by David Treuer
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
"An ambitious, gripping, and elegantly written synthesis that is much more than the sum of its excellent parts--which include a rich array of Native lives, Treuer's own family and tribe among them-- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee brings a recognition of indigenous vitality and futurity to a century of modern Indian history." --Philip J. Deloria, Professor of History, Harvard University
"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
"Part of the magic of this book stems from Treuer's ability to move seamlessly back and forth from the Big Indian Story to the voices of living Indians explaining to us, and to themselves, what it means to be Indian, American, and both at the same time. . . . open[ing] a window on the contemporary Indian world, in its dazzling variety, and infus[ing] the book with a kind of vividness and punch rarely found in narrative histories. . . . It's hard to imagine there will be a better, more compelling look at Indian country than this one anytime soon." --The Daily Beast
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.