Monday, November 9, 2020

Review of The Native American Experience: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Fetterman Massacre, and Creek Mary's Blood by Dee Brown

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History, Empires

Elaborate Description

This compilation contains two non-fiction books and a fiction book. The non-fiction books are Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee which looks at events from mainly the perspective of the Native Americans, and The Fetterman Massacre which takes the perspective of the soldiers and officers. Creek Mary’s Blood is a fiction book narrated in a reminiscence manner. Each book does provide valuable information about the interaction between Native Americans and Americans but the quality of information varies. The initial book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, is the most informative and interesting of the compilation. The books maintain the language used such as Native Americans are called Indians while the invading Americans generally referred to as whites.


Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee:

Most Indian tribes wanted peace with the whites while few saw that war was the only option. Initially, they were willing to sell land cheaply to settlers as their belief was that land was infinite and did not understand why they needed to sell it. The initial colonists had different engagements with the tribes. Some tribes were plundered for slaves and other valuables. The settlement of Jamestown convinced a tribe to provide the settlers with food. Tribes near Plymouth saw the colonists as helpless children and were willing to help them survive by giving them food and training them to gather their own food. The results of the settlements were near identical, with the Indians being slaughtered.

Whites wanted the lands belonging to the Indians for variety of reasons such as a growing population, train, and gold. To obtain this land or to at least use the land, the American government made many treaties with the chiefs. At least within the history of the book, no treaty survived within a few years. The stipulations of the treaties were never fully met by the American government so the Indians had to fight to regain their lands and hunting grounds. Many tribes were supposed to obtain a certain amount of food as their hunting grounds were gone due to the American interventions such as trains, but as the government did not provide the food, the Indians fought to provide space for game. These fights caused massive military reprisals by the American government which usually won. In a particular town, the Indians were able to obtain enough to survive but an American officer wanted to get rid of the Indians so he created a misinformation campaign which made the Indians seem as if they had violated the treaty.

Many laws were set up to protect Indian lands. Andrew Jackson (known as Sharp Knife to Indians) made a law that guaranteeing the lands as long as they are occupied the land. Other laws were set up with the same premise but whites usually invaded Indian lands anyway. Rather than enforce the law, the government bargained with Indian tribes to sell the land to them under the threat of bloodshed if they would not. Other times, the whites were able to give enough gifts to corrupt chiefs who would then give the land away. Many times, the Indians stayed near forts and were subject to American laws. The problem is that when disputes between Indians and whites arose, the whites won the cases even if it was clear that the whites were the perpetrators. When few Indians retaliated for crimes committed by whites, whole Indian tribes were targeted for removal. There was even a case of Standing Bear v. Crook were the judge ruled that an Indian was a “person” and in keeping with habeas corpus act which prevented any authority from moving people against their will. When the Indians tried to test the law by moving willing away from a reservation, they were denied.

Reservation were set up to house Indians who had submitted to the will of the Americans. Within the reservations, the Indians were promised much in the way of sustenance and living quarters, and like most promises, were rarely kept. Many Indians died due to the cold or hunger. Depending the environmental condition, some Indians died because they were not accustomed to the humid conditions. Certain chiefs fought after witnessing the appalling conditions in the revelations.

Some tribes were wiped out of existence because they did not fight the whites. Certain treaties were made with hostile Indians who were able to obtain some sort of existence. Peaceful tribes were either wiped out to remove them from the land, or had the hardest time in the reservations. Peace treaties meant little, even icons granted from a president. One president gave medals and an American flag to a tribe claiming that no one would be harmed under the flag. The flag was raised over a tent and many people huddled near it for protection, but the white invaders still killed everyone they saw. Even a white flag did not mean truce for many whites. When they had raised the flag, the Indians would come but be trapped and put in prison. Many Indians went to talk to approaching whites holding a white flag were shot at when they came within range.

It appears that the biggest reason that Indian tribes lost so much was due to relatively less centralization of authority. Each tribe had chiefs who saw different paths for their tribe. When under threat, few tribes were able coalesce and muster the strength of enough warriors to fight the American invaders. The victories were short lived as the treaty made to recompense the Indian tribes was broken shortly after. Most of the time, if different tribes needed to share land, the tribe whose land it was considered the other tribes as intruders. There was little cohesion between different tribes and their relationships were tenuous. Some tribes benefited at the expense of other tribes, and some Indians betrayed their own tribes and chiefs.

This book is a collection of stories mostly from the 1860s to 1890s with a bit of history before that time period. It tries and succeeds in telling the story of Native Americans rather than how the story of the Indians was expressed before. The Indians story was rarely if ever heard in the press. As the press showed the crimes committed by the Indians while not telling the atrocities committed by whites against the Indians to lead the Indians to commit the crimes. This book shows events from the perspective of the Native Americans.


The Fetterman Massacre:

This book expresses events leading up to the Fetterman Massacre and some events after. The events start roughly a year before the massacre with Carrington being assigned the duty to protect a road. A road that the Indians did not want there. Carrington wanted peace with the Indians and treated them with the greatest care. Making rules for the officers to be polite to the Indians visiting the fort. Rather than simply making demands, Carrington tried to conform to the way Indians wanted to handle the situation.

There were problems along the way and with some tribes not wanting peace. Captain Fetterman was sent to the fort as well. Carrington wanted peace and was aimed at mostly defense. Fetterman wanted to wipe the Indians out and did not think Indians had any military strategy. Fetterman underestimated Indian’s capacity to strategize which ultimately led the forces under his command to be massacred. Carrington was blamed for the massacre and spent many years trying to clean his tarnished reputation.

This book contains many manual type military instructions. From what orders were given to frustrations of being under equipped for the post provided. May resources needed to protect the road which were urgently needed, such a weapons and horses, were not being provided. Carrington had to manage an understaffed fort with inadequate supplies.


Creek Mary’s Blood:

This book follows 5 generations of a single family as they learn to survive with the changing situations. The story is being narrated by Creek Mary’s grandson Dane to a journalist. Starting with Creek Mary’s first child with John Kingsley all the way to the present day of Dane’s granddaughter. The reminiscence adds perspective to the narrative.

Many events described in Brown’s book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee are shown in this book with a personal touch. Many tribal differences and cultures are very present in this book as different generations of Creek Mary’s Blood have to cope with them. Starting with Creek mixture with white colonialist culture, to Cherokee, and Cheyenne’s.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781504049580
Pages to read:   1086
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      1970, 1970, 1983
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5