A sweeping history--and counter-narrative--of Native American life from the Wounded Knee massacre to the present.
The received idea of Native American history--as promulgated by books like Dee Brown's mega-bestselling 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee--has been that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. Not only did one hundred fifty Sioux die at the hands of the U. S. Cavalry, the sense was, but Native civilization did as well.
Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist, and researching Native life past and present for his nonfiction and novels, David Treuer has uncovered a different narrative. Because they did not disappear--and not despite but rather because of their intense struggles to preserve their language, their traditions, their families, and their very existence--the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention.
In The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes' distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don't know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.
"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 . . . Ultimately, Treuer’s powerful book suggests the need for soul-searching about the meanings of American history and the stories we tell ourselves about this nation’s past." —New York Times Book Review
“Treuer provides a sweeping account of how the trope of the vanishing Indian has distorted our current understanding of Native peoples. Instead of seeing Wounded Knee as the final chapter, he recovers the importance of World War II, urban migration, casinos, and the computer age in reshaping the modern Native American experience. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is written with conviction and illuminates the past in a deeply compelling way.” – Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America