History is filled with stories. Many of these stories have been changed or suppressed by the leaders who carried out some of the most pivotal events in human history. As a young country the United States had its ups and downs as far as dealing with key human rights issues is concerned. Probably the most publicized example would be the civil rights struggle for African Americans. They are not the only group to be persecuted throughout U.S. history. There were the Chinese who were kept in camps after they completed the railroads to the west, which helped our country expand and grow. In the early 1900s the Irish Americans coming to New York were constantly harassed and persecuted. And then there is the group of people who probably have more right to the land than we do, Native Americans or as they were incorrectly named, Indians. This group of people thrived on this entire hemisphere until European settlers discovered this New World. After that began the systematic destruction of all Indian cultures. The Mayans, Incas, Sioux, Apache, Aztecs, and Cherokee are all tribes whose cultures have been removed from the face of the earth. The Central and South American Indians (Aztec, Mayan, and Inca) were the most advanced of all, building great pyramids and developing an understanding of science. The North American Indians (Sioux, Apache, and Cherokee) were more primitive, but no less important. They seemed to live in harmony with nature and they respected the delicate balance between their surroundings and themselves. Why did we feel they were such a threat? Why could we not live hand-in-hand with these people? This is where Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee begins to tell a story. The book describes the struggle between the Native Americans and the European settlers who became Americans. Dee Brown basically just went through the history of the Native Americans after the Europeans arrived. Brown used numerous Indian and U.S. records to write this book, so the accuracy of the book is proven. After the brief introduction the book covers about three decades of the American Indians fight for their land. The last story being told was probably the most gruesome, the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Here on a cold December day is were hundreds of Sioux men, women, and children were killed. Other battles were described in such detail. The Indians fought so valiantly to try to protect their ancestral homes, but in the end it was useless. The Americans later desecrated their sacred holy land such as the Black Hills and Paha Sapa. The most popular desecrated site would be one most Americans look at as a national monument. Mt. Rushmore was carved into the very mountains held sacred by some Native Americans. The most riveting part of the book was probably the last paragraph. It reads It was the fourth day after Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 1890. When the first torn and bleeding bodies were carried into the candlelit church, those who were conscious could see Christmas greenery hanging from the open rafters. Across the chancel front above the pulpit was strung a crudely lettered banner: PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN.
How did this book affect me? I now see how awful our government treated Americas first citizens. What caused us to be so persistent in our pursuit in moving the Indians out of their land? With our technology and pride we did the job. This book made me feel awful about being white skinned and American. It also made me try to figure out what was to blame. I think it all came down to religion. When the Europeans came to this new country they believed that unless you were Christian or you converted you were expendable. Plus, there are the sins of greed and pride. These drove the settlers out west to make money. While reading this book it took me through a lot of emotions. Anger and sadness are the only two ways to describe the way I felt. While reading the book something else happened. On September 11, 2001 our country changed. National pride began to reemerge and America was once again looked upon as a great and proud nation. But I still had to read the book. It was a weird feeling. It took me a while, but I finally came to the conclusion that we are a totally different country now. All of the mistakes our country make are in the past. We can never change our history, but we can fight to make sure that similar events of injustice never happen again. I hope we always turn our eyes and ears toward the past to see how to handle the future.