The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is a sweeping account of Native Americans from pre-"who shall not be named" to present day, and a rich counter-narrative to the myth that Natives are a relic of the past. Instead of the vanishing Indian narrative, Treuer delivers testimonies of resilient people over time, truths about termination policies that continue to this day, and portraits of contemporary Natives continuing to both resist colonial values and reclaim identity in an ever-changing society. If you're looking to decolonize your history lessons on Native Americans, you need this book in your life. Recommended By Kate L., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
“Treuer chronicles the long histories of Native North America, showing the transformation and endurance of many nations. All American history collections will benefit from this important work by an important native scholar.” Library Journal (Starred Review)
“In a marvel of research and storytelling, an Ojibwe writer traces the dawning of a new resistance movement born of deep pride and a reverence for tradition. Treuer’s chronicle of rebellion and resilience is a manifesto and rallying cry.” O, The Oprah Magazine
“[Treuer's] book offers a powerful challenge to the persistent and pernicious idea of the ‘vanishing Indian,’ replacing it with a far more accurate story of Indian people’s repossession and restoration of sovereignty and dignity.” Patricia Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest and co-founder, Center of the American West
“Instead of seeing Wounded Knee as the final chapter, [Treuer] 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
About the Author
David Treuer is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. The author of four previous novels, most recently Prudence, and two books of nonfiction, he has also written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Slate, and The Washington Post, among others. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.
Powell's Staff on PowellsBooks.Blog
From humorous essays about death to reflections on Standing Rock, the titles below — while nowhere near a comprehensive survey — offer a taste of the diversity, talent, passion, and importance of contemporary Native writers...