses these two things to give the eyewitness accounts as much impact as possible. In the process, he attempts to defile his enemy in all kinds of different manners: The way Brown makes his readers; view eastward is by using the faults that have plagued the Native Americans.
Brown’s way of emphasizes language allows the readers to connect to the Native Americans and this allows the book to thrive and continue. This book differs from a lot of other books about Native Americans, because he uses many Native American interpretations. For example, the Sioux and Cheyenne’s frequently see trains pass through their land in the Powder River country. Says Brown: ‘‘Sometimes they saw Iron Horses dragging wooden houses on wheels at great speed along the tracks .
They were puzzled over what could be inside the houses. ’’ Brown uses the terms ‘‘Iron Horses’’ and ‘‘wooden houses’’ to describe trains and train cars, as a Native American at this time would have perceived them. Brown also uses the Native American designations for U. S. military ranks in his descriptions. For example, to a Native American at this time, a general was known as a “Star Chief” and a colonel was an “Eagle Chief”. In addition, Brown refers to prominent American historical figures by their Native American names.
For example, many Native Americans called General George Armstrong Custer ‘‘Hard Backsides,” “because he chased them over long distances for many hours without leaving his saddle ”. Brown also uses Native American naming systems for natural processes like time. Because Americans during this time divide the year into twelve months and refer to these months by names like May and June, however, Native Americans referred to these time periods by their relationship to nature.
So, in Brown’s book, May is “the Moon When the Ponies Shed” and June is “the Strawberry Moon”. By using distinctly Native American interpretations like these in his narration, Brown takes his readers deep into the Native American experience. In the process, the reader begins to identify with the Native Americans. When readers identify with characters, they tend to feel sympathy for them. Through Dee Browns thesis, Brown organizes his story to maximize his readers’ sympathetic emotions.
Brown establishes a three? part structure for most chapters, which demonstrates again and again that Native Americans lost no matter what they did. Francis Paul Prucha for examples states that “The materials have been selected to make the authors point, not to present a balanced view of what happened, from the Native American standpoint or from any other”. Typically, the chapter begins with a discussion of a chief or tribe who has lost something, generally a piece of their land and still has more to lose.
For example, in the beginning of the second chapter, Brown notes: “As the result of two deceptive treaties, the woodland Sioux surrendered nine? tenths of their land and were crowded into a narrow strip of territory along the Minnesota River”. Following the discussion of what has been already lost; Brown introduces the second part, the struggle. For Native Americans in the nineteenth century, the struggles were many, whether they decided to go to war or did not. Many tribes in the book do choose to fight to retain their remaining land and freedom.
In most cases, the tribes win some battles but end up losing the war. The U. S. soldiers are too advanced and numerous to be defeated, something that the Native Americans begin to realize. For example, Little Crow is cautious about fighting at first, because he had been to the East and seen the power of the Americans. They were everywhere and with cannons they would destroy everything in their path. Even when the Native Americans outnumber the whites, the military technology can be the decisive factor in the victory.
As many Native Americans learned, even though they had bravery, numbers, and massive charges all of that would mean nothing if the Native Americans were armed only with bows, lances, and clubs. In cases where the Native Americans try to remain peaceful, Brown shows many ways that they are provoked into war. In several cases, settlers or miners hungry for the Native Americans’ remaining land spread lies in an effort to get the government to take their land. During the Civil War, Native Americans were sometimes provoked into fighting because it was the safer of two options for white, male citizens.
For example, Brown says there was political pressure on soldiers from Coloradans who wanted to avoid the military draft of 1864 by serving in uniform against a few poorly armed Indians rather than against the Confederates farther east. Even after the Civil War, when the draft was no longer an issue, some drafted soldiers used lies to provoke Native Americans and kill them because peace was not profitable for the settlers. The final part of Brown’s argument in most chapters is the ending. Due to the massive struggles that Native Americans faced whether or not they chose to remain peaceful, most chapters end badly.
The chiefs, who are often depicted as strong in the beginning and middle of the chapters when they are fighting for their land and people, end up dead, in prison, in exile, or on a reservation with the rest of their people. Even the exceptions to this rule, such as the chapter depicting Red Cloud’s successful war, ultimately end negatively. Red Cloud’s story is an example of the overall structure of the book. The book starts out with many Native Americans living free and retaining parcels of their land.
As the story progresses and the white emigration start to take over, large armies and groups of white settlers cut down the various tribes. By the end of the book, the effect of white emigration has impacted around so much of the country that most Native Americans are dead, in prison, or on scattered reservations. To conclude I felt the effect on the reader is profound. Brown has gotten his readers to root for the underdogs by using eyewitness accounts and language to draw readers into the Native American experience.
Yet, in each chapter Brown steadily crushes any hope that the reader might have for the Native Americans winning much of anything by using his plot. By using these strategies, Brown makes his readers feel more into the book by trying to make them sympathize to the Natives. Brown’s tone, or attitude towards his subject matter, is one of barely restrained outrage, and he wants readers to get angry, too. Tom Phillips, another reviewer states, “Brown has gone too far at some points and is guilty of the same faults as those who created the raditional image of the Native American as savage, alcoholic and expendable”.