How were you affected by ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee?’

At 11:20, we’re talking about ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,’ another one of the 88 Books That Shaped America. Here’s what the Library of Congress wrote about the 1970 bestseller:

Until librarian Dee Brown wrote his history of Native Americans in the West, few Americans knew the details of the unjust treatment of Indians. Brown scoured both well-known and little-known sources for his documentary on the massacres, broken promises and other atrocities suffered by Indians. The book has never gone out of print and has sold more than 4 million copies.

Pine_Ridge_Agency_SD_Indian_dance.jpg(Native American Lakota Sioux men and boys perform a dance on the Pine Ridge Agency, South Dakota. They wear breechcloths, bustles, roaches, feathers in their hair, leg bands with bells, moccasins, arm bands, and hair pipe breastplates. 1890 or 1891. Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library, via Library of Congress)

Have you read ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee?’ How did affect you?

–Stephanie Curtis social media host

  • Stephanie

    Which of the 88 Books That Shaped America should we read next? We want you to choose.

    Suggestions that already came in:

    Moby Dick

    Common Sense

    Our Bodies, Ourselves

    For Whom the Bell Tolls

    In Cold Blood

    Silent Spring

    The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn

    The Grapes of Wrath

    To Kill A Mockingbird

    Anyone want to second any of those?

  • Chuck

    Found it a fascinating, moving, and deep description of Indian-American relations and the mistreatment Indians have faced, much of which I wasn’t aware of.

    Since reading it years ago, I’ve been coming to a more balanced view of relations. First, Indians have not been wiped out despite whites’ best efforts, and second, neither do they seem to need or want whites to “rescue the poor Indians”–an attitude the book might foster in liberal whites. Maybe we can come to a mutual understanding based on respect for the experiences of each other.

  • Cheryl

    I read the book in a high school class….it shaped the way I view American history.

  • Chuck

    I second “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It always has something new to say every time I read it (about four times now).

  • dlamm

    I remember my mother coming home with this book from a college class she took at UCR. I read it when I was a teenager and have had a different view of our first peoples ever since. An aside, The U of M American Indian Studies department is the first of it’s kind in the nation and has connections to AIM.

  • Stephanie Curtis

    Here’s the while list:

    The Words of Cesar Chavez Cesar Chavez 2002

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum 1900

    Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak 1963

    The Weary Blues Langston Hughes 1925

    Walden; or Life in the Woods Henry David Thoreau 1854

    Unsafe at Any Speed Ralph Nader 1965

    Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith 1943

    A Treasury of American Folklore Benjamin A. Botkin 1944

    To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 1960

    Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston 1937

    Tarzan of the Apes Edgar Rice Burroughs 1914

    A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America Christopher Colles 1789

    A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams 1947

    A Street in Bronzeville Gwendolyn Brooks 1945

    Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein 1961

    Spring and All William Carlos Williams 1923

    The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner 1929

    The Souls of Black Folk W.E.B. Du Bois 1903

    The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats 1962

    Silent Spring Rachel Carson 1962

    Sexual Behavior in the Human Male Alfred C. Kinsey 1948

    The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne 1850

    Riders of the Purple Sage Zane Grey 1912

    Red Harvest Dashiell Hammett 1929

    The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane 1895

    The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. Benjamin Franklin 1793

    Pragmatism William James 1907

    Poor Richard Improved and The Way to Wealth Benjamin Franklin 1758

    Poems Emily Dickinson 1890

    Peter Parley’s Universal History Samuel Goodrich 1837

    Our Town: A Play Thornton Wilder 1938

    Our Bodies, Ourselves Boston Women’s Health Book Collective 1971

    On the Road Jack Kerouac 1957

    New Hampshire Robert Frost 1923

    New England Primer anonymous 1803

    Native Son Richard Wright 1940

    The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass 1845

    Moby-Dick; or The Whale Herman Melville 1851

    McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer William Holmes McGuffey 1836

    Mark, the Match Boy Horatio Alger Jr. 1869

    Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy Louisa May Alcott 1868

    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Washington Irving 1820

    Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman 1855

    The Jungle Upton Sinclair 1906

    Joy of Cooking Irma Rombauer 1931

    Invisible Man Ralph Ellison 1952

    In Cold Blood Truman Capote 1966

    Idaho: A Guide in Word and Pictures Federal Writers’ Project 1937

    The Iceman Cometh Eugene O’Neill 1946

    Howl Allen Ginsberg 1956

    How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie 1936

    How the Other Half Lives Jacob Riis 1890

    History of the Expedition Under the Command of the Captains Lewis and Clark Meriwether Lewis 1814

    The History of Standard Oil Ida Tarbell 1904

    Harriet, the Moses of Her People Sarah H. Bradford 1901

    The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald 1925

    The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck 1939

    A Grammatical Institute of the English Language Noah Webster 1783

    Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown 1947

    Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell 1936

    For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway 1940

    The Fire Next Time James Baldwin 1963

    The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan 1963

    The Federalist anonymous 1787

    Family Limitation Margaret Sanger 1914

    Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 1953

    Experiments and Observations on Electricity Benjamin Franklin 1751

    The Education of Henry Adams Henry Adams 1907

    The Double Helix James D. Watson 1968

    A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible anonymous 1788

    Cosmos Carl Sagan 1980

    The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care Benjamin Spock 1946

    Common Sense Thomas Paine 1776

    Charlotte’s Web E.B. White 1952

    The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger 1951

    Catch-22 Joseph Heller 1961

    The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss 1957

    The Call of the Wild Jack London 1903

    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Dee Brown 1970

    Beloved Toni Morrison 1987

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X and Alex Haley 1965

    Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand 1957

    And the Band Played On Randy Shilts 1987

    The American Woman’s Home Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe 1869

    American Cookery Amelia Simmons 1796

    Alcoholics Anonymous anonymous 1939

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain 1884

  • Jeff Lasar

    Bury my heart was a very compelling book for me when I read it in the ’70’s. It has inspired my interest in Indian culture and history. I just read “The Killing of Crazy Horse” by Thomas Powers, another great historical account of the Lakota struggles.

