Dee Brown’s book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee will forever remind myself of the cruelty of those who came before us. Are we still a cruel nation? I am certain that those dealing with Native Americans in the 19th century felt they were not. The term Manifest Destiny was first defined by journalist, John L. O’Sullivan in 1845 as, “And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.”
In my own terms I would define Manifest Destiny as the American governments mission to remake the world in the image of America. After reading the book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. I noticed many key examples of how the Native American Indians continue to struggle to preserve their culture, religion, and way of life.
Brown presents the story with a brief history of the settlement of American in 1492. Manifest Destiny was shown multiple times throughout the book when the whites tried to take over the Sioux Land. This book takes place in the late nineteenth century. The warfare shown in this book portrayed a continuing effort to destroy the Native Americans culture, religion, and way of life. Many treaties were set up to get the Native American people to move to the Black Hills, but Sitting Bull always refused.
“Let me be a free man – free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself – and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty” (Brown, 385). The Native American people cried out for help many times throughout the book for freedom. They wanted to protect their own culture and way of life. The book is told by many different narratives.
One narrative, who specifically stood out the most was a Native man who was taken out of the reservation to continue his education and eventually he became a doctor. He moved out to the reservation to help the heal the Native American people from measles, influenza, and other horrible sicknesses. He was concerned for his people and did what anyone else would have done by helping heal the sick.
Throughout the book, the whites were portrayed as mean people. Manipulation was a much greater weapon used by whites against Native Americans during the move west. The Native American people were eventually manipulated into everything they did. “To the Indians it seemed that these Europeans hated everything in nature – the living forests and their birds and beasts, the grassy grades, the water, the soil, the air itself” (Brown). They would have to go check in to the white people to get blankets, shoes, cloaks, and what ever else they needed in order to survive.
Sitting Bull however never wanted any of those things. He always just wanted his people to get their land back and for the whites to leave his people alone. This book, most of it told from the perspective of Native Americans, screams that many were indeed cruel. Many American leaders, military, and citizens had no respect for the rights of Native American and they took not only their lands, but their very souls as they marched across the American continent.
Though many of the pictures and art work do not always portray these Native American people naturally, they do add to a better understanding of the story that Mr. Brown wanted us to discover – “often another person’s perspective is different from my own.” Peace can only be achieved universally if we begin to understand that we are all different and should be treated with respect as to our own beliefs and life styles.
Towards the end of the story the Native American people come together by saying, “The white men will not see my mark again on this paper for the rest of my days on this earth.” This ends up hurting them worse, literally. The United States sends their soldiers to arrest Sitting Bull. Many of the people scream and shout to save him, but when the horse danced everyone was silent. One brave indian shot one of the soldiers causing two shots to be fired at Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull died, causing a war to break out again between the soldiers and the Native American people.
Many were shot and died. Children, women, and men were all killed at the creek of Wounded Knee. Charles, the doctor was some of the peoples last hope. He tried to save as many people as possible. From that day on nothing was the same. “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it” (Brown). The white people keep coming back with more and more offers to the Native American people, but they never budge as the land they live on is home to them.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a realistic and moving book of an important event in the history of the United States. I was able to visualize many of the events told in graphic detail. A quote that stuck out to me most was, “Nothing lives long only the earth and mountains” (Brown). This quote has so much meaning behind it that I feel many readers look past. The Native American people were trying to save their homeland.
The trials of Native Americans may leave many people feeling ashamed of their ancestors. Brown’s arguable account of Manifest Destiny made a huge impact during a time when many people were not thrilled to hear the other side of the story. Most were happy being oblivious to the fact that their countrymen had slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. This book helps people recognize, understand, and accept the other side of this story.
On my honor, I pledge that I have upheld the Honor Code, and that the work I have done on this assignment has been honest, and that the work of others in this class has, to the best of my knowledge, been honest as well.
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