A New History of Native Americans Responds to ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’Historians in the News
tags: books, Wounded Knee, Native American history
Over the past 12 months, Native American politicians, artists and academics have made uncommon gains. Indeed, Native American women helped to make 2018 the Year of the Woman. In November, New Mexican and Kansan voters elected Debra Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) to Congress, while voters in Minnesota elected Peggy Flanagan (Ojibwe) their lieutenant governor. In October, the sociologist Rebecca Sandefur (Chickasaw) and the poet Natalie Diaz (Mojave) won MacArthur Foundation Awards, while throughout the spring and summer, the playwrights Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee), Larissa FastHorse (Lakota) and DeLanna Studi (Cherokee) had historic openings at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, Ore., and Portland Center Stage, respectively. From the cover of American Theater magazine in April to CNN on election night, the work of these eight dynamic Native women garnered national acclaim.
Such achievements represent more than added texture to the mosaic of modern America. They underscore the rising power of American Indians over the past two generations. During an era known as “Self-Determination,” Indian tribes and their citizens have changed not only their particular nations but also the larger nation around them. Though still poorly understood, this era emerged from urban and reservation activism in the 1960s and ’70s, when community leaders, students and veterans, among others, challenged onerous policies that had aimed to assimilate tribal communities. The Self-Determination Era has now grown in prodigious ways and yielded countless examples of achievement across Native North America, including the elections of Haaland and Davids as the first American Indian women ever elected to Congress.
“The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee,” by David Treuer (Ojibwe), examines these recent generations of American Indian history. Through memoir, interviews and extensive reading, Treuer counters the familiar narratives of invisibility that have so readily frozen America’s indigenous peoples. Interweaving stories from family members, the voices of policymakers and assessments of contemporary youth culture, the book introduces alternative visions of American history. The result is an informed, moving and kaleidoscopic portrait of “Indian survival, resilience, adaptability, pride and place in modern life.” Rarely has a single volume in Native American history attempted such comprehensiveness.
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