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LOCAL>> Reading California Book Discussion: The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee
Book discussion about memoir with history and reportage on indigenous Americans
This “must-read” book is the gold medal winner in nonfiction of this year’s California Book Awards from The Commonwealth Club.
Author David Treuer, who will be joining us for the book discussion, wants to remind us that Native American history and life didn’t end with the massacre at Wounded Knee.
He melds history, reportage and memoir to inform us of the current lives of indigenous Americans and how they are coping and succeeding with everyday life like all other Americans.
Treuer is the son of an Ojibwe mother and a Holocaust survivor father, bringing an interesting outlook to his writing. He grew up on an Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee:
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.
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.