  • Joe Lompart

    I was born in 1970 and was taught in elementary school that we got along great with the ‘indians’ (Thanksgiving, fish fertilizer, etc.) until they went and screwed it up. I read the book in high school and realized that there was much more to it.

  • Jessica Miller

    It is truly sad that the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, SD recently suffered a fire that destroyed the building and exhibits. The exhibits were very moving and educational. It was the perfect stop before driving to visit Wounded Knee.

  • Kathy Hilber

    I was a junior in high school in SE Wis. and gravitated to this book on display in our school library. It was the first ‘serious’ book I read and it was so amazing in how it blew away any notions I ever had of native americans. I own a copy from the 70’s and also a new illustrated version. It also tempered my views when there was problems in northern Wis. later on that were tied to AIM (if I’m remembering correctly).

  • Chuck

    By the way, “Rez Life” is a fantastic book about modern life for American Indians, presenting a full portrait of the good and bad parts of life on reservations, just as every person and culture has its own good and bad parts–they are just a part of life.

  • Grail

    It is sad that any atrocities were ever done on anybody by anybody.

    Would your guests like to address the far greater atrocities committed by the Native American tribes on each other?

  • Ann Bursch

    My late husband was working on his PHD at the University of Illinois, knew Dee Brown & received one of his early books. My husband worked as agribusiness consultant on Pine Ridge Reservation during the 70’s & 80’s. The paper back copy that I have does have the pictures in the center of the book. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee had a great influence on my husband’s work.


  • Jim

    How can you have a conversation about wounded knee without mentioning the movie Little Big Man which came out in the same year.

    Despite the silly comic portrayals it began to inform people that Indians were more than static objects.

    More than ANYTHING ELSE, this movie sparked the initial curiosity that fueled sales of this book.

  • Momo

    I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and Black Elk Speaks, which were both on my father’s book shelf, when I was a teen in the 80’s. Along with a trip to the Little Bighorn Monument, these books shaped my interest in and respect for the culture of the Sioux, and all native people. I think the history of how our country acquired the Black Hills and the rest of the Sioux holy lands is a shameful part of our past.

  • Adrienne Chezik

    Thirteen Moons by author of Cold mountain, is a great read of the Native american removal.

  • Stephanie Curtis

    Recommendation from our guest Brenda Child:

    The Lakota and the Black Hills by Jeffrey Ostler.

  • Elizabeth T

    I read this in ’01 as preparatory work to a vacation my husband and I took driving from Lansing, MI to the Grand Tetons. He had just moved to the US, and while he is very knowledgeable about American history, we thought it would be nice to read in depth about prt of the country we would be driving through.

    We stopped at Wounded Knee. It was moving. What was more moving was the people who had photo albums with photographs taken after the massacre by the US Army. One generally does not see photographs in school text books of a battle field strewn with corpses. It was shocking to realize that photography was in use, and there is photographic evidence of the events.

    We’re driving out west next Summer with our two children; we will be reprising the events as an educational opportunity for the boys that I didn’t have (as I’m not from the midwest). They’re not old enough to read it, but they’ll be old enough to be introduced to the information.

  • Dumestre

    This blog is a great idea.

  • Sara

    As I reflect on the interview of Brenda Child and David Treurer, their concern around how the American Indians through Dee Brown’s book were referred to as “victims of history” puzzled me. Our perception of American Indians as victims may be due to stereotyping and ethnocentrism. American’s who are focused on living the “American Dream” may not realize that the culture of American Indian’s does not include this focus and in fact their focus on spirituality and wholeness within may be behind their choice to live simple lives and stay on the reservations. These cultural differences during the early years of America may have lead to the violence between the settlers and the Indians.

  • Gwen

    I was grateful the first caller brought up the writing of history, regarding there is a plethora of information when the culture is a hero, but when they have committed unnecessary violent acts on other cultures the information it lacking or tainted..

  • Kathy H.

    I was intrigued to hear the different points made by the
    callers and the guests. Dee Brown’s book is a great example of what happens when one challenges the norm, and presents information from a different point of view or cultural context. It is great to see people continue to question what one has learned about the historyof the Native Indians, and to not just accept what has been told to many people through our academic studies.

  • Stephen M

    I like listening to the guests and the callers. Most people never seem to consider what the native peoples went through as the non-natives began to expand across the continent. My great-grandmother was Cherokee and intermarried with a man of European descent. My paternal grandmother had the look of a native american and I was at least 11 before I realized that she was a different racial blend than the other ladies she went to church with. My sons did not think that my descriptions of “Mamaw” where accurate until the day my oldest son saw a photo of her holding him when he was a baby and he asked, “Who is the Indian holding me in this photo?” I told him who she was and he was surprised.
    My dad had made it a point to make sure my brother and I knew about the darker side of native displacement so we would not be unaware of how people can treat each other but he also emphasized how important it is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. His efforts made me understand at an early age that the perception of native people often found in popular culture was not accurate.
    Years later, while in Honduras I had the chance to visit Porte de Cortes (named for the Spanish explorer who landed there). I found a plaque that described Cortes as a blonde haired blue eyed man who mistreated the native people. One thing is clear to me; when people allow greed to motivate them instead of a concern for other crimes against humanity are sure to follow.