FINALIST FOR THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Named a best book of 2019 by The New York Times, TIME, The Washington Post, NPR, Hudson Booksellers, The New York Public Library, The Dallas Morning News, and Library Journal.
"Chapter after chapter, it's like one shattered myth after another." - NPR
"An informed, moving and kaleidoscopic portrait... 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, front page
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In December 1890, several hundred Lakota were slaughtered by the U.S. military in what’s become known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. All too often, this tragedy is treated as the end of Native American history, but literature professor and novelist David Treuer’s stark, eye-opening book rights that wrong. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee traces the history of various tribes and individuals over the 20th and 21st centuries, illuminating their efforts to remain visible in a modern world hell-bent on erasing them. Treuer—a member of the Ojibwe tribe—weaves in his own firsthand experiences, bringing a sense of immediacy and heart that gives this history book some of the feel of a personal memoir.
Ojibwe novelist and nonfiction author Treuer (Prudence) offers a counter-narrative to the "same old sad story of the dead Indian' " in this forceful, full-scale history of the Native American experience. The book's title references Dee Brown's 1970 bestseller, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and its claim that, between 1860 and 1890, "the culture and civilization of the American Indian was destroyed." Aiming to recast how Native Americans see themselves as well as how they're viewed by others, Treuer briskly chronicles the first four centuries of contact between Europeans and American Indians before taking a deep dive into the "untold story of the past 128 years." He documents Native American heroism in WWI; the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which brought New Deal reforms to tribal communities; the post-WWII urban migration of Native Americans; the 1970s occupations of Alcatraz Island and the Bureau of Indian Affairs by members of the American Indian Movement; and the impact of legalized gambling on reservation life. Interwoven with these accounts are profiles of Treuer's friends and family, and reportage from "Indian homelands" throughout the U.S. His character sketches, of Oglala Lakota chef and cookbook author Sean Sherman, for example, are impactful and finely drawn. This vivid rewriting of the history of Native America should be required reading. \